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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Friday, 25 June 2010 12:36

Retail - Small Today, Big Tomorrow

The remarks made by the Chairman of the well-known British retailer Marks and Spencer, saying that their plans for India are "small today, big tomorrow" is not only prudent but also apt for imported wine market in India and many overseas producers are already towing this line. But one hopes retailers like M & S will also add wine to their portfolio at an appropriate time.

Speaking to Live Mint in an interview at the Intercontinental Group of Departmental Stores summit in New York earlier this month, Chairman Stuart Rose said his company is looking at a business of “hundreds of millions of dollars" over time in India. The UK's largest retailer has an international portfolio of at least 320 owned and franchised stores in 41 territories .

Interestingly the company which had partnered with Planet Retails until 2 years ago when they joined hands with the Reliance group instead, accuses the erstwhile operating partner for charging high prices. M&S is a mid-level UK retailer serving great value of affordable clothing. ‘We are not a high-end retailer and we don't want to be. We have fantastic quality and service and we want to make it available to as many people as possible,’ said Rose.

‘We are very pleased with what's happening in India and our joint venture with Reliance Retail. It's going to be a long haul. We are doing a lot about local pricing and sourcing to make sure our pricing is acceptable. The business seems to be well poised there.’

Similarity between wine business and Retail comes out again when he talks about the importance of India. ‘Small today, Big tomorrow. Two big emerging opportunities--India and China-- emerging middle class, aspirational middle class that wants to buy affordable clothes from good brands,’  is well applicable to the wine sector with the increasing middle class and their desire to have a better lifestyle.

What is India's business potential in Retail? ‘We are looking at developing a sustainable business. I am talking about having hundreds of millions of dollars worth of business and not tens of million over time. It is possible,’ he says.

How do you customize for India? ‘We have to align to local demands. Not many men wear jackets to work in India. Most wear only shirts. Most men want pockets on their shirts to keep their pen in. They want short-sleeved shirts. We take these demands into consideration,’ he said.

There may be words of wisdom in what Rose says, for the wine business and scope for imported wines in India. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is a burning topic right now for Indian Retail. Only 26% of foreign equity is allowed for multi-brands, though single brands are allowed full control. There is a recent thawing in the government stand and it appears that there are positive signs of the government relenting on the issue, though there are conflicting statements from different quarters.

Optimists expect that Retail with foreign participation would be amenable to adding wine in their portfolio too- as M & S does-at least in some stores one has visited in England.


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