The North-East is considered one of the most formidable retail markets in India. Poor supply chain management, and lack of infrastructure have made it difficult for food and grocery players to make their mark in the region`s still virgin markets. Other than Vishal Megamart and Big Bazaar - the two national hypermarkets, there are no big chains of modern supermarkets or convenience stores present in the region.
Besides the poor infrastructure, the not so favorable government policies of the State towards the retail sector, have also made it hard for national retail players to expand their base in the North East. Kolkata-based Spencer`s is, by far, the only exception. It has opened a hypermarket in Siliguri, considered the chicken neck of the East.
All these factors have fueled growth opportunities for Guwahati-based regional player 7 to 9 Bazaar to position itself strongly, and expand its network across Assam, and gradually reach out to other parts of the North East regions. By taking early steps in this direction, it also hopes to have an early mover advantage over other national and regional players. In conversation with Rajiv Thakur...
What is the USP of 7 to 9 Bazaar?
We have positioned it as upscale departmental store that caters to the middle and upper class of consumers. The USP of our brand is the convenience of the store timing, as we have taken into account the busy schedules of our customers. It enables people who are busy throughout the day to shop either early in the morning, or late in the evening. The store meets all their daily requirements for bread, dairy products, fresh vegetables, fruits and grocery items. Besides which, there is a large section stocked with frozen non-veg and veg products; another for kitchenware, and separate ones for personal hygiene, cosmetics, baby products, toys and gifts.
We will soon introduce more sections offering organic and gourmet food products in all our stores. We will also launch a Customer Loyalty Program in the next quarter. Though we do have plans for scaling up our store count in the months to come (both under franchise and company owned formats), the biggest challenge is in finding good real estate/sites, and in financing.
Our staff is regularly trained in-house on the dynamics of modern retailing, so that they are capable of providing the best service and shopping experience to the customers. All our stores are equipped with POS systems for quick billing and customer convenience, and CCTV cameras for safety.What are the benefits of being a regional player?
For a regional player like us, the biggest advantage is that we can take care of the logistics better,; we can meet product demands on time, and provide the best possible shopping experience to our customers. Another big advantage is that we can hire local staff, and train them as per our requirements. Our attrition level is also low as we are able to understand and empathize with their expectations and limitations as they are local people.
We also understand our customers` mindset, and can gauge their needs, their tastes and preferences. Especially, the forward looking younger generation who now have a higher disposable income, and who are seeking a more modern lifestyle. They are also looking for a larger and more exotic choice of food products from fresh to processed, and the convenience of shopping at an upmarket grocery store like ours. As a regional retailer, our customer loyalty is also strong as we are able to bond closely with all of them since they visit our stores regularly.
By observing and understanding all of this, we are able to have better control over category management and demand forecasting. It also enables us to order the right kind of merchandise, and in the right quantity and time too. This way, we can also manage our inventories well, and save time and money on logistics.
On the other hand, for a national player having its head office and center of operation based in north, south or west India, this market is not easy to crack. An understanding of the local customers, their needs and aspirations, food habits, language, customs and traditions, and managing local staff, can be a daunting task for an outsider.What is the potential of the north-east markets in terms of grocery retailing?
Although, a tough market to crack, the North Eastern market has its own share of pros and cons. Maybe the present scenario is tough, but in the long run this market will be one of the most significant markets to look out for. We have been witnessing a significant change in the people`s lifestyles, as their aspirational levels are increasing, and so are their shopping expectations. In my view, the food and grocery super markets are poised to for a very bright future in this region.
- The first 7 to 9 Bazaar opened in the year 2006
- The name owes its inspiration to its timing – 7 am to 9 pm
- Presently, there are three 7 to 9 stores: 2 are company-owned and based in Guwahati, and one franchise is in Tezpur
- All stores, which measure 2500 to 3500 sq ft, have been designed by interior designer Sanjiv Thakur, and the shop fitting and lighting is by AKAR.