By Ruma Dubey
The mobile came….PCO’s shut down.
Emails came…..snail mail is non-existent for most of us city dwellers.
Whatsapp came……SMS seems to be struggling to survive.
Mp3 came…..buying music is almost out.
Smartphones with cameras came…..only the professionals seem to be buying ‘cameras’.
And well, internet came……the way we live and work has changed completely.
These few changes over the past few years convey one single message – keep a tab on the emerging new ways of doing the same old things and change, or else get left behind. Nokia, Kodak are all examples of companies which failed because they simply worked on the age-old formula of boosting profit and lowering cost when business faltered but did not pay close attention to how technology had simply changed the way people were doing things.
That’s what we are seeing today in the Indian retail sector. The way we shop today has undergone a complete change. First we had just the neighborhood kirana shop who stocked everything that we needed in our day-to-day life. Their existence came under threat with Malls started mushrooming up at every street corner, literally. Many feared that these kiranas would have to shut shop. Most of them did not; they modernized and became more efficient with home deliveries and smart marketing. But the malls became just an outlet for cool AC air at no cost, soon started crumbling. Many malls closed down and many are in the process of shutting down. And then, great retailers had predicted, “consolidation will happen; it is inevitable.” And that is precisely what we are seeing right now. Malls are collating and collectively getting ready to fight the new change – ecommerce. Yes, malls are under threat thanks to this new change in our buying behavior – buying things online as they come much cheaper, there is free home delivery and one does not have to endure snarling traffic jams, jostling crowds and serpentine queues at billing counters.
There was a fear that brick and mortar companies could be under threat. But the trend which is slowly emerging now is that these e-tailers are also going the brick-and-mortar way. First it was Amazon; it not only opened an Amazon book store but is now busy opening up grocery stores across USA. Why? Because only about 12% of U.S. grocery shoppers bought their groceries online at some point in 2016. If that is the state of USA, in India, surely it would be less than 1%. Thus grocery stores going out of existence is a misplaced worry. The truth today is that physical stores offer more discounts on groceries than these e-tailers.
Back home, two days ago news came in that Myntra opened its first store with Mango in Delhi and it plans to open more in the next five years. Is this the beginning of a reverse trend? The brick-and-mortar will co-exist with the e-tailer.
No online discount or sale can give one the joy of feeling and touching a product before buying, the smells and energy of the people around; the goodness of getting off the laptop and walking around in a shop. Nah! No e-tailer can give us any of that!
Clearly, as we live and thrive in a dynamic world, nothing will ever remain the same. Change is the inevitable facet of our lives, be it personal or work or even on a macro level. So unless companies evolve, make changes to keep pace with the changes, it will fizzle out and die a natural death.