Bengaluru: When Future Group wanted to experiment with wireless payment machines to cut customer queues, the Mumbai-based company chose to test them out at its stores in Bengaluru.
Venkateshwar Kumar, chief executive officer, south, at Future Group, says that Bengaluru is “very unique”. “It is the city of migrants and the first IT wave started here. The migration from offline to online happened here. But there’s also a rooted local community in Bangalore. And what equates both these sections is the appetite towards the adoption of anything new,” said Kumar. Future Group, one of India’s biggest retailers, also plans to test a retail subscription model for milk in Bengaluru.
For brick-and-mortar retailers such as Future Group, Shoppers Stop and Chai Point as well as online platforms such as Myntra, Urban Ladder and Pepperfry, Bengaluru is emerging as the testing ground for omni-channel solutions.
“Nobody has explicitly said that this is their test market. But unconsciously, people have always preferred Bangalore as a test market compared to other cities like Delhi, Mumbai and more recently Hyderabad,” said Suresh Sadhwani, business head of Future Group-owned discount chain Brand Factory.
What explains this preference for Bengaluru? Apart from its diverse demographic, retail executives say the city has a large white-collar workforce and tech-savvy consumers open to new ideas. It helps that Bengaluru is India’s tech and start-up hub, making it easier to hire tech talent.
“Why even non-Bangalore based companies test-market here is because of the migrant psychology and inclination to shop. Retail is also one of the only main entertainment outlets for the city. The largely migrant population also means there are more nuclear families here, and that has also led to the increase in a propensity to step out even after work on weekdays to hang out, wine, dine and shop,” said Sreedhar Prasad, partner at KPMG in India.
As Indians increasingly use their smartphones to shop, it’s important for offline retailers to connect their digital platforms with stores to stay relevant. Experiments in Bengaluru attest to this.
Big Bazaar decided to pilot a concept called Big Bazaar Family Centre, which focuses on community-based retailing, in Bengaluru before taking it to other cities. When Central and Brand Factory, two other brands from Future Group’s stable, wanted to test an entirely new look and feel for stores, they began in Bengaluru.
Fashion retailers have also used the city to experiment with digital push in stores to generate footfalls, whether it is Landmark Group-owned Max Fashion’s endless aisles, Indus League Clothing-owned Jealous 21’s virtual mirrors or Shoppers Stop’s personal in-store shopper service.
“The service offered exclusive assistance to customers from our stylists to find clothes, accessories, household goods or advise them on colours/designs etc which can be availed at no additional cost when they visit the store. This customized experience was received well by the cosmopolitan community in the city (Bengaluru) and we were able to use the learnings before rolling it out across our 83 stores in 38 cities,” said Amin Kassam, chief retail operations officer at Shoppers Stop.
Bengaluru has long been familiar with organized retail, which started in the city with the launch of the first Nilgiris store at Brigade Road as far back as 1935. Several other brands have also picked Bengaluru as either their starting point or largest base over the years—from the Fabmall grocery supermarkets (now rebranded as More) to Spencer’s Daily (later rebranded as Foodworld) and Arvind Ltd to apparel exporters such as Gokaldas.