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Its Advantage Kerala In The Organised Retail Sector

next five years. There is hectic activity in the sector in terms of expansion, entry of international brands and retailers as well as focus on technology, operations and processes. While the opportunities in Indian retail are immense, all players must be aware that consumer culture, business practices and industry dynamics in India can differ substantially

next five years. There is hectic activity in the sector in terms of expansion, entry of international brands and retailers as well as focus on technology, operations and processes. While the opportunities in Indian retail are immense, all players must be aware that consumer culture, business practices and industry dynamics in India can differ substantially from what they are accustomed to at home.

The Great Indian Retail story is also quickly expanding to all parts of the country and Kerala can’t remain insulated. With a significant number of Malayalis working abroad, especially in the Gulf countries, there has always been an increased awareness about brands. While this knowledge made ‘the aware Kerala consumer’ an interesting target, Kerala is also a haven for traditional shops. With more than one lakh ‘kirana strores’ or ‘murukkaan kadas’, it presents one of the highest density last-mile retail connectivity. With a great blend of modern and traditional trade, Kerala presents one of the best examples of how the two formats could easily co-exist.

The future is also fraught with interesting trends. Some of these trends will bring in interesting changes. Rapid urbanisation, income growth, smaller independent families and emergence of digital consumer have changed the retail landscape of Kerala.

Kerala has always been called an urban continuum – where the boundaries between cities, towns and villages are blurred and there is no clear ‘rural’ demarcation. The aspirations of buying are linear and hence, we are increasingly seeing influx of families from North Kerala to visit Lulu Mall and other retail havens in Kochi. Besides these retail binges, there is adequate penetration of modern trade into these areas too. The income growth in the private sector has been phenomenal, and analysts predict that there could be a three-fold increase in income levels between 2010 and 2020. The influx of credit in the form of various schemes and credit cards has increased the ‘perceived’ expendable income.

Nuclear families mean more feet on the street, which, in turn, translate into more shopping. Gone are the days when purchases were made in bulk and the matriarch maintained the accounts of the purchases made by the men in the household. Now couples like to do their shopping and do it as many times as possible. Trips to the stores have increased because now eating out and movie viewing are aligned to shopping.

Digital buying is a global phenomenon and we have just boarded a bandwagon which the world is travelling in. Our mobile penetration is equivalent to metros in India and mobile telephony is now a big channel for shopping. As they say – ‘Internet has made it so easy to spend money!’

But there are still more doors to be opened. There are enough newer formats to attract consumers from outside Kerala. We also need to present it as a fusion of culture, heritage and retail. Connecting the retail strategies with evolving tourism offerings like Muziris Biennale can drastically change our image.

(The author is Director and Head, E & Y, Kochi)

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