Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Café Coffee Day plans to expand with the cluster model

Cafe Coffee Day, India’s most popular café chain is planning to use a cluster model of expansion. The company is owned by amalgamated Bean Coffee Trading Company is planning to expand by clusters, where it would open 3-4 stores in an area, a method that would increase its visibility in the market. CCD plans to open around 20 stores in international locations as well this year. At present it has 3 cafes interenationally, 2 in Vienna, Austria and one in Karachi, Pakistan and is interested in entering markets in West Asia, Bangaldesh, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, along with additional stores in Austria.

Niche categories: First home sales

Have you heard about a real estate company that specializes in selling people their first homes? I thought this was a wonderful idea, it is the age of specialization after all. My First Home is a site that assists consumers making their first residential purchase, through the minefield of confusion and chaos. If you take a survey on their site, you can also be eligible to win a $250 gas card. The section on 5 steps to owning your own home is a good place to get started. Here's to getting started on owning your first home.

Charge your burger on your cell phone

The next time you buy a burger at McDonalds, you can pay via your mobile phone. Japan's leading mobile phone service provider NTT DoCoMo has teamed up with McDonalds for electronic payments via mobile phones, in a new way to make money from mobile phones. As usual Japan leads the way in this new type of interactive technology. But consumers should know that your purchases will be tracked by both companies for marketing purposes.
For Julie Ask, an analyst with research firm Jupiter, the partnership illustrates the need to have upfront agreements and co-operation for the chain needed for electronic payments to be a success.

"Otherwise it suffers from the chicken and egg problem. POS [Point of Sale] equipment is needed to interoperate with technology in the cell phones. Carriers and handset manufacturers need incentives to add cost into the cell phones. There has to be a network for it to be interesting to anyone," she said.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 increasing in popularity

According to the latest Nielsen/NetRatings, is rapidly increasing in popularity. The store is currently ranked as the third most popular shopping sites, as compared to being ranked seventh last year. The company received 23 million unique visitors in the month of January, as compared to 18.4 million in January last year. In traffic, the site was the second fastest growing in the top 10 companies. The top tow sites for online shopping are and

Will using credit cards at vending machines make you spend more?

Did you know that you can now purchase from vending machines using your credit card? Some machines with credit card swipe facility have been installed in Dallas, New York and Chicago for testing purposes. The big question is that how this will affect spending at vending machines. I think the spends will definitely increase, since most people don't think too much of small amounts, not realising that smaller amounts add up to huge spends over time. Machines that were installed in January already have higher sales, from 5-35% higher, than before. The vending machines with credit cards have been installed in areas where there are likely to be adults with credit cards, such as the Dallas City Hall, convention centre, hospitals, colleges and recreational facilities such as the ice rink.

Tata Indicom is a good bet for Mumbai

We've been using a tata indicom Internet connection since we moved to Bombay. Initially, I selected it since it was the only one that had both USB and Ethernet based broadband connections, but now it is one of the best service providers for this area of Mumbai. The service technicians are pretty good too, although it really helps to know the senior people at the company, which I realised when it took them over 4 months to install my router, but besides that hiccup, I have been quite happy with their service. The Tata Group is one of the most well respected companies in the country and although they have had lots of teething problems in servicing newer sectors such as telecom and Internet, they are getting back on track.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Learn about the web's intricacies on the Google Guide

Have you used the Google Guide? It seems like a great place to find information on all things Google, including the mysterious ways of page ranks. I followed up several of their suggestions on improving page rank such as submitting my sites to several directories etc, publicizing the site on letter heads and business cards, writing a newsletter, links from quality sites and the most important factor of all, quality content.

What you write about and how well you write it is what will get your website noticed and isn't that was blogging is all about. Writing without caring who is reading. At least that's why I started my blog. I wanted to write about things that I knew, things that I am good a deciphering, and if I wrote well enough, interesting enough, the readers would be there. But, somehow along the way, I have caught up on the page rank business, focusing on increasing it rather than focusing on creating good posts. Well, I do hope to change it and will make a concerted effort to improve the level of stuff I write about, which means I will probably post less but better stuff.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Are retailers investing enough in technology?

There was a time that small retail shops would open up with just the merchandise they were selling and a basic cash till. Its not so anymore, as small retailers are adopting technology as part and parcel of the retail trade, making inventory and accounting management systems much more streamlined and professional.

For one, the price of this kind of technology has reduced substantially in the past few years and retailer are allocating a portion of their budget to it unlike before. Most small retailers were put off by the heavy start up costs associated with just setting up such as system, besides the monthly maintenance.

Newer retailers are being able to see the long-term benefits of investing in technology and software to help their business grow and also work as a long-term investment in the business. In many ways, Wal-Mart has contributed to creating such as system, with its own reliance on technology in every aspect of its operations.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Several Wal-Mart top brass leaving the company

Wal-Mart's top brass in India is facing an upheaval before it has even opened its first store. Senior Wal-Mart executive Randy Guttery has left the company and could be joining Metro cash-and-carry, whose CEO left to join Reliance Retail as head of its hypermarket division. Guttery has reportedly left over difference in opinion with Raj Jain, the CEO designate for India. Another senior Wal-Mart executive who has left is Lance Retig, who the company states has simply completed his assignment and will be returning to the US.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Luxury brands all heading to Chandigarh

My hometown Chandigarh is getting a lot of press these days due to its high income residents. The city has the highest per capita income in the country, yes, higher than even Delhi and Mumbai and has the highest number of vehicles per resident. All high end brands make a beeline to the city, especially when it comes to cars, alcohol and golf products. The Chandigarh Golf Club is the business golf course in the country and the second busiest one in the world, after St. Andrews in Scotland.

Chandigarh is becoming a mecca for luxury products due to the high number of affluent citizens, standard of living and connection to overseas markets which has led to its residents to have a high level of knowledge of international products and services. The recent expansion of the corporate and IT sector has been the driving force that has brought in consumerism in the market. Sachit Passi, owner of Krishna Automobiles will be the new dealer for BMW and although they have not even started their marketing campaign, they have already had 19 bookings.

Differentiating on product features not price

Retailers are getting past the issue of customers comparing prices for exact items at different outlets, by creating an exclusive item and selling different versions so a comparison is not always cohesive and accurate. So, consumers will not find the exact same items at Home Depot or Lowe's because they have been manufactured differently for them.
“By doing that, manufacturers, in concert with retailers, start to make it harder to do price comparisons online,” says Wingo, who adds that he expects to see more of the same in categories such as consumer electronics.
Another way retailers get around this issue is by selling private label merchandise that no other retailer will have and therefore will not be compared on price alone.
What Your Hands Say About You

You are logical, analytical, and rational. You have good verbal skills.

Flexible and broad minded, you can fit in to any situation. There's no telling where your life will take you.

Consistent and reliable, you like to count on structure and routine in your life.

Your emotions tend to be nervous and potent. Your energy - both positive and negative - deeply impacts your life.

Is it worthwhile for retailers to collect personal customer data?

Are you asked for you zip code or drivers license number when buying groceries at your local supermarket? Retailers have been collecting data from customers for a long time now, but of what use is it really? There have been so many cases where data has been lost, such as Stop and Shop who recently announced that its stores in New Jersey, New York and Rhode Island had been robbed of data by high tech thieves who manipulated the card swipe and keypad machines. While many companies are able to put this data to use, most companies who do collect it are not able to use it fruitfully and end up annoying customers who'd rather not give out personal information.

Bharti might add telecom and insurance services

Bharti Enterprises is likely to add telecom and insurance service in its retail stores. The company already has hugely successful companies in both fields, Bharti Airtel telecom has over 4.9 lakh outlets and Bharti Axa Life Insurance Company is a newer but upcoming company. Vinod Sawhney, head of Bharti Retail, says that “There is definitely a thinking to synergise activities of group companies, which relates to direct interaction with customers.”

Mandi lose out but farmers are the winners

The farmer-agent-mandi-agent-store-consumer link is completely changing. Organized retailers like Reliance and ITC are purchasing produce in bulk directly from farmers, leaving the old-fashioned fruit and vegetable markets or mandi’s out in the cold. While consumers at organized stores have benefited from lower prices, at mandi’s the result has not been good. With fewer supplies coming in, the prices have increased at mandis as they have for small local vegetable vendors and those who shop there.

The produce coming in to Azadpur mandi in Delhi, Asia's largest fresh fruit and vegetable market, has already droped by 37% during the period of Janurary 1 and February 18, 2007. The state of Himachal Pradesh sold approximately 40% of its 2.73 lakh tones of apples directly to organized retailers. In Maharashtra's Nashik area onion farmers have clubbed together to sell 5,000 tonnes directly to Global Agrisystems. Farmers in Ratnagiri and Sindudurg areas of Maharashtra, will be supplying mangoes to Reliance Retail and ITC. The last two years has seen 8 new food and grocery chains start, such as HyperCity, Spinach, Nature’s Basket and Reliance Fresh being the prominent ones.

Leica Binoculars are simply the best

My parents left for a trip to Sri Lanka to attend a golf tournament a couple of days back. This is their first trip to the country and they have been really looking forward to it. They will be going to an area called Nuwara Eliya, which is a beautiful hilly area famous for its tea gardens. They also plan to visit the area where the movie Bridge on the river Kwai was filmed and go for some birdwatching excursions in their 6 day trip there. They have really got into birdwatching lately and have been traveling to several reserve parks and lakes to spot some of the migratory birds. In fact, they even invested in a new pair of leica binoculars just for this purpose. Their old pair was good, but this one is simply superb. They bought their new binoculars from Eagle Optics, which really is the best place to buy them, since they have the greatest selection and superb customer service people to guide you through the entire process. The prices are really good too and they have free financing for orders over $200. Their pair is waterproof and has a multi-layer lens coating with something called Leica HDC, plus tons of other great features.

Future Group likely to hive off Big Bazaar to raise funds

The Future Group announced that it was planing to hive off the Big Bazzar format, one of its most popular formats, to raise funds. The procedures for the split are reportedly in the last stages. The company will be focusing on the four metros and plans to dominate the markets of the top eight metros. The company hopes to have 11 Big Bazaar stores in Bangalore, eight in Mumbai and seven in Kolkata by the end of the year. New stores will carry private label products. At present, there are 41 Big Bazaar outlets, with nine stores having opened in the past two months.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Flaunt your new cell phone

Choosing a cell phone is getting quite confusing with the number of new variants and options available these days. Since, it never just involves selecting a cell phone but also warrants a serious look at the wireless network provider, it has become quite complicated. It's a good idea to start with a good wireless network provider and then go on to the phone models, since its more important to have good and reliable coverage and cell phone models are constantly changing and being updated in any case.

So, which is the most reliable wireless provider? It has to be Verizon, right? They have one of the best wireless networks in the country, so you can be assured that you'll always have good coverage and clear connections. But, Verizon has never really been known for its state of the art phones, so you might have to take an average cell phone. Well, not so anymore, the company now is offering the latest phones such as the LG Mint Chocolate where you can get Verizon service for free. So no more hiding your phone each time it rings, just because you have an outdated model. You can now flaunt it all you want. Wirefly has lots of deals on Verizon cell phones including Verizon Razrs too for which no rebates or coupons are required, when you open an account with them.

I've been using either Nokia or Motorola phones for the longest time and have really become used to the way these phones work. As a consumer, I would rather have a great company as a wireless network provider and then select a cell phone, but fortunately, our system here allows us to keep the choice of network provider and cell phone completely separate, so one can mix and match just about any phone and network provider to get the best deal.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Organized retail chains to boost PC sales

Personal computers retail stores sales will increase due to several organized consumer durable and personal computer retail stores opening up lately, that have opened the market to new consumers. Personal computer vendors and manufactures have already tied up with retail chains such as Future Group's Big Bazaar and eZone, HyperCity and Tatas Croma to sell products. Although most vendors at present have not seen a growth in sales, the potential of additional sales is immense, especially in the next 5-10 years. According to Anil Philip, Director of Transaction Business, Lenovo India, "Retail has definitely been a growth driver for us. Currently, we see over 60 per cent of Lenovo's sales come from our exclusive and multi-brand stores in the transaction space."

Do you make shopping decisions based on comparison sites?

Online shopping comparison sites are said to be one of the fastest growing types of sites. According to an article in E-Commerce Times, online shopping itself is growing by leaps and bounds and showing no sign of slowing down. Online shopping has reached $211 billion, according to Forrester Research and is creating a huge market for shopping comparison sites. The question is though, how authentic and objective are these sites, since many of them are linked to certain vendors, so how valid is their opinion. Interestingly, its a question most consumers don't care about at all, since consumers use comparison sites most often when they have already narrowed their search down to a specific product and are looking for the best price.
Comparison sites are great for price-sensitive shoppers," notes Gene Alvarez, an analyst at Gartner (NYSE: IT) . "However, shoppers who want price and speed tend to use search engines to find products more often than comparison sites," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Therefore, both of these types of sites will vie for advertising revenues, creating more incentive for comparison sites to accept compensations for sales."

Is customer service back in vogue?

Customer service has long been a chant among managers, but somewhere along the way it kind of got sidetracked by more technological and complicated issues. The fact of the matter remains, that unless a company provides good customer service, it's products will not go the distance. After sales service is one of the most important factors for the majority of consumers and unless you have can provide it, your customers will soon go somewhere else.

If you excel at customer service, you will see the difference since loyal customers bring in additional customers at no additional cost of advertising or marketing and are great at word-of-mouth publicity, which is the best sort of publicity. Customer service is especially important for SMEs where owners take care of customer service instead of having a customer service department.

So how do you measure customer service or what really is good customer service? Well, it all depends on what your product or service is. Does your company treat its customers politely, do you offer to take faulty products back without hassle, do you follow up with new customers on how they rated your service and product? These are all questions that must be answered to know where you stand and develop a focus on the kind of customer relationship you want to build.

Bharti, Wal-Mart conforms to govt policy

Amid a lot of murmurings of discontent, Bharti Enterprises emphasized that its joint venture agreement with Wal-Mart was conforming to all norms and policies set by the government. The company compared to deals that other domestic companies such as Reliance, Birlas, Tatas and the Future Group had formed. The company has given the complete details of the joint venture plan to the government.

Max Retail readies for expansion to smaller cities

Lifestyle International, the Indian division of the Dubai based Landmark Group, announced that its value retail chain, Max will be targeting tier III cities. The Landmark Group operates the Lifestyle, an exclusive department store chain; Max, a hypermarket value chain; and has several foreign brands such as Bossini and Kappa. New Max stores will be opened using the franchise model and store size will be around 22,000 sq ft with each store receiving a Rs 5 crore investment. Max’s own company owned stores will be located in tier I and tier II cities. At present there are 6 Max stores, with 65% of its revenues coming from apparels and the remaining 35% from footwear and accessories.

Mint-ify your cards

Have you heard of the Mint Credit Card? Well, you're really missing out, if you don't have one yet. The Mint credit card was launched in the UK in 2003 in two versions; a standard credit card and a MC2 card that had the bottom right hand corner of the card removed, the first change of shape of credit cards in 37 years. Mint credit cards have 0% interest on balance transfers and purchases till December, a really great offer if your credit card debt is piling up. The Mint Gift Card was launched in 2006 and is a pre-paid credit card that you can give someone. It is different from a regular gift card, since it is not bound to a specific retailer and can be used any where. This is one of the best aspects of a gift card, since the bulk of retailer specific gift cards never get used and are either wasted or sold for a lower percentage on the Internet.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Retail industry unlikey to get status

For the past two years, the Indian retail sector has been asking the government to give it industry status, but it looks unlikely for it to be cleared by the government, as it is considering how it would affect the economy and employment in the retail sector. The main benefits for the sector to be classified as an industry would make it eligible for fiscal benefits and concessions and also make it easier to get organized financing.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Finally a Sunday!

It's finally the weekend!! After 3 straight weeks of way too much work, I'm hoping to finally have a relaxing Sunday, where I don't have to work at all. Besides my vacations, I can't remember when I last took a full Sunday off. That's the downside of working from home...sometimes it just seems never to end though and one ends up checking one's assignments and mail just too many times. Discipline is what is needed.....will power to not turn on the laptop on the weekend....I wonder if I will be able to do it tomorrow?

Flexible home security systems

One of the things one notices about living in the US, is that the concept of home security is really growing to include newer customer segments. Earlier it was only the high end homes that went in for home security, but that is not so any more. When we lived in Providence, RI, one of the things we looked for in a house was a reliable home security system. The kinds of systems that are now available in the market are pretty amazing in their simplicity and ease of use. The LaserShield System, for example is one of the most respected security and monitoring systems in the US and provides a portable security system which can be connected to multiple systems and can be accessed from a key chain or wireless unit, much like car unlocking systems. The Security Systems at LaserShield can be set up in residential or commercial establishments and have a 24/7 monitoring system. You can find them at local stores such as Comp USA, Home Depot, Costco, Kmart, Montgomery Ward, Sears and many more stores. The LaserShield Starter Kit comes for only $199.99 and is perfect for rental homes, offices, condos and college dormitories. The kit uses your existing phone jack and comes with a panic button and a siren speaker, which emits a high powered 105 decibel siren on an intrusion. It's a great new direction that home security systems have taken by widening their customer base.

Open your gmail account now

Gmail is open for everyone now. I've been using gmail for a couple of years now and had sent my limited invitations to some of my friends too. One of the main advantages is the storage size that gmail offers, but a big disadvantage is the speed of opening up mail. I have yahoo accounts too, with tons of stuff saved, including over 100 photographs, but Yahoo Mail opens really, really quickly. I am also not so keen on Google integrating all of its services which it has recently done, like requiring a gmail account for using blogger etc.

Umbrellas on the run

So you're heading for an important business meeting and it starts to rain and you realize you have forgotten our umbrella at home, so what do you do? reports that a company in Singapore called Uport has started retailing umbrellas in self serving kiosks in the city to solve just this problem. A similar venture started a year ago in the UK, but surprisingly not too many new businesses followed the idea. Uport has six vending machines in the city as yet and plans to set up more too. Their umbrellas sell for SGD 6 (USD 3.90) and come in a can. The company is currently looking for franchises in Hong Kong, Taiwan and China.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Get your misplaced keys delivered to your doorstep

Delivery service really makes all the difference to one's quality of life when one lives in a big city. A city like Bombay has a thriving home delivery system, you can get anything delivered to your doorstep in 20 minutes or less, no matter how small the bill amount may be. Manhattan is another city that has capitalized on a home delivery system to make services and products more accessible for residents. On the Fast Company blog, I read about a new service in Manhattan called NewYourKey has come up where you can get a spare key delivered to you if you misplace your key or lock yourself out. All you have to do is for NewYorkKey to copy your key, create a profile and then store your key which is kept in a secured storage facility, and can be accessed 24 hours a day. If you need your key, you just call them and provide them with your password and your key will be delivered to you, although you do have to show them your ID before they are handed over to you. The service costs $20, which is a pretty reasonable price.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dollar store boom in India

Dollar stores are booming in India and consumers can't seem to get enough of the products. While nothing is actually priced at $1 dollar, the name has stuck, more because it is associated with foreign, especially US related products. All products are priced at Rs 99, which is equivalent to $2. I visited one such store located at the Phoenix Mills shopping area, and found it to be quite busy, busier than even some of the local stores in the area.

Wal-Mart likely to go for neighborhood store model

US retailer Wal-Mart is famous for its sprawling single story large format hypermarkets and supermarkets, but for its operations in India, the company is likely to go for stores that local customer will find comfortable, and is probably going to go for small neighborhood stores instead of its usual format. Consumers in India, prefer to do regular shopping instead of stocking up items in bulk, which is the usual system in the US and this is one of the key factors that will affect their choice of formats.

Future Group to launch financial supermarket, Money Bazaar

Retailers in India are now planning to add financial products and services to their kitty of offerings. The Future Group is launching a financial supermarket called Money Bazaar, through its arm Future Capital, in the next couple of months. There will be 400-500 stores opened in the initial phase for which the company has set a target of Rs 40,000-50,000 crore over the next five years. Described as the Big Bazaar of financial services and products, Money Bazaar will reach out to new consumers for a variety of products such as mortgages, insurance and mutual funds. It is not yet decided if the stores would be standalone or in kiosk format.

Lighting options

We recently decided to change the lights outside our apartment to something that would look great and also provide bright lighting. We've been traveling a lot this past year and wanted to have a timer based light of our own, besides the complex controlled lights. Most of the outdoor lights I saw were either too large or too ornate, but then I found just the perfect outdoor bracket light for us at Shoppremier, which I could shipped to my home directly. I also found some great options for Kitchen Lighting which I have been planning to upgrade. It's really important that a kitchen is brightly lit and that there are no shadows falling on the counters from ceiling lights. Track lighting is really the best way to go for a kitchen.

Indian blogs opinion-based rather than theme-based

I was quite surprised to read that about 35% of India's Internet population has a blog or two. The Economic Times writes that there are more women bloggers (51%) than men currently. In the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region Indian bloggers post more than five times a week on their blogs. Of the total number of bloggers in India, more than 60% have blogs that are less than a year old. Most blogs in India, especially those by women, are used as a means of expression, with opinion blogs being the most common.
A recent online survey mPulse conducted by MindShare Insights group in APAC among a total of 1,500 internet users in the age-group of 15-35 throws open a plethora of information about bloggers in the region. As per Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI), the total internet user base of India sits at 38.5 million, wherein internet users within age-group 18-35 occupy 72% of the pie, or 27.3 million. The mPulse study implies a larger catchment of 28 million netizens.

Are resumes a thing of the past?

Will resumes become redundant with the focus on social networking and media sites increasing? Fast Company Expert Blogs has a post by Jory Des Jardin who feels that the resumes are not going to hold as much weight in the future like they used to. At present too, most employers use the Internet to research a bit of background on potential employees and having some good information on social media sites and on the Internet in general about you, might hold more weight that a traditional resume.
Recruiters will need to scout and solicit talent now, start relationships with talent before they are ready to take leadership positions. And with the Y Generation, which prefers flexibility and balance over the traditional perks, titles and salary won't be the primary attractors to companies. Pre-existing relationships with these companies will be. And recruiters won't be sifting through resumes, but finding better ways for candidates to find them.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

MTR Foods acquired by Norway's Orkla

Some news on the food retail segment: Bangalore based MTR Foods has been purchased by Norwegian company Orkla. According to a statement issued by the Norwegian company, with this acquisition the company hopes to assess the food market in India as a potential future growth segment fro Orkla's branded consumer goods. MTR Foods produces and retails spices and ready to eat foods.

IT professionals: Is your pay adequate?

Professionals in IT can now check to see if they are getting adequate pay or not via the website which has been jointly launched by IIM Ahmedabad, Indian Institute of Science and the ITPF (IT Professionals Forum), as a check on what salaries should be compared to what they are in the IT and BPO sectors. Positions such as sales executives, project managers, vice president are all included in the list. Based on the variables, a vice president's salary in the IT industry should be approximately Rs 22,95,163 in contrast to the current Rs 19,70,658 which is currently being paid.
The site also displays the highest paid professionals across the IT Industry today. According to, Rajesh Hukku, chairman i-Flex Solutions is one other highest paid with an annual salary of Rs 432.00 lakh for 2005-06. Other highest paid professionals are - Ramesh Emani, President Wipro Technologies (Rs 84.50 Lakh), S Ramadorai, CEO & MD,TCS (Rs 214.43 Lakh), S D Shibulal, Director HR, Infosys (Rs 101.74 Lakh), Jaithirth Rao, CMD Mphasis (Rs 129.46 Lakh) and Phaneesh Murthy, CEO & MD, iGate (Rs 273.85 Lakh).

How much are you spending on Valentine's Day?

Did you know that on average US customer's will spend close to $120 on Valentine's Day this year? Is that what you are planning to spend? Is it more or less? According to a survey by the National Retail Federation's 2007 Valentine's Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, US consumers will be spending a total of $16.9 billion this year. Conducted by market research company BIGresearch, the survey polled 7,703 consumers of which 63% said they would be celebrating Valentine's Day. Most respondents who would be celebrating the day were between the ages of 25 and 34. The survey also found that men will spend $154 as compared to $85 that most women will spend.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sunday movie

It's the weekend!!!! After a couple of long weeks, I'm so glad its finally the weekend. Today, we plan to catch up with a movie...Salaam-e-ishq most likely, as long as we get the tickets at Cinemax. We're going to be going out to watch a movie on a Sunday after absolutely ages, since we generally want to avoid the weekend crowds. Living in this part of Lokhandwala, we are surrounded by multiplexes and have tons of choice of theatres and movies. Further down on New Link Road, it seems that a couple of new malls are opening and are likely to have multiplexes too.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Fortis to open health stores

The Ranbaxy Group said it planned to open 1,000 Fortis health stores in the next five years. The total investment required for these health stores would be Rs 800 crore. Called Fortis HealthWorld, these stores would run on a 24hr basis as health pharmacies as well as stores and would provide the entire gamut of health related products and services, including prescription and over the counter drugs, allopathic and ayurvedic medicines, health foods, supplements, and health books.

Ordering flowers online

Sending flowers has become so much simpler with online florists offering such great variety and delivery options these days. I remember when I had to send flowers to someone in a different city quite some time back, I had to ask someone in that city to physically go there to place the order themselves. Once online flower delivery became available, it became just so simple to order flowers and schedule delivery. Then the question became, of getting great quality flowers set in interesting arrangements. I have found that DigitalFlowers has some really beautiful flower arrangements. Being a certified FTD online florist, DigitalFlowers is a great choice for sending flowers in a hassle free manner. At first, I wasn't impressed with their name, but it really makes them stand out among all the other florists, and that's what matters in the end. I certainly remembered their name because it was unusual and interesting.

Friday, February 09, 2007

RAI to train unemployed youth

The shortage of retail staff might get a little help from this new initiative. The Retailers Association of India (RAI) and the Maharashtra government has set up a program to train educated unemployed youth in Maharashtra, belonging to SC, DTNT and OBC. Those who are registered with employment exchanges are also eligible. The courses will be starting in February 2007, to train candidates who will then be placed with retailers on completion of the course.

Russia's largest mobile handset retailing coming to India

Euroset, Russia’s largest mobile handset retailer will be opening its outlet in India by end of February. Euroset plans to set up 5,500 retail stores across Indian in the next two years. The company is reportedly in talks with real estate development company Ansals to partner with for its operations in India, although Ansals spokesperson declined to confirm any finalization of agreement between the companies.

Reliance hires senior executives from top international retailers

And so the Reliance Retail HR bandwagon rolls along. The company has reportedly hired 30 senior executives specializing in store operations and loss prevention from its soon-to-be rival Wal-Mart. Three executives have been hired for its training team and the remaining 27 are for operations, logistics, distribution, IT in all verticals. Reportedly, the company has been aiming to hire Wal-Mart’s executives and had searched in several countires that the company operates in such as Brazil, Mexico, France, Israel, Thailand, Hong Kong, UK, and the US. Besides hiring from Wal-Mart, the company has also hired senior executives from Tesco, Carrefour, Best Buy and Circuit City.

Planning a trip

The number of vacations and trips we went last year made me rethink how to plan and go about organizing a vacation. Our vacation included all sorts of variables such as flights, rental cars, hotel booking, bed & breakfast booking, in several locations. Going to different sites to do each type of booking separately was driving me crazy, to coordinate between all the different options and build a cohesive plan that was organized enough so that we could focus on enjoying our vacation instead of worrying about bookings and confirmations.

That was how I came across, a site where I could do all my bookings at one place, without having to go back and forth checking and re-checking if one service would fit in with the other. Don't get confused by the name, Hotel Reservations does lots of other stuff, besides booking hotel rooms for you. You can book rental cars, flights, vacation packages and vacation rentals here too. By selecting for how long you want a trip to be, how many places you would like to visit and how many passengers there are, you can find some really great trips on offer.

Vacation rentals lets you search by location, and will find a wide range of places to stay, including cozy bed and breakfasts. The pricing that Hotel Reservations gives is better than some of the more known sites, and so is their range of places to stay. When I did a search for the same place on a competitor's site, I didn't find half as many interesting results.

The search and booking process is extremely user friendly, something that is very important to me. If a site wants too much superfluous information, I just close the page and head elsewhere. I really liked the site for the kind of place that it found for me and I will definitely be using for my next trip too.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

UTV and Future Group to jointly create brand

Media is one of the fastest growing fields, one that is attracting high number of youth. In this regard, The Future Group and UTV Software Communications are coming up with a new retail venture to open Cafe Lounges, as a brand extension to UTV's upcoming youth centric channel. The Cafe lounges will provide a mix of entertainment, gaming and a lounge to relax.

Increasing site popularity by linking

One of the most frustrating things about having your own site is the seemingly arbitrary way that the search engines rank your site. It seems that no matter what you do, you can't really get to the bottom of how Google ranks you and decides how important you are in the Internet world. Google currently uses an algorithm that is so complicated that it's virtually useless for a layman to try to understand it, but since it is the most powerful search engine, it makes sense to try to work with it to build popularity.

Using a variety of on-site and off-site factors that decide just where you rank. Page rank is the score that Google gives a site as its worth or popularity on the Internet. But page rank itself is quite deceptive measure in itself. I have been blogging for quite a while now, on this and on my older blog, but for some reason, last month my page rank dropped, even though I was posting more regularly, getting some good inbound links and visitors. As consumers are understanding page rank, they are also getting around the system and so now Google is giving less importance to it as a way to measure a site's popularity.

One of the key factors that Google looks for is inbound links, especially inbound links from pages with a good page rank. It also bases results on the context of a link and where it is placed on a site, such as is it in a paragraph of text or just in a list of links somewhere on the sidebar or the bottom of the page. Title Tags are also studied, along with other SEO factors like H1 tags and META data. Contextual links with sites that have similar content is one of the key ways to increase page rank and link popularity.

There are lots of ways to increase link popularity, such as press release distribution, purchasing links from brokers, trading links with other websites and link baiting. The most effective method is press release distribution, where a company gives out information about themselves that is picked up with various publications. It is also one of the most difficult method of increasing links. Buying links from brokers is easy and quick but neither are results of the best quality nor are the links in context. Trading links was once quite an effective method but again the quality of the links and their placement is not guaranteed. Link baiting is an effective method of increasing popularity, but it is very hard to do, as it entails hunting for links. Connecting through high quality blogs is one of the most effective ways of improving link popularity, since blogs are filled with content that search engines look for. Blogitive has created a network of 2000 blogs, where companies can issue a web release that bloggers write about.

RIL to reintroduce Vimal brand

Reliance Industries will be relaunching its Vimal brand, opening 20 pilot stores initially, selling textiles, ready to wear and custom tailoring services. The company has tied up with Italian tailoring consultant and fashion coordinator, Maurizio Bonas who will guide tailors in some showrooms on contemporary fashions, accessory designs and cuts in suits. Vimal is a familiar brand with anyone over 35 but not many younger customers know of the brand.

Indian retailers most agressive in Asia when it comes to real estate

According to a study by Jones Lang LaSalle, retailers in India are Asia's most aggressive when it comes to expanding their business. The preferable means of expansion is increasing number of stores in a city and expanding to other regions. The third annual Jones Lang LaSalle Retailer Sentiment Survey-Asia, was conducted in three sub-regions of Asia: India, Greater China and South East Asia, where it found that 45% of Indian retailers were rapidly expanding, followed by 27% of retailers expanding in Greater China, while South East Asia followed at 6%.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunglass heaven

I've always loved sunglasses and I don't think there's ever been a time that I have less than three pairs. One must have sunglasses for all types of occasions and since I'm rather impatient I have ruined several glasses, but then it's only an occasion to go buy a new pair or two. I found a really great selection of designer styled sunglasses at CTS which has Wholesale Replica Sunglasses, so you don't need to worry about the high prices, which is really great for me. If you can believe it, sunglasses are available for as low as $1.33, which is pretty unbelievable, right? Well, its true, CTS has an amazing selection of glasses on offer. The only point that bothers me is that I really like to try on sunglasses before buying since it's a question of how it sits on your nose and suits your face. The deal still is quite amazing for you to forego that part, though. CTS not only retails sunglasses, they also manufacture them. On our vacation last summer, where we drove from DC to Maine and back, we all bought sunglasses at one of those outlet stores that are meant to be selling products at discounted prices, and we paid quite a packet for something that wasn't worth it at all. I just wish I had seen the CTS site before.

Kirana stores cash in on their real estate

Small scale mom and pop stores are joining the system to beat it. As the bigger retailers are looking to gain a foothold in local neighborhoods, they are offering large sums to lease out premises of local kirana (mom and pop) stores. Real estate has seen significant growth in the past few years and kirana stores are making the most of owning stores in highly prized areas, with prices up by 40% this year. Smaller food based grocery stores such as Subhiksha, Spinach and Spencer's are entering into long leases with kirana stores that have more than 1,000 sq ft of space.

Aditya Birla Group not to partner with anyone for retail venture

The Aditya Birla Group announced that it will be setting up retail stores on its own and not tying up with any partner. According to Group Chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla, the company would prefer not to partner with any international entity for its retail venture. The company recently acquired successful food and grocery chain store, Trinethra to get a head start on its competitors. The company expects to announce its detailed plans in the next two months.

How much time do you take to select a cell phone plan?

Selecting a phone is something that most consumers enjoy, taking their time going over features of a number of phones, but when it comes to selecting a cell phone plan, the majority of consumers don't even spend half the time to make sure they get the right plan for their needs. With consumers changing cell phones with greater frequency now, the emphasis is still on the phone rather than the cell phone plan when it comes to saving money. Wouldn't you rather get a really good deal on a cell phone plan so you could spend more on a cell phone? Makes sense, doesn't it?

Part of the problem is that most consumers don't know where to go to get unbiased information on cell phone plans. Wirefly is the leader in online cell phones sales as well as cell phone plans and has a lot of resources on its site, so that consumers can make an easier and better informed choice when selecting a cell phone plan. The feature that I really liked at Wirefly was the Wirefly Wizard that helps consumers make decisions on plans when they aren't really sure of what to select and can save you up to 40% on your monthly bill.

The wireless industry has been undergoing a lot of change lately and consumers are usually not up to date with new regulations. Consumers are now permitted to keep their old number even when they switch plans and service providers. The Wireless Basics section is for people who are not completely familiar with cell phone and cell phone plan features. It really makes sense to understand what you are signing up for before you actually do so, to save money and hassle over the long term. Wirefly simplifies all the mumbo jumbo so that consumers can get to the real deals.

Update on HyperCity excursion

This is an update to my post on my trip to HyperCity last week. On the 31st of January, we had purchased a computer chair, which was not available in the store and would be delivered on the 1st of February. It was delivered in the afternoon on the 1st of Feb, but the people who brought it, were only delivering it and would not assemble it. That was someone else's job and an assembler would come by later that day, I was told. Well, putting together a computer chair is not that big of a deal, so we did it ourselves (actually rl did it for me..ty!!). It's a good thing we didn't wait for the assembler to do it for us, since he only showed up at 9:30 that night. He was a bit surprised when I told him we had done it ourselves (obviously doesn't happen too often). Then on the 3rd of Feb, another person from HyperCity came by to assemble the chair....hmm, their lines are getting crossed somewhere, it seems. It was a bit of a let down on their customer service, since I have been really happy with it so far. Hopefully, they're just teething troubles and will go away soon.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tesco in talks with Tatas and Landmark Group

UK based retail firm Tesco is reportedly interested in tying up with an Indian company to start operations in the country. Tesco’s global chief, Sir Terry Leahy will be coming to India later this month, and according to market buzz, he will be meeting with Tatas and the Landmark Group. Tesco’s rival companies are either in the country or will soon be in the market; Wal-Mart has recently tied up with Bharti Enterprises and Carrefour is on the verge of tying up according to media reports.

Retailers keen on private labels in beauty products

Retailers such as Pantaloon, Reliance and Bharti-Wal-Mart will soon be launching their own private labels for beauty products. The companies are in talks with VLCC, a fitness, health and beauty products company to manufacture private label beauty products. Pantaloon Retail are already in the health and beauty business, with a service format of beauty salons, called Star and Sitara and have also started retailing beauty products through its new outlet called Tumeric. The company is wating VLCC to take care of manufacturing its private labels for them.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Taking a small business to the next level

Starting a small business on your own is becoming so much simpler due to advances in technology and communication. If you have a store or do business online, then adding a shopping cart facility to your site is one of the best investments to make in your business. Consumers are shopping more at online stores, some of which are even beating traditional brick and mortar stores. Shopping cart software is not easily found, since it has to be technologically up to date in function, security and ease of use for both the merchant and the customer.

An application service provider such as Ashop Commerce which provides turn-key ecommerce software solutions, including building a store online. The company is one of the easiest web based administration systems to use and has several award winning functions, such as accepting credit cards, customizing design and much more. There is a demo where you can try out the system first before signing up.

Zara opens store in Beijing

Spanish retailer, Zara opens in Beijing at The Place shopping mall in the central business district. The store is spread over 1,500 sq ft, over two floors. According to Jesus Echevarria, General Manager of Inditex, Zara's holding company, "We plan to consolidate the bases of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and further develop the surrounding urban areas." reports that the company's first outlets in China are in Shanghai, where it opened its first store in February 2006 and a second one in August 2006. There are also five Zara stores in Hong Kong.

Reliance to focus on niche retail formats

Reliance Retail is looking to create niche retail formats along with its existing formats. Raghu Pillai, President and CEO (Operations and Strategy) said that the company would be opening about 250 Reliance Fresh outlets in the next two months in Pune, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, and certain cities in Gujarat. Reliance Retail will also be opening standalone niche stores for consumer durables, apparels and other segments. It's hypermarket stores will also be opened during the same periods.

The company will also be staring a home delivery service at its Fresh outlets for customer within a range of up to 3 kms. Reliance Retail now has 3 Ranger Farm outlets, its B2B format store, in Hyderabad and Jaipur. The company is also creating its own private label and is currently conducting testing on products.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Rural malls are taking off

The concept of rural malls is picking up and retailers are all rushing to set up stores in rural areas. Consumers in rural areas spend an estimated Rs 8 lakh* crore each year. In some areas, there is no electricity or drinking water, but villagers are tracking commodity indexes via the ATM. Companies such as DCM Shriram Group are setting up 50 rural retail outlets called Hariyali Kissan Bazaars seeing this vibrant demand.

ITC has set up 12 Choupal Sagars in three states and Reliance is also making plans to enter the sector. Hariyali Kissan Bazaar’s have 400 walk-ins a day, with a 70-80% repeat visitors and generate Rs 14 crore annually. While most products are farm related, soon stores will add construction items, automotive and telecom products due to demand from local customers.

*1 lakh = 100,000
1 crore= 100 lakhs

Future Group plans Hometown stores

Kishore Biyani certainly has his finger on the pulse of consumer's shopping plans. Home is the big focus area with consumers these days and in that vein, the Future Group will soon be entering the home solutions market. Kishore Biyani, CEO of Future Group, made the announcement in Bangalore and said that the company will be investing Rs 200 crore in the next six months for the venture. The company will be opening 9 Hometown stores over the next 6 months, covering a total of 1 million sq ft. Hometown stores have been designed to fulfill all requirements for the home, including furniture, soft furnishings and also services such as plumbing, masonary and painting. The company has bee holding talks with real estate development companies such as the Ansals, Unitech and Salarpuria to form partnerships, offering services such as setting up kitchens or bathrooms in the homes that the developers build.

Managing leads

How does your business generate leads? Is the system you use an established practice of generation or one with a lot of fluctuation and unpredictability? One of our vendors, told us about the program they use, the AIMpromote lead management system, which is a feature rich system where lead management and website analytics are combined to offer a solution that is customized to your business. Some of the advantages are the variety of plans available, pricing based on actual use and a host of features. The AIMpromote system is priced at a much lower level than other similar products in the market.

Bombay Dyeing-Danone thaw?

More on the ever evolving retail news. The Wadias of Bombay Dyeing relationship with Groupe Danone, its partner in Britannia, is heading for a thaw, thanks to a likely tie up with Carrefour for operations in India. Groupe Danone and Carrefour are the two largest retailers in France. The Economic Times states that:
If the Wadia-Carrefour talks fructify, it is possible that the Danone-Wadia ties would be re-worked in a mutually convenient manner. This means, the two may settle issues within Britannia while agreeing to suitable give-aways in the Wadia-BSN joint venture, which is the umbrella vehicle guiding their business ties in India.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Subscription gifts

I simply love to get magazines delivered home. I currently have subscriptions for Elle, Elle Decor, BusinessWeek, Business Today, Readers Digest and The Economist. I love gifting magazine subscriptions and love getting them too, my Elle subscription was a gift, and each month when I get my magazine, it's like getting a new gift each time. I've always thought that magazine subscriptions are a really good idea as gifts. This year, I am planning to add Marie Claire to the list of magazines, since it has a more down to earth portrayal of fashion than other fashion magazines. Magazines Direct has great offers on over 1,300 magazines which you can subscribe to and not even pay sales tax.

Carrefour deal with Wadias likely within 2 weeks

It looks like Carrefour will finally be coming to India. Kamal Nath, the Trade and Commerce Minister said that the French retailer will be signing a deal to enter the Indian retail market in the next two weeks. India's retail market has been in high demand with its enormous potential due to the large population and the young stage of the retail market at present. According to the minister, the company was in talks with the Wadias who are one of the premier business families of the country and own businesses in several fields.

Right time to buy diamonds

This time of the year, is the perfect time to focus on diamonds, yes diamonds. Valentine's Day is just around the corner and I thought it would be perfect to check out some nice diamond jewelry for the occasion. I had used the Coupon Chief coupon website for coupons for Staples and some book stores, but it was a nice surprise to see a $25 off any order of over $199 coupon there too. The way I see it, is that why not get some special deals for things that you are going to buy anyway. Coupon Chief is one of those sites that always have great deals on at all times.

Retail sector to cross $22 billion by 2010

According to industry association, Assocham, India's organized retail sector is likely to cross $22 billion by the year 2010, from its present $4 billion. The industry expansion is also going to require over 220 million sq ft of space as against the current amount of 40 million sq ft. The country's total retail market is estimated to be $16 billion, of which the organized retail market is only 25%.
It is expected that gradually the organized sector in small towns beyond metros would grow at a staggering level of 50-60% against less than 35% in the large cities. This is purely on account of land that is in abundance beyond metros with reasonable land prices and without cumbersome procedure for acquisitions.
Assocham president Venugopal Dhoot said, "India's vast middle-class and untapped retail industry are key attractions for global retail giants who want to enter new markets."

Earn cash while shopping

Have you ever visited Ebates before? I heard of the site only recently and was surprised to know that shopping via Ebates consumers could actually earn cash back. All that is required that you sign up for membership and then just shop online as you normally do. There is no charge for membership at all, just a email id is required as verification to join. Ebates has over 800 stores such as jcpenney, Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Gap, Eddie Bauer and many more where you can shop and earn money. Once you find something you want to buy online, return to the Ebates site or download the Moe Money Maker software to take care of it. Consumers can earn between 4% and up to 25% cash back on purchases, besides getting great coupons and specials. How Ebates works is that they take some of the commission they earn from retail and advertising partners and share it with their members. The system is so good that even CNN said that using it was "A No-Brainer". So forget shopping anywhere else and earn some cash back at Ebates.

Travelocity and Expedia coming to India

Well, this is really good news for travel fans. and Travelocity are both heading to India. Travelocity will be coming to India via Zuji, its Singapore based online company which will be opening a Travelocity India site and has not announced who it will be tying up with for operations in India. According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India, the online travel segment is one of the fastest growing of all e-commerce sectors, with transactions increasing from 207,000 a month in 2003-04 to 795,000 in 2005-06.

We traveled a lot last year, flying 6 times for personal reasons and 3 times for business purposes. The only tickets we purchased from traditional travel agents were for our international trips, 2 for personal and 3 for business trips. We also did all our other bookings for car rentals, hotels stays etc for both our US and Canada trips online. It just makes more sense to buy tickets online now. The process is simple, the bookings secure and the headache saved by not relying on an agent, priceless.

Personal and home loans to become expensive

Not so good news on the financial front. The Economic Times reports that personal and home loans and credit card withdrawls are likely to become expensive. The RBI asked banks to set aside more money to cover risks on advances in these sectors when it raised short term lending rates to keep a check on inflation. Borrowing money to buy shares is also likely to become expensive.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram too said that housing sector would be insulated from the hike in repo rate and risk weightages. "That will bring comfort to the house owners." In the review, RBI increased provisioning requirement for the four sectors to two per cent. It means that banks now have to keep two paise for every rupee given to these sectors.

Kingfisher looks to India

UK based home improvement store Kingfisher is planning to come to India, investing $250 million in the venture in the initial phase. While a formal announcement was yet to be made, a team from the UK was in India looking for a company to tie up with and also for locations. The company sells a wide range of goods for the home, such as appliances, tools, hardware, garden supplies and DIY (do it yourself) products. Kingfisher has stores in several countries and is the market leader for its sector in the UK, France, Poland, Italy, China and Taiwan.
"A booming retail industry has space for at least five-to-six home improvement retail brands to set up shop in India. Also, the absence of a largeorganizedd player in this segment is driving international brands to begin operations in the country," a retail analyst said.