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Bijou Kurien is a member of the strategy Board at L-CATTERTON, the investment fund supported by LVMH. He decrypts for Global Retail News the current challenges of the transformation of "retail" between 1999 and 2019.

Interview by Gautam Chowdhury, Bangalore

Through . Published on 13 September 2019 à 16h19 - Update on 13 September 2019 à 16h37

What was key to succeed in
international retail 20 years ago ? 

At the turn of the century, e-commerce has not emerged as a viable channel. The only channels of substance were traditional brick & mortar, wholesale/subscription based retail and direct marketing. Channels were complemented by traditional media vehicles such as Press, TV & Outdoor.

In the context of this background, the key to success was to expand rapidly based on the brick and mortar model, country by country. The first set of potential markets were the rapidly growing SE Asian markets. China was the other potential market. All this meant that you had to have deep pockets, adapt the business model to suit each country’s requirement and combine capabilities with strategic alliances.

What is key to succeed
today and tomorrow? 

The market has changed rapidly over the last 20 years. E-commerce has emerged as a viable channel. Lack of physical presence does not constrain you from being an international player. Digital media can cost-effectively spread your message in a targeted manner. Price has become an important determinant of success. Flexibility in adapting your model to changing circumstances and customers is important. The pace of change has increased rapidly and a players ability to adapt is key.

What are the 3 things that
you looking for when you are making an investment decision with a retailer /

The most important factor to look for in a new investment is how differentiated is the model and how unique is the brand or business. It is a crowded market and unless there is something different or unique, you are unlikely to gain customer traction.

How adaptable is the model for domestic and international markets, designed to scale across geographies and growth curves is another important consideration.

The promoter or senior management team, their passion for the business, their vision for scaling, their ability to scale, culture they have created etc. are other important determinants.

Do you have things to share
on that angle ?

The market is metamorphosing into large e-commerce players who are either horizontal or verticals, local grocery retailers, international fashion retailers/luxury players with a wide footprint, and a mix of local, regional or international electronics/home/footwear retailers. Service orientation, customer intimacy and strong data analytics and insights are other capabilities that retailers and brands are focusing on. The distinction between national and store brands is blurring. The best combination of price, design, fashion quotient, quality and price seem to what customers are thinking about.