Future Group Chairman Kishore Biyani explains why brick and mortar, and the fashion segment in retail, will hold sway. Edited excerpts from the interview :
On the prospects for ecommerce
One has to understand that at the end of the day, ecommerce is also a place where one is buying a product and a brand. In the long term it’s all about who does it efficiently and what the customer prefers. Even after 20 years of ecommerce in the US, physical is 90% of retail. You can’t get out of physical. You have to use airports, roads, bridges — you can’t have digital or virtual transportation.
On the future for brick-and-mortar business
When I used to travel at the beginning of the ecommerce boom, everybody used to feel sorry for me. ‘Tumhara to business band hone waala hai (Your business is going to end).’ They used to be so sympathetic towards us. But I used to enjoy it. I still remember, a fellow passenger in an aircraft told me once that ‘aapke to burey din aa gaye. Kya kare, zamana badalta hai. (Your bad days have begun. Well, things change)’. All said and done, even in a very odd scenario when everything will get digitalised 20 years down the line, physical will still play a role. Brick and mortar will be there.
On decoding the digital consumer
We have done a lot of work around understanding the digital environment. Human beings are social animals, they like to socialise. And socialising happens in a physical environment. It doesn’t happen in a digital environment. The total non-electronic business that happens online is less than the turnover of the Future Group (last fiscal, the revenue was Rs 21,000 crore). So we were having the last laugh. It’s nothing new. I really enjoy sitting with ecommerce players and discussing business. Unko bhi pata hai unke paas kuch nahin hai (They also know they have nothing).
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