The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Retail route to biz boom


4Calcuttans spend no less than Rs 350 crore during the festive months

4The city serves as the consumer hub for more than 400 million people

4The city has the lowest consumer price index among metros and a high disposable income


4Forum, the two-lakh-sq-ft mall on Elgin Road, with Shoppers’ Stop as anchor

4City Centre in Salt Lake, a signature project of Charles Correa

4Pantaloons’ third store, two more Big Bazaar outlets

4RPG Group’s Giant hypermart

4More Pizza Hut, Barista outlets

There’s a mega mart out there, and it’s growing by the month. On a mission to bring investments into infotech and agri-businesses, the McKinsey-West Bengal government joint team has hit upon ‘the’ growth area to watch out for — a retail revolution. Highlighting the city and its surroundings as a hotspot for hypermarts, the international consulting major has ‘advised’ the communist government to pay heed to the bazaar buzz and cash in on a consumerist craze.

With good reason, too. According to McKinsey findings, Calcutta accounts for one-tenth of the Indian market. An ORG–Marg survey has pegged consumer spending in Calcutta, in three months during the festive period, at “over Rs 350 crore”. Calcutta — identified as the epicentre of Bengal, the Northeast, Bangladesh and Myanmar — has the lowest consumer price index among the metros, at 355, followed by suburban Mumbai at 394, and ranks among the top in terms of disposable income.

It’s clearly big-bazaar boom time. “We have prepared a presentation on the basis of various positive findings, supplemented by McKinsey forecasts about the potential of the place, which is at the heart of a market of over 400 million people,” says Atri Bhattacharya, executive director, West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation (WBIDC).

Talks with “two of the biggest hypermarts” in the country have reached the final stages. “We have also received a proposal from a major player interested in setting up operations in the direct-to-home segment,” adds Bhattacharya. The hypermart chains, buoyed by the findings of intensive market surveys, have decided to kick off operations in four prime locations in the city. “They want land and infrastructure support from the government and we expect to seal the deals before the end of the year,” confirms Bhattacharya.

The signals from the ground are “most encouraging”, with several existing retailers in the city recording a healthy growth curve. “Almost all big names, like Pantaloons, MusicWorld and Raymonds, are in expansion mode,” says Bhattacharya.

Pantaloons is looking at “an unprecedented” Rs 100-crore combined turnover from its two outlets in Gariahat and 22, Camac Street, besides Big Bazaar, the hypermart on VIP Road. “Things are definitely looking up,” says Kishore Biyani, managing director, Panlatoon Retail (India) Pvt Ltd, busy planning a third store in “one-and-a-half years”, besides two more Big Bazaar outlets — one inside Hiland Park, on the EM Bypass, and the other in the heart of the city.

MusicWorld, the RPG Group store on Park Street, is another pointer to the city’s retail potential. With a Rs 8-crore turnover in 2001-2002, it has already become “the country’s number one music store” and is looking at a “10-15 per cent growth”. Says regional manager Dipra Jha: “Understanding the consumer psyche is the key. You can succeed in Calcutta only if you have a local focus.”

The RPG Group is also keen to bring its deep-discount hypermart model Giant to Calcutta, and has bid for the WBIDC-tendered Bengal Chemicals plot on the Bypass, opposite the stadium.

With Pantaloons, Westside, Pizza Hut, Grain of Salt and Planet M under one big roof, 22, Camac Street has given Calcuttans a taste of a shopping destination. But there is much more to come, promise retail-payers.

Opening its doors this winter is Forum, the 200,000-sq-ft “lifestyle mall” on Elgin Road, with Shoppers’ Stop taking up 60,000 sq ft as anchor. Developed by Sunsam Properties, Forum is touted as one of the “three most significant” retail properties coming up in the country, besides Phoenix Mills in Mumbai and The Forum in Bangalore.

It will boast big brands like Nike, Lacoste, Swarovski, TechnoGym, Amrretto, Ritu Kumar, Be and “the country’s first FTV Lounge”, according to Rahul Saraf, director.

“We are really looking forward to Calcutta, as this will be our first venture in the eastern part of the country,” says Shashi Kumar, customer care associate & senior manager – business development concessions, Shoppers’ Stop.

The garments chain major is also setting up shop in City Centre, the Charles Correa-designed mega mixed-use project coming up in Salt Lake, promoted by Harsh Neotia’s Gujarat Ambuja Cements Limited and Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority, set to open next Pujas.

“Calcutta always had a disposable income, but didn’t have the avenues to spend. Now, with the advent of organised, large-format retailing, shopping has become an experience and there is a bigger basket to choose from,” says Neotia.

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