Kiranas dump big brands for high margin Bharti Walmart wares

11 Jul,2012

By Sagar Malviya


A few months ago, Dhananjay Jain, a grocery owner at Vidisha Road in Bhopal, decided to stock two alien brands – Right Buy and Members Mark – because they offered much higher margins than national brands and had lower price tags. Today, these floor cleaners, tea and cornflakes brands contribute nearly 20 per cent to his monthly sales.


Many of his consumers may still have no idea where these brands priced 10-30 per cent less than those of Hindustan Unilever, Dabur and PepsiCo are sourced from. Well, they come from the world’s largest retailer, Walmart.


Mr Jain gets these brands from a Best Price Modern Wholesale outlet – run by Walmart’s joint venture with Bharti Enterprises – just two kilometres from his store.


Walmart is not allowed to sell directly to Indian consumers yet, but its brands across some three dozen categories have started sliding into Indian homes, as its cash-and-carry venture becomes a hit among grocery shop owners.


“The idea is that the reseller should make more profits by selling our brands than he does by selling national brands,” said Arvind Mediratta, chief operating officer of Bharti Walmart. He said the firm’s private labels adhere to all the quality norms despite their lower price tags.


Bharti Walmart operates 17 cashand-carry format Best Price Wholesale outlets, selling products to licensed neighbourhood stores, schools, offices and large enterprises. It has more than 3 lakh members, who own grocery stores.


The firm launched Right Buy and Members Mark after phasing out its earlier brand Great Value, which is now restricted to Bharti’s Easy Day supermarket chain.


So far, Walmart has developed a network of 100 suppliers to make private label products ranging from groceries, home care and personal care products to apparel and stationery. And it may soon get into categories such as soaps, shampoos and detergent. “We are planning to add several more categories in coming months and open over 10 outlets by next year,” Mr Mediratta said.


Company officials say its brands already control 20-22 per cent share in most categories at its members’ outlets. Some shop owners even say they have stopped stocking national brands. “In categories such as floor cleaners and dish washing, we have stopped stocking national brands as consumers just want the lowest priced products in these segments,” said Mohammed Fayaz, a storeowner at Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, where Walmart has opened two wholesale outlets.


What excites kiranawallahs is the huge margin they get. For instance, a 500ml bottle of Walmart’s toilet cleaner brand sports a price tag of Rs55 but is available to a kirana owner at Rs37. That makes the retailer’s margin a whopping 48 per cent. National rivals such as Reckitt Benckiser’s Harpic and HUL’s Domex are sold at Rs58, with the grocer earning 12-15 per cent margin on an average. Bharti Walmart also provides 10-30 per cent higher margins than national brands on tea, colas and juices that allow shopkeepers earn 10-30 per cent higher margins than national brands. Consumer products companies have been increasingly fighting private labels of modern retailers.


In fact, private labels outsell several national brands in home care and packaged food categories at the outlets of retailers such as Future Group, Reliance Retail and Aditya Birla Group.


FMCG companies didn’t feel too threatened because modern trade accounts for just 7-10 per cent of their total sales. But now, with Walmart’s private labels finding place in consumer companies’ largest sales channel – the country’s ubiquitous neighbourhood stores – this trend could become a headache for them.


“As Walmart and other similar players scale up their cash-and-carry operations, given the price consciousness of the Indian consumer and the fact that kirana stores are here to stay, it is likely that this trend will start to worry large consumer goods companies,” said Siddharth Bafna, partner at advisory firm Lodha & Co.


Not everybody agrees. The chief executive of a leading consumer products firm, however, said such private labels would not challenge big brands in evolved categories such as personal care. “There are always some categories, especially commodities, that are more prone to losing out to private labels because of pricing. However, several brands in the personal care segment that keep innovating aren’t threatened by private labels even in markets where modern trade is evolved,” the person said, requesting anonymity because Walmart is one of its partners.


Some shopkeepers say it’s not easy to make people try new brands. “We are able to convince some consumers to opt for lower priced Walmart brands. But there are still many consumers who want to buy popular brands from national companies even if the price is higher,” said Jas Karan Singh, a store owner in Amritsar, where Walmart opened its first cash-and-carry outlet four years ago. Private labels accounted for around 7 per cent of Bharti Walmart’s annual sales of Rs 1,876 crore last calendar at over Rs 130 crore.


Worldwide, the US retail giant is performing well despite the slowdown. For the fiscal year ended January 2012, it increased net sales by 5.9 per cent to $443.9 billion and ranked first on the 2011 Fortune 500 list of the world’s largest companies by revenues.


Source: The Economic Times

Copyright © 2012, Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All Rights Reserved


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