Retail changing fast in India

The Indian retail market is changing fast, with a rapid consumer move to buying fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) via major retail outlets. This is happening across India but is fastest in urban centres.

India’s first major store was Big Bazaar which opened in Kolkata in 2001.  For the first time, following demonetisation and implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), modern trade has touched the double-digit mark, accounting for 10% of the overall revenue of the FMCG sector, according to market research and insights provider The Nielsen Co.


Modern trade’s growth stood at 25% during the April-June quarter, compared with 16% in the July-September quarter last year.

According to Nielsen, stores that stock FMCG products, operate on a self-service business model and provide shopping baskets or carts to customers are classified as “modern trade” stores.


Stores include names such as Big Bazaar and DMart.

For Marico Ltd, the maker of Saffola and Parachute oils, channels such as modern trade comprise 11% of India sales, and are growing at 39%. On the other hand, e-commerce, comprising 1% of India sales, is growing at four times the overall growth rate, according to recent report by SBICap Securities Ltd.


Urban retail is growing due to rising urban household incomes and increasing penetration of organised retail in urban centres. The share of urban retail is expected to grow from 49% in 2015-16 to 52% by 2019-20, according to a May 2018 report by Firstcall Research.

Modern retail is seeing retailers launch new stores and consolidate their footprints. For instance, in 2017-18, Avenue Supermarts Ltd, which runs DMart chain of stores, added 24 stores, taking its total count to 155.


Over the last few years, Kishore Biyani’s Future Retail Ltd has strengthened its footprint in western India with the acquisition of Hypercity Retail India Ltd. In the north, the company acquired Easyday chain from Bharti Enterprises and Big Apple. In South India, the retailer bought Nilgiris and Heritage Foods chains.


Can India help solve the western disease of unhappiness?

It seems many in the west struggle to live with wealth – there is evidence of considerable dissatisfaction, unhappiness and medical conditions that impact a sense of well-being. If you doubt that there is mental confusion in the west, just reflect for a moment on the western phenomena of “road rage”, surely the product of unhappy minds.

Could some of the answers to this western dilemma be found in India?


From Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and many others, including Buddhist thinkers, we learn that our attitude to events and people around us is the most important factor in our mental well-being. The west largely seeks this well-being through events and others, not through self contemplation.

People in the west have extensive material wealth but little focus on the mind and the spirit. Largely as a result, they continue to seek lasting happiness from things outside of their own mind – happiness through a job, travel, possessions, plastic surgery, new partner, bigger house and so on. Buddhist teachers remind us all these things can be fine – so long as we have a stable sense of inner well-being. That is, lasting happiness comes from within.


The Buddha taught in India that looking for lasting happiness outside of our inner life results in attachment (where we want more and more and fear losing what we have) and in aversion (where we blame others for our unhappiness). You can see how “enough is never enough” would drive these minds.

Another western phenomena is “busyness” which is evidence of impatient minds and the drive for external sources of happiness.

India has long taught patience – living with adversity, accepting the flaws of others – whereas the west is so driven that patience is a word rarely used.


If the Himalayas were located in the west, people would flock there for bungy jumping, extreme ski sessions, jumping out of planes and other extreme sports. For India, the Himalayas have been a location of contemplation, monasteries, thought and mindfulness.

It has long been said that the ultimate western hero was Alexander the Great who conquered more than anyone before him – while a hero in India could be a guru sitting in contemplation under a tree.

In this comparison, could we find one key to happiness in the wealthy west?

How “culture” can divide the west and India – and how to overcome it

Every country has a culture – the way things are done, how people think and more. To succeed with another country, it makes sense to first understand their culture – that way, we can adapt to it.

Cultural misunderstanding is at the core of our lack of trade and diplomatic connectivity with India.

The importance of cross-cultural understanding is not about focusing on “difference” – it is about knowing what those differences are, so we can then ADAPT our behaviour. Further, cross-cultural analysis is not claiming one view to be right and the other wrong.multicult

Consider what the academics call “absolutism vs relativism” – we in the west are absolutist so we place all our energy on contracts, project plans and we never like surprises. India is a relativist culture, so it knows things can only be defined relatively, and whatever we decide upon will change as life inevitably changes. You can see how these two differing world views create problems for us.

The absolutist thinker puts rules above relationships – while the relativist thinker places relationship way above rules. Knowing this, we can adapt.


Also look at western “individualist” culture and compare with India’s “collectivist” culture. The west empowers individuals to make decisions, whereas in a collective culture, decisions are made by the group and can take more time. Not such a problem when you understand it.

Plus consider that the west is called a “specific” culture while India is “diffuse”. What does this mean? The westerner is direct, open and always in a rush – cannot stay for dinner. The Indian prefers to be indirect, works around an issue rather than confronting it, takes time, wants you to stay for dinner and never says “no” even when that is the right answer, preferring the often misunderstood “I will try”.

With these differences and many more, whether we are Indian or western, if we train to understand and ADAPT to the difference, we face much better prospects of success.Tourists1

Indian tourists choosing Australia – and Melbourne is a “must see”

Australia had a 19 per cent growth in Indian tourist arrivals between June 2017-May 2018, with 330,700 Indians visiting the country.

This has made India the eighth largest inbound market, after China, New Zealand, the US, Britain, Japan, Singapore and Malaysia, according to the data.


Indians are also considered good spenders while travelling Down Under – spending by Indian tourists grew by 14 per cent between April 2017 and March 2018, with visitors spending AUD 1.53 billion.


In terms of spending, India stood seventh after China, the US, Britain, New Zealand, Japan and Korea.

This is the fourth year where Australia has recorded double-digit growth in both arrivals and spend, indicating the destination’s growing preference among Indians.

The recent government move to extend online visitor visa applications to all Indians also helped boost the numbers.


Melbourne is a “must see” – beautifully designed city, clean, green, lots of parks, the famous MCG (the city is a sporting capital, with Australian Open tennis and Grand Prix), galleries and great shopping – plus easy access to the Great Ocean Road and the Phillip Island penguins. This is Australia’s most multicultural (diverse) city with people from Greece, Italy, China, India, Vietnam, Malaysia, New Zealand, Britain and more, making it a rich food and cultural centre.

Independence Day – “India discovers herself again.”

Today is Independence Day for India – celebrated every year on 15 August. This freedom came in 1947 but had to be fought for with many great “freedom fighters” showing the way. Britain did not want to let go of this nation which had been a massive source of income for many years.

Because of that struggle, for all Indians Independence Day is a day to remember the people who fought the Britishers and gave up their lives to free the country from a foreign ruler – it is the day to “pledge and to protect the unity and integrity of our country.”

India Students

Independence Day is a national holiday and is celebrated with much fervour across the nation. Parades are held in all state capitals and district headquarters to celebrate Independence Day. Indians across the country also hoist the tricolour to mark the day. Many also fly kites, sing patriotic songs and exchange sweets to celebrate Independence Day.

On the eve of Independence Day, the President addresses the nation in a televised speech. On Independence Day, the Prime Minister greets the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in New Delhi.

Independence was proclaimed in 1947 by the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who declared: “At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes, but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”

Well done India – and a very Happy Independence Day!

7 reasons India is the key to global economic growth

India is a source of growth for the global economy for the next few decades and it could be what China was for the world economy, the IMF said today, as it suggested the country take steps towards more structural reforms. Here are my 7 reasons India is the key:

  1. India now contributes, in purchasing power parity measures, 15 per cent of the growth in the global economy (IMF figures) – just behind China and USA.
  2. India has three decades before it hits the point where the working age population starts to decline. About 600 million people – half of India’s population – are under the age of 25. The next three decades is India’s window of opportunity in Asia.
  3. The IMF has forecast India’s growth to rise to 7.3 per cent in FY2018/19 and 7.5 per cent in FY2019/20, on strengthening investment and robust private consumption.
  4. The Indian economy is recovering surprisingly well from the two shocks that started from late 2016: demonetisation and then the implementation issues related to the GST. Long term, the GST is the biggest regulatory game changer in India.
  5. Reformed insolvency and bankruptcy codes are another big achievement of the Modi Government.
  6. The Reserve Bank of India is now formally and actively involved in inflation targeting – India has seen the benefits of that have lower inflation and inflation expectations.
  7. In the pipeline of Modi reforms are more changes to improve the business climate and further steps to liberalise Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).And then there are some of the key smaller steps like things to improve the business climate, steps to further liberalised FDI.

Sure, more reform is needed in labour laws, overall improvement in ease of doing business, more infrastructure activity and dealing with the banking and corporate sector balance sheet issues.

But current evidence is that India will avoid the trap of “growing old before it becomes rich”.

10 things that shape the mind of Australians

I am often asked by Indians what is it like to be an Aussie? Why are there so few people in Australia? It has made me reflect on what is it like to be an Australian, the country of my birth? Here are some thoughts:

An Island Home

Australia is the biggest island on earth. We often talk about the “tyranny of distance” as a factor in our history and personality – so far from anything, isolated. But isolation probably makes us feel vulnerable and as a result we have always sought big “friends” (Britain, and then USA).

Personal Space


It is a long way between anything in this land. You can drive for many hours without seeing another car or another person. Our feeling of space explains why Aussies visiting India or Europe soon long for the “peace and quiet” of home.



Drive for an hour or two out of the light of our cities and the stars seem to go on forever and our beloved national symbol – the Southern Cross – is a comforting sign of being “home”. The Southern Cross is five stars – if joined by a line they would make the shape of the Christian cross. Seen from here, the Milky Way is ever present and so dense with stars it can look like a white haze. In Australia, the universe makes you feel small and vulnerable – one insight into the Australian world view.

A Fair Go and Tall Poppy Syndrome


On this dry, isolated island home, we are all in this together. As a result, Aussies grow up believing in a fair go for all, in equality of opportunity, in support for those struggling to make it and in not standing out too much (the tall poppy syndrome). If you get too loud or too successful, we will cut you down (as in the flowers).

Direct and economical


From our western origins as convicts or free settlers in a harsh environment, our speech became direct and to the point. It’s too hot and dry for idle chatter. Australian cricketers are direct and can be aggressively so – which in truth is much the same for all of us. We admire those who face our directness and “can take it”.

The original inhabitants


The British who settled here decided there was no-one here before they came – “Terra Nullius” is a Latin expression meaning “nobody’s land”, and is a nasty principle sometimes used in international law to describe territory that may be acquired by a state’s occupation of it. I don’t like it and nor do most Australians and it was not overturned until 1992. Thanks Britain! Meantime, a lot of harm was done to indigenous peoples. But many indigenous are successfully living as teachers, nurses, doctors, skilled workers. But it is not our style to celebrate this (see “Tall Poppy”).

Urban fringe


Most Australians live in cities that cling on or close to the coast. These cities are stunningly good – well laid out, everything works, they have sophistication and a quality of life envied around the world. We have culture, sports facilities and urban gardens.

“Dormitory” suburbs


When work is over, Aussies rush to their homes, close the door and do not go out again until work tomorrow. The quality of our homes plus the amount of technology to play with is among the best in the world.


multicultThe Chinese came here in the 19th century gold rushes. After World War Two, it was the Greeks and Italians who came to drive manufacturing in our cities. Then the Vietnamese, Serbians, Croats, Fiji Indians, Africans, South Africans, New Zealanders and Pacific islanders. Now – China and India vie for our leading source of migrants. We live side by side, mostly in harmony. We travel together, celebrate each other’s festivals, eat food from all countries…but in the back of our mind is the fragile land – and a kind of primal fear that too many migrants could spoil it.


Yet the paradox of all the above is that Australians are not insular, we are outward looking, mostly well informed about the world and we travel a huge amount. But it is always comforting to “come home”.

There is such a thing as “Indian Time”

Different cultures can perceive time in different ways. In the west we see time as sequential, a straight line, whereas India sees time as synchronic, they see the past, present and future as interrelated.

Why do we need to know this? Knowledge of the culture of others is not about making judgments of others – rather, it helps us adapt to differences.

In a nutshell, this western approach to time explains why we are always rushing about, completing one meeting and rushing on to the next, while your Indian host seems relaxed, not in a rush, dealing with many other things while meeting with you and so on.

The Indian view of time partly explains the seeming “chaos” of Indian conferences – people constantly leaving or entering the room, private meetings can distract your attention and of course mobiles will ring and will be answered. All of this can be confusing for westerners, yet for the Indians, this is just a normal situation.

In a business meeting, the Indian you are talking to might also be signing letters, taking messages from staff, handling calls and seemingly not paying attention – but in fact knows exactly what you are saying despite what westerners would see as interruptions.

It is important for the visitor to adapt to this difference – especially on business visits. For example, filling your day with meetings could mean you miss the real opportunity, such as towards the end of a long meeting, your Indian host might want to introduce you to a superior or a friend in another company – this is a sign of your acceptance, the meeting has gone well, and they are honoring you. Without understanding this difference, you rush off and miss the opportunity.

Australia’s ‘An India Economic Strategy to 2035’ No. 5 – what are competitor countries doing to succeed in India?

The Australian trade and investment relationship with India is stagnating – even declining.

Part of finding the solution should be to look at what others are doing to succeed there – especially Japan, Singapore and Canada.

Much more competitor analysis would have added real value and real world outcomes to the “An India Economic Strategy to 2035” report.

For example, in the area of India’s plans for 100 Smart Cities, how have competitor countries won contracts?


Research among Japan, Singapore and Canada would show that when the projects are large, these countries have gone to India with a total and coordinated solution – the finance, the designs, construction, equipment, ongoing administration and maintenance – and more. These have been offers too good to refuse.

Can Australia build a more collaborative approach to India? Can we identify projects and take a total solution across? Doing this would be one step to creating better levels of trade and investment.

Current fragmented approaches are not working.