Thursday, May 7, 2009

Foreign brands look to Indian market to survive slowdown

How about enjoying evening coffee at mobile Alto Cafe mini-van parked in your neighbourhood or trying out the newest flavour of fruit

juice at Revive Juice outlet — the coffee and juice retail brands from France and the UK — in your very own city? Well, this may soon be possible.

Several American and European retail brands in segments as varied as fashion, cosmetics, lingerie, food & beverages, among others, are preparing to make their presence felt in the Indian market through franchise route, as a result of sharp drop in sales in these markets following economic slowdown. Certain brands from countries like the UAE, Brazil and Thailand are also eyeing Indian market.

“Drop in retail sales in Europe and the US markets are leading to this phenomenon. Retail brands that built great amount of manufacturing capacities are under pressure to offload excess inventories and are therefore entering into alternative sales practices by setting up their franchise in large-sized markets like India,” Gaurav Marya, franchising expert and president, Franchise India Holding, told ET.

Following the collapse of the international retail markets, several brands like Beverley Hills Polo (USA), Spa Siam (Thailand), Taman Gang Restaurants (UK) and others entered Indian market through franchise route.

Others like Revive Juice Bars (UK), Mrs Fields Cookies (USA), Jamba Juice (USA), fashion brand Jules (France), cosmetics brand Mikyajy (UAE), lingerie brand Nayomi (UAE), car-wash service brand Moly Company (Thailand), food & beverages brands Habibs (Brazil) and Herfy, BBQ Chicken (Singapore), Pizza Company and Spicchio Pizza (both Thailand), Marina Furniture (UAE), and Alto Cafe (France) are learnt to be at various levels of negotiation to start their services in India.

Companies that have long nurtured ambition to enter retail-friendly markets like India and China are finding this a convenient time as sales in their own countries have tapered. They are trying to convert this as an opportunity to taste Indian waters, which they plan to do for 2-3 years before they decide on their future plans in these countries, says business strategy specialist Harish Bijoor.

“Several brands are looking for green pastures, and India having a decent GDP growth of 4.3% holds lots of potential for them. They are taking up franchise route as they cannot risk coming on their own at this juncture. This also means a big chunk of business coming in for entrepreneurs,” Mr Bijoor said.

Several brands are targeting grade B and C cities rather than expanding in metros, as smaller cities are more brand hungry and retail is not much hit here, say experts.

“With the presence of limited brands in India markets, the country holds big opportunity for these brands as this would also help them re-route inventories and orders to new markets and keep their sagging sales volume intact. At the same time, their Indian counterparts are finding this a right opportunity to strike negotiations to their advantage,” added Mr Marya.

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