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Big Bazaar bets big on local tastes

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Future Group-owned Big Bazaar has become one of India’s largest retailers in the past 13 years. Its footprint across India includes 300 stores which the retailer wants to increase to 500 stores by the end of 2014. Big Bazaar Direct is the new franchise programme where local shops are being armed with tablets preloaded with the Direct Shopping App, through which customers are able to browse and place orders. The brand has also diversified into fashion and food products. Having started with the metros, Big Bazaar has now penetrated small towns and its current phase of expansion is taking place in the Tier II and Tier III towns of India. Rashi Bisaria, in conversation with Akshay Mehrotra, CMO, Big Bazaar, found out more about the brand’s expansion plans, its ability to adapt to different parts of the country and its methods of communication with the target group.

Q] What has been your expansion plan till now? Which parts of the country are you focusing on?

The modern retail stores were first launched in the metro cities. Kolkata was the first store, followed by Mumbai and Hyderabad, then Bangalore. In Southern India, we have entered the mid-sized and smaller towns also. Small towns are an important market for us and our priority is to expand here. For instance, Lucknow, Kanpur, Agra, Gwalior and others have the potential and the population, and are critical for the Big Bazaar establishment. We run stores of all sizes and all possibilities to cater to different consumers and push consumers to buy more. The exclusive fashion stores, a new extension of Big Bazaar, are an effort in this direction. There are large extensions for mid-level towns which have accepted the modern retail format, in the North-east first and now in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and neighbouring locations. They amount to a substantial part of the revenue. Lucknow and Kanpur make an important contribution to our annual revenue.

Q] What is the contribution of the northern belt towards your revenue?

It is between 18-20% in all. We categorise the northern market into two parts – northern states and Delhi. The numbers will increase as there is huge potential here as growth now lies in Tier II and Tier III towns.

Q] Which media vehicle works best for you in this region?

Considering the market dynamics, Television is very important. In markets like Dhanbad or Jodhpur, where big sales happen just twice or thrice in a day, we use Television to promote offers and discounts. Due to this communication, almost 70-80% of consumers turn up on Wednesdays. We use Print to build urgency and it’s an integral part of the mix. We tap into new segments of consumers through vernacular media. In any market, we use the primary regional, primary national and secondary regional publications for our communication. The allocation of our marketing spends in the ATL component is in the ratio of 80:20, Print being 80. Print campaigns have a substantial role to play. They connect with the entire market. For Big Bazaar, we have covered 37-41 markets through Print advertising, perhaps the largest depth to which any brand has ever gone in the country via the medium of Print. Our reach via Print is quite strong.

Q] What is the strategy you are using to tap into consumers in small towns of North India?

We have around 18-20 stores in the Tier II and Tier III towns of North India. Our prime focus is to understand the consumer in the target city. We did a local consumer engagement activity in Sholapur as local campaigns help in attracting consumers in large numbers. In some small Northern towns, we conducted prominent outdoor activities (which positioned us as fashion retailers) and educated consumers about how to choose fashion and localize campaigns to a large extent. While we do national campaigns, we try to understand the regional markets. For instance, Holi is the festival of colours but in UP and Rajasthan, it is more to do with buying clothes. We have seen 35-40% consumers turning up at our stores during this time. The idea is to be able to localize under the umbrella of modernization. Within the educational hub of North India, we conducted a campaign to target youth. Similarly in Kota, we targeted medical and engineering aspirants. Besides Print, we also used activations in colleges to connect with consumers.

Q] Where do these consumer insights come from?

When we venture into a new retail market, we diligently study it. We study the profiles of consumers entering each store and try to provide favourable offerings for that consumer. It is important to understand the local tastes and aspirations. We have a store at the IT Park in Bangalore. Our offerings are suited to the diverse population present there from neighbouring States. We have a fashion store coming up in Allahabad and we have to gear up to cater to their fashion sensibilities.

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