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Kishore Biyani sees a ‘Phygital’ future for retail

Chief of Future Group said physical and online retail channels may converge soon.

, ET Bureau|
Last Updated: Jan 17, 2020, 08.10 AM IST
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Biyani said that it was tough to build any brand in the initial days and labels struggled to find takers.
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NEW DELHI: Kishore Biyani, chief executive of the Future Group, Thursday said that traditional offline retailing and web commerce are not as distinct as they once were, with the odds shortening that the two channels to reach end consumers would head toward total convergence in the near future.

"Physical stores have their own advantages and nuances and digital has its own advantages,” Biyani said in New Delhi at a conference organized by Amazon. “Both have come in different eras and in another 3-4 years, it will become phygital,” referring to a retailing term visualises merger the two formats. “It has happened in the (other parts of the) world and it will happen faster in India.”

Biyani is one of India’s most successful retailing pioneers, and is often credited with bringing organized retailing to a country serviced by millions of mom-and-pop kirana, or neighbourhood, stores. His web commerce ventures have been more circumspect, however.

Now, Biyani is partnering with Amazon to expand his omnichannel business. Last year, Amazon invested around Rs 1,500 crore to buy a 49% stake in promoter company Future Coupons, a purchase that indirectly gave Amazon about 3.6% in Biyani’s flagship entity Future Retail.

As part of the agreement between the two companies, Amazon will be an authorised online sales channel for Future Retail, while its stores and warehouses will be used as distribution centres by Amazon for quicker delivery. Both retailers are already testing this service across 22 stores and have said that they will roll out the initiative across Future Retail's store network on agreed timelines.

Biyani said that it was tough to build any brand in the initial days and labels struggled to find takers.

“Today, the customer is searching for brands,” Biyani said. He added that the emergence of ecommerce in India has “changed the rules of the game” in terms of brand building. “Today, you search for a product (online) and discover a brand and start using it,” he said. “So, the rules of engagement have changed.”

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