Reversal of Roles and Hence Fortunes

It’s a déjà vu! News and events unfolding in the retail industry bear uncanny resemblance to proceedings played out a decade ago. The oppressor of the last decade is an oppressed now with the old oppressed slowly faded into oblivion. 10 years ago, big retail chains, Indians but with deep pockets, were slowly starting to eat into the revenue of neighbourhood provisional shops. Small retailers were a worried lot and at a bleak future stared at them. ‘Predatory pricing’ strategy adopted by these giants threatened to wipe out small fishes, at least in big cities. Small retailers put up a good show but it wasn’t enough. A few survived while the rest wound up.

Ten years hence, the roles have reversed. Now, it’s the organized retailers who are crying over lost revenue to online retailers. Flush with money pumped in by private equity funds, online retailers are giving retail chains a taste of their own medicine. The ground beneath these giants of the industry is eroding by the aggressive and intimidating positioning of online stores. Poor sales recorded at brick and mortar stores during the just concluded festive season weren’t surprising by any stretch of imagination. The villain of the previous edition is playing victim in the sequel. Victims of the previous edition are either died out or relegated to obscurity. Not even our government offered a shoulder to cry on to the poor lot. The same fate awaits the new victim too.

Previous decade belonged to organized retailers; this to online retailers and the next one will witness online retailers being decimated by a new market force. Darwin’s evolutionary theory of ‘survival of the fittest’ is being played out as ‘survival of the richest.’

‘Make hay while the sun shines’!

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