Apna Bazaar Co-operative chairman Vishnu Angre told FE that it is in talks with the National Consumer Co-operative Federation, a multi-state apex body, for possible entry into the Delhi market. The Federation has approached Apna Bazaar and enquired about the possibility of running department stores under the brand name Apna Bazaar in Delhi. We are seriously considering the proposal, said Mr Angre.
After registry under the Multi-State Co-operative Act, Apna Bazaar can make forays across the country and, therefore, the collaboration could become the first step in that direction, he added.
To meet the growing competition posed by private players, Apna Bazaar is planning to increase its presence in Mumbai through franchisee outlets. The plan entails having franchisee outlets near railway stations, which would cater to a population within the radius of two km. In the suburbs the focal point is always the railway station and our franchisee would be strategically located to cater to customers. Increasing our distribution reach is our strategy to counter competition, said Apna Bazaar Co-operative deputy general manager Ashok Chavan.
Mr Angre said the co-operative plans to increase its outlets from 81 at present to about 100 by next year. This would comprise department stores, super markets, franchisee outlets and medical stores, both in Maharashtra as well as rest of the country. The co-operative, which recorded sales of Rs 165 crore for the financial year ended March 2003, is looking to touch Rs 175 crore for the financial year ending March 2004.
Online booking for provisions through the Net and a centralised system to control inventory are also on the anvil. To begin with the co-operative plans to have a dedicated call center for customers to phone in their requirements, which would then be delivered from the nearest Apna Bazaar outlet. An online presence, on the lines of Sangam Directthe online initiative of HLLis under consideration.
To ensure minimum inventory and maximum rotation, the co-operative is planning to centralise its supply chain management. It is talking to FMCG majors like HLL and P&G to ensure rotation without building up much inventory. While the super markets would be serviced directly by the companies, the requirements of franchisee outlets would be met by Apna Bazaar to ensure better co-ordination.
The co-operative is looking at building an all-round image by targeting the upper middle class segment as well. It is bringing in initiatives like specialised counters and food courts at its department stores and super markets. Upgrading the skills of its manpower is also a prime agenda and the co-operative has roped in consultants to impart training. All these measures, said Mr Angre, would enable the co-operative to retain its clientele despite competition.