In order to bring in the transformations required to catapult the retail industry to global benchmarks and beyond, Bangladesh Brand Forum organized ‘Bangladesh Retail Congress 2020’ which entered its 4th iteration and is the solely dedicated summit of the retail industry. Around 350 professionals across the country attended the event which took place at the Grand Ballroom of Hotel Le Méridien, Dhaka on 18 January 2020. This year, Bangladesh Retail Congress was presented by Shwapno, powered by Apex and organized with an association with Lotto. The theme of the summit for this year was “The Future of Retail” where eminent corporate personalities were brought together to discuss diverse issues.
In the event, there were 3 keynote sessions, 4-panel discussions, 3 insight sessions, and 3 case study presentations where the speakers talked about the future of retail all across Bangladesh. The panel discussions and sessions talked about a seismic shift in retail, the future of virtual retail, disruption of the payment system in retail, how customer experience affects retail, challenges the retail industry faces in this growing economy of Bangladesh and the entire event majorly focused on how to incorporate digital marketing and online retail with the existing retail industry. The three case studies presented by UNCDF, APEX footwear and Unimart Holding respectively focused on how their companies are performing in the retail industry and what are the steps they are taking which make them stand out.
Ashraf Bin Taj, President, Marketing Society of Bangladesh (MSB) was the host for the 4th retail congress who started off with welcoming everyone. He addressed the event as “a unique summit of its kind”. Then he started talking about the few global shifts which are affecting the retail industry of our country. He mentioned how elements like online shopping, autonomous checkout, Omni-channel experience, product personalization, brand interactions, the popularity of smart devices, fast delivery, machine learning, bitcoin are influencing the retail industry. Bangladesh too is adapting these elements gradually which is changing the scenario of the industry. Quick adaptation of the consumers with the growing economy and increasing purchasing power, the industry is making changes to the structure which is not only helping to embrace the advanced world but also minimizing the knowledge gap day by day. Moreover, he addressed the fact how 2021 is going to be a significant year not only for the retail industry but also for Bangladesh Brand Forum alongside the country itself since 2021 is the year Bangladesh will be officially declared a middle-income country. Lastly, he emphasized on working on the innovation and development centers of not only Dhaka but also throughout Bangladesh to help the economy of the country to grow in a sustainable way.
Shah Md. Rijvi Rony, Head of Human Resource, ACI Logistics Ltd. (Swapno) delivered the inauguration speech of the congress. He started out by mentioning that compared to the world economy, retail is still emerging in Bangladesh. With the growing economy, the consumers are way more focused on quality products that reflect innovation, uniqueness and sufficiency. In order to reach the demands of these quality-conscious consumers, the retail industry needs to step up their mode of production but majorly their marketing strategies.
Shariful Islam, Founder & Managing Director, Bangladesh Brand forum then went up on the stage to express his gratitude to everyone who took their time out and graced the occasion with their presence. He also mentioned, how retail plays an important and multi-dimensional role in the economy and to cope with the changing market structure in both traditional and digital space in which aspects we should prepare ourselves. Lastly, he invited the audience to take part in the context of “Future of Retail in Bangladesh” by actively participating in the sessions.
Manukrishna Nair on Generation Z Consumers
The first keynote session of the day was conducted by Manukrishna Nair, Development Director, FITCH India who focused on Generation Z as the targeted consumer base who shop via their smart devices mostly. He started off with a question in the beginning, “How do you design a store for a generation that’s always heads down?” and then answered it alongside by saying, “We need to design the interface that’s now permanently between the shopper and the merchandise and as a result, the physical store design should be dramatically different today.” He talked about how they look at the different shopper mind-states- locating, exploring and dreaming in order to define consumer journeys, especially to develop the in-store experiences. According to Mr. Nair, consumers tend to be in search of competitive prices, best deals, and coupons while they shop for a product. However, the perks of using smart devices need to be incorporated with in-store experiences. This is why a lot of globally renowned brands are taking initiatives to bring these two components together in order to elevate the shopping experiences for the consumers. The three consumer mind-states help to reduce consumers in-store while still being able to see the products in its physical form which helps them decide to choose their desired products. Lastly, Manukrishna Nair concluded by saying “Let’s design the future together”.
Hemant Mehta on Consumer Perspective
This session was conducted by Hemant Mehta, Managing Director of Kantar and Chief Strategy Officer of Kantar South Asia. In this session, Mehta discussed the consumer side of the picture in the retail industry focusing on South Asia. Understanding the Consumers’ picture is crucial as the consumer base consists of 1.75 billion population. Demographic dividend, rapid urbanization, a thriving economy, rising affluence, greater participation of women in the workforce are the elements influencing the retail industry. With the changing gender equation, more individualistic perspective, increasing consumer demand, unending quest for the best, empowerment of consumers, enthusiasm and quality consciousness of the consumer the scenario of retail marketing is bound to change in order to keep up in the race.
Pulak Chaudhary on Successful Brands
The last keynote speech was held by Pulak Chaudhary, Business Head, Multi Brand Channel of PUMA Group. He started off by briefing about the history of PUMA as a brand and how it grew over time. PUMA as a brand is very widely established across the entire globe. In 134 cities they have their retail space which proves that PUMA’s brand strategy worked out really well for them. He discussed how PUMA has been expanding its consumer reach by catering towards consumers’ needs, understanding consumer behavior and using retail and e-commerce as their foremost tool to thrive in the global economy and establish PUMA as a very successful brand. Lastly, he concluded by stating,” Retail is detail”.
Seismic Shift In Retail
The first-panel discussion about “Seismic Shift in Retail” was conducted by Ashraf Bin Taj, Managing Director of International Distribution Company Bangladesh (Pvt) Ltd. and President of Marketing Society of Bangladesh as the moderator alongside the panelists Sabbir Hasan Nasir, Executive Director of ACI Logistics Ltd. (Swapno); Manukrishna Nair, Development Director, FITCH India; Rajan Pillai, Chief Executive Officer of Apex Footwear Limited; and Tanvir Haidar Chaudhury, Chief Executive Officer of Kazi Foods Industries Ltd. The seismic shift in the retail industry has caused a change in consumer’s attitudes. The highlight of this discussion was “retail is also considered as entertainment” which reflects that how the drastic change in global retail is transforming the scenario of shopping experiences and consumer’s expectations towards purchasing goods and services.
The Future of Virtual Retail
This panel discussion was about “The Future of Virtual Retail” which was conducted by Zeeshan Kingshuk Huq, Co-founder and CEO of Sindabad.com as the moderator alongside the panelists Morin Taluker, Chief Executive Officer of Pickaboo.com; A.K.M Fahim Mashroor, Founder of Ajkerdeal.com and Co-founder and CEO of Bdjobs.com; Sumbal Momen, Director of Pride Group. In this discussion, Sumbal Momen suggested following the ambiguous strategy when she was asked whether we should stick to retail or online will take over. Challenges that the retail industry faces are in urban areas people have low disposable income as the cost of living is higher than in rural areas. On the other hand, in rural areas as most of the income comes from remittance even after having the cash flow, people in the rural area hardly get access to a variety of products. Therefore, there is definitely an imbalance existing in the structure of expanding the retail companies’ customer reach.
Disruption of Payment System at Retails
The panel discussion on “Disruption of Payment System in Retails” which was conducted by Nazmul Karim Chowdhury, Executive Vice President and the Head of Brand & Communications of Prime Bank Limited as the moderator alongside the panelists Sonia Bashir Kabir, Co-founder and Vice Chairman of Dmoney Bangladesh Ltd.; Syed Mohammad Kamal, Country Manager of Mastercard; AKM Moinul Islam Moin, COO (Culinary, Noodles, Frozen, Confectionary Business of PRAN- RFL group; Mizanur Rashid, Chief Commercial Officer of bKash Limited; and Mohammad Rashed, Joint Director of Bangladesh Bank and Certified Digital Finance Practitioner (CDFP). In this session, the discussants talked about the struggles the retail companies face in terms of making payments and investments because of the digital payment machines’ high prices. This leads to an inconsistency between the supply side and demand space.
Customer Experience is The Game Changer In Retail
The final Panel Discussion was about “Customer Experience is The Game Changer in Retail”, conducted by Dr. Mohammad Baktiar Rana, Associate Professor of IBA, Jahangirnagar University as the moderator alongside the panelists Md. Quamrul Hassan, Business director of ACI Ltd; A.F.M Asif, Chief Executive Officer of Bengal Meat Processing Industries Ltd.; Firoj Alam, Deputy Executive Director, PR, Media & Branding (Marketing), Walton Hi-tech Industries Ltd.; Sabbir Ahmed, Managing Director & Country Head of Retail Banking of Standard Chartered Bangladesh. In this session, the discussants majorly focused on why working on customer experience is key. Consumers want variety in terms of options while choosing their products. They look for efficiency, uniqueness, versatility in the products they are willing to purchase and how they purchase it. Therefore, if retail companies can provide them with their desired experiences, it will be a game-changer in the industry of retail.
The Deligram Way of Delivering Goods
The session was by Waiz Rahim, Founder, and CEO of Deligram, An Omni-channel e-commerce platform that focused on “The Deligram Way of Delivering Goods”. Deligram is a hybrid between e-commerce and the local general stores. He talked about a major issue which states that e-commerce being a convenient mode of shopping is still not quite popular among the general consumers of Bangladesh because of online payment through credit cards which is not that convenient in the context of Bangladesh. That being stated he talked about his startup Deligram which combines e-commerce and local general stores under one solely convenient mode of shopping. 97% of the purchase in rural Bangladesh are still completed through informal channels like physical stores and less than 1% through e-commerce. Only 60% of smartphone users shop online, according to a recently conducted research. Deligram is basically taking 97% of the consumer base of physical stores into the e-commerce digital shopping era. He also talked about the booming prices of goods as the consumer’s income and the demand for various products are rising. The unavailability of unique products in the general stores calls for e-commerce to emerge to fulfill the consumer’s demand with rising income. E-commerce comes down to convenience, selection and pricing which helps the consumers to get hold of their desired products.
Turning Footfalls Into Dollars
The second insight session focused on “Turning Footballs to Dollars” which was presented by Munaf Mojib Chowdhury, Director of Client Leadership ADA- Analytics, Data, Advertising, Bangladesh. He started off the session by pointing out the challenges faced by the retail industry which are store location, consumer behavior, billboard advertising. Companies tend to be unaware of the best-suited location to establish a new outlet with a high concentration of target audience; being unable to understand their and their competitor consumers’ behavior; and being unable to determine the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. The existing challenges require to be solved and Mojib Chowdhury threw a question to the crowd by stating “retail experts know who they want, but what is the best way to locate them?” To have a way out of this is to understand the movement of the target audience across different days and time alongside the footfall pattern of competitor’s consumers. To sum up, in order to engage with the targeted consumers, it is crucial to understand their preferences and behavioral pattern.
Future Challenges of Retail Marketing In Bangladesh
The final insight session was about “Future Challenges of Retail Marketing in Bangladesh” and was discussed by G. M. Kamrul Hassan, Group CEO of Igloo Ice Cream, Food & Dairy Ltd. He focused on how the lack of skills in the employees is causing a communication gap between the companies and the consumers. He addressed the interesting setup of Bangladesh’s retail market consisting of various competitors from different dynamics as the economy is thriving and the retail industry is emerging. However, this works both as an advantage and a disadvantage as there is a constant struggle with nurturing management skills. He stated the reason for this is the ignorance of the owners towards the skill development of their employees. According to him, converting the education into skills is crucial to transform a salesperson from a product into a brand as brand loyalty is more sustainable than product loyalty.
Changing Retail Landscape In Bangladesh – A Micro-Merchant Perspective
The first case study was focused on “The Changing Retail Landscape in Bangladesh- A Micro-Merchant Perspective” which was presented by Md. Ashraful Alam, Country Project Coordinator of SHIFT-SAARC, UNCDF and the Secretariat of DFCG. Here he talked about mainly two market trends of which, one being the modern retailing will continue to grow with the deployment of technology and other is traditional retail is still the mainstream in Bangladesh and micro-merchants have a strong presence in rural areas. He also discussed the typical profile of micro-merchants and women’s participation in informal businesses where the only handful have a trade license. He also talked about the solutions which will help the micro-merchants of Bangladesh to grow their business if some implications are made. Two of the major implications he discussed were to improving business operations by capacity development in marketing, financial management with a proper business plan and to access finance for expansion as the lack of capital is the biggest constraint to expand their business. Lastly, he concluded by mentioning the current scenario of Bangladesh’s retail industry which is at its primary stage.
Effective Use of Customer Loyalty Program
This case study was on “Effective Use of Customer Loyalty Program” which was presented by the CRM of E-commerce of Apex Footwear Limited- Reeftaul Karim and Fatema Fahmida. They discussed the customer loyalty program and the proper way to utilize it by illustrating the business model of Apex. Apex launching its website caused changes to be made in their business model as e-commerce seeks unique criteria to attract the consumers into brand loyalty. This is why Apex Footwear started to deliver a world-class experience for its customers by providing exclusive shopping journeys, personalized offers and extending benefits. This not only expanded their customer base but also made their existing customers gain brand loyalty.
The Emergence Of Chef’s Table
“The emergence of Chef’s Table” case study was presented by Murtoza Zaman, Chef’s Table, CEO of Unimart Holding. In this session, he talked about how they focused on consumer’s comfort and convenience in order to target consumers of all groups starting from the youth to the families to have a unique experience while dining. According to him, a change in the restaurant industry had to be made in this extremely competitive market. As the consumers are always keen towards trying new things, Unimart Holdings came up with the idea of Chef’s Table and Chef’s Table Courtside just to serve among the large variety of consumer base with something they never experienced before.
PARTNERS AND PATRONS
4th Bangladesh Retail Congress was an initiative of Bangladesh Brand Forum. The title partner of the event is Shwapno and is powered by Apex, organized in association with Lotto; supported by Walton Smart Fridge, Unimart; Event Partner – Lé Meridien Dhaka; Strategic Partner – The Daily Star; Knowledge Partner – MSB; Lifestyle Partner – Advanced Development Technologies; Technology Partner – Aamra Technologies; Media Partner – Ekattor TV; Digital Partner – Applied Business Initiatives (ABI) and PR Partner – Backpage PR.