IRN: Let's start with what everyone wants to know. How has business been in the past quarter?
Kabir: Like everyone else, we have faced a few pressures in certain areas, like furniture for example. However, this has not changed our plans as such. Our focus is on brands and products that are relevant for the current market conditions. There are some short-term pressures, but overall we remain optimistic and believe in the Indian consumption story.
Shankar: We have introduced private-label furniture and lower-priced apparel. While our target customer is still upper-middle, we hope to expand the middle segment.
IRN: What are your strategic goals in the 3 to 5 year horizon?
Kabir: In the next 2 to 3 years, we plan to double our store count for Lifestyle from the current 15 to 30 and Home Centres from the current 8 to 12 /15 stores. We plan to open more stores in the larger cities and also focus on Tier II towns.
Shankar: In addition to the tier I cities, we are currently present in 3 tier II towns, Jaipur, Pune and Ahmedabad.
IRN: What about your plans for 2009? What is the impact of the slowdown?
Kabir: We continue to expand and take possession of properties as they get ready.
Shankar: The slowdown has delayed some of the properties getting ready.That is the only impact.
IRN: What product areas do you expect significant growth from? Which are your star categories?
Kabir: There are several. We expect apparel, footwear, home furnishings, health and beauty, accessories to continue to do well in the future.
Shankar: We have added sarees as a new product offering in some of our stores now. Also, modular kitchens are part of our assortment now. We continue to add products that are relevant to our customer's needs.
IRN: Any areas that you anticipate to be weak?
Kabir: We have tweaked our business to head off weakness, by focusing on more merchandise with lower price points and catering to the consumer sentiment.
IRN: Any new business segments in the offing? Any new business models / alliances you are considering?
Kabir: While we intend to focus on growing our strengths in our Lifestyle and Home Centre brands, we are open to alliances that make business sense.
IRN: How do the vision and values of Micky Jagtiani (founder of the Landmark Group) impact the Indian operations?
Kabir: Micky is very committed to India and helps drive the business here. His thinking and his values drive our strategy and expansion plans here in India. We are a relatively small, but important part of the group. His values, like high ethical standards for example, are ingrained in our way of doing business.
IRN: Coming out of the slowdown, what factors in your opinion will separate the men from the boys, so to speak, in the retail industry?
Kabir: The companies that have their business fundamentals right will be the ones that emerge strongest. Those who have their cost structures in line and relevant to the market conditions, a product offering that is relevant to the customer and have the right formats and store sizes. India, relatively speaking, is in a better position than most other countries. However, companies need to get their marginal cost structures in line. Rentals are correcting and internal focus on efficiencies is increasing; it will be good for the industry. The good part is that the hype is over. The long term outlook is positive.