IRN: What attracts you about the Indian market, apart from the number of consumers?
Stuart: The chaos that surrounds retail in India is in some ways very appealing because it creates a very level playing field for all the new entrants to organised retailing, and we know the companies that manage to effectively control their supply chain and logistics will be onto something very special over the next decade.
IRN: What differentiates Pavers from other footwear retailers? What is the positioning?
Stuart: Pavers are proud of their UK heritage but realise India is a vast market which is why we are investing so heavily in research and development in India. We believe our Indian heart gives us a distinct advantage over all our European competition and many of our domestic competitors. One thing we have never been willing to compromise on is customer service and we have spent a fortune training our sales people to European standards if not higher.
IRN: PEFL since its inception in April 2008 has reported a phenomenal growth of 600% and US$ 5 Million turnover in 2009- 10. What do you attribute this to?
Stuart: We work incredibly hard and have a team who are determined for us to achieve our goal of 1,000 stores within the next five years. We can offer careers and levels of promotion only dreamt about by many people in traditional family retail companies, therefore we are attracting some of the best people in the industry. Great strategy actioned by a great team always creates phenomenal results and we have only seen the start so far.
IRN: How do you see the organized Retail industry in India evolving in the future?
Stuart: The growth over the next 10 years will be phenomenal especially when we get over the incredibly wasteful inefficiencies of state and city taxation. There are new shopping centres which are already verging on world class and I see many more in the pipeline that will bring modern retailing to a whole new generation. The only real question is whether high street retailing will grow as rapidly given the heat, rain and pollution you have to struggle with on the high st.
IRN: What other countries are you bullish about? Where are you investing your resources?
Stuart: If you are taking India seriously you really do not need to look elsewhere for the next five years.
IRN: Any interesting insights that you have learnt about the Indian consumer, that you would like to share with our readers?
Stuart: I have learnt there is no Indian consumer, due to the size and makeup of the country there are so many regional differences that you have to be ready to vary your range if not by city then definitely by state.
IRN: What are your future plans with PEFL?
Stuart: Grow to 1,000 stores in the next five years and go for a public offering on the Indian stock exchange.
IRN: What are the challenges involved in setting up and scaling up in India?
Stuart: I am sure you do not have enough space for me to go into this properly as it would take pages and pages. The key to success is to have a brilliant local partner, without that you may as well throw your money down the drain as India offers a great prize but must be one of the most difficult places in the world to set up and scale a business.
IRN: What is your opinion on opening up FDI for the sector?
Stuart: Inevitably FDI will be relaxed in this sector however it is probably better to do it gradually because the last thing you want is to become a mini America where companies like Wal Mart dominate and all individuality and quality retailers are obliterated in the rush to massive out of town shopping.
IRN: What fascinates you about Retailing? What keeps you going every day?
Stuart: Retailing is such a personal business and I wake up every morning wondering how we can make the product even better or make our customers experience in store even better.