Expert Interview with the Chief Operating Officer of Mr. DIY India

In order to give a experience of “Learning directly from Industry Experts” to our Qualpedia Viewers, we have interviewed Mr. Karthikeyan Vishnu, who is an alumnus of INSEAD Business School as well as a Chief Operating Operating Officer of MR. D.I.Y India.

Karthikeyan’s simple approach is ‘Listen to your consumers need & Deliver a reliable product’ along with creating ‘A delightful consumer experience’ has been one of the biggest factors of success for the brand.

Continue to read to learn more insights!

1. What are the parameters which you take into consideration while setting up stores at various locations?

When it comes to retail, the emphasis definitely is on the location however there can be 3 contexts to these locations.

The location or demographic : The place where you want to position your brand  whether it is in a mall or in a Highstreets depending on the DNA of your brand where exactly you would like to have your store.

Customer Segmentation: The profile of the customer whom you are going to target are they interested in coming to that who ultimately is going to generate the business for you.

Right fit: Whether your brand is a right fit for that location considering all the parameters put together and that’s when it’s a win-win.

2. Could you tell us something about the journey of Mr. D.I.Y from 2 stores to 1700 stores over the world?

Mr. D.I.Y is a Malaysian headquartered brand, started as a hardware store for the first ten years of its journey.

 Initially we had 10 stores in Malaysia, post that we started expanding aggressively in Malaysia. Initially in the first 3 years we opened  300 stores in Malaysia. Then, we ventured out to other countries today Globally we have 1900 stores.

We came to India in June 2019 and established the entire ecosystem for smooth expansion, we opened our first store in Infinity mall Malad n Mumbai on the 1st of December 2019.

Further, we had our second store which was at big mall which is on Thane in 16th of December 2019 followed by that today we are just going to have our 50th store in Indore contributing to our pan India presence.

We started with one city and then looking at the logistic impact we move in concentric circles. However, last two years because of the covid19 we did have a different strategy considering the way the markets were open as per the COVID protocols of every state. We revisited the Business plans many times to make sure we have the right Go to market strategy to create a stronger base and have a sustainable business because India is a long term market for us.

3. Your profile mentions that you listen to consumers to deliver reliable product – Can you enlighten us more on this?

Absolutely, listening is the most important form of communication, we are designed in a particular way where we listen twice, before we speak once or communicate to the customer. Being a value retailer and being a brand who’d want to have a wallet share of  daily purchase products of every customer , the product offering is something which is the “hero” in our retail strategy. Today in India we have close to 14000 SKUs(varied products) in a 5000 to 10,000 square feet space , I am not aware of any brand in our category who are offering the same.
 
Even a 5000 sqft store will have the same product offering as the 10000 sqft store.To take care of the challenge of a smaller store what we do is we have a logistics arrangement such that the replenishment of the stocks in that particular store will happen in a much quicker fashion. There are stores which are in high rental malls and we almost replenisher stocks every alternate day.
Yes, listening to the customer and reliability in delivery is what matters to them and if you really care about your customer, this is something which will keep you in any business and that’s what I firmly believe in.

4. Tell us something about your venture into the E-com business Vs selling in stores.

Ecommerce is altogether different methodology for us. We call ourselves as the offline market space with a kind of offering that we provide to our customers. However, when we go to e commerce space, we have certain basics that we get it right because today in ecommerce market the cost of acquisition of a customer is around ₹900 and my average price point is going to be around ₹300 so until and unless the customer does not come thrice, I am not going to make justice to the customer who is coming on board.
 
So, what we strongly believe is creating a powerful ecosystem before we get online. We have a benchmarking of minimum of 150 stores to 200 stores so that we have a substantial ecosystem in any market before we go into the e commerce or the Omni channel presence. Right now yes, we are in the online space however that is more of informational rather than transactional. With the online presence on the Instagram and Facebook, we have customers who walk into a store so that’s where we are using the online channel right now.

5. What are some of the activities that pioneer brands can invest in to grow their brand to next level?

As already answered in 3rd Question, I would say listen to your customer that is very important. Before listening to the customer, listen to your entire ecosystem with that level of integrity. Firstly, listen to your employees they are the people who are going to help you expand in the market.

Listen to all your channel partners they will provide you inputs in terms of what can work for your brand or what cannot work for your brand. Though, you are the brand owner and you know the DNA very well at times there are that single inside from an external person which will add tremendous value to your brand for the expansion. So, listening to the entire ecosystem is very important and ultimately when you listen to everyone you have an ecosystem which is receptive to any form of communication where people are willing to express and people express only when they feel they are very much a part of the company they breathe in and breathe out the Brand DNA when that happens as a whole you will be listening to your customer. And, when you start listening to your customers that is where the true business happens.
Lot of times people and brands and companies mistake that you know step in terms of just focusing on the customers and having all their energies channelize there forgetting about the entire ecosystem which is which is your internal customers which supports most of your output or your throughput through your external customers.

6.We are really impressed by your simple approach technique; can you please share any 2 tips that a company should take care for providing a delightful consumer experience?

I see retail has the 2 core components  – People and Process.
For any pioneer brand, to really excel in the market definitely they need to invest in the right kind of people. Because, when you have the right kind of people, you can have the right process which is followed. Also they will make sure that the process being is implemented and definitely the product has to be the hero.

Today, customers are spoilt for choice, they have many opportunities, even if it is a smaller product, why do people come back again and again to Mr. D.I.Y? I have a price point which is starting from 50 rupees but is that I am giving them product which is not of great value at that price? – No, having the right quality the right product the right offering at the right price is something which helps them have confidence into the brand, trust the brand and make them keep coming back for more.

Today the acquisition cost of a customer either online or the offline is always high, compared to the retention cost when a customer is going to come back to you.  And people say that as customer loyalty, we are not looking for 100% loyalty that is not going to come however looking at the way the market is expanding today, 30 to 40 percentage of customers coming back to you, they are going to take care of your overheads and all the new customers who are coming they are going to add up to your profits and so that’s where you’re going to have a sustainable business & sustainable brand.

7. Any 2 key tips for beginners who are interested to start an apparel brand in India?

To start a specific apparel brand today there is lot of saturation that I see which is there however with saturation there is lot of innovation that is coming in I would give the example of two brands, Zara Uniqlo,   Zara has always been the king of fast fashion where they are able to bring fashion to customers in less than 14 days, Likewise Uniqlo has come in in a different approach and expanding globally through their competitive price and offering, and it’s going like a wildfire now the next thing coming to your mind would be they have deep pockets he, yes they do have deep pockets but before they have deep pockets or they had deep pockets they had something which is very innovative something very different very radical very rational that no one thought about so today when you’re getting into a apparel ask your self what is it as an offering that you would like to provide the customer ,and for that go out and be very specific about, what is your target audience?
Today people want to go and sell to everyone and anyone and that doesn’t work unless and until you have a specific approach ,  you can definitely go back and have a family store but have a very specific target audience so that once you start servicing them you are addressing to a specific problem or providing a specific opportunity to a specific target audience that will help you to set your brand tone in the market and then you can expand to different segments

8. Nowadays, E- com is emerging more than brick & mortar. How do you see these changes and how far will it affect the consumer purchasing behavior?

Offline will continue to stay and stay longer, definitely the dyanamics will become more user friendly for the customer and even the retailer. Ecommerce can help in terms of understanding the trend and patterns that the customer is looking for and creating an offering at the store will help to close the sale.
 
How I see customer would want Variety at Value Very frequently , I would call them the 3 V’s which will going forward shape the Brick and Mortar Business.

9. ‘High Customer Loyalty’ or ‘Word of Mouth’ – which is required more to create a good brand image?

The word of mouth is similar to watching a movie that you loved to watch . You are going to go back and tell everyone specially to your near and dear ones to also watch it to share the good experience. 
If what engages you in a product apart from the style , is the utility  , you are going to share it with your loved ones and ask them to buy the same.

We have had a lot of influencers walking into our stores at Mr DIY  , who have shot reels/videos related to their good experience . We believe this is because we have provided them with a product offering  service which they might not have experienced before.

10. Recently, there is a popular fact going that, India is emerging as a sourcing alternative for China. How do you see this change?

Definitely the source is moving to India and this is the right time for India to use the expert eyes to service to the rest of the world, yes we have given the best of the engineers where it came to IT revolution and I feel that right now it’s the manufacturing expertise that we have in our country to utilise and establish India as the next best sourcing destination for the world . I have a friend who is a is the CEO for global sports wear brand and they have already set up a factory in India I I also know of the home furnishing the world’s best home furnishing brand they are looking at sourcing partners in India and at the same time the way the Indian ecosystem is evolving today with lot of support lot of entrepreneurship which is evolving I definitely see that India being the next sourcing destination for lot of brands globally.

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