No return, No exchange?

unacceptable no return and no exchange policy of health and glow. Competition in this niche area, whenever it appears, will set these policies right almost automatically.

no exchange, no return policy at Health & Glow
no exchange, no return policy at Health & Glow

Retailing policies, often arbitrarily setup, often amaze me. Here is another one of those. Health & Glow, as many of you know are aware, is a JV between Dairy Farm and Arko International with 65 stores in India operating from four metros. Dairy farm also runs similar health & beauty formats elsewhere in Asia under Guardian and Mannings brand names. It also owns and operates Foodworld in India.

Neatly carved out niche in the Indian market without any other format competitor to really talk about except Dabur’s NewU. But the typical Indian retailing bug has bitten these folk too. As you will see in the cell phone picture above, they don’t allow returns and exchanges. Given the fact that this is a cosmetics type convenient store, I do appreciate that they need to be wary of returns and exchanges especially because if their items get used, they can’t be put back on the shelf at all – as is, or refubrished.

But, there will be occasions where the product is defective, doesn’t work or there is a quality glitch. Completely beats me how can they not return or exchange in those cases. This can’t even be legal. Whatever said and done, customer service and retailing in the country are still distant cousins who have not yet met.

Cup of coffee, and the biscotti.

The coffee shop culture is changing rapidly. the newer chains cater to the people who aspire or have the affluence to buy. The older shops however, refuse to change though becoming economically unviable for their customers.

My follow up post on the cafe scene is now more towards the new age, new world coffee shops. As I was doing a bit of research for this post, I bumped  across this video on Guardian’s website which you might like.

Bluetooth, at Barista
Bluetooth, at Barista

The older world cafes are on the wane. Oh yes, that is a bold statement to make especially with the type of fan following places like India Coffee House (with its many branches), and Koshy’s have. But, they definitely are limited in number and prices at Koshy’s is driving many of the old timers away to other places for meals. The astronomical prices at Koshy’s for rather mediocre food is sending old timers to a place called Sheesh Mahal (across the street) for lunch. And in large numbers. Just coffee can’t possibly sustain a place, when even the coffee is not really that great.

So, where else is the bite coming from? Of course the likes of Cafe Coffee Day (to a super large extent) and Baristas of the world. There are some international chains starting to open up as well, including Costa, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, Cafe Pescucci, Gloria Jean’s and making inroads is Starbucks.

Many of the younger (gen X, and gen Y) type of people do not really identify with the older atmosphere anymore. ‘Atmosphere’ to them is quite different. A profession photographer friend in his late 20s (I think) keeps moaning about the torn chairs, old fans at Koshy’s. I crib about lack of ventilation and lack of air-conditioning.

Loyalty card at Barista
Get an instant discount at Barista, if you are a member

The New India, and the super consumerist middle class is looking for something else.  And the faceoff is not just that simple either. The (relatively) newer chains like Barista are offering a different, and richer experience.  Their premier “Creme” cafes serve salads, smoothies, sandwiches, mochachhino and a private(ish) space with cushions and sofas instead of the open plan series of tables under slowly whirring fans. The music caters exactly to people who visit here.  A place where younger people can still hang out with people of the opposite sex (in some amount of privacy) without their parents raising their eyebrows.

The success of the new coffee shop chains reflects the change in social taste, disposable income and social customs. Both Cafe Coffee Day and Barista are rapidly spreading into tier 2 cities, and attract young adults with an aspirational target.  Its working!

Of course, a lot of old India still remains.  Why else would you not be able to find yourself a table at India Coffee House in most of the larger cities during lunch time or tea time. Many of these people are not from the affluent strata of the society, and a large number carry a thick wallet but prefer the old world atmosphere.  It is almost an intellectual ‘vindication’ to be seen at Koshy’s where the intellectuals (or the ones who pose) show up,  and rub shoulders with other professionals, politicians, media folk, authors (some absolute rubbish ones) too. You are not the ‘cultured type’ if Coffee Day is your hang out. If you get the drift.

But besides the new atmosphere, and catering to new tastes there is a lot else which goes for the coffee shop chains.  Many of these places have a wifi hotspot, which encourages people to sit around. Some of these places (as in the picture) have a blue tooth point which sends out messages and coupons. And some of these changes have started a loyalty program. Well done, I would say.  Can you possibly imagine any of that at ICH, Koshy’s or any such place? Probably not!

And there in lies the challenge. It is not very difficult to hold on to the old world charm, by putting one foot into the current and future, is it?