Interview with Mr Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi

Mr Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi
Mr Baqar Iftikhar Naqvi
Cotton County Retail Ltd (NIEL Group)
Cotton County Retail Ltd (NIEL Group)

In this span of Cotton County’s pan India existence, which all characteristics it has known about consumers in India? What India prefers to wear?

One thing that has become very clear to us through our experience with the brand is that the gap between the likes and dislikes of Tier 1, 2 and other smaller cities is more perceived than actual. Consumers today live and breathe in the same media space and have almost similar aspirations. Thus, products that do not sell in metros, in all probability will not be hot cakes for smaller markets too.

The second reality that has dawned on us through experience is that consumer’s buying power is not just limited to large cities. There are buyers for products at all prices in all markets. Brands and retailers just need to evaluate the threshold level beyond which the demand for their product is enough to justify their costs. Today we are in more than 425 cities and some of our small town stores are real star performers.

Finally, apparel is a feel good purchase. People in general buy apparel when they are feeling good and with the aim of feeling good when they wear the purchased apparel. Thus the entire retail ambience and the product packaging has to be in sync with and supporting the customers “feel good” factor before the customer picks up even a single product.

The euphoria about expanding quickly – both the store size and the presence across India – is gradually dying down. How will you take this finding?

During the peak times in the stock markets, brands and retail companies were made for the market and not for the consumers. The focus was on valuations derived and not value offered. Thus a lot of senseless expansion happened, which also coaxed the relatively saner and established brands and retailers to expand at a pace much more than they ever had. The focus shifted from business fundamental to the growth stories these brands were able to tell and based on the same pick money from public through IPOS or from various funds, who were betting big on the Indian consumption growth.

However, once the stock markets tanked, and business fundamentals again became critical to market valuations, the euphoria about increasing footprint died. The fact is that until the growth is profitable, it will not be sustainable. Presence and penetration is good as scale is essential in the retail business, but it has to be viable and manageable.

Of all the retail segments, the Apparels and Fashion Accessories category is expected to account for the highest share of retail space- says experts’ study. What train of thoughts this tenet sets in motion in your business mind?

This is largely so because apparel and fashion retail has been organized (in some form or the other) since the longest time. Most other forms of organized retail are relatively new to the Indian market.


Published on: 28/02/2011

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of

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