Reflecting on 5 Current Retail Trends in India

India is a unique market in many ways. Nearly half its population is below the age of 35. And in terms of mobile, India is such a highly-connected country that companies like Google look at its market as a bellwether for broader global trends.

Arjun Chawla

Associate Director at C Space

Arjun Chawla is an Associate Director at C Space Boston and self-proclaimed “hip-hop head.” Arjun began his career at Goldman Sachs and now advises brands across a range of industries, including technology, retail, fashion and automotive – on youth marketing strategy, consumer insights, emerging trends and innovation. He’s led projects for Fortune 100 clients and is the co-author of the C Space CQ™ report on the US Automotive Industry.

India is a unique market in many ways. Nearly half its population is below the age of 35. And in terms of mobile, India is such a highly-connected country that companies like Google look at its market as a bellwether for broader global trends. Here are five retail trends in India to consider in 2017 based on what I observed at street level during a recent visit.

1. Meet me at the mall…

The mall scene in India is something to marvel. From luxury brands like Cartier and Louis Vuitton, to athletic retailers like Nike and Adidas, to fast fashion like H&M, to food chains such as Starbucks and Krispy Kreme, the selection is similar to Europe and the US. But the atmosphere is what is really unique. People don’t ‘go’ to the malls in India. They arrive. And they are often chauffeured in a BMW, Mercedes, or Audi and dressed to the nines, ready to shop, eat, and be seen. Malls in India offer a seamless experience – an oasis in a country where the infrastructure is still underdeveloped, which makes getting around a challenge. With companies like Chanel testing the waters in New Delhi, any retailer looking at the Indian market should make sure to take a trip to the mall.

2. …and don’t forget the local markets!

If you want to meet consumers where they are, not everyone is going to be at the mall. Indian cities like New Delhi are steeped in culture and have many local markets, such as Hauz Khas village. These markets fuse shopping areas into beautiful historical settings. Along with neighborhood boutiques, global brands are seamlessly embedding storefronts into these areas in ways that look and feel more local.

3. Athleisure: a trend stretching across the globe.

From lifestyle-oriented sneakers to polished intersections of sportswear, streetwear, and high-fashion, athleisure is showing a strong display in New Delhi. So much so that in 2016, the Hindustan Times reported on this trend and featured athleisure collections by Indian designers.

4. Give me space, in a cool space.

Until recently, the vibe in many Indian retail stores was one of ‘pressure to buy.’ With every move you make through the store, a salesperson moves with you, eager to answer any questions and encourage a sale, not realizing the ‘refuge’ aspect that so many shoppers desire. There is a strong shift away from this to a much more ‘hands off’ approach. Retail spaces are now much more conducive to a relaxed experience.

And similarly to retailers in the US, stores are creatively providing experiences beyond the core product they’re selling. For example, the sneaker boutique Veg Nonveg is not just selling sneakers, but creating a ‘hang out’ experience with coffee, ice cream and tables to relax, play board games or use laptops. Even my 96 year old grandfather left the store commenting on the cool design!

5. No cash, no credit card, no problem.

In 1993, the New York rap group Wu-Tang Clan released a famous song called C.R.E.A.M., or ‘Cash Rules Everything Around Me.’ While hip-hop is beginning to boom in popularity in India, this particular classic doesn’t necessarily apply in terms of transactions. India is striving to become a ‘cashless economy’ and is making serious moves to make this happen.

An influx of digital payment and e-wallet apps are popping up, such as Paytm, which uses technologies similar to Venmo. While in the US, mobile payments tend to be an additional payment option, in India mobile payments are accepted in places that don’t even take credit cards!

Mobile payments are still a new territory for many big global retailers. India can provide interesting lessons to learn as mobile payments become their ‘new normal’.

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