Mumbai: Former Bloomingdales CEO Marvin Traub has been doing business here for about four decades, long before retail and foreign invesment in this hot sector started grabbing news headlines. But one thing hasn’t changed, says the 85-year-old Traub, now president of a namesake marketing consulting firm: Complexity.
“Now, everyone is trying to do business in India. But they don’t know how,” says the grand old man of American retail. “India has the most complicated duty structure of any of the countries I have worked in.”
Traub, who is well known in the world of global retailing for transforming Bloomingdales into an upscale retail chain from a value store, first came to India in 1965, to organize one of the first India promotions in the US dubbed “India: the Ultimate Fantasy.” Since then, Traub has been back at least 40 times, about once a year.
While retailers pay around 5% duty in Dubai, here it could be between 25% and 35%, making brands more expensive in India than elsewhere in the world, says the spry, silver haired retail guru, who now spends his time matchmaking between US brands and retailers, and partners in China, the UK, Russia and Turkey.
China’s retail growth is also about five years ahead of India’s because “there is a real lack of quality retail space outside hotels here”, he says in an interview, echoing what has been a major refrain from some high-end international retailers.
Retailing, especially the role of foreign retailers, has come under attention in recent months with even Congress president Sonia Gandhi asking the government to consider the impact of such new projects on the many existing retailers.
Traub agrees that the Indian market has emerged as an important destination for international retailers, particularly after the government allowed single-brand retailers majority stake in their Indian operations. But the lack of suitable retail locations and Indian retail partners has hampered their entry into India.
At the same time, “it is important for international retailers to succeed in India (because the) growth in many Western markets, including in the US, has slowed down,” he pointed out.
While several large international retailers are scheduled to enter the Indian market this year, Indian retailers can hold their own, says Traub, who has consulted with Pantaloon, Shopper’s Stop and the DLF Group’s soon-to-open luxury mall.
“Presentation of products can be better,” he adds.
Traub, whose autobiography is called “Like No Other Store” says he is now writing a book about his life after Bloomingdales.