Home / Companies / Croma to sync online with offline to take on e-commerce retailers

Mumbai: Croma, the Infiniti Retail Ltd-controlled electronic products retail chain, is reworking its strategy to integrate its online presence with physical stores. The chain, part of the Tata Group, is battling online retailers such as Flipkart and Amazon for customers.

The new strategy will also see the company expand its store presence after a gap of 15 months.

In 2012, Infiniti launched as a separate entity to compete with online retailers like Flipkart. The deals available on were not offered by the physical stores, causing the company to lose a lot of walk-ins as consumers expect to be treated similarly across different channels of sales.

“Customers want a coherent shopping experience along their path to purchase," said Rohit Bhatiani, director, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India Pvt. Ltd, in a June report.

In an interview, Avijit Mitra, chief executive officer (CEO) at Infiniti Retail, said the company launched a smartphone-compatible website for Croma on 1 July and will launch a mobile application soon for customers’ convenience.

The retailer will now allow buyers to pick up goods ordered online from stores the same day. Additionally, customers can place orders at stores after checking out the products online and get them delivered home. These services were not available earlier.

Mitra took over as CEO from Ajit Joshi, who moved to a unit of Reliance Industries Ltd in May. Before taking charge, he was the chief financial officer of Infiniti Retail. Prior to that, he had stints with Tata Global Beverages Ltd and Indian Hotels Co. Ltd.

For the last 15 months, Croma has not opened any new store and has, in fact, shuttered a few. Croma now has 98 stores compared to 100 last February. It now plans to open 10-12 stores every year—a steep drop from the 20-a-year announced earlier. The expansion will be across the top 25 cities, barring the metros.

Categories such as consumer durables, apparel and footwear are showing a high online adoption rate, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the $4.5 billion e-tail market, said an April report of UBS Securities India Pvt. Ltd, which expects this to further increase to four-fifths of the overall e-tail market by 2020, when e-tail will be a $51.6 billion market.

The significant adoption in categories like consumer electronics, footwear and apparel is impacting brick-and-mortar retailers. According to the Deloitte report, digital currently influences 21%, or 60,000 crore, of the over 2.8 trillion of in-store organized retail sales in India. The mobile influence factor is as high as 18%, with smartphones being the devices of choice for accessing information while on the go or in-store.

Meanwhile, even as Croma competes with online retailers, it is also present on some of their platforms. In September, Croma entered into a strategic partnership with Snapdeal.

As it looks to woo consumers, Croma has begun offering longer tenure loans for purchases. It is also focusing on engaging with customers for after-sales service. The approach is to offer a solution and not just a product, said Mitra.

According to him, Croma has been profitable at the store level since 2012 and is on track to making a profit as a standalone entity. He, however, declined to specify a time frame.

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