MagSon®, a leading specialty retail chain of gourmet and frozen food based in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, was founded as a single store in 2009 by Rajesh Francis and Manish Pancholi. With over a decade of excellence in understanding customer needs and delivering excellent frozen and gourmet foods to consumers, MagSon® has earned a reputation for offering fresh and high quality products at best prices.
In the past decade, the brand has grown to 21 stores across 9 cities in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. Just last year, MagSon® also launched Gujarat’s biggest Gourmet and Frozen Food store in Ahmedabad, in addition to organizing Gujarat’s 1st ever World Food Shopping Fest, to mark its decade-long eventful journey. It is fast becoming the food retailer of choice for expatriates, NRIs, tourists and global food enthusiasts alike – offering hundreds of popular international and national food brands across a wide range of gourmet, exotic, frozen and chilled food products. Today, it is by far the Widest Frozen Food Retailer, Widest Cheese Retailer, and the Widest Processed Foods’ Retailer in Gujarat. It is also the only pure play Gourmet and Frozen Food Retail brand in India with a thriving franchisee business line growing in tandem with COCO stores.
In a freewheeling chat with Progressive Grocer, Rajesh Francis, Managing Director, MagSon® talks about the how the brand is different from others in the same category, it’s tryst with adaptive technology and how it dealt with challenges in a pandemic year.
Excerpts from the interview…
How is MagSon® different from others in the same category?
Offering a class-apart in-store shopping experience, MagSon® is redefining modern-day food retail by acting as a one-stop shop for the widest range of niche vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods and imported and premium food products with the highest focus on quality, sourcing, importing, selection and merchandising standards.
MagSon® is more than just a retail-only company. We enjoy a high degree of competitive advantage in the Western region, thanks to our backward integration in operations. Our in-house supply chain and distribution system capably stocks, manages and moves inventory for not only all 21 of our stores but for third parties as well.
Also, our strategic tie-ups with leading players of allied niche businesses allow us to further add value and enhance our customer proposition. For example, with ‘Party Hunterz’, a leading name in the party decoration, premium party disposables and balloon bouquets segment, we are able to jointly offer a one-stop party and food shopping experience to our customers in select stores.
In a similar association with ‘Dangee Dums’, we are able to harness cross-selling opportunities with premium cake and dessert products.
Propelled by a core philosophy of ‘freshness’ that reflects not only in our product breadth but also extends to our day-to-day processes, we at MagSon® are truly committed to our service ideology of ‘Delivering Excellence, Always!’, where every day is a new beginning, and every customer is a new opportunity.
What is the location strategy for your stores? Which locations do you prefer and what part do they play in your store sales?
Our store locations are based on our strategy to target cosmopolitan neighbourhoods and high-end localities so as to attract the best of crowds. We generally look for high footfall ground floor sites where we can establish presence as a premium neighbourhood gourmet and frozen food store.
Give us an overview of how much space you have allocated to different sections and what is your strategy for allocating space for different sections at your store?
The strategy to allocate space is mostly store-specific to store locality, customer demand and seasonality driving space allocation and visibility decisions. Our objective is to strategically align merchandizing to display the widest range of our fast-moving products in order to optimize first-time in-store conversions by our target audience. However, to give you a fair idea, the majority of the space and premium visibility spots inside the store are allocated to gourmet, frozen and chilled food items in decreasing order of preference.
What is your marketing strategy and what steps are you taking to promote the brand?
Following a mix of traditional and digital, we mostly use print, broadcast, and online media for our integrated marketing efforts, including newspaper ads, radio ads and online marketing. Also, we regularly use digital media to build interest, create awareness and actively engage with the social community on our products, brands and new launches.
To increase our reach and promote our products to a wider audience, we frequently organize Flagship events such as the MagSon® Grand Festive Food Fest, MagSon® Tasty 2020 Shopping Fest, MagSon® World Food Shopping Fest, MagSon® Big Chips and Dips Shopping Fest, etc. among others. These events allow us to explore multiple co-branding opportunities with our partners and offer greater value to our customers, thus incentivizing footfall and customer acquisition to a great extent.
As part of our customer retention strategy, we have a great CRM and Loyalty Program in place to reward not only our most loyal customers but also induct new customers with as few as a couple of repeat purchases. This helps us segment our customers to a great extent and optimize targeted marketing campaigns to our best advantage.
Market Presence in India
MagSon® is well distributed across West India with stores strategically located in 9 prominent cities:
What are the top 3 technologies that you have adopted to enhance consumer experience?
We are constantly working to delight our customers and a major part of our operational efforts is to optimize availability of stock at all times, at each point of our supply chain. We’ve managed to efficiently tackle this with the help of our adaptive information systems and reliable forecasting methods, which have resulted in the successful backward integration of our operations. Our in-house supply chain and distribution system capably stocks, manages and moves inventory for not only all 21 of our stores but for third parties as well.
Visionary Technology Which Helps Magson® Segment Customers & Optimise Targeted Marketing Campaigns to its Best Advantage
Recently, we’ve also started testing the use of business analytics to make more informed in-store merchandising decisions so as to optimize first-time conversions across varying seasons.
Of course, we regularly use digital media to build interest, create awareness and actively engage with the social community on our products, brands and new launches.
Have you adopted new technologies since the lockdown to extend your reach?
Since the lockdown, we have started paying more attention to in-store customer behaviours and their micro-interactions at various points leading up to purchase and billing. Among other initiatives, we’ve upgraded our PoS software to minimize unnecessary contact and go paper-less by issuing e-receipts to customers directly on their mobile phones.
Considering the peculiarities of the supply chain in India – more so now with COVID – have you introduced any specific innovations to make your back-end operations fool proof?
Even before COVID-19, we were always deeply invested in our efforts of improving back-end operations to optimise availability of stock at all times, at each point of our supply chain. This is why we were able to efficiently tackle supply-chain issues during the pandemic to a great extent, with ease.
Tell us about your product basket. Which are the categories and merchandise range that you specialize in as a retailer?
Providing access to hundreds of popular international and national food brands, MagSon® offers a wide range of gourmet, exotic, frozen and chilled food products under a single roof. These include cheese, dips, non-vegetarian foods, imported chocolates and confectionery, exotic vegetables and fruits, organic and healthy foods, premium dry-fruits, yoghurt, processed foods and imported beverages and cereals.
Fastest Moving Products
Which are the new emerging categories at your store?
With better access to information and education these days, people are becoming much more sensitive and aware about individual and family health. This is driving them to move towards healthy food habits and balanced nutrition. As a result, we are seeing increased consumption of organic and healthy foods such as hydroponic vegetables, organic grocery, protein bars and protein-rich foods, and cereals.
Keeping COVID in mind, how do you see the last year on parameters of consumer buying, categories in demand, supply chain and employee management?
COVID-19 was probably one of the most unprecedented events to have happened in the history of post-independent India, and indeed the world at large. And yet, it was also the most defining one for businesses of all scales. Never could have one imagined a 3-month nation-wide lockdown, and the horrors of a standstill economy under normal circumstances.
With most industries being affected adversely, it would be safe to say that the food retail industry falling in the ‘essential’ category, was not the hardest hit. On the contrary, some would argue that demand however erratic, was at least significantly higher – thanks to food hoarding and panic buying. The major challenge then was at the supply end.
Fortunately, we were quick to respond to the changing business environment and were completely prepared to change from the ground up. Having involved each team to assess and control damage greatly helped us to lay out a clearly-defined holistic roadmap in tackling the developing COVID-19 situation. We were able to identify the key areas of impact quite early on in the lockdown and were ready to implement our COVID -19 action plan in no time. We could now see ourselves advance from being ‘Crisis Managers’ to ‘Change Managers’. For us to turn things around holistically, keeping it simple was key. Everything boiled down to our responsiveness, adaptability and agility levels in our three functions:
- Operations: With Operations, we were faced with the difficulties of disrupted logistics and supply chain, irregular distribution, stock shortcomings, delayed deliveries, new process implementation and personnel training along with the hurdle of regular sanitization at all points in the value chain.
- Human Resource: HR during this time was key to our turnaround strategy. We owe it all to our highly committed workforce who went beyond the call of duty to give their all while serving customers with their best. It was during this time that we launched our internal campaign ‘#FoodHero Of The Week’, where a number of our food heroes were recognized and rewarded for their unshaken resolve and fearless service throughout this period. We made sure that our employees, both in stores and office, had all the necessary safety equipment for their highest protection and the safest environment to work in.
- Marketing: Marketing had the mammoth task of enhancing overall customer experience by keeping shelves stocked at all times, minimizing customer hassle and winning their trust with in-store safety, distancing, sanitization and merchandising practices to the extent that customers feel as safe as their homes, if not any safer.
Noticeable Consumption Trends
Acceleration in growth of healthy foods over the past few years:
TARGET & GROWTH PLANS
What were your revenue and sales figures this year as compared to last year?
Our ultimate goal with every purchase is to add more value to the lives of our customers by providing them access to their favourite food brands and products from around the world under a single roof. This way, we are always prioritizing what matters most to us – customer value, and revenue theoretically becomes a byproduct. Nonetheless, this financial year, we are on track to achieve almost double of our last year’s sales figure.
What are your revenue targets for the next 2 years?
We are targeting a revenue of Rs. 120 crore In line with our business plan for the next 2 years.
MagSon® is in the process of launching its new store at Udaipur (Rajasthan) in the month of March 2021
Going ahead, will you concentrate on growing online / e-commerce?
Currently, we are focused on our sales approach and will continue expanding our chain of physical stores in line with our growth strategy. However, we are also planning to introduce our customers to a more seamless shopping experience as part of our omnichannel strategy, with the advent of our online shopping site and mobile app in the next three months.
What is the next big change that you see in grocery retail in the wake of the pandemic?
- Consumers are more conscious about their health, hygiene, and diet, to the extent that these factors are also influencing their lifestyle and purchase decisions. The faster this is learned, the easier will it be for businesses to adapt and move towards greener pastures.
- Since customer safety and convenience are here to stay, we see more players adopting the omnichannel strategy in the times to come.
Having said this, there is indeed so much to learn from all the challenges and difficulties the food retail industry collectively faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although, there are clear signs of recovery, there is still some ground to be covered. Nonetheless, we can be certain of one thing – from a small household to a large company, each one of us has only come out stronger.