Interview with Mr. Shockalingam | Nilgiris supermarket’s manager
First published in October 2014

M+V: Where do you buy your products and how are they delivered?
Mr. Shockalingam: We have a lot of suppliers who come to the supermarket to show us their samples of their products. They give us pamphlets with the facts and figures and pricing; and then we discuss the margins and commissions on the price or the sales volumes. Then we have customers who give feedback to us, which we in turn give to the suppliers. Some of the producers even organize sampling in the store. This serves two purposes: customer awareness about the new products; and feedback for producers on their products. After that, the suppliers come in every week to check on the stock and take new orders.

M+V: So would the supplier check stock levels or would you call them?
Mr. Shockalingam: For most items we usually have very small amounts of stock – maybe 6-12 pieces. The supplier writes down what has been sold and writes a new order that our supervisor will sign off.

M+V: Are you organized in any buying association with other shops to get better prices?
Mr. Shockalingam: I have two shops, so I buy for both. Our main company, called Nilgiris, is the brand owner. At the moment they are trying to couple all the franchisees together to get better leverage on the purchase price. But it is not working yet. We are not against it, but it has not kicked off well.

M+V: Butter, milk and the dairy products – How do these products reach your shop?
Mr. Shockalingam: Normally, in this field we have a lot of home brand products. They are delivered in the morning when the temperature is still quite low, as they are not delivered in a refrigerated truck. The delivery time is about 1 to 1½ hours. By the time we open the store, all these products are already in the fridge. The proximity of the factory makes this possible. Non-Indian brands have distribution points with refrigeration, but still their products have to be transported in non-refrigerated trucks for up to 4 hours. Although we put ice bags into the trucks there is definitely room for improvement

M+V: Cans/tomato sauces/noodles, you have a lot of local brands here but what about international brands? Which sell well? Which products do you think sell better, European or American?
Mr. Shockalingam: As a store we have a lot of international brands (Pasta from Italy, Olive Oil from Greece). Olive oil, biscuits, cookies and chocolates are fast moving products. Nowadays, here in India, almost everything is available. Only very special products, like “Kikkoman Sauce”, have to be imported. Otherwise, there is not much we do not produce ourselves. Another exception is a product like “Clorox”, where people are loyal to the brand they know. Another very important factor for a product to sell well is a good display and variety.

M+V: Your shop has branded products on stand-alone shelves. How did you get this branded shelf and do you get money for displaying it this way?
Mr. Shockalingam: Actually, to tell you the truth, for any branded product to be displayed we get money. The ones where we don’t are put in this corner. If I have the space available and there is a value in having it, we are happy to put it up.

For more interesting facts about the retail industry see FnB News, “Indian Retail-a window of opportunity for International brands”