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Panel on Food Retail ​at Express Food & Hospitality in Mumbai says future is going to be ‘phygital’

The second day of the 35th​ edition of Express Food & Hospitality saw a panel discussion on Food Retail: Fast Forward to 2020. The Knowledge Exchange had six esteemed panelists: Umesh Kamble, CEO, Farm to Fork Solutions and member of Association of Food Scientists and Technologists India (AFSTI); Neha Dave, B2B Head, Travel Food Services; Amuleek Singh Bijral, co-founder & CEO, Chai Point; Rohit Malhotra, business head, Barcelos Indian Operations; Kartikay Mehta, vice president sales, Unibic Foods India and Sahil Gilani, director, sales and marketing, Gits Foods.


Speaking about the war between online and physical stores, Gilani, said, “I don’t think that any war exists. In fact, we have noticed there is a trend that unlike women who go to grocery shops for shopping, now there are men too who come across an online food product advertisement, and then go to the store and buy it.”

Sahil Gilani, director, sales and marketing, Gits Foods and Steena Joy, editor, Express Food & Hospitality

Agreeing to Gilani’s words, Dave said, “ It is going to be a Phygital Model, which is a combination of physical and digital complementing each other. In the next two to three years, technology is going to majorly impact everyone’s life, giving many options to the customers. Starting now we have an AI robot at the Delhi airport, who recognises the customers and their preferences. So the future is going to be Phygital.”

Neha Dave, B2B Head, Travel Food Services

Malhotra pointed out, “These are two different business models altogether. Every online company is trying to get into offfline and vice versa. We cannot sit at home and do all the shopping. When we go out and do shopping it’s more about the experience. In online, it’s more about time saving and sometime cost benefits or there are certain things which are not available at nearby stores.”

“In case of ordering the food online, there might be a case of guests at home. But when going and eating out, one goes to gain an experience, spending quality time with family and friends, music, ambience, food, everything counts. So both the models cater to different needs and so both the markets are different.”


Commenting on how scene is going to change in the next three years Kamble shared, “In case of food products, there is long way to go as compared to other countries. The food e-commerce platform in India is still not mature as compared to European countries. One can find more food products on Amazon.com than Amazon.in.”

Bijral commented, “For our company we are multi channel. We reach to our customers in as many ways as possible. With lot of technology infusion in the sector, only time will decide how it’s going to be.”

Mehta opined that for the biscuit segment, both conventional and technological platforms must work together. “Biscuits come into different impulse bits where the customer is hungry and go to a nearby shop to satisfy his hunger and secondly is the home bit, where one can order it online,” he said.


Discussing about supply chain challenges, Gilani stated, “Cold chain is very underdeveloped in India. Companies in the frozen food segment have to go through this challenge. Lots of improvements are coming. Today we have the option to work with a vendor who gives us GPS tracking features and all details reach to our warehouse about our consignment. Still there is a long way to go.”

Mehta said, “In biscuits the supply chain is the biggest challenge as it is one of the largest sectors in FMCG. The shelf life of biscuits is six months, but people start avoiding once it’s a month old. Thanks to GST, new transporters are coming and now supplying products in average supply time – 72 hours – than earlier when it was 120 hours! Next year we are targeting, that our stock reaches our customers within 30 hours.”

Kartikay Mehta, vice president sales, Unibic Foods India

Elaborating from the international brand point of view, Malhotra mentioned, “Vegetarian is very big market. It takes a lot of time to come to India, one has to study the market – every 300 metres, the cuisine and language changes. In the south there is a non-vegetarian staple food, in some part of the north there is a vegetarian dominance. We have currently eight outlets in India and few outlets in the pipeline.”


Kamble speaking on the regulatory frame work, said, “Previously, there was a notion that only manufacturer sand processors need to take a license. Now every person in the supply chain has to take a license, only farmers and fishermen are exempted.”


Discussing the customer retaining technique, Dave said, “We should evolve with every customer. We should redesign the menu, create an experience for customers which they will never forget. This help us retain our customers.”

“To me food is all about the emotions. People are changing with new restaurants are opening every week. So loyalty is more about the benefits. Catering to the demands of customers from all age groups in regards to food, music, ambience which they enjoy, brings them back to us. Also there are lot of loyalty programmes which also help,” said Malhotra.

“India is becoming loyal to change. Continuous innovation and strong distribution is what customers are looking for,” concluded Mehta.


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EF&H Staff-Mumbai

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