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Brick-&-mortar stores must realise that a customer focus will help them compete with e-tail

The Financial Express

The Competition Commission of India may be keeping a close watch on festive discounts, but the brick-&-mortar stores seem to have concerns about e-retail players like Amazon and Flipkart queering competition in other ways. Brick-&-mortar mobile phone store operators have written a letter to the commerce ministry, department for the promotion of industry and internal trade and the

Competition Commission of India demanding that government put a curb on online launches of mobile-phone by manufacturers, and exclusive tie-ups between them and e-retail players. According to the Economic Times, the All India Mobile Retailers Association (AIMRA) has asked the government to level the playing field by ensuring "same product, same time and same price".

The government, last year, had barred companies from getting into exclusive tie-ups and predatory pricing, but AIMRA's concerns are centred around the online-first policy followed by a lot of mobile manufacturers. Although prices for online sales have rationalised, demanding the banning of exclusive tie-ups and online launches seems uncalled for. Online platforms have a far better reach than brick-&-mortar stores, especially with regards to delivery in Tier-II and Tier-III areas is concerned. Besides, online launches and exclusive tie-ups aren't unilateral moves with e-retail players enjoying leverage over phone manufacturers. But, more important, brick-&-mortar retailers can always choose not to market products that follow an online-first policy.

More importantly, what AIMRA needs to realise is that they are not losing out to online launches and exclusivity but to e-retail players' customer-centric approach. If they provide better services, they can acquire a larger share of the market-though, with prices nearly the same across the market given the crackdown on e-retail discounts, chances are brick-&-mortar already enjoys a healthy market share. OnePlus, Xiaomi and Vivo are opening more stores across the country. Apple US is trying to transform its stores into town squares, trying to provide Apple experience rather than selling products.