Modern Bazaar’s phoenix-like rise after the family’s first store in Vasant Kunj was gutted in a major fire in 2004
New Delhi: The story of Modern Bazaar is akin to that of a phoenix. Modern Bazaar was among the pioneers of India’s organized supermarkets when it was founded in 1971. But the lone store in New Delhi’s Vasant Kunj neighbourhood, which was founded by Late Vishwant Kumar, was gutted in a devastating fire in 2004. Then the next year in 2005, Vishwant Kumar’s son Kunaal Kumar, took over the family business with the aim of not just reviving the business, but also growing it.
In 2005, B.Tech graduate Kunaal Kumar picked a tony location for his comeback innings. That year, Modern Bazaar opened its first store in South Delhi’s Basant Lok market – an upscale and popular market in pre – and early 2000s that was home to the first PVR cinema. It was also the market in which McDonald’s made its India entry in 1996 with a family restaurant.
Over the years, the younger Kumar has taken the brand to new heights and created a niche for himself in the gourmet food business targeting South Delhi’s well-heeled clientele. His business grew even as competition in the mid-2000s increased from corporate entry into the business, from Future Group’s Foodhall and Nature’s Basket (then owned by Godrej).
From a single outlet, the Delhi-based supermarket chain has now grown to 16 large-format stores in Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Chandigarh. It also sells through its e-commerce platform.
Modern Bazaar is popular for its shopping experience and range of products including a live bakery, fresh foods counter and a café. It has become a household name in Delhi NCR. In an exclusive interaction with IndiaRetailing, Kumar talks about a range of topics including the brand’s journey, services, loyalty programs, changing consumer behaviour and expansion plans.
How has your journey been for Modern Bazaar? In how many states can we find the brand?
Modern Bazaar was started by my father in 1971 as a single store in Vasant Vihar, New Delhi. I joined him in 1991 after having completed my B. Tech from Manipal University. The initial few years were spent learning the nuances of the retail trade from my father, who was a hard taskmaster and ensured that I did not have it easy at work being his son. I helped my father build the store till it was firmly established in South Delhi as a place to go for the requirement of imported food products as well as local food and grocery items.
The first store was completely burned down in 2004 after which my father decided to retire. I took up the challenge and started on my own in 2005 with the first store being opened at a different location in Vasant Vihar. All the years of training under the strict eye of my father paid dividends and helped me to re-establish the brand. After having got a firm footing with the store in Vasant Vihar, I opened the second store in 2009 in Select Citywalk Mall in Saket.
After that, stores have been opened at regular intervals and at present, we have a presence in Delhi, Gurgaon (Haryana), Noida (Uttar Pradesh) and Chandigarh through 20 stores with an online presence.
What makes Modern Bazaar unique?
All our stores are located at prime high street locations to enable ease of access to customers either through the store or through our online delivery platform. We have always endeavored to be a one-stop-shop for our customers for all their essential and exclusive grocery and food products requirements, including an in-house bakery and a well-stocked meat shop.
Do you plan to introduce new categories of products?
We are constantly evaluating new products that are available in the market and updating our offerings based on customer preferences and requirements.
Tell us about the consumer experience offered at the Modern Bazaar outlet?
Our focus has always been on the customer and on ensuring that we do not just meet but exceed their expectations. The constant endeavour is to be innovative in our offering, which has led us to always make changes based on seasonal requirements and market trends. In addition, we ensure that the products on our shelves are of the highest quality and that our service is exemplary.
Do you plan to introduce self-checkout?
As a part of the process, we are evaluating self-check-out kiosks in a few of our stores and in case the pilot is successful, we will roll that out to other stores as well. We are constantly reviewing new technologies and will introduce them as and when required.
How much is Modern Bazaar’s yearly turnover?
Our turnover at the close of the financial year 2023 will be Rs 350 crore.
What are your expansion plans for this year and the next?
During the earlier part of this financial year, we opened two stores in Delhi (Civil Lines) and Chandigarh. By the end of March 2023, we will be launching two more stores in Aerocity and Sector 129, Noida. The stores are in the fit-out stage and will be operational soon.
By the end of 2023, we will add 3-4 stores more to our portfolio.