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Evolution of Retail in India

Written by: Jagriti Shahi, Business Analyst at Global Launch Base

The retail industry in India has undergone significant evolution over the years, driven by factors such as economic growth, urbanization, changing consumer preferences, technological advancements, and government policies. The retail industry in India has evolved significantly over the years. The early days of retailing in India were dominated by small, independent mom-and-pop stores and Kirana stores. These stores catered to the needs of the local community and offered a limited range of products.

In the 1990s, the Indian economy liberalized, which led to the entry of foreign retailers into the Indian market. These retailers brought with them new concepts and practices, such as large format stores, supermarkets, and hypermarkets. This led to the growth of the organized retail sector in India.

The growth of the organized retail sector has been further accelerated by the rise of e-commerce. E-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, and Myntra have made it possible for consumers to shop online for a wide range of products.

Figure 1: Expected Growth of Retail Industry till 2025

The market size of the Indian retail market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10% from 2022 to 2025. This growth is being driven by a number of factors, including the growing population, rising incomes, and increasing urbanization.

The Indian retail industry is expected to continue to grow in the coming years. The factors driving this growth include increasing urbanization, rising disposable incomes, and growing consumer demand for convenience.

Here's an overview of the evolution of retail in India:

Traditional Retail (Pre-1990s)

Before economic liberalization in the early 1990s, India's retail landscape was predominantly characterized by traditional mom-and-pop stores, street markets, and local bazaars. These small retailers were the primary source of goods for consumers, and organized retail was limited.

Figure 2: Traditional Retail Store

Traditional retail in India refers to the practice of selling products or services through physical stores, such as mom-and-pop stores, Kirana stores, bazaars, and weekly markets. These stores are typically small and family-owned, and they offer a limited range of products. They are often located in residential areas and cater to the needs of the local community.

Some of the most common traditional retail formats in India include:

Figure 3: Kirana Stores

  1. Kirana stores: Kirana stores are small, neighborhood grocery stores that sell a variety of food items, household goods, and other necessities. They are often family-owned and operated, and they play an important role in the daily lives of many Indians.

Figure 4: Weekly Markets

  1. Weekly markets: Weekly markets are held in different parts of the city on a weekly basis. They sell a variety of goods, including fresh produce, meat, fish, and other food items. Weekly markets are a popular place for people to buy their groceries and other household items.

Figure 5: Street Shops

  1. Street shops: Street shops are small, open-air shops that line the streets of many Indian cities. They sell a variety of goods, including clothing, jewellery, souvenirs, and other items. Street shops are a popular place for tourists to buy souvenirs and other items.

Figure 6: Hawkers

  1. Hawkers: Hawkers are street vendors who sell a variety of goods, including food, drinks, and other items. They often move around from place to place, and they are a common sight in many Indian cities.

Figure 7: Public Distribution System

  1. Public distribution system: The public distribution system (PDS) is a government-run program that provides essential food items to low-income households. The PDS operates through a network of ration shops, which are small, government-run stores that sell subsidized food items.

Economic Liberalization (1990s)

India's economic reforms in the 1990s opened the doors for foreign direct investment (FDI) and led to the emergence of modern retail formats. Brands like McDonald's and Pizza Hut entered the Indian market during this time. However, organized retail remained limited due to challenges such as infrastructure constraints, regulatory hurdles, and consumer preferences for familiar traditional shopping experiences.

Rise of Shopping Malls (2000s)

Figure 8: Shopping Malls in India

The 2000s witnessed the growth of shopping malls in major cities. These malls housed a mix of international and domestic brands, along with entertainment and dining options. The mall culture changed the way Indians shopped, providing a one-stop destination for shopping and leisure.

The rise of shopping malls in the 2000s was driven by a number of factors, including:

  1. The growth of the middle class in developing countries, such as India and China, led to an increase in demand for Western-style shopping experiences.

  2. The rise of e-commerce had a limited impact on the mall industry in the early 2000s, as many consumers still preferred to shop in person.

  3. Malls were seen as a safe and convenient place to shop, especially for families.

  4. Malls offered a variety of entertainment options, such as movie theaters, food courts, and arcades, which made them a popular destination for people of all ages.

As a result of these factors, the number of shopping malls in the world grew rapidly in the 2000s. In India, for example, the number of malls increased from 3 in 2000 to over 650 in 2022.

However, the rise of e-commerce in the late 2000s and early 2010s began to have a negative impact on the mall industry. As more and more people started shopping online, mall traffic declined. This trend was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many malls to close temporarily.

As a result, the mall industry is facing a number of challenges in the 2020s. Malls are having to adapt to the changing retail landscape by offering more experiential and interactive experiences, such as food halls, art installations, and fitness centers. They are also trying to attract more foot traffic by partnering with non-retail businesses, such as healthcare providers and coworking spaces.

Only time will tell whether the mall industry will be able to survive the challenges of the 2020s. However, the rise of shopping malls in the 2000s is a testament to their ability to adapt to changing consumer trends.

Modern Retail Formats (2000s-2010s): Large-format retail stores like Big Bazaar, Reliance Retail, and others introduced modern retail concepts, offering a variety of products under one roof. These stores aimed to provide convenience, value, and a wide range of options to consumers.

Here are some of the modern retail formats that emerged in the 2000s and 2010s:

  1. E-commerce: This is the sale of goods and services over the Internet. E-commerce has grown rapidly in recent years and is now a major force in the retail industry.

  2. Omnichannel retailing: This refers to the integration of online and offline retail channels. Omnichannel retailers offer customers the ability to shop online, in-store, or through a combination of both channels.

  3. Pop-up stores: These are temporary retail stores that are typically open for a short period of time, such as a few weeks or months. Pop-up stores are often used by brands to test new products or concepts or to reach a specific target audience.

  4. Warehouse clubs: These are large-scale retailers that offer members discounted prices on a variety of goods. Warehouse clubs typically require an annual membership fee.

  5. Factory outlets: These are stores that sell discounted merchandise, such as overstock, discontinued items, and seconds. Factory outlets are often located in outlet malls.

  6. Membership-based retailers: These are retailers that require customers to pay a membership fee in order to shop. Membership-based retailers typically offer exclusive benefits to members, such as discounts, free shipping, and early access to new products.

  7. Social commerce: This is the use of social media platforms to sell goods and services. Social commerce has grown in popularity in recent years, as more and more people use social media to shop.

  8. Blurring of the lines between retail and entertainment: Retailers are increasingly incorporating entertainment elements into their stores, such as arcades, game rooms, and food courts. This is done in an effort to make shopping more fun and engaging for customers.

E-commerce Boom (2010s): The advent of the internet and the rise of e-commerce platforms like Flipkart, Amazon, and Snapdeal brought a transformative change to the retail landscape. E-commerce offers consumers the convenience of shopping from home, a vast array of products, and attractive discounts. The growth of smartphones and improved internet connectivity further accelerated the adoption of online shopping.

The e-commerce boom in India began in the early 2010s, driven by a number of factors, including:

  • The increasing availability of high-speed internet

  • The growth of the Indian middle class

  • The rise of smartphones

  • The government's pro-business policies

In 2010, the Indian e-commerce market was worth just $3.9 billion. By 2022, it had grown to $84.5 billion, making India the second-largest e-commerce market in the world after China.

The growth of e-commerce in India has had a major impact on the economy. It has created jobs, boosted exports, and helped to bring down prices for consumers. It has also helped to connect rural areas with the rest of the country.

Some of the major players in the Indian e-commerce market include:

  • Flipkart

  • Amazon

  • Paytm Mall

  • Snapdeal

  • Myntra

  • Nykaa

  • BigBasket

  • Grofers

  • Udaan

  • Zilingo

These companies offer a wide range of products and services, including electronics, fashion, groceries, home goods, and travel. They have also expanded into new areas, such as food delivery and online payments.

The e-commerce boom in India is still in its early stages. It is expected to continue to grow in the coming years, driven by the factors mentioned above. This growth will have a positive impact on the Indian economy and society.

Here are some of the key impacts of the e-commerce boom in India:

Increased access to goods and services: E-commerce has made it possible for people in rural areas and smaller towns to access a wider range of goods and services than ever before.

  1. Increased competition: The entry of new players into the e-commerce market has led to increased competition, which has benefited consumers in the form of lower prices and better-quality products.

  2. Job creation: The e-commerce sector has created millions of jobs in India, both directly and indirectly.

  3. Increased tax revenue: The government has been able to collect more tax revenue from the e-commerce sector.

  4. Improved logistics: The e-commerce boom has led to the development of better logistics infrastructure in India, which has benefited other sectors of the economy as well.

Overall, the e-commerce boom has been a positive force for the Indian economy and society. It has helped to improve the lives of millions of people and has boosted the country's economic growth.

Omni-Channel Retailing: Retailers started adopting omni-channel strategies, integrating physical stores with online platforms. This approach allowed consumers to research products online and make purchases either online or in-store. Retailers like Tata Group's Croma and fashion brands implemented these strategies to provide a seamless shopping experience.

Omni-channel retailing has gained significant traction in India as the country's retail landscape continues to evolve and adapt to changing consumer preferences and technological advancements. Indian retailers have embraced omni-channel strategies to provide customers with seamless and personalized shopping experiences across various channels. Here's how omni-channel retailing is shaping up in India:

  • E-commerce Pioneers: India's booming e-commerce sector has been at the forefront of omni-channel adoption. Leading e-commerce platforms like Flipkart, Amazon India, and Snapdeal have expanded their offerings to include not only online marketplaces but also BOPIS (Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store) options and partnerships with brick-and-mortar stores for faster deliveries.

  • Traditional Retailers Going Digital: Traditional retailers have recognized the importance of digital transformation. Many established brick-and-mortar brands have launched their own e-commerce websites and mobile apps to cater to the growing online shopper base. For instance, retail chains like Shoppers Stop, Reliance Retail, and Tata-owned Croma have developed omni-channel strategies to bridge the gap between offline and online shopping.

  • Click-and-Mortar Stores: Some Indian retailers have adopted the "click-and-mortar" approach, wherein they maintain both physical stores and robust online platforms. This approach allows customers to seamlessly move between online and offline channels. Brands like Nykaa, a cosmetics and beauty retailer, have successfully combined their e-commerce presence with offline stores to offer customers a comprehensive shopping experience.

  • Fashion and Lifestyle Industry: The fashion and lifestyle sector in India has been a key driver of omni-channel strategies. Leading fashion brands like Myntra, Lifestyle, and FabIndia have integrated their online and offline operations, offering customers options like trying on clothes in-store before ordering online or making online purchases and returning items to physical stores.

  • Mobile-First Approach: With the increasing penetration of smartphones in India, mobile apps have become a crucial aspect of omni-channel strategies. Retailers focus on creating user-friendly and responsive apps that allow customers to browse, shop, and track orders on their mobile devices.

  • Personalization and Loyalty Programs: Indian retailers are leveraging customer data to offer personalized recommendations, discounts, and promotions. Loyalty programs that span across online and offline channels encourage repeat business and brand loyalty.

  • Challenges: While omni-channel retailing is on the rise in India, challenges such as inadequate technology infrastructure, supply chain complexities, and varying levels of digital literacy in different regions still exist. Retailers need to tailor their omni-channel strategies to suit the diverse Indian market.

  • Government Regulations: Indian regulations around e-commerce and foreign direct investment (FDI) have influenced how some companies implement omni-channel strategies, particularly in the multi-brand retail segment. Regulations may impact how international brands and retailers establish their presence in India.

  • Future Outlook: As technology continues to advance and consumer expectations evolve, omni-channel retailing is expected to play an increasingly vital role in the Indian retail sector. Retailers will likely continue to invest in technology, data analytics, and personalized experiences to create a seamless and convenient shopping journey for customers across various channels.

Rural Retail Expansion

As the urban market became increasingly competitive, retailers started focusing on rural and semi-urban markets. Companies like ITC e-Choupal and Godrej Aadhaar expanded their reach to rural areas, catering to the unique needs and preferences of these markets.

Figure 9: Rural Retail

Here are some key points to consider in the context of rural retail expansion:

Rationale for Rural Retail Expansion:

  • Untapped Market Potential: Rural areas often have a large population that can be a significant consumer base. As rural incomes rise and lifestyles change, there is a growing demand for a wide range of products.

  • Increased Purchasing Power: With the expansion of agriculture, government schemes, and remittances from urban areas, rural consumers have more disposable income to spend on goods and services.

  • Market Saturation in Urban Areas: In many cases, urban markets may have become saturated or highly competitive, prompting retailers to explore new growth opportunities in rural regions.

  • Government Initiatives: Various government initiatives aimed at rural development and financial inclusion can boost rural purchasing power and create an enabling environment for retail expansion.

Strategies for Successful Rural Retail Expansion:

  • Local Understanding: Successful expansion requires a deep understanding of the local culture, preferences, and consumer behavior in rural areas. What works in urban markets may not necessarily work in rural regions.

  • Product Localization: Tailoring product offerings to suit local tastes and needs is crucial. This may involve introducing smaller pack sizes, adapting to local preferences, and offering products that are relevant to rural lifestyles.

  • Distribution Networks: Establishing efficient and cost-effective distribution networks is essential. This might involve partnerships with local distributors, leveraging existing local retailers, or using innovative delivery methods.

  • Affordability: Rural consumers are often more price-sensitive than their urban counterparts. Offering affordable options and value for money is critical to gaining their trust and loyalty.

  • Education and Awareness: Rural consumers might not be familiar with certain products or brands. Providing information and education about the benefits and usage of products can drive adoption.

  • Localized Marketing: Customizing marketing campaigns to resonate with rural consumers' aspirations, values, and cultural nuances can help build a strong brand presence.

  • Technology Adoption: Leveraging technology, especially mobile phones, can be a powerful tool for reaching rural consumers. Mobile apps, SMS campaigns, and digital platforms can facilitate engagement.

  • Financial Inclusion: Introducing payment options that align with rural consumers' financial cycles and offering credit or installment payment plans can enhance affordability.

Challenges of Rural Retail Expansion:

  • Infrastructure: Poor roads, inadequate transportation, and lack of basic amenities can pose logistical challenges.

  • Lack of Awareness: Rural consumers might not be aware of new products or brands, necessitating efforts to build awareness and educate them.

  • Distribution Challenges: Reaching remote areas with limited connectivity can be challenging, impacting the efficiency of distribution networks.

  • Cultural Sensitivity: Diverse cultures and languages in different rural regions require a sensitive and localized approach to marketing and communication.

Grocery and Fresh Retail: The grocery segment saw significant transformation with players like BigBasket and Grofers offering online grocery delivery services. Additionally, numerous hypermarkets and supermarkets entered the scene, catering to consumers' demand for fresh produce and convenience.

Key Characteristics:

  • Essential Goods: Grocery and fresh retail primarily deals with essential food items and household consumables that people need on a regular basis.

  • Perishable Items: A significant portion of the products sold in this segment are perishable, which requires careful management of inventory, supply chain, and storage to maintain product quality and reduce wastage.

  • Wide Product Range: Grocery and fresh retail encompasses a wide range of products, from staples like rice, flour, and lentils to fresh produce, dairy products, bakery items, frozen foods, and packaged goods.

  • Frequent Purchases: Consumers tend to visit grocery stores regularly for their daily or weekly needs, making it an integral part of their routine.

  • Customer Loyalty: Successful grocery retailers often build strong customer loyalty due to their consistent and reliable supply of essentials.


  • Quality Maintenance: Maintaining the quality and freshness of perishable items is a significant challenge, requiring proper storage, transportation, and inventory management.

  • Wastage Management: Reducing food wastage due to spoilage or expiration is a top concern in this sector.

  • Price Sensitivity: Grocery shoppers are often price-sensitive and seek the best value for their money. Retailers need to strike a balance between quality and affordability.

  • Competition: The grocery sector is highly competitive, with multiple retailers vying for consumers' attention. This can lead to slim profit margins.

  • Supply Chain Complexity: Managing the supply chain for perishable products requires a robust distribution network and efficient transportation to ensure timely deliveries.

Modern Trends and Innovations:

  • Online Grocery Shopping: The rise of e-commerce has led to the growth of online grocery platforms that allow customers to order essentials and have them delivered to their doorstep.

  • Contactless Shopping: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the adoption of contactless shopping methods, such as curbside pickup and home delivery.

  • Smart Inventory Management: Retailers are using technology and data analytics to optimize inventory, reduce wastage, and streamline the supply chain.

  • Private Labels: Many retailers are introducing their own private-label brands for grocery items, offering quality products at competitive prices.

  • Fresh Formats: Some retailers are focusing on "fresh" formats, offering a wide selection of high-quality produce and perishables.

Key Players:

In India, the grocery and fresh retail sector is served by various players:

  • Kirana Stores: Small neighborhood stores that play a crucial role in serving local communities with everyday essentials.

  • Supermarkets: Larger stores that offer a broader range of products and are known for organized displays and air-conditioned shopping environments.

  • Hypermarkets: Larger than supermarkets, hypermarkets provide an extensive range of products, including groceries, electronics, clothing, and more.

  • Online Grocers: E-commerce platforms like BigBasket, Grofers, and Amazon Pantry offer online grocery shopping and home delivery.

  • Specialty Stores: These focus on specific categories, such as organic foods, gourmet products, or health-conscious items.

The grocery and fresh retail segment is an essential and dynamic part of the retail industry, continually adapting to consumer preferences, technological advancements, and changing market dynamics.

Luxury Retail Growth

Figure 10: Luxury Retails Stores

The luxury retail sector also experienced growth, with international luxury brands setting up stores in premium malls and high-street locations in major cities. This shift reflected changing consumer aspirations and increased disposable incomes.

Key Characteristics:

  • Premium Products: Luxury goods are characterized by their exceptional quality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. These products often use the finest materials and are crafted with precision.

  • Exclusivity: Luxury brands often limit the availability of their products to maintain a sense of exclusivity and rarity.

  • Brand Image and Status: Luxury brands are built around a strong brand identity and aspirational image. Owning luxury items can signal a certain social status and lifestyle.

  • Innovation and Design: Luxury brands focus on innovation in design, technology, and aesthetics to create unique and desirable products.

  • Retail Experience: Luxury retail emphasizes providing a superior shopping experience, with well-designed stores, personalized customer service, and immersive brand environments.

Factors Driving Luxury Retail Growth:

  • Rising Affluence: The growth of high-net-worth individuals and the middle class in various regions, including Asia, has expanded the customer base for luxury products.

  • Globalization: Luxury brands have expanded their presence beyond traditional markets, tapping into emerging economies and new consumer segments.

  • E-commerce: The growth of online luxury retail has allowed brands to reach a wider audience and provide a convenient shopping experience for consumers.

  • Millennial and Gen Z Influence: Younger consumers are showing an affinity for luxury brands and experiences, pushing the industry to evolve and adapt to changing tastes.

  • Experiential Retail: Luxury brands are focusing on creating memorable and immersive retail experiences, combining art, culture, and technology to engage customers.

Challenges and Trends:

  • Counterfeit Concerns: Luxury brands often face challenges related to counterfeit products and protecting their brand's authenticity.

  • Sustainability: Consumers are increasingly seeking sustainable and ethical luxury products, prompting brands to adopt more environmentally friendly practices.

  • Digital Transformation: Luxury brands are adopting digital strategies to engage consumers, whether through social media, e-commerce, or augmented reality experiences.

  • Inclusivity and Diversity: Brands are working towards greater inclusivity and diversity to cater to a wider range of consumers and reflect changing societal values.

  • Personalization: Customization and personalization are becoming more important in luxury retail, allowing customers to create unique products that resonate with their individual preferences.

Technology Integration

Retailers embraced technology with features like digital payment options, personalized recommendations, and augmented reality (AR) for virtual try-ons. Data analytics and AI-driven insights were also employed to understand consumer behavior and optimize inventory management.

Technology integration in the Indian retail industry has undergone a significant transformation, driven by the nation's expanding digital infrastructure and the changing behaviors of consumers. E-commerce platforms like Flipkart, Amazon India, and Snapdeal have established a dominant presence, offering a wide spectrum of products and streamlining order fulfillment and delivery processes. With the surge in smartphone usage, mobile commerce (m-commerce) has taken center stage, facilitated by mobile apps and optimized websites that provide convenient shopping experiences. The rise of digital payment methods such as mobile wallets (Paytm, Google Pay, PhonePe) and the Unified Payments Interface (UPI) has revolutionized the way Indians transact, fostering a cashless ecosystem both online and offline.

Moreover, data analytics and personalization have become integral to retail strategies, empowering businesses to tailor product recommendations and marketing efforts based on consumer insights. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has expedited the adoption of contactless technologies, including digital payments, QR code menus, and touchless checkout solutions, ensuring the safety of customers. As part of omni-channel initiatives, retailers are endeavoring to create cohesive shopping experiences across physical and digital channels.

This technological transformation is not only visible in urban areas; it has also reached rural regions where retailers are introducing technology solutions to meet the growing demand for digital shopping experiences. Ultimately, the fusion of technology and retail in India is reshaping the consumer landscape, altering brand-customer interactions, and reshaping the dynamics of business operations. With technology continuing to evolve and consumer preferences shifting, the Indian retail sector is poised for further innovation and growth.

Emerging Technologies: Emerging technologies are shaping the future of the retail industry, transforming the way businesses operate and engage with customers. These technologies offer innovative solutions to enhance customer experiences, optimize operations, and drive business growth.

Here are some of the key emerging technologies in the retail sector:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning:

  • Personalization: AI analyzes customer data to provide personalized product recommendations, offers, and marketing messages.

  • Inventory Optimization: Machine learning predicts demand, helping retailers optimize inventory levels and reduce stockouts.

  • Chatbots: AI-powered chatbots provide instant customer support and assist in product inquiries and purchases.

  1. Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR):

  • Virtual Try-Ons: AR allows customers to virtually try on clothing, accessories, and cosmetics before making a purchase.

  • Virtual Showrooms: VR creates immersive shopping environments where customers can explore products and make selections.

  1. Internet of Things (IoT):

  • Smart Shelves: IoT-enabled shelves track inventory levels and trigger restocking orders when products are running low.

  • Beacon Technology: Beacons send location-based notifications to customers' smartphones, offering personalized promotions and recommendations.

  1. Contactless and Cashless Solutions:

  • Contactless Payments: NFC-enabled payments, QR code scans, and mobile wallets provide convenient and hygienic payment options.

  • Touchless Checkout: Self-checkout kiosks and mobile apps enable customers to complete transactions without physical contact.

  1. Robotics and Automation:

  • Inventory Management: Robots automate stock counting and shelf restocking, improving inventory accuracy and reducing manual labor.

  • Fulfillment Centers: Automated warehouses and fulfillment centers streamline order processing and reduce delivery times.

  1. 5G Technology:

  • Enhanced Connectivity: 5G offers faster and more reliable internet connectivity, enabling real-time interactions, immersive experiences, and IoT applications.

  1. Voice Commerce:

  • Voice Assistants: Voice-activated devices like Amazon Echo and Google Home allow customers to shop and make purchases using voice commands.

  1. Blockchain Technology:

  • Supply Chain Transparency: Blockchain enhances supply chain transparency by providing an immutable and verifiable record of product origins, transactions, and authenticity.

  1. Biometric Technology:

Facial Recognition: Biometrics enable personalized experiences, including fast and secure payments through facial recognition.

  • Customer Identification: Biometric authentication helps retailers identify and serve customers more efficiently.

  1. Sustainable Technologies:

  • Green Retail: Technologies that focus on reducing carbon footprints and minimizing waste are gaining traction as consumers prioritize sustainability.

  • Sustainable Packaging Solutions: Biodegradable and compostable packaging materials reduce the environmental impact of packaging waste. Retailers can explore alternatives to traditional single-use plastics.

  • Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs): Retailers can purchase RECs to offset their carbon footprint by supporting renewable energy projects elsewhere.

  • Digital Receipts and Paperless Transactions: By offering digital receipts and reducing paper usage, retailers can minimize their environmental impact.

  1. Data Analytics and Predictive Insights:

  • Predictive Analytics: Advanced analytics tools use historical data to forecast consumer trends, allowing retailers to make informed decisions.

  • Demand Forecasting: Retailers use historical sales data, seasonal trends, and external factors like holidays to predict future demand for products. This helps in optimizing inventory levels, reducing stockouts, and minimizing overstock situations.

  • Price Optimization: Analytics help retailers determine the optimal pricing strategy by analyzing customer behavior, competitor pricing, and market dynamics. Dynamic pricing adjusts prices in real-time based on factors like demand and competition.

  • Customer Segmentation: Data analytics group customers based on purchasing behavior, demographics, and preferences. Retailers can then tailor marketing campaigns and product offerings to specific segments.

  • Personalized Recommendations: Retailers use customer data to provide personalized product recommendations, improving cross-selling and upselling opportunities.

  • Inventory Management: Advanced analytics help retailers optimize stock levels by analyzing sales patterns, product turnover rates, and seasonal trends.

  1. Social Commerce:

  • Shopping on Social Media: Retailers are leveraging social media platforms to showcase products and enable shopping directly from posts.

These emerging technologies are driving innovation across the retail sector, enabling retailers to provide seamless, personalized, and convenient experiences for customers while optimizing business operations for improved efficiency and competitiveness.

Tier Cities in the Retail Industry

Tier cities, also known as tier 2, tier 3, or tier 4 cities, are a classification system used in India to categorize cities based on their population size, economic development, infrastructure, and overall urbanization. The concept of tier cities is significant in the context of the retail industry as it plays a crucial role in shaping retail strategies and market expansion.

Let's explore how tier cities work in the retail industry:

Classification of Tier Cities:

The classification of tier cities is not standardized, and the specific criteria used to determine which city falls into which tier can vary. However, the general classification is as follows:

  • Tier 1 Cities: These are the largest and most economically developed cities in India, including metropolitan areas like Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata.

  • Tier 2 Cities: These are smaller cities with moderate economic development and infrastructure, such as Jaipur, Ahmedabad, and Pune.

  • Tier 3 Cities: These cities are smaller and less developed than tier 2 cities, often serving as district or regional centers.

  • Tier 4 Cities: These cities are typically smaller towns and municipalities with limited economic activity and infrastructure.

Role of Tier Cities in the Retail Industry:

  • Market Potential: Tier cities collectively represent a substantial portion of the Indian population. As urbanization and disposable incomes increase, these cities become important markets for retail expansion.

  • Untapped Consumer Base: Retailers recognize the growth potential in tier cities due to the rising purchasing power of residents who are looking for better quality products and improved shopping experiences.

  • Reduced Competition: Tier cities often have lower levels of retail saturation compared to tier 1 cities. This provides opportunities for retailers to establish a presence with potentially less competition.

  • Diverse Consumer Behavior: Consumer preferences and behaviors can vary significantly between tier cities and tier 1 cities. Retailers need to understand these nuances to tailor their offerings effectively.

  • Digital Adoption: As digital connectivity increases across India, including tier cities, e-commerce platforms and online shopping are becoming popular. Retailers can tap into this trend by offering online options.

  • Hyperlocal Strategies: Tier cities may require more localized strategies, considering regional tastes, preferences, and cultural factors that influence shopping decisions.

  • Offline and Online Mix: A hybrid approach that combines both physical stores and online platforms can be effective in tier cities. Consumers may prefer exploring products in-store before making purchases.

  • Logistics and Distribution: Efficient supply chain management becomes crucial in tier cities, ensuring timely deliveries of products to meet customer demands.

Challenges in Tier Cities:

  • Infrastructure: Some tier cities might have limited infrastructure, posing challenges for setting up modern retail outlets or ensuring seamless online deliveries.

  • Awareness and Education: Educating consumers about product offerings, quality, and benefits may be required, especially in markets where modern retail is still evolving.

  • Cost Structure: Operating costs, including real estate, may be lower in tier cities, but retailers need to strike a balance between affordability and maintaining quality services.

Future Outlook:

The growth of tier cities in terms of population, economic activity, and consumer aspirations presents a significant opportunity for the retail industry. Retailers that adapt to the unique characteristics of tier cities, adopt localized strategies, and offer a mix of offline and online options stand to tap into this vast and evolving consumer market.

Regulatory Changes and Challenges

The Indian retail sector witnessed regulatory changes such as the introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) and discussions around FDI regulations in multi-brand retail. These changes, while aimed at simplifying taxation and encouraging investment, also brought about challenges and debates.

Post-Pandemic and Future Trends

Retail Market Size - 2019 - 2030 (US$ Billion)

Figure 11: Retail Market Size (Image Source: IBEF)

According to Kearney Research, India's retail industry is projected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9% from 2019 to 2030. The market size is expected to reach $1.407 trillion by 2026 and $1.8 trillion by 2030.

The revenue of India's offline retailers, also known as brick-and-mortar (B&M) retailers, is expected to increase by $1.39-2.77 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2020.

India's direct selling industry is expected to be valued at $2.14 billion by the end of 2021. E-retail has been a boon during the pandemic. According to a report by Bain & Company in association with Flipkart, the e-retail market is expected to grow to $120-140 billion by FY26, increasing at a CAGR of approximately 25-30% over the next 5 years.

Despite unprecedented challenges, the Indian consumption story is still robust. Driven by affluence, accessibility, awareness, and attitude, household consumption stood at $1.63-1.75 trillion in 2021.

The COVID-19 pandemic further accelerated e-commerce adoption as consumers turned to online shopping for safety reasons. Retailers had to adopt contactless delivery methods and enhance their online presence to stay competitive.


The evolution of retail in India reflects a dynamic interplay of consumer preferences, technological advancements, policy changes, and economic growth. The future of retail in India is likely to continue embracing digital innovations, convenience-focused models, and strategies that cater to diverse consumer segments across both urban and rural areas.

Global Launch Base helps international startups expand in India. Our services include market research, validation through surveys, developing a network, building partnerships, fundraising, and strategy revenue growth. Get in touch to learn more about us.

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