This paper aims to understand the factors affecting the evolution of retailing in India since the mid-nineteenth century.
This paper compares the trajectories of four distinct retail stores in India – Spencer’s pan-Indian retailing empire since 1863, Akbarallys’ department store chain in Mumbai since 1897, Apna Bazar’s consumer cooperative chain in Mumbai since 1948 and the Future Group’s pan-Indian retailing chain since the 1980s. Historical sources include firm biographies and newspaper archives.
This paper proposes a systems theory linking environmental influences and service innovation, to explain the evolution of retailing in India since the mid-nineteenth century. The key environmental influence on retailing has been state patronage – colonialism and high-end department stores until the 1940s, socialism and cooperative stores until the 1980s and liberalisation with restricted foreign direct investment in retailing until 2015 associated with indigenous corporate large retail format stores. Service innovation in terms of home delivery and recreation of the bazaar atmosphere due to norms on gender and community have also interacted to shape individual success in modern retailing and the dominance of small shop retailing over the long run.
This paper questions standard accounts of retailing history in India that began with the late-twentieth century by showing the scale of a pan-Indian retailing chain in the early-twentieth century. It also provides an account of retailers that is missing in the current literature on the history of consumption in India.
Findings of this study will be useful to marketing professionals and teachers who wish to learn more about the history of retailing in India. It also shows how retailers navigated changes in the regulatory and business environment.
Through a comparative study, this paper outlines the environmental influences on retail formats and service innovation strategies that are required to serve the Indian market. It also brings to fore the significance of retailing chains in colonial India.
The authors thank two anonymous referees for their valuable comments on the paper.
Tumbe, C. and Krishnakumar, S. (2018), "From bazaar to
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