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14 May 2006

India's first hypermarket opens

HyperCity. Source: HyperCityIndia.comIF A SUCCESSFUL store opening is measured by the mere number of visitors, then the opening of HyperCity on the week of 1 May 2006 is a mega-stratospheric triumph. Thousands of Mumbaikars trekked daily into India's first international hypermarket on its first week, culminating in a mind-boggling (and body-squishing) weekend of massive humanity. It was spectacular! Never have I seen such massiveness of in-store traffic at a given place and time, not even in Dubai and Southeast Asia, where shoppers never seem to cease. For a non-Indian like myself, this is Indian retailing staring right in your face, throbbing and ready to roar.

Never have I seen such massiveness of in-store traffic at a given place and time!Eighteen months of hard, dedicated work by my colleagues at HyperCity Retail—a lean, mean, and fun team—gave these crowds sights and flavors and smells and textures that they have never seen in India before, all wrapped in value for money. T-shirt gift packs, plasma TVs, Raleigh bikes, and Waitrose gherkins are amongst those displayed on Indian shelves for the first time at a stupendously affordable price. And the shoppers lapped it all up. The cacophony of cash registers at the tills matched the happy squeals of children dribbling basketballs and the eager cellphone calls of young adults egging friends to visit this gigantic facility.

During the first four days, my team and I spent full time and energy churning out signs to communicate price changes and mandatory store information on real time and to replace those that were quickly mangled by the customer traffic. The demand for signs was ready to overwhelm the supply. On Tuesday and Thursday, the color inkjet printer bogged down, and the vendor serviceman was always unable to reach the store in time. On both occassions, I was ready to melt and vanish into someone else's wallet (or handbag, where it is cooler). The team had to generate the signs from the laser printer elsewhere (at the central office); I was often the most ecstatic person in the store when the color printer came back to life.

This is Indian retailing staring right in your face, throbbing and ready to roarEvery evening and early morning, the team and I would rearrange the displays. The "Spa Display", showcasing health and beauty products around a state-of-the-art bath tub, was always the most dramatically reconfigured by the customers. In place of bottles of massage oils on bamboo mats, we would find soda cans. Bath towels folded daintily became heaps of linen. One day a friend removed a watermelon INSIDE the tub. I kidded that perhaps someone wanted to see if a melon was watery enough for a bath.

On Sunday morning, just before the onslaught of the weekend crowd, I was viewing the ground floor from the mezzanine and realized the bittersweet experience of this week. Never mind if signs and visual displays continue to go up and down and up and down in the hands of a racing, raging crowd. Dreams have come true in HyperCity, and they are sensational.

Related Site: Branding in India

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