The Moodie Blog in India: DFS makes its Indian debut

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

This is my last Blog from India – written in the Clipper Lounge at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, just yards away from the new DFS Group duty free store at the airport.

It has not been an easy debut for the industry leader. Initially it was the second-highest bidder in the duty free tender behind the ill-fated Aldeasa/ITDC alliance. When that partnership failed to get off the ground, Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) turned to the second bidder – DFS.

Unlike Alpha, The Nuance Group or Aldeasa, DFS chose to go it alone. It’s been a testing debut as the retailer has come to grips with the numerous layers of bureaucracy, legislation and unions that have driven many a duty free executive to distraction down the years.

So full credit to DFS for getting the operation underway. No-one should judge the store yet – it’s very early days and getting stock to shelf is an issue (as it is for Nuance in Hyderabad and Bangalore). The ultimate mix will be very different from anything DFS has done before though (the closest comparison will be the retailer’s new store in Abu Dhabi, which also has a strong Indian passenger base).

Confectionery (above) takes a prominent place here – brands such as Mars, not necessarily big players for DFS worldwide, stand out in Mumbai – and Scotch whisky, led by the perennial Indian favourite, Johnnie Walker (below), dominates the all-important liquor section, while tobacco (second below) is also a key category.

Getting it right in India seems to be a matter of planning, persistence, timing and no little luck. DFS has got an important foot in the door and bigger prizes lie ahead – the new integrated terminal in Mumbai, the planned Terminal 3 in Delhi. It will be finding out more about Indian airport retailing by the hour now in what probably amounts to the steepest learning curve in the business.

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