LAURENCE: Morning Vidya. Please tell us a bit about your background.
VIDYA: My experience is primarily in omni-channel retail and global sourcing, with expertise in the apparel and footwear categories. Prior to my role at Pentagon, I was the Head of Business Development for the Jabong marketplace, where I was responsible for acquiring new brands and managing a team of 14 category managers.
Prior to that, I was a national category manager for Aditya Birla Retail (the third largest private group company in India) and I also headed up the Fashion and Accessories division at Li & Fung (India).
L: That is an impressive resume. What attracted you about Pentagon?
V: In many ways my career is a reflection of India’s position in the international retail landscape. For a long time, I was helping brands like John Lewis and River Island source products from our manufacturers. More recently the opportunity has been shifting from Indian production to Indian consumption, and ecommerce has accelerated this process dramatically.
I think there is enormous scope for international brands to sell directly to Indian consumers as well as the other way around. Any business that facilitates that trade and can navigate the complexities of doing business in India will be extremely well positioned.
L: When you talk about the complexities of doing business in India what do you mean?
V: Unlike other countries, the retail sector in India is classified into several segments such as single brand, multi brand, wholesale, ecommerce, and each is governed by a separate FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) policy. For international brands looking to enter our market, this creates confusion and also imposes entry conditions that are sometimes difficult to meet.
For instance, in bricks and mortar retail, the previous government mandated that foreign multi-brand retailers must bring $100 million investment upfront, source 30% of products locally, only open stores in cities with a population over 1 million and get separate approval from each state they operate in. Moreover, these companies are banned from entering ecommerce.
L: And what about ecommerce specifically?
V: The rules have been clarified earlier this year, and essentially separate marketplace activity from inventory activity.100% overseas capital is allowed in ecommerce marketplaces and business-to-business ecommerce ventures, but no FDI is allowed in any business to consumer online retailing of multi-brand products.
Essentially, a marketplace is allowed to offer warehousing, logistics, call centres, and payment collection, but they are not allowed to hold stock, sell it directly to consumers, or influence pricing. The government has also mandated that none of the sellers on a marketplace can exceed 25% of the total revenue of the marketplace.
L: So what are the options for international brands?
V: There are restrictions in relation to online sales to Indian consumers by non-resident entities. However, Pentagon has successfully established processes that comply with the local restrictions, allowing us to service our clients on Indian marketplaces.
FULL NAME: Vidya Sagar Singh
JOB TITLE: Indian Country Manager
Vidya comes with 16+ years of online and offline fashion and lifestyle retail experience. Before joining Pentagon, he was Assistant Vice President at premium Indian fashion portal Jabong.com and was leading the Business Development function of the company.
He has also worked in various leadership roles at TPG Wholesale, Aditya Birla Retail and global sourcing giant Li & Fung in India.
He is known for his vast vendor network and customer centric approach.
I always thought that cross-border commerce was the future, and Pentagon is well prepared to lead this space with its end-to-end solution for brands and retailers.
WHAT GETS YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT ECOMMERCE?
Its reach, which is probably the most important reason behind its success.
WHICH BRAND DO YOU MOST ADMIRE? Fast fashion brand Zara