Acquisition of Agora by Softlogic Retail Holdings (PVT) Ltd | Here’s What We Can Expect!7 min read

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Op-Ed: This is an independent editorial from our esteemed opinion contributor. By any means, the op-ed contents by contributors don’t reflect any of Markedium’s in-house opinion.


On 4 March 2022, Softlogic Holdings announced that It’s fully owned subsidiary Softlogic Retail Holdings (Private) Limited has entered into a sales and purchase agreement with Agora Limited of Bangladesh. Softlogic Retail Holdings will acquire 100% stake in Agora Limited.

Well, it was long time coming, isn’t it?

Agora Limited currently has 17 outlets in Bangladesh (14 in Dhaka, 2 in Chattogram and 1 in Sylhet).

The modern trade sector is not as popular as it is in peer countries of Bangladesh. This sector covers only 2% of the $20 billion retail market of Bangladesh. In Sri Lanka, modern trade market share is about 15% and in India it is about 10%.

What is Softlogic Holdings PLC?

Softlogic Holdings PLC, being one of the leading consumer focused conglomerates in Sri Lanka, offers the customers the access to a range of international brands in Retail, IT and Telecommunication Sectors. The Company is one of the leading Healthcare and Financial service providers in Sri Lanka. It also holds keen interest in leisure and automobile industries.

Softlogic’s Retail Portfolio

Softlogic Holdings PLC’s retail portfolio (Contributes more than 50% in Total Revenue) includes mobile phone distribution (Samsung, Nokia, HTC, etc.), consumer electronics, retail fashion brands (Own Brands: ODEL, Cotton Collection; International Fashion Brands), retail restaurant brands (Burger King, Popeyes, Baskin Robbins, Deli France and Crystal Jade) and Modern Trade (Glomark supermarket chain).

Modern Trade and Softlogic Supermarkets (Pvt) Ltd.

Modern Trade is a concept of organized retail experience through distribution and logistics management. Supermarket chains, mini-markets, hypermarkets etc. are some of the places where the concept of modern trade is practiced. Modern trade improves customer experiences by ensuring the availability of a large collection of retail products and services.

Looking at its potential, Softlogic Holdings entered into the market back in 2018 with its retail chain Glomark. As of 22 February 2022, Softlogic Supermarkets (Pvt) Ltd. had 12 stores all over Sri Lanka. These stores provide one of a kind hypermarket experience to the customers.

Softlogic’s Modern Trade Pattern

In Sri Lanka, Softlogic’s hypermarket chains are designed to provide exclusive lifestyle offering to a selective customer base. The average size of Its stores is 15,000 square feet. Some stores can also be as big as 25,000 square feet. A typical hypermarket chain of Softlogic combines convenience of grocery shopping with an extended bakery range and an assortment of hot food, organic produce, household goods, a ground floor Asiri pharmacy and a Softlogic Max with an extended area for consumer electronics and furniture. Some of its stores are tagged with its homegrown fashion brand outlet ODEL. Such a wide range of product offering allows the customers to enjoy a full on experience in Softlogic’s hypermarket outlets. Large format stores experience offered by Softlogic’s supermarkets has gained significant traction with customers who have responded positively to expanded range of goods. Amidst Covid 19 pandemic, online orders grew exponentially and Softlogic upgraded Its online presence to meet the demand. The team has been increased from 250 people to 450 and It has also opened a 5,000 sq ft dedicated training facility to drive excellence in service standards.


What can we expect from Softlogic’s Acquisition of Agora


  • Agora may go beyond Grocery

In a Softlogic Hypermarket outlet, it is more of an experience than day to day purchase. Grocery and other retail Shopping can be tiresome since it requires the customers to go from one place to the other for buying different products and services. Softlogic’s hypermarkets provide a wide range of products and services like electronics, furniture, hot food, medicines, groceries, fashion products, etc. under one roof. To add more to it, customers can avail refreshments in Softlogic’s outlets. It is what you can say ‘one of a kind’ experience.

  • Leveraging Technology

Amidst Covid 19, Softlogic Supermarkets (Pvt) Ltd. has almost doubled its team responsible for online selling. In enhancing customer convenience, Softlogic may introduce the Agora shoppers to the latest retail tech and specialist guides. Softlogic Holding PLC’s 5% of total revenue comes from its information technology based business portfolio. The Company is a leading provider of ICT solutions, offering an array of services along the IT value chain. The information Technology operating segment comprises the areas of software development, hardware and system software solutions, market specific ICT solutions and office automation solutions. This side of the business of Softlogic may come in handy when Agora’s online presence is needed to be strengthened.

  • Multi-format Strategy

In Sri Lanka, Softlogic expands its hypermarket brand Glomark in two formats. One is Glomark Standard which is located in busy cities and areas. These outlets serve a sophisticated customer base through the offering of a wide variety of products. On the other hand, Glomark Essential outlets are located mostly in Softlogic’s hospitals where limited range of household goods and groceries are available. Unlike Glomark Standard, Glomark essentials are established in mini-market formats. These mini-markets allow Glomark to reach a wide range of population. This helps Glomark to create a strong brand image through widespread presence.

  • Quality over Quantity

Unlike its local competitors (In 2019, Cargills-388 outlets, Keells-96 outlets and Arpico-49 Supercentres and daily outlets) in Sri Lanka, Glomark does not have many outlets in different regions. It focuses on busy neighborhoods where it establishes large outlets. These approach of doing business by Softlogic might hint towards Agora’s extended business activities in its existing outlets rather than opening new outlets. Softlogic may strategically focus on busy locations in city areas rather than covering larger region.


Socio-Economic Landscape of Bangladesh supporting Modern Trade


CountryTotal Population (Crore)Population in the largest city (% of urban population)Urban Population (Crore)Population density (people per sq. km of land area)GDP per capita (current US$)Total GDP (current US$ in Billion)Urban GDP (current US$ in Billion)
Bangladesh16.4733.41%5.501,2651,961.60323.05  107.93
India138.006.29%8.684641,927.702,660.23  167.33
China141.093.12%4.4015010,434.8014,722.77  459.35
Pakistan22.0919.60%4.332871,188.90262.62    51.47
Sri Lanka2.1914.93%0.333543,680.7080.68    12.05
Vietnam9.7323.67%2.303142,785.70271.16    64.18
Thailand6.9829.36%2.051377,186.90501.65  147.28
Philippines10.9626.80%2.943683,298.80361.49    96.88
Malaysia3.2432.02%1.049910,412.30337.00  107.91
Indonesia27.356.95%1.901463,869.601,058.43    73.56
South Korea5.1823.63%1.2253131,631.501,637.90  387.04

Source: World Bank data as of 2020

  • Economic Viability

Even though the Per Capital GDP of Bangladesh is lower than that of Sri Lanka, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia, its Total GDP of the urban areas is larger than those of peer countries. On top of that, a country like Bangladesh with an average GDP growth rate of above 7% in the last decade of 2020s is expected to hit $3,000 by 2025. Modern trade provides convenient shopping experience which will become more attractive to the people of Bangladesh as their income gradually rises.

  • Female Workforce

It is observed that the percentage of female workforce in the labor force of Bangladesh was 25% in 2010 which increased to 31% in 2020. Both working men and women get less time for their shopping. As a result of that, they would prefer a one-stop shopping experience generally provided by super-markets and hyper-markets.

  • Increased Transaction through MFS and Online Banking Platforms

In Bangladesh, there are more than 60 Banks. People in the urban areas are well aware about the features of these MFS and online banking services. There are almost more than 5 million RMG and textile sector workers most of whom are female. A large number of this workforce receive their salaries through MFS (Bkash, Rocket, Nagad, etc.). Bangladesh Bank has recently instructed to all types of organizations to disburse salary through banking channel if the salary of an employee is more than BDT 15,000. The main target of MFS companies is to enhance retail trade transaction through their services. Lots of campaigns (Discounts, reward points, EMI, Credit Cards, etc.) are run by banks and MFS companies to encourage people to execute transaction through online. Such transactions are more convenient and secured in nature. Such online based transactions give supermarkets and hypermarkets edge over general/traditional retail trade. Modern trade facilitates MFS and card transactions which is still not available in the general stores in Bangladesh.


In Sri Lanka, there is 1 modern trade outlet for every 1,500 urban population. On the contrary, it is 1 outlet for more than 150,000 urban population in Bangladesh. Such a statistic indicates towards a plethora of opportunity for the growth of modern trade sector of Bangladesh.

Sources

  1. Annual Report
  2. https://www.ft.lk/business/Softlogic-opens-unique-hypermarket-in-Mt-Lavinia-with-Glomark-Odel-and-Softlogic-Max/34-708961
  3. https://www.pressreader.com/
  4. https://www.statista.com/statistics/1043919/india-organized-food-and-grocery-retail-market-penetration-rate/#:~:text=The%20organized%20food%20and%20grocery,over%2034%20billion%20Indian%20rupees.
  5. https://www.asiaperspective.com/rise-modern-grocery-shopping-vietnam/
  6. https://www.livemint.com/industry/retail/fmcg-sales-at-organized-retail-stores-grew-22-in-2018-nielsen-india-report-1552350779531.html
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