Mumbai Duty Free to embark on arrivals overhaul

By Andrew Pentol |


P.K. Thimmayya replaced Manishi Sanwal as CEO, Mumbai Duty Free in August.

Mumbai Duty Free (MDF) is to revamp its arrivals shop at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2 to help drive penetration in-store.

Penetration in arrivals may have risen from 1% to around 16% between 2008 and May 2019, but according to P.K. Thimmayya, who replaced Manishi Sanwal as CEO, Mumbai Duty Free in August, the layout of the existing arrivals stores means penetration is ‘not the best’.

As first reported by TRBusiness, Thimmayya, who begun his new role on 16 August 2019, had been instrumental in developing Flemingo’s Colombo’s operations which he continues to oversee.

Speaking at the recent TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes he told TRBusiness: “Work on the arrivals project in Mumbai will begin no later than February 2020 once the peak season is over. We hope to complete this by next April.”


Thimmayya, who revealed the entire arrivals store, which accounts for 70% of total business will be overhauled, remarked: “We will have separate zones for watches and fashion in arrivals.”

The layout of the store will be modified to include ‘multiple walkways’ giving almost all categories ‘proper walkthroughs’.

“We have worked on the entire design and layout, but might receive some additional space meaning the layout might change.”

Last year, MDF reported annual sales growth of 27% along with its highest ever monthly sales growth for December — over 21% year-on-year.


New Mumbai Duty Free CEO, P.K. Thimmayya has vowed to maintain a a high-quality retail offer and strong levels of customer service.

Thimmayya, who has relocated to Mumbai is confident of building on this strong sales performance. “The skincare and perfumes and cosmetics business has been fantastic. The spend per passenger is one of the highest in the region and we have undertaken many cross-category promotions to help drive the beauty business.

“We have also seen what we can do in terms of better staff interaction and keeping staff motivated. This is one intervention we think we can bring to Mumbai which will really help drive the business.”

In the short-term, the focus is on introducing key brands and realising the potential of the electronics and jewellery categories.

“NARS has just come into the store and we will bring in Kiehl’s shortly. Fashion is a great area we are going to focus on and this month we will start with Victoria’s Secret.”

He added: “We see electronics and watches as areas with huge potential and expect sales to grow three or four-fold in the coming year. We are still in our infancy as far as these categories are concerned, but I think we can grow and drive a fantastic business on both fronts.”


Mumbai Duty Free is looking to realise the potential of the electronics and jewellery sectors.


Despite the cessation of Jet Airways operations on 17 April 2019 and subsequent drop in traffic from around 22% to 13% in the months that have followed, MDF has still managed to grow spends. “Jet Airways used to contribute almost 30% of air traffic out of Mumbai, but in the four months following Jet Airways’ closure, we have grown spends by more than 10%. In fact, spends are continuing to grow around 12%.”

The impact of the Jet Airways collapse, however, is still apparent, acknowledged Thimmayya. “This is not going to go way immediately. The airport has proactively created a programme which has resulted in quite a few slots given to other airlines. There are still more slots to be allocated and it may take a few more months for things to return to normal.”

The execution of promotions, such as Duty Free is Now Free and latest Bollywood campaign has been key to driving better spends.

“We will continue adding more partners to make the Duty Free is Now Free platform stronger and deliver better value to consumers,” Thimmayya emphasised.


The Duty Free is now Free shopping campaign was re-launched at the start of the year.

Driving loyalty through the stores is also a priority, with MDF undertaking data mining in an effort to make its outlets more appealing to regular customers. “The data mining is throwing up a lot of statistics and information on people who are continuously recognising our stores.

“We want to leverage on that and make things more interesting for people who have been loyal to our shops. The aim is to recognise and understand their buying behaviour and give them customised offers. We are working on a very interesting concept in terms of how to drive loyalty to our stores.”

MDF’s strong relationship with the airport means it can create new concepts and stretch the boundaries of innovation. Thimmayya explained: “One of the biggest plus points we have is the support and cooperation we get from the airport.

“The airport wants us to continuously experiment and bring in new categories which is ideal for us. They are open to ideas and keep wanting us to do more and more. This relationship enables us to experiment and drive a lot of new initiatives.”


The retailer dedicates individual stores to sunglasses and apparels.


Speaking of new initiatives, MDF launched a pre-order departures service during the week preceding the TFWA Exhibition and Conference as part of the company’s digital focus.

The pre-order arrivals business, which accounts for around 20% of total business, has grown multi-fold over the past six months, hence the decision to introduce an arrivals equivalent. “Digital is the way to go and we have started doing pre-order on departures in Mumbai which is doing extremely well.

“The aim is to create more specific promotions keeping the digital space in mind. This will be a strong focus for the remainder of the year.”

Regarding the company’s newly established departures pre-order business, Thimmayya explained: “Passengers can now collect products on their way out and order from home up to four hours before their flight. The concept covers fashion, luxury products and brands such as Swarovski, Tumi and Guess (handbags).

“At the moment, this is a soft launch, but the early response is extremely encouraging. We are all notified each time an order is made and are very excited with how things are progressing.”


The new arrivals operation will have a separate zone for fashion, which is also covered as part of the recently launched departures pre-order concept.

While there is plenty to occupy Thimmayya and his team in Mumbai, the same can be said in Colombo at Bandaranaike Airport. “The airport in Colombo is once again going through a complete revamp. Traffic is likely to be redirected, so the departures shops may have to be relocated and we may have to start looking at new shops.”

Outlining his vision for the Mumbai and Colombo operations, he concluded: “I will definitely ensure the quality of our retail and customer service and motivation of our staff is driven to a very different level which will help us achieve better results.”



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