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Bengaluru is central to how we run Tesco, says CEO Dave Lewis

BENGALURU: If British retailer Tesco determines that a certain neighbourhood in one of the ten countries it is present in requires a store, then almost everything that follows is done out of India. Everything from determining the site and the actual land purchase to the final design of the store and ensuring its maintenance and security. It even does the subsequent store operations analytics to suggest what needs to change to improve efficiency and revenue.

Tesco’s Bengaluru centre also takes the decisions regarding store space, product range and display for its UK stores. It does the entire payroll for the UK operations. And about 68% of the global finance processes.

In property, particularly, the changes are quite fundamental, says the 56-billion pounds Tesco’s group CEO Dave Lewis. “To give you an idea, we have the local command centre here. So we can sit in our campus in Bengaluru and see every store in the UK, and we can even see within the store and see what is happening with it. So it is possible to measure quite precisely what impact you can have on the processes of operating either a store or petrol station (Tesco operates petrol stations too),” Lewis told TOI on a visit to the city.

The Bengaluru team uses insights from historical data, customer trends, competitor information, spaces in and around the location, and other relevant data to optimise property investments, ensuring they reflect local customer behaviours and feedback.

“How we want to layout the store, which fixtures to put where, all the maintenance, all the kits and equipment that we put in, even the security, all of that is done here. If the security alarm goes off in the UK store, it goes off here,” Lewis says. Tesco has over 6,500 grocery and general merchandise stores globally.

There are ten processes that are key to how any Tesco business is run. And Lewis says Bengaluru is central to all ten. “They are owned at the executive level by individuals and they have a partner here in Bengaluru who works with them on their applications of technology against that particular process. Property is one of them. Buying of products is another big one,” he says.

Bots replace mundane work

In each process, technology is playing an increasingly important role. The company is identifying mundane, repetitive processes and automating them. “People coming out of college did not get a degree to do those kind of mundane processes. So we add robotics to sit on those processes,” says Sumit Mitra, CEO of Tesco Global Business Services, the Bengaluru-headquartered division that manages the processes and technology.

Mitra says one bot could generally do about 3 to 3.5 colleagues’ worth of work, and they can work almost 24 hours. “This eliminates those repetitive tasks out of our colleagues and then we can retrain to help them do more value added things like interpreting the data and how do we do more predictive work with our markets,” he says.

They are analysing things like the length of time people are standing in teller queues, the product scanning rate. In some cases, artificial intelligence is being used to even do the predictive analytics. “And when we do that, our colleagues go even farther, like becoming architects,” Mitra says.

An area where predictive analytics has helped dramatically is in helping customers shopping online find relevant products more quickly. Tesco designers in India and the UK did that by studying search patterns. Lewis says customers would have spent 3 million hours less this year to input the same amount of orders that they placed last year.

Far fewer people are required today for many processes. But because the Bengaluru centre has helped increase efficiencies and revenue, the volume and quality of work coming to the city from Tesco’s global markets has risen immensely.

Mitra says over the past three years there has been a big shift in the Bengaluru centre from focusing on services to focusing on R&D. “Even when Bengaluru designs a store, we don’t put it on a PowerPoint presentation. We have a virtual tour for our stakeholders in the market concerned to actually see and feel how the store looks like,” he says.

STRATEGIC CENTRE

“I have been coming to India for all 30 years of my professional career, with Unilever before, and now with Tesco. The thing that is different is the way that business services inside Bengaluru is now seen as part of the strategic centre of what Tesco is trying to do. It is not like we are just here, it is absolutely central to how we run in the UK, in Central Europe and now increasingly as we expand in Asia.” – Dave Lewis, Group CEO, Tesco

“Over the last three years, we have kind of transferred from 80% focusing on services to 70% not focusing on services and becoming a really R&D organisation. Some 78% of all our colleagues working here are engineering focused.” – Sumit Mitra, CEO, Tesco Global Business Services

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