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ET CIO: Tesco Labs has up to 50 projects on the go at any one time: Tesco Bengaluru’s Priyadarsanie Ramasubramanian

March 15, 2017

Priyadarsanie Ramasubramanian, Head of Engineering and Technology – Tesco Bengaluru on key IT planning for 2016-17, leveraging new technology, her role and how Tesco Bengaluru is promoting more women through its Women in Leadership Development program

Bangalore: Meet Priyadarsanie Ramasubramanian, Head – Engineering & Technology at Tesco Bengaluru, which is the operations and technology centre for Tesco worldwide. Tesco Bengaluru centre was set up in May 2004 to enable standardisation and build centralized capabilities and competencies which can be leveraged across the Tesco Group.

She is accountable for retail demand forecasting across Tesco’s operations in the UK, Asia and Europe. With close to two decades of experience in managing software development programs, Ramasubramanian is responsible for building high performance and scalable teams through effective leadership skills and focus on value, flow and quality to drive business value.

In this interview with ETCIO, Priyadarsanie Ramasubramanian talks about Tesco’s IT programs during 2016-17, her role in driving innovation around new technologies and shares her views on women’s role in the IT sector and much more.

Edited excerpts…

Q1. Which were the key IT initiatives Tesco has rolled out in 2016?

Tesco is the UK’s largest food retailer and has long been a pioneer when it comes to technology and data. It is gearing to face the opportunities basis the latest advancements in technology. Applying cutting edge analytics and the most current data is the supermarket’s answer to dealing with challenges ranging from evolving customer behaviors and engaging in a competitive marketplace.

Tesco is focused on security, cloud, data analytics, open sources & developer tooling, mobile among other leading edge technology platform refreshes and transforming technology. Focus on security was to address key business risks. We have started using the public cloud to provide highly scalable and fast service whilst reducing capital investment, building a data and event ecosystem for the core business and building an API Platform (of key business services) to power e-commerce.

We want to build the foundation for future innovation and treat everything we do as a product, with agile product management processes unifying our business teams and technology. We aspire to build a team with global talent supported with our new career framework and leverage open source software to drive innovation and create new technologies.

Q2. Going into the year 2017, what sort of IT planning are you extending for this year?

We would continue to focus on the goals we set out to achieve with a company wide scope. We want to create a new enterprise information security organization, bring in operational efficiencies by standardizing and transforming our colleague, finance and people systems and focus on software defined infrastructure and cloud.

Additionally, we want to build on programs for unified end-to-end customer experience, end-to-end supply chain, API platform for retail powering consumers, streaming and event-based data analytics platform whilst focusing on our people to create engineering-led teams bound to product teams and outcomes.

Q3. In your role as head of engineering and technology, what kind of innovation projects are underway at Tesco using some of the latest technologies?

Much of the business’s innovation begins within the Tesco Labs, which was founded to research new technologies which could benefit the company and its customers. Tesco Labs has up to 50 projects on the go at any one time and experiments with VR and AR, connected home devices, near field communications (NFCs) and mobile applications.

We also run regular hackathon events where programmers compete to develop new solutions. Some of the great ideas are then sponsored to complete development and be used for customers’ benefits.

As a head of Software Development and Technology team at Tesco Bengaluru, I am driving supply chain efficiencies in forecasting. At supply chain, we strive to increase efficiencies in our logistics and distribution chains, to keep down costs and minimize environmental impact.

Supply chain at Tesco Bengaluru focuses on three priorities – improving availability, reducing wastage and stockholding. The key to get these KPIs right is to be able to forecast sales accurately for which complex predictions are needed on a sea of historical sales based data that influence sales, like price, promotions, events, season and weather.

With about 7000 stores across countries, several thousand products ranged in each store, and serving millions of customers a week, this is a complex challenge. My team has embarked on working along with business and addressing this challenge on big data.

Q4. There are fewer women in the IT sector. However given your personal work experience, do you see that is likely to change in near future with more women joining the IT sector and playing key roles in organizations?

Whilst the number of women in IT is still not very encouraging, we should appreciate the fact that women in IT have gradually increased in the last few years and we do have a good story at entry level. The focus has to now shift to creating an ecosystem for our women colleagues to sustain their journey in the organization and to develop themselves into leadership roles.

Many corporates like Tesco Bengaluru emphasize on the need for inclusion and diversity and run several programs and have special policies to encourage and help women in technology pursue leadership roles (middle and senior management).

Tesco Bengaluru runs a special program called “Women in Leadership Development” where they run programs for women entering leadership roles to help them realize their true potential, break barriers and being the best they can be. Women need to be ambitious and at the same time not go down the guilt lane in trying to be perfect in everything and eventually hold back.

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