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How Bengaluru kept UK’s Tesco retail ops going during Covid-19

June 17, 2020

BENGALURU: The Covid-19 pandemic brought dramatic changes in consumers’ shopping behaviour. Online orders surged. People stocked up more. They focused on essentials.

IT systems meant for and configured for the pre-Covid buying patterns had to be drastically altered. For British retailer Tesco, all of this was done at its technology services arm in Bengaluru thousands of miles away. The 4,500-people team in India normally manages 400,000 delivery slots in the UK every week. That’s the number of orders placed by customers online, either for home delivery or for collecting from a nearby store.

“But as more Britons stayed at home, the number of online orders surged almost three times to 1.2 million per week. And this was managed by our technology team all of whom were working from home,” says Sumit Mitra, CEO of Tesco Business Services and Tesco Bengaluru.

The team worked with network and delivery partners to help expand the total number of home delivery slots. They created dedicated slots for vulnerable customers – mainly old people, who were advised by the British government not to venture out – and provided ready-made menus so that older folk do not have to search for items. The company says it served 100,000 such customers till May.

For Tesco, store orders also went up 35-40% because consumers preferred to buy in bulk and preferred stores where they could get everything under one roof. So the Bengaluru team had to upgrade the store tills remotely. The 57-billion pounds company has some 7,000 stores globally, including about 4,000 across the UK and Ireland.

Pre-Covid, most people shopped for food on a daily basis, while during Covid, people were buying more items at one go because they wanted to avoid visiting stores too often. The Bengaluru team redesigned the shelves in a Tesco supermarket to deal with this.

“For example, we had to display our products where it has the maximum efficacy of sales. With more people coming to the stores, and the most sought after products being hand sanitisers, toilet rolls and orange juices, the team here made it easy for the people to get those items when they visited by placing those items at the places where it would save the most time,” says Mitra.

Tesco Bengaluru is the only technology and retail operations centre catering to the century old retailer’s growth and presence globally. Set up in 2004, its range of functions include the entire spectrum of retail – technology, business, finance, commercial and supply chain and property services.

Tesco Bengaluru is also responsible for reconciliation of all transactions – the cost price, selling price and profit on each product – that happen at the store level, a complex function considering the huge transaction volumes. Mitra says they manage, for instance, the overall stock and return it to suppliers if some of it has rotted. “If we have ordered 10 million bottles of Coke, we here in Bengaluru exactly know how much stock has gone to each store,” he says.

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