November 30, 2015
India’s retail market is growing rapidly amidst rising competition, urbanisation and changing mindsets. The Boston Consulting Group and Retailers Association of India’s expects the retail market to reach US$ 1 trillion by 2020 from US$ 600 billion in 2015.
Contributing to that growth are many retailers like UK-based Tesco PLC, which is the third largest retailer in the world. Talking about how technology is enabling retail players, Vidya Laxman, Director-Technology at Tesco Bengaluru, underlines the need to be innovative to stay ahead of the curve. Tesco Bengaluru, the operations and technology centre for Tesco worldwide, was set up in May 2004.
In this interaction with CXOToday, Vidya talks about why she is confident brick and mortar will stay, and explains why she invests more in people, than in processes.
With digitization, how confident are you about the future of brick and mortar retailing?
Vidya: Over 50 pc of our stores’ footfall is from mobile. There is a need to recognise where digitization is taking you. In this digitized world, one needs to be ahead of times. We must understand the whole landscape of business rather than siloed into one of the package tools that we have. Already, customised analytics is being done so as to understand customer choices and behaviour. We want to recognize why people visit stores, but buy online. Now it’s mainly because of price. We can tackle that if we can give them good experience and be competitive in price.
As long as we are consumers, not robots, I really like to go to the store for the touch and feel of it. Brick and mortar will not go away. But they need to compete and think innovatively.
Conquering disruption through digitization: What does that mean for your organization?
Vidya: When we are in the technology world, the need for digitization is ubiquitos. In retail business, It means how fast we combine in-store experience with online for customers. How can we give them the same experience across all channels? How do we understand what they need? Today’s customer are quite aware. Technology has disrupted the way we think, the way we work. It is about giving customers great experiences, bringing in efficiency. It is about rebranding and reimaging. CXOs have no choice but to become brand ambassadors as they are responsible for both topline and bottomline business.
Innovation is the need of the hour. How can IT managers ensure the company adapts to change?
Vidya: Innovation is all about thinking out of the box and being disruptive. That is possible only if you are able to take risks. What I am doing in my team is to get the right set of people who have that innovative gene. When you work for long, you get siloed into doing it. In the process, the outside perspective gets lost. We are trying to give people freedom to do something creative. Hackathon gives them the perfect opportunity. They are able to think innovatively about business, not just technology. Technology keeps changing. They need to think about the outcomes and how they can give ROI to the business.
How can a leader prepare the team for change management?
Vidya: Being agile is one of the ways to stay ahead of the curve. That is the transformational journey we have taken within Tesco. Focusing on agile product development, we have an open mindset to show how we can do course correction. We fail fast so that we can do course correction. We are focusing on educating people on making people resilient to change, as change is constant. I always quote this: “People are scared to change, because they over-rate what they have and under-rate what is to come.”
I believe people are averse to change when there is volatility. They don’t know what’s going to happen. If they know that change is bound to happen, rightfully or wrongfully, they will be prepared to face it. I give more importance to people because it is the people who can make or break an organization. I like to be surrounded by good people and support them to go through transformation.
In terms of investments, I would invest 80 pc in people, and the rest in processes.
What are the prime challenges faced by you?
Vidya: The amount of data has gone up. We need to be on top of that information to process to give that experience. We need to be ahead of the curve by using intelligence of customer analytics.
One major challenge is to be constantly innovative. Second, sustain our business so as to provide good experience. Third, we have so many touchpoints and different systems, which need to be up and running always. Also, people at these touch points must be hand-held, always. So, we have the challenge of keeping people, process, systems, technology and experience together, all the time.
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