Narendra Pasuparthy

Our incubators are IoT-enabled

From smart feeding systems, IoT-run trucks, cloud-based hatcheries, 100% traceability, and a ‘mystery audit system’ to hatching plans for using AI, ML, and cloud, here’s a company that has never chickened out on deep-frying IT. Nandu’s, which claims to be Karnataka’s largest omnichannel chicken brand, marinates all its core propositions in IT, whether it is the promise of farm-to-fork agility or integrated ERP for production data or transparency for the customer. It is also using new strategies to redefine an industry that has been predominantly an unorganized one. Incidentally, it is also an industry where customers are becoming more and more environment-conscious. Its founder and CEO Narendra Pasuparthy talk about how and where IT helps in the recipe that the company is betting on.

Can you share an overview of your IT strategy and roadmap so far, and as outlined for the future? What are the core building blocks that define your IT environment? 

As India’s largest hyperlocal and omnichannel meat brand, Nandu’s has fully-integrated and farm-to-fork operations. We own and operate the entire supply chain – right from the feed mill breeding farm hatcheries and broiler farms to the slaughterhouse and retail. Our IT strategy, since its inception in 2016, has been to invest strategically in scalable technology that will shape the future of business.

The core building blocks of our IT ecosystem entail a robust and state-of-the-art technology stack. To begin with, we have an operational Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) across the enterprise to ensure 100% traceability and transparency in our operations. All operational data, as well as production data through the supply chain, is captured into the ERP.

Any use of IT on the upstream side?

We also have our own point-of-sale system, developed in-house to capture the retail operations data at the stores, as well as the e-commerce platform to record online data. In order to ensure easy access to seamless data across the enterprise, the e-commerce platform, the point-of-sale platform, and the operational ERP are completely integrated.

Going forward, our plan is to leverage the best of cloud-based technologies, business analytics, AI, and ML for better inventory management and data-based decision-making. Our business vision is to make fresh, healthy, and high-quality meat and meat products accessible for all. And the right technological infrastructure is instrumental in making that a reality!

How important is a technology for the industry you are in? Is retail in India evolving from a technology standpoint?

Traditionally, meat retailing has been the most underserved market, especially in a country like India. Branding and customer experience are not factors that one associates with the traditional butcher’s shop. What’s more, in this day and age, ours is one of those rare industries where traceability is essentially zero.

Our value proposition to consumers is that they should know what they’re eating; how the ingredients are grown; how they are processed; how they are finally brought to the customers’ homes. And that’s possible only with the smart adoption of technology.

Our experience tells us that technology plays a critical role in ensuring that customers have a delightful shopping experience. Thanks to customer relationship management (CRM) tools, the moment a customer walks into our store or shops for our products online, we connect beyond a transactional level. We not only address the customer by name but also try to customise our offerings based on their unique preferences.

Retail is ever-evolving and technology can help retailers deliver the experience that modern-day consumers expect. As the first-ever meat retail brand in India to successfully deploy Net Promoter Score (NPS) to gain valuable insights into customer experience, Nandu’s is paving the way for greater technology adoption in the meat retail space. Our unique loyalty programme, powered by technology, has witnessed a phenomenal response, boosting the brand image as well as customer experience.

How exactly do you ensure the promise of no-warehousing and no-middlemen in a space like this? Does technology play any role here?

Technology has been the catalyst that helped us, as poultry farmers, to take our products directly to the end consumer, sans any middlemen or warehousing. Operating retail stores across Bengaluru, venturing into e-commerce, and integrating all this into an organised system were possible only because due to the application of technology.

Based on solid sales trend data over the last four years, technology helps us predict the quantum of produce that is most likely to sell in a particular outlet during particular working hours. This helps us get the right quantity of material into the stores and ensure that there is a minimum carry-over stock. Hence, there’s no need for warehousing. We don’t store any of our produce. We process chicken every single day based on data analytics of what the consumption will be on that particular day.

As far as middlemen are concerned, we have been determinedly building our omnichannel brand, through online and offline operations, in order to be self-sufficient in the truest sense of the term. Traditionally, we have been a broiler breeding company so we produce live chicken. Now with the help of technology, we are able to reach the consumer directly to deliver a delightful meat-buying experience.

Any examples you can share – on feeding, cold chain infrastructure sides, and wearables/sensors?

We were the first poultry business in India to implement automated feeding systems to ensure that the chickens are efficiently fed on a daily basis in a fraction of the time that manual feeding entails. The robotic feeding systems have facilitated cost optimisation, minimise wastage, and optimal efficiency.

Given that cold chain management is a critical component in meat handling, all our trucks carrying processed chicken from the factory to the retail outlets are powered by IoT and GPS devices. Right from constantly monitoring the temperature of the produce to raising an alarm if something is amiss, smart technology applications help us ensure that we maintain the right cold chain infrastructure.

What about other areas – feed optimisation and egg-grading, or use of nano-tech for virus detection?

We use automated devices for weighing and grading the eggs in a consistent and prompt manner. The eggs are then either taken into the incubation process and the hatchery to produce broilers or table eggs, which are retained for customers. Our incubators are IoT-enabled to help us monitor the incubation process accurately. This has a direct effect on the quality of the broiler, which in turn impacts the quality of the meat that our customers consume. Our hatcheries can be monitored from anywhere in the world, courtesy of the cloud-based system they run on.

What has been your best project or investment so far? Which IT shift made you learn the most?

I would like to mention two IT projects at Nandu’s that have been remarkable in terms of their return on investment as well as the learning experience. First is the operational ERP, which empowers us to deliver total transparency to the consumer. Say, you want to know the complete life cycle of the chicken that you bought from Nandu’s today, we can give you that information because of the operational ERP that spans the entire supply chain!

Technology adoption has been an integral part of our transformation from a B2B business to a B2C business. As an omnichannel meat retailing company, we had to develop the point-of-sale system in-house in order to meet our specific business needs. Integrating the e-commerce platform and other technology components with the sale system was a challenging yet incredibly rewarding experience. Eventually, it is about our customers having the convenience of placing their order on our website, app, or through Dunzo and Swiggy, or else, just walking into our stores.

Tell us something about the technology side of your competitive differentiation, as also about the recent CRM initiatives and NPS concept.

In terms of competitive differentiation, I believe that transparency and trust set us apart from the competition. If you walk up to any of our competitors and ask for traceability, they won’t know anything beyond the supplier because they buy readymade-chicken. We own the hatcheries, feed mills, breeding farms, processing centers, food factories, cold chain infrastructure, and retail stores. We have the technology that gives us traceability across our supply chain, so we can vouch for the health, hygiene, and safety of all our products.

Nandu’s is the only meat brand in the country to have a technology-enabled CRM and loyalty programme. Club Nandu’s helps us profile the consumer purchase behavior, acting as a seamless feedback collection methodology that empowers our vision to offer tailored offerings to each customer.

As an organisation, we are continually looking at ways to understand our customers and cater to their unique needs. The net promoter score (NPS) is a good way to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty. Currently, this programme is offered to our offline customers. We are hoping to extend it to our online customers as well. Apart from that, we also have Mystery Audit System (MAS), which is a tech-based evaluation system to assess and monitor the quality of services provided from the point of view of the customer.

Does IT help a lot in streamlining supply-chains and handling a crisis like the one we are all going through now?

IT is the foundation that holds the organisational systems together. If you have a strong foundation, unexpected changes and setbacks are not as destabilising as they may be for others. That has been our experience during the current pandemic.

Our robust end-to-end technology infrastructure that includes ERP, sale system, e-commerce system, and the loyalty programme, came together seamlessly to ensure operational continuity, despite the uncertain times. We could not only get the operations up and running quickly but could also manage the huge surge in demand over the last six months.

When you are operating in a crisis situation like the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s critical to have real-time access to data. It empowers businesses to make prompt data-based decisions to help streamline the supply chains, handle logistic issues, or whatever it’s that needs to be done at that moment to weather the storm.

As you plan expansion to more stores and regions, how will you use IT to support this growth map?

We have been working on a strategic growth plan to strengthen our position as India’s fastest-growing and largest omnichannel meat brand. IT has been a key component of our growth map since day-one of operations. In order to disrupt the traditionally unorganised meat market in India, we have invested in scalable and agile technology that supports our business vision. The go-forward strategy is to continue building our cloud-based tech platform to adapt and develop new functionalities to keep up with changing customer demands and market realities.

By Pratima Harigunani

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