Technology is both a muscle and a layer of foam. To find strength and comfort, one needs to use it often and use it the right way. Mathew Chandy, MD, Duroflex Pvt. Ltd, flips the way enterprises think of technology. Chandy is a law graduate from the National Law School, has had entrepreneurial stints in the restaurant space, and is working passionately on sleep health as a sleep evangelist. He believes that the responsibility of technology impact should be shared by both sides of the bed – IT and business teams alike. He shares insight into how technology is redefining the company’s factories, customer channels and offices. Excerpts from his interview:
What has the last year been like for your business? Has it created more room for technology?
We are at a unique intersection of health and lifestyle now. People are spending on their homes because they are spending so much time there. Sleep has also shifted into a new connotation now – it is a de-stressor and a health-enhancer. We are, hence, perceived as a health-enhancing product. We have gained good traction in the last few months. Some of it was pent-up demand but a lot of it was also a new surge of demand due to the rise in health awareness. We have created smart marketing and relevant products around hygiene and health. The industry is getting slightly more organised than before. That is why technology is helping a lot on this new growth curve.
How? What major pieces constitute your technology stack so far?
We have certainly been investing in technology over all these years. Like digitisation of supply chains, the SAP ERP implementation (which completes about three years now), DMS software, Salesforce solutions, order-booking, and e-commerce solutions, Tableau for BI, analytics, and dashboards, among others.
Is anything new being considered? Are you conducting any experiments?
We are evaluating technologies for supply chains and demand forecasting. The industry has been hit with a lot of unprecedented demand fluctuations and that is a major pain-point in this sector (that has seen similar challenges time and again from demonetisation to GST to COVID-19 phases). We are also looking into logistics-based optimisation tools because the products in this industry are bulky and heavy so there is a lot of scopes to cut costs through transport-level optimisation. We are also dabbling in data science and streamlining different parts of our business (yield management, route optimisation, contingency planning, etc.). We aim to make the mattresses more personalised and we have an R&D team for that.
Technology has to understand business and operations – and vice versa. If you try to implement technology in a silo, that’s a bad idea.
What about the customer-facing parts? You have pioneered some notable experience stores in the industry.
Yes. We are using some solutions for digital marketing. We also use analytics and e-commerce pieces. But at our experience stores, the emphasis is on experience. The touch-and-feel part has to be rich, meaningful, and value-adding. After that, we support the flow with video elements or interactive features. Some day we will also bring in Augmented Reality (AR). But we believe in phygital instead of purely digital experiences.
Don’t some of these investments bring huge costs and uncertainty, to begin with?
Yes. Some technologies do. Like personalisation. But that’s why we have R&D to support us. Areas like AI have to be at a given scale to actually create a positive effect on costs but till they reach maturity they would be niche technologies. Technology is always a little disproportional to returns – initially. But it is still worth it.
Anything on de-densification of factories and offices?
Yes, we are using RFID and contactless solutions in most of our plants.
What have you learned, so far, from all these decisions and experiences with technology?
A lot of lessons come to my mind. But the main one is that if you really want to use technology, use it well. Get business and operations people to really embrace technology. Get people to ‘want to use a tool. Your technology has to understand business and operations – and vice versa. If you try to implement technology in a silo, that’s a bad idea. That kind of investment always tends to fail. And that is not a failure of technology. We have also seen some failed experiments but we have bounced well with successful implementations.
We are evaluating technologies for supply chains and demand forecasting. The industry has been hit with a lot of unprecedented demand fluctuations
How did you crack the barriers?
The dilemma is always ‘should technology follow the business or vice versa. Most organisations try to customise a solution, which is unnecessary, at times. For instance, why customise SAP? Especially in an industry like ours where processes are immature, non-standardised and fragile? So choose the right technology if you are weak on the process parts. That’s when your business should adapt to a robust technology template. We find that it is more important to optimise processes to the technology. Technology here is a good way to introspect about your strengths and weak spots. For us, learning in a constant way, and in an objective manner, is paramount. That’s why we have created Meta teams. These teams understand the business with an inside view, but they zoom out and look at it with an outside view. That helps a lot during technology adoption.
Are you excited about Industry 4.0?
It is both exciting and challenging. We are from a space that is not standardised – a lot of our industry is still unorganised. That makes industry 4.0 a little inapt or early. We are excited because organised and smart players can actually pull it off. The challenge is that it will not be easy. In fact, Industry 5.0 would be more about personalisation instead of mass automation. That will be very different from 4.0. It would have a pronounced level of localisation, individual approach, and 3D printing, etc. That would be apt and exciting.
By Pratima Harigunani