Given the current business scenario, technology has to find ways to make the business more agile and real time. How can this be made possible? We try to understand in an interaction with Sunil Nair, VP, Technology Solutions, SPAR India, who also reveals key insights into his own tech initiatives at the company and his future plans for creating a greater business impact. Excerpts
Can you tell us more about your role as VP, technology solutions at SPAR India?
My role is to provide vision and leadership for developing and implementing information technology initiatives that align with the company’s business plans. To lead strategic IT and operational planning, to achieve goals by fostering innovation, prioritizing IT initiatives, and coordinating the evaluation, deployment, and management of the current and future IT systems across the organization.
Most important focus going forward will be the introduction of disruptive technologies like mobile Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, digital signage, mobile payments in addition to cloud data, and social media.
The retail industry is evolving amid constant technology changes. How important is technology for SPAR India?
Technology is reshaping the way consumers shop. Consumers are using technology before they shop and even during their time in the store. They search for online coupons, check prices, research products, make shopping lists, read product reviews, and even use technology to locate products within the store. They also look for online access to in-store products, features, inventory information with various flexible options such as in-store pick up, home delivery, cash on delivery, etc. In a nutshell, they look for a seamless shopping experience across multiple channels. Rather than retailers, customers are defining the rules of the game today, and obviously business will go to the retailers that can provide competitive shopping experience and high level of customer satisfaction. This trend is putting by and large all retailers on the job to overcome technological challenges to provide customers a hassle-free and seamless shopping experience.
It has become extremely vital to innovate continuously and implement cutting-edge technologies to fulfill the needs of today’s demanding customers. In order to remain ahead of the curve, technology is playing a far greater role than even before, and we at SPAR India not only recognize the same but also try to leverage the technology in the best possible manner to achieve the business objectives. We regularly reach out to our internal and external customers/stakeholders to understand their pain points and come up with technological solutions to overcome the same.
Can you talk about some key technology initiatives at SPAR India? How has this impacted performance?
We have just implemented a Business Intelligence (BI) retail solution for analytics and informed decision making purpose. It helps businesses in providing a 360 degree view of the entire retail operations from a single source, enabling quick and informed decisions. BI solution has eliminated manual efforts in collating data from different sources drastically and has also reduced dependency on IT for MIS reporting to a greater extent. Pre-configured business metrics and KPIs are readily available for the business analysis purposes and adding tremendous value to the business. Recently, we have developed a web and mobile-based Quote Management Solution to connect our commodity buyers with their respective suppliers through tablets and smartphones. This supply side innovation is helping business in collating and finalizing the best prices in a transparent and paperless manner by simulating a buying auction environment. This solution is providing greater transparency and huge saving in manual efforts of buyers and suppliers. Moreover, we are in the process of implementing a standard cloud-based CRM solution. It will help in providing near real-time loyalty points visibility/earning/burning to customers. This will also give us flexibility for running product-specific campaigns along with providing various customer insights based on the analytics.
Big data and cloud play a very important role in the current retail scenario. What are your strategies in this area?
Big data and cloud have a vital role to play in organized modern retail going forward. Big data has got enormous potential to boost top line and bottom line if used judiciously. Big data solutions can facilitate predictive analysis on the customer data collected from a wider range of sources, eg, POS, online transactions, social media, loyalty programs, etc. This can help retailers more accurately identify shopping behavior of customers, which in turn can be used to deliver highly targeted, location-based services, etc, almost in real time.
We have just completed the implantation/roll-out of ERP and BI solution. With this, now we have a good foundation in place to implement big data solutions on top of it. We are actively looking for implementing predictive analytics solutions in the near future. This will be indeed a great value addition to our business.
Please indicate some of your future objectives at SPAR India. How do you plan to create a broader business impact through technology?
Our IT strategy is completely aligned with our business objectives and goals. We are in the process of providing customers with omni-channel experience keeping freshness as our unique value proposition. Our ERP will be integrated with online business channels. Additionally, we are in the process of implementing vendor collaboration portal for seamless data exchange between SPAR India and its vendors, covering all touchpoints.
This is going to reduce manual efforts in collating the data at both the ends. This initiative will take us to the next level of supply chain, ie, from integrated enterprise to extended enterprise. Going forward, we are looking to implement advance inventory planning, demand forecasting, and optimization modules. These modules will give us a competitive advantage in optimizing inventory levels/pricing/ promotions, etc, based on advanced algorithms.