Vinod Bidarkoppa, director (IT) and CIO, Tesco HSC

Close on the heels of foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail opening up in India, Dataquest caught up with Vinod Bidarkoppa, director (IT) and chief information officer, Tesco HSC to assess if there were any plans in preparedness for scaling IT operations in India. Tesco is one of the world’s largest retailers, with half a million employees, serving millions of customers each week.

Headquartered in the UK, Tesco has 6,000+ stores in 14 countries across Asia, Europe and North America and is the grocery market leader in the UK. It is expected to expand its footprint into India soon. Tesco Hindustan Service Center (Tesco HSC) is its global IT arm.

At Tesco HSC, Bidarkoppa is responsible for all aspects of information technology services including applications, online retail (Tesco.com) and infrastructure to UK, US, Central and Eastern Europe, and Asia operations of Tesco.

What are the current challenges that you are facing as CIO at Tesco HSC?

Technology innovation and changes are happening at an enormous rate and we got to keep up with it-social media, mobile technology, big data, etc, are here and they are changing the consumer world very quickly. The challenge for us is definitely to keep up with it and then to make sure we turn it into competitive advantage.

As CIO at Tesco HSC, I think about delivering world class engineering capability and service capability to all our business units-stores, dot com, banks in all the countries we operate in the globe. I think about hiring the best in the industry both at the leadership and technology areas to
support ambitious growth plans in the stores and online divisions.

Have you been investing in new technologies given the Euro-recession?
If yes, which ones?

Across the developed world, there is a growing sense that austerity is the
new reality. Digital technology, in particular smartphones, has become
a lifeline, offering not just untold choice, information, and access to
bargains, but acting as a new and more affordable channel for entertainment and socializing. Elsewhere also digital revolution has gone hand in hand not only with recession, but also with growth. Tesco recognizes this and we are gearing up to harness the power of digital technology. We have switched some investments from property to technology. In this new landscape, it is important for us to keep up with
the digital world. At Tesco we are making good progress in this area; we understand that shopping trip and working to improving the customer experience. But this is a big technology shift today and we have to understand that, react to it, and be quick to move to take advantage of it.

 

Are you witnessing the data explosion at Tesco? How are you
handling it?

Traditionally retail companies have been dealing with structured relational
databases with huge amounts of data and companies weren’t focusing
too much in getting the unstructured data into their main stream of
analytics. With this getting changed and with so much competition out
there, and so much data being generated, it’s now become imperative for
enterprises to use big data-derived insights to identify important intelligence like hidden market trends, customer behavior, etc.

In order to improve customer experience, business and IT personnel must first mine heaps of operational data to understand the underlying business processes to pinpoint exactly what must be done. We realize speed (data availability in real time), scale (increasing data growth), and sensors (new types of data) are the key factors contributing to the big data and we believe with big data analytics we will have greater degree of intelligence to help them make better-informed decisions, develop more timely strategies, spot trends, and even create new types of businesses.

What are your plans for upgradation of global operations in retail for Tesco in 2012? Please comment on the integration of IT operations into the business and IT’s role as business enabler, etc.

IT is key in retail today; Tesco has always acknowledged this point and
Tesco HSC is today a center of excellence for Tesco worldwide. It has
helped standardize and implement IT best practices across the countries.
Newer platforms and innovative solutions are being driven out from here; with the advantage that it makes it simpler for us to replicate successes across the businesses.

In view of the FDI in multibrand retail now being opened up in India, what are your expansion plans in India and your level of preparedness for
this?
We support all Tesco countries and as and whenever we open in a new
place we will be able to support.

Please elaborate on Tesco HSC’s role as the global center for operations for various countries. Which are these and which operations are you offering them out of India?

Today, Tesco HSC supports IT in each and every country that Tesco
operates in. 70% of IT in Tesco sits out of Tesco HSC. Apart from
IT, this center also provides a wide variety of services including finance, supply chain, and commercial, property, and other business services.
Countries supported by Tesco HSC include UK, Republic of Ireland, USA, China, Thailand, Malaysia, South Korea, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, and Turkey.

Which factors made you expand operations in the India center
for catering to these countries as well? What has been the progress till date?

With Tesco HSC the aim was always to develop skills and capability
in one place and leverage the operational skills across the entire
group; rather than develop capability in every country. And I think
we have done very well in terms of delivering to this vision. At present
70% of all IT in Tesco sits out of Tesco HSC. We have moved from
merely supporting and rolling out applications to driving innovations
from here.

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