Digital Transformation initiatives helping Nilon’s to be more responsive & bringing cultural change: Ganesh Joshi, CIO, Nilon’s

The food industry is experiencing a rapid digital transformation, utilising new technologies and smart strategies to stay ahead in a fast-changing world. This includes making operations more efficient and finding better ways to connect with customers.  In an exclusive interview, Ganesh Joshi, CIO, Nilon’s speaks about the transformative impact of his organisation’s digital strategies. 

As digital transformation has left no industry untouched, how do you see its impact on the processed food industry? What innovations have Nilon’s taken in this direction?

The FMCG food industry has undergone a revolution in every aspect, from production to distribution, supply chain, data-driven sales and marketing, and dynamic forecasting. The disruptive role of social media has also changed the way businesses operate through breakthrough innovations. Technologies like mobility, blockchain, machine learning, and AI have made it possible for the food processing and manufacturing industry to work from home and even introduce home-based manufacturing. At Nilon’s, our Managing Director, Mr. Dipak Sanghavi, consistently prioritises a Digital First Strategy and actively champions digital initiatives that drive meaningful change. Our digital transformation journey commenced as early as 2011, It was during the COVID-19 pandemic that we truly witnessed a revolution in this regard.

Beyond ERP applications, mobility SFA, DMS, and TSM (Transport Service Management) have revolutionised the way businesses work and report, leading to productivity improvement and faster speed to market.

Sales force automation (SFA) in a work-from-home environment, was rolled out across India within a month. This helped Nilons’ sales team to work from anywhere and boosted their productivity, leading to an increase in width, depth, and velocity.

It is difficult to implement a DMS (Distribution Management System) for multiband stockists/distributors in the FMCG industry. Each company expects the stockist/distributor to use their inventory software, while the stockist/distributor must maintain their accounting system. To address this challenge, we surveyed Nilon’s distributors across the country and found that 70 percent to 75 percent of them were using Tally for their accounting. To gain the buy-in of our business partners, we collaborated with their software to obtain the necessary stock and sales data to understand sales patterns and analyse scheme utilisation. This allowed us to obtain reliable data on sales from anywhere within 24 hours, rather than the 10-15 days it previously took. This resulted in improved efficiency and saved time for our sales team. 

Additionally, our sales forecasting and planning improved from 60% to 75%, and we were able to increase the range of products available in respective areas, as the online data was easily accessible. Over the past 2 years, we have used various tools to improve productivity, such as a bot WhatsApp business for marketing campaigns and a low-code rapid application development tool for employee performance evaluation and approval workflow. 

Now our Retail Universe is already mapped with latitude-longitude, geo analytics technology will help Nilon’s to identify the gaps to increase width & depth with demographic data. Nilon’s can plan and optimise supply chain and sales resources. 

These digital transformation initiatives help Nilon’s to be more responsive and bring cultural change.

GenAI is the most talked-about technology at present, how are you planning to deploy or have deployed GenAI solutions at Nilon’s?

GenAI is a current buzzword due to its disruptive technology. We are planning to utilise its capabilities in the following areas:

Marketing and content creation: GenAI can create personalised content which saves time and cost ensuring swift reach to markets and consumers.

Consumer-facing recipe creation and personalised nutrition: Leveraging GenAI to tailor recipes based on consumer preferences we can build better relationships with consumers. Besides, AI-powered tools can enable us to create tailored meal plans based on individual nutritional needs.

Increasing Nilons’ share of business: We are using GenAI to improve the output of our modern trade outlets. This will involve outlet-wise consumer consumption patterns and help in dynamic forecasting and planning.

What is the secret sauce of your precise recipes and taste? Are you deploying machine learning algorithms or automation to ensure this? 

Nilon’s tagline “Isme Pyaar Mila Hai” explains the secret recipes and taste. Hence, while working at Nilon’s we always ponder innovative ways to add our hidden ingredient “love” to our recipes.

However, coming to the technology part, we are planning to use video analytics and machine learning on the shop floor to ensure consistency in the recipe and quality of the product. 

Our AI-driven Food Recipe Generators leverage machine learning algorithms to analyse regional/ user preferences. Technologies including blockchain and GS1 QR code help to gain the trust of consumers as a consumer can get all the information about the ingredients used in a click. 

Data is at the core of every operation and business today. How do you ensure to keep your data safe? What security strategy or framework is Nilon’s leveraging?

Preventive measures have already been taken to ensure security. We have taken a hybrid approach currently; the critical core applications are on-premise private cloud hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI) where key data access is only to the restricted users and have a 3- 2-1- 1 rule to ensure a critical data protection strategy.

One of the values of Nilon’s is to “actively respond to changing market dynamics”. What major changes have you observed in recent times and how have emerging technologies been a support to help you deliver your values?

We operate nationwide and aim to understand regional behavioural changes to effectively serve our local communities while maintaining global competitiveness. We regularly conduct surveys, both internally and externally, and gather feedback online. Mobile applications have been instrumental in conducting periodic surveys and gaining insights into consumer behaviour and market competition, allowing us to respond to market dynamics swiftly. 

Quality is the most crucial aspect of processed food and forms the foundation of customers’ trust in the brand. What technology solutions are you deploying to ensure the highest quality standards?

Consumers increasingly demand sustainability and transparency in the supply chain. Blockchain technology could be used to ensure back traceability from farm to fork. With the new GS1 standard introduced it will be easy to track and trace food products during the entire supply chain using QR Code. (RFID IoTs are being used to provide visibility). This will ensure consumer trust as the whole information about the product can be captured in the QR code.

Customer service is one area where we see massive deployment of AI-powered chatbots. Is Nilon’s also in this league? If yes, what changes have you witnessed with the implementation of chatbots? 

The implementation of a chatbot is easy with currently available technologies, however, we need to have a reliable source of digital data first to feed the bot. We are in the process of generating a reliable digital source of the data first. Therefore, once the process is streamlined, we will launch the bot. 

We also look forward to leveraging Omnichannel Customer Experience which will help Nilon’s provide personalised digital experience across various customer touchpoints. 

With the rapid evolution of technologies, what best practices should processed food companies adopt while deploying new technologies or revamping their existing IT infrastructure?

While implementing any technology solution, one should always ponder these questions: What is the outcome? Which problem statement are we going to solve using new technology? Should we be giving breakthrough innovation using technology? What convenience are we adding to customer/business users’ stakeholders? What business value is generated by implementing technology solutions? 

If one could answer all the above questions and do a successful pilot, getting the budget sanctioned from the board would be the easiest step. To ensure the desired outcome from technology deployments, consider pilot as the best way to fetch the much-needed feedback and insights on performance and prospects. 

Businesses should keep a customer-first approach. Moreover, visualisation and critical analysis of strategies and plans beforehand are business enablers.

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