With customers mindful of safety and convenience for essential/non-essential articles, they are opting for digital channels. The unprecedented lockdown led by Covid-19 has completely disrupted the way retail/e-com/QSR used to operate. Business continuity amid the pandemic, agile models, tactical approaches and rapidly changing consumer behaviour were some of the key points highlighted by the heads of retail, e-comm and QSR during the panel discussion at the Digital Technology Senate organised by Express Computer.
The second day of the retail/e-com/QSR track of Digital Technology Senate witnessed two insightful panel discussions.
Staying connected with customers
The first panel discussion was centred around “Ensuring business continuity amid Covid-19 and the way forward”. The session was conducted and moderated by Piyush Chourashiya, Director – Analytics from Swiggy and the panelists were Yashwanth Kumar C, Head of Analytics and Insight, Titan Company; Chakradhar Gade, Co-Founder, Country Delight; Ayushi Gudwani, Founder &CEO, Fablestreet; Triveni Rabindraraj, Head SMB Sales, LogMeIn and Vinay Kumar Parth, Director – Sales, India & SAARC, NetApp shared their approaches and deliberated upon the way forward.
According to Gudwani, the sudden lockdown forced the apparel start-up to revamp its strategies. With home being the new office, Fablestreet started addressing the changed customer preferences. Narrating the examples, she said, “We started making cotton masks to meet the customers’ demands.”
She further touched upon challenges faced due to the disruption in global supply chain that forced domestic sourcing and localisation of global brands. Increasing the spend on digital marketing was one of the tactical moves which the company took to stay connected with the customers.
Seconding her thought, Gade, of Country Delight shared his views on how Covid made ‘milk’ a drink of choice for the country. He stated, “Providing milk as an essential commodity to customers was a challenge in the initial days of the lockdown. Our delivery partners were worried in the lockdown crisis but we had to sail through the tough times. Consumers have become sensitive to the quality of the products and lifestyle during the lockdown imposed due to Covid-19. Purity matters a lot for a brand like us and we ensured that it becomes our USP.”
Sharing the experience of brick and mortar, Titan conducted a lot of campaigns to engage with its customers like Zumba dance classes, concerts during the lockdown period to strengthen ties with the customers. Yashwanth Kumar of retail major Titan said, “We got an engaging response from the customers. We ramped up our customers’ touch points digitally and explored new digital medium like video selling which was completely a new experience for Titan to keep servicing the customers who were not able to come to the stores. I think there has been a substantial acceleration in the adoption of technology. Moreover, we have also started seeing customers returning to the stores.”
He also added, “Titan made extensive investments in digital models but the fact remains the same that we are a brick and mortar company. Digital transformation really matters a lot to us especially in these times of Covid-19.”
Giving the perspective from technology and how LogMeIn helped its customers in times of remote working, Triveni from LogMeIn said, “We made our platform available for free for the first three months of the lockdown, not just to the customers but for the government too to help them in the testing times. Nowadays, not just the data but the bandwidth has become a matter of utmost importance for most of the companies.”
With online and data becoming a normal tool for retailers to tab the customers’ needs, storage providers like NetApp witnessed the need of growing storage, Parth of NetApp said, “We have seen how businesses are adopting technologies like social messaging or even online chat. Digitally the customers are adopting these technologies and the businesses are embracing this omnichannel strategy.”
Sharing the perspective and challenges faced by Swiggy, moderator Chourashiya said, “We faced issues like negotiating with the Police as the latter was not allowing our deliveries in the lockdown. We had to sort this out. Swiggy follows stringent norms like thermal checks of the staff and uses IoT for this. We had to strengthen our technology platforms during the initial weeks of the lockdown.”
Technology leads business outcome
Another panel discussion was themed around ‘How technology is moulding the future of Retail/E-Comm/QSR’, which saw participation of leaders from leading retail, e-commerce and QSR companies.
The session was moderated by Pooraan Jaiswal, Group CTO & Group CIO, Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri Limited (TBZ). The other panelists were Dhaval Mankad, Vice President – IT, Havmor Ice Cream; Manjunath Soma, CTO, Omuni- Powered by Arvind Internet; Varun Rajwade, Head- Loyalty, Digital and Customer Analytics, Pantaloons; Vivek Tyagi, Sr. Director Sales, Enterprise & Embedded, Western Digital and Xavier Kuriyan, Director Solutions and Alliances, Dell Technologies.
Xavier Kuriyan from Dell said, “Indian retailers are already on the path of digital transformation for some time now, the pandemic situation has accelerated their online journey even further, the use of AI and analytics will be crucial for scaling their business.”
For Soma from Omuni- Powered by Arvind Internet, “Companies are experimenting on tech and processes for making the business ‘normal’ business. Still they are taking two steps forward, one step backward.”
Dhaval of Havmor echoed the same sentiment as his fellow panelists. “If you look at the digital transformation journey, most of us have undertaken it for a long time. This transformation is only going to be accelerated right now. We are adopting all digital channels for reaching out to our customers. We have accelerated our digital transformation journey.”
Vivek Tyagi; Sr. Director Sales, Enterprise & Embedded, Western Digital, shared how the company shifted its focus from retail to online for meeting the customers storage demand. “Before Covid, 90 per cent of Sandisk buying was offline. But in the last three months we have seen increased sales in online channels. Despite lockdown, verticals like telcos have contributed to our business continuity.”
In another session titled, ‘Optimised retail with MongoDB’, Suvig Sharma, Senior Director APAC, MongoDB, elaborated on the company’s offerings and how it is positioned to address the needs of the retail sector. He said, “More than 30 coding languages are built on the MongoDB platform and MongoDB Atlas is available in more than 70 regions. Last year MongoDB also acquired Realm, a mobile phone database platform. We allow our customers to comply with the most stringent of compliance. At MongoDB, we believe that great technology can free the genius in all of us.”