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Data, AI, AR, contactless dining and cloud to fuel growth of retail, e-com and QSR sectors

The first day of the week-long retail, e-commerce and QSR track of Express Computer’s virtual conclave, Digital Technology Senate, saw some of India’s leading technology leaders emphasise on embracing cutting edge technologies to make shopping and dining a contact-less experience, and accelerate digital payments amidst the global pandemic

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The first day of the week-long retail, e-commerce and QSR track of Express Computer’s Digital Technology Senate kicked off on June 23, 2020, and witnessed eminent speakers from ITC Ltd, Zomato, Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic, NetApp and LogMeIn. The tech leaders shared their experiences of battling the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic and scaling up businesses by embracing latest technologies.

Rajnish Kumar, Head of Program Data and Digital Strategy, ITC Ltd

In his keynote address, Rajnish Kumar, Head of Program Data and Digital Strategy, ITC, shared, “The Covid-19 crisis has disrupted everything, but we have to see opportunities in the disruption. A lot of data has been generated in the last 15 years through social media, internet searches and e-commerce, which is like a goldmine. The challenge is that data is like a universe, but we have to group the data and organise it like galaxies.”

He further said once you are able to convert data into information, analytics can provide insights. He laid emphasis on consumer insights, marketing intuitions and reaching out to the right audience. He remarked that the various companies’ strategies have to be in sync with the fast pace of change.

Kumar also spoke about how ITC collaborated with Domino’s to deliver essential groceries to the people observing stay-at-home in major cities amidst the nationwide lockdown. “We wanted to remain close to our customers,” he said.

He said people became more curious about immunity and nutritive food and there was 120 per cent spike in online search for health and immunity amidst the lockdown imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, adding, “For a marketer, it is important to learn the level of interest among consumers; that’s where the data and digital tools play a key role.”

Ranjeet Mani, Senior Solutions Consultant, LogMeIn

In his session titled “Five steps to help improve your digital engagement during Covid-19 and beyond”, Ranjeet Mani, Senior Solutions Consultant, LogMeIn India, said that AI should not just help in responses, but it should also capture data, and stressed that companies should fortify their digital self-service. Mani added that companies are slightly struggling to bridge the gap with the new normal.

Mani pointed out that utilisation of the captured information is crucial and the companies need to not just focus on customer support, but should also empower their employees to provide better support amidst the pandemic.

Mani also gave a few suggestions to companies like simple use of AI chatbot and adoption of digital medium to scale up businesses.

Sandeep Anand, Chief Marketing Officer – Food Delivery, Zomato

In an interesting presentation titled “Contactless dining for life after COVID-19”, Sandeep Anand, Chief Marketing Officer – Food Delivery, Zomato, laid emphasis on the need of contactless dining, safety and hygiene to regain the trust of the customers. Anand said that people should not have any kind of fear for contactless dining as it is completely safe because of optimum usage of technology.

Anand said that Zomato has figured out that if security concerns are addressed well, dining out industry can revive itself, adding that even in China, they have seen similar safety trends and the company took cue from there.

He said in the e-commerce food delivery space, Zomato is already having  contactless delivery. “The challenge for us was replication of the same practice in restaurants, so we reduced human interaction from the entire dining out process. In our contactless dining products, we have introduced QR code based food ordering. We have replaced the physical bill with digital bill and digital payment. We expect this trend to continue for a longer term because of user convenience,” Anand stated.

Amit Pahwa, Technology Evangelist, NetApp India

Meanwhile, Amit Pahwa, a technology evangelist from NetApp India said that adoption of cloud is now more important than ever before. Pawha said NetApp helps organisations make their data portable; by leveraging the Data Fabric to accomplish this.

He said digital transformation requires capacity and security as part of the core strategy and in a hybrid cloud, companies should have a single pane view. He further added that portability of data is an important feature of the hybrid cloud environment.

“Companies should be able to move applications freely across clouds and they should be able to have complete control of security across clouds,” Pahwa remarked.

He concurred with the fact that due to the global Covid-19 pandemic, the cloud market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 12.5 per cent by 2021.

Pahwa mentioned that in the next one year, there will be increased use of augmented and spatial reality in the e-commerce and retail sector and there would be a need of faster application development and better ML capabilities to provide a personalised experience to customers. He said, “Our converged infrastructure enables efficient computing for customers. Our solution bundles with NVIDIA helps customers in AI and ML integration.”

Vivek Gupta, Vice President, Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic

Stressing on the need for harmonisation of regulations in the e-commerce space, Vivek Gupta, Vice President, Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic said that a robust data protection framework, network infrastructure and digital payments are important components amidst the pandemic.

Gupta remarked that touch-less and voice based interfaces will be important in a contactless world and at this time oganisations need to adopt a technology driven, mobile based approach.

He added that augmented reality will be a key component of the new shopping experience.

Gupta said Hitachi Systems Micro Clinic represents over 100 leading OEMs and vendors in the country and its end-to-end infrastructure management services make customers’ lives easy. He pointed out that the company has grown by over 60 per cent year-on-year in the last six years, and provides all the services of Dell Technologies to its customers.



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