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It’s important to both fuel innovation and then have a process to scale it: Pidilite

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Pidilite Industries, the manufacturer of adhesives and sealants, construction chemicals, craftsmen products, DIY products, and polymer emulsions in India, in its own rights is a great fix at its core technology endeavours. The maker of Fevicol, Dr. Fixit and other product ranges including paint chemicals, automotive chemicals, art materials and stationery, fabric care, maintenance chemicals, industrial adhesives, industrial resins and organic pigments and preparations, teams the right technology innovations and pegs the business higher, Mayur Danait, CIO, Pidilite Industries tells us how.

Do you think that a digital transformation vision is a larger business vision?

A digital transformation strategy is an action plan to reposition a business for the digital economy. As habits of our customers, users and consumers change, we must also adjust to the changing habits. This necessitates a need for innovation, by changing operating and business models particularly by leveraging emerging technologies. So, I would say that digital transformation is a strategic repositioning of an existing business model, adapted to the digital economy. In that sense, it is very much an integral part of business strategy.

What are the major digital transformation initiatives taken since you have joined and how are they positioned now? Please cite instances.

We categorise our programs as core and transformational digital initiatives. Our core digital initiatives address the transformation of our base transactional systems such as our ERP system. We have made great progress in these, including our successful upgrade to SAP S4 HANA and the integration of our acquisitions and subsidiaries onto the platform.

Our transformational IT initiatives have been hinged on four priority themes of engage users and customers; empower employees; optimise operations; and data and analytics.

When we embarked on this journey two to three years ago, there were no digital platforms to engage with our vast network of end-users, influencers and dealer outlets. Not only do we have the right platforms today, engagement has gone up manifold.

Covid-19 has taught us to be prepared for the unknown and be ever ready. What is your preparedness for unanticipated situations which may dawn in the future too?

The Covid-19 episode taught us the importance of immunity. Just as individuals with higher immunity could recover from an infection faster, organisations with immunity were impacted to a lesser extent, and could recover to their pre-covid levels faster. Immunity in the organisational context implies a resilient business model, and well-thought-through business continuity planning.

Covid-19 was a public health emergency that impacted mobility and social interactions. The next crisis could be very different. An approach we have been taking is imagining other crisis scenarios that could unfold in the future and take steps to prepare for them. When one goes through such an exercise, one realises that several actions you are taking to protect against such a scenario, are in the organisation’s long-term interest, and should be taken anyway.

Elaborate on how do you plan to use new-age technologies to enhance the digital quotient in key areas such as end-consumer experience, partner management, influencer engagement, sales force effectiveness, supply chain management and data-driven decision making?

We believe that while the trends around digitisation have been there for a while now, the measures that needed to be taken on account of the Covid-19 pandemic have provided them with the tailwinds they needed.

For example, our digital marketing campaigns have always targeted our consumers while our engagement with our end-users such as contractors has been based on in-person interaction – either one-on-one, or in a group. However, data suggests in today’s connected India, our end-users are digitally savvy and regular users of platforms such as YouTube and Facebook. Our pilot projects using performance marketing to target end-users have been a huge success and are being scaled in a big way.

Similarly, our mobile app platforms for our end-users and influencers allowed us to move our loyalty programs and field marketing activity to a virtual mode seamlessly. We believe that while in-person engagement will gradually return as confidence in the public health scenario is regained; there will still be enormous value in digital engagement. It gives us reach and efficiency that is limited in the in-person model. Another clear trend is self-service. The ability of users to resolve their queries or issues on their own, not only improves their experience in dealing with us, but also leads to efficiencies in the backend. This is where chatbots powered by natural language processing and AI capabilities make an impact.

Finally, we are very bullish on the insights that data can provide. The digitisation that we have done in the last two to three years has led to us being flush with a lot of rich data on our end-user and customer behaviour. This coupled with market intelligence and insights makes for a compelling story in deriving insights from data using machine learning and prescriptive models.

How are you realigning people, culture and mindset towards digital competencies and adopting techniques like design-thinking, creating proof of concepts and building new business models?

It is not enough to have a great idea that comes alive as a proof of concept, and then stays there. We believe it is important to both fuel innovation and then have a process to scale it. To enable that we have been leveraging a hackathon-format events in which we put together cross-functional teams of the company’s top talent to prototype digital innovations. The teams are guided by a member of the company’s leadership team, are enabled to work with a start-up they choose, with the mandate to present a working prototype to the senior leadership in eight weeks. Projects that show promise get funded in order to scale up. This process has help ‘democratise’ digital, incorporate an agile way of working and also created the necessary excitement for digital to be part of our culture.

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