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We are trying to challenge the status quo and try to do things differently: Dhaval Mankad, Vice President IT at Havmor Ice Cream Private Limited

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Shedding light on the significance of digitalisation in the FMCG sector and how data centers and cloud technologies have been game changers, Dhaval Mankad, Vice President IT at Havmor Ice Cream Private Limited, interacted with Express Computer in an exclusive interview. Here are some edited excerpts:

1. Can you tell us about the digital transformation of your industry and how your company is leading this change?

I believe Digital Transformation is not industry-specific, and it is no longer a choice or a wish list. In the current competitive business environment, each company is working on leveraging technologies to become more productive, agile, innovative, and cost-competitive.

It is survival of the fittest in the digital economy – adapting to disruptive innovations and embracing evolving technologies, referred to as Digital Darwinism.

Undoubtedly, FMCG or Retail industries have more avenues to leverage new-age technologies to meet changing consumer expectations and preferences. This was already evident before 2020, but post that, we saw amazing momentum in the transformation of FMCG and Retail businesses, relying on new-age technologies to drive consumer personalisation, hyper-localisation, and online presence.

Our business falls into the FMCG category, where the cold chain and external stakeholders like Distributors, Dealers, and consumers are extremely critical. At Havmor, we embarked on our Digital Transformation journey from 2018 onwards, which still continues. Over the last couple of years, we have worked on simplifying and automating processes, particularly for the front-end team, to make them more productive. Areas such as end-to-end asset management, asset scanning, dealer onboarding, claims management, retail branding, parlor ecosystems, and CRM have been focused on.

2. How has your company leveraged technology to improve the customer experience and increase efficiency? Can you share some examples of the digital platforms that Havmor has developed?

For us, customers are our external stakeholders like Distributors, suppliers, Dealers, or Franchises of Parlours; our direct interfacing with Consumers is very limited. Over the years, we have been improving their experience to ensure that with our digital transformation, they also benefit.

From a customer point of view, we have been focusing on digitising processes to have faster TAT, improve productivity, and eliminate paper movement. Examples include Distributors’ payment receipts, claims management, onboarding of shared resources, schemes for secondary dealers, issuance of credit-note debits, and real-time messages on WhatsApp.

For Dealers, we have a provision for sending an auto-expiring web page link on WhatsApp to facilitate anytime, anywhere orders which are served by distributors.

For our parlor franchises, we have implemented cloud-native Point of Sale software with Zomato-Swiggy interfacing, integrated CRM, e-bill, and e-feedback to drive end consumer experience.

3. How has the adoption of technologies such as cloud and AI helped in ensuring seamless internal functioning at your firm?

We have had a Cloud-first strategy in place since 2018 and have all our business-critical application landscape on the public cloud. Cloud adoption has helped us manage a lean team and focus on business requirements, enabling us to leverage technology to become more productive and automate and simplify processes. 90% of our infrastructure runs from the public cloud, and we plan to have a 100% cloud footprint by the end of 2024.

I never look at the public cloud from only a cost point of view; it may be a costly affair, but it gives the required agility and opportunities to try innovative technologies through the cloud, helping us manage with a lean team to focus on business rather than tech management.

We have been able to achieve 100% availability of systems for our 500+ external stakeholders, 300+ sales force teams, and all our billing locations over the last 5 years. We have migrated a few apps to cloud-native and set up a cloud-native data lake.

4. Can you share some success stories or milestones that Havmor has achieved in its digital transformation journey so far?

I believe we have come a long way in our journey of transformation, which started in the second half of 2018 with cloud adoption and moving ECC with HANA DB on the cloud. Thereafter, we embarked on our journey of transformation with a green-field implementation of SAP S4 HANA.

At Havmor, we have been trying to discover new ways of working and challenging the status quo to do things differently and in a better way. With this approach, we have transformed Sales IT tools used by the front-end team on the ground, leading to paperless automation of 10+ major processes like Dealer onboarding, Assets management (including new asset requests/change management and service management), Retail branding requests end-to-end management, Distributors’ claim management, and robust scheme engines for secondary sales to name a few. From the SAP front, we have enabled or integrated a few major processes like Forecast-driven MRP, Crate management, ARIBA Sourcing, and Digital Supplier Networks, to name a few. Other general digitisation initiatives include a cloud-native approval portal for all types of expenses, a consumer care portal, compliance record management, and compliance tracking.

5. We often hear about failure in driving digital transformation projects; would you like to share any experience with industry peers for successfully driving such projects? What are your thoughts?

There is no rule book as such; however, based on my last decade of experience, I can put up a few points.

-Digital transformation must be top-driven and owned by functional heads, not as IT projects.

-One needs to understand the differences between Digitisation, Digitalisation, and Digital Transformation, where the DT journey actually starts with Digitisation, capturing data points.

-Revisiting processes is a must to simplify before digitising and automating to derive the best results.

-People Process Technology is referred to as the “Golden Triangle” and is a very important aspect of the transformation journey; everything has to gel well.

Lastly, if one can answer “What is there in for me?” half of the battle is won.

Regarding the CIO’s role, I believe it has evolved over the years and continues to do so. Gone are the days for the CIO to remain in technology silos; it is more about managing business expectations than technology management. For a CIO to successfully drive in the current world, one must start understanding the business and speak the business language; there is no need for technology jargon, but one must show business benefits to get budgets. I don’t think getting a budget is an issue if the organisation is focused on digital transformation and there is an ROI. The IT function needs to stop acting as consultants and work more collaboratively with the business.

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