Published on August 3rd, 2020 📆 | 4277 Views ⚑0
Technology is capable of changing India’s retail landscape, especially in a post-pandemic world
Speaking at The Economic Times webinar on ‘The Big Leap – The role of tech in transforming the retail experience’, they dwelled upon how technology was touching the retailing aspects of everyone, from the consumer and the kirana store to the organised retail segment.
Metro Cash & Carry India MD Arvind Mediratta emphasised on further efforts to bring the majority of kiranas that were yet to benefit from the country’s digital commerce revolution. “When we talk about technology in the context of retail, especially in India, it has to take into account the unorganised sector,” Mediratta said. “So, the technology must embrace the unorganised sector. Otherwise you are not going to bring about a major transformation in the Indian context.”
Underscoring the importance of the unorganised sector, he said almost 90% of India’s $700 billion annual food and grocery market was controlled by the kiranas. “You talk to any FMCG, any food company, and if you look at their sales and distribution strategy it is not complete without the kiranas,” he said. “If you have to make your products available to customers whether urban or rural, you have to reach out to the kiranas.”
Kishore Thota, the head of customer experience and marketing at Amazon India, said the country had been a big learning area for the US ecommerce titan, especially in segments like the mobile phone technology. For example, more than 70% of the sellers on Amazon.in were operating their businesses entirely through their mobile phones. “So, we had to build a lot of features for our Indian sellers to be able to sell everything and end-to-end on their mobiles,” he said. “Similarly, for customers we created a mobile first culture in India that is all about building on mobile.”
Ethnic-wear retailer Biba’s MD, Siddharath Bindra, said the company had been investing in technology for the last eight years and that tech investment proved a big blessing during the pandemic era as online orders soared while the performance of brick-and-mortar stores was lacklustre. “After the black swan event that we all are witnessing, technology has really come to the fore and in my company online is really a saving grace at this point,” he said.
The participants talked about the need for India-specific technological solutions. So much so that now even Alexa is quite well-versed with a host of Indian dialects and the way different people speak in different styles and accents. Thota of Amazon said more than half the company’s customer-care calls were from non-English speaking customers and the US giant was using technologies including artificial intelligence and machine-language tools to understand the different accents and dialects. “With Alexa we have a good foundational technology that is continuously learning all the different dialects and how people say things,” he said.
Milan Seth, the executive V-P for India, the Middle East and Africa at software company Automation Anywhere, gave an example of how technology was helping a large Indian paint company modernise its production and supply chain.