Kunal Mehta, general manager, IT, Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited

Raymond Limited, a market leader in the business of suiting and apparels for over 90 years, is one of the biggest retail chains in the country. Kunal Mehta, general manager, IT, Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited, talks about the key technologies being deployed in the retail industry, challenges faced by enterprises with respect to managing their IT set-up and the upcoming technology trends.

What has been the most disruptive technology adopted by the retail sector so far?

Over the past decade, there has been a steady state of disruptive technologies, driven by advancements made in mobile computing, social media and cloud-based services.

  • Internet of things (IoT): Intelligent devices ranging from shipping containers to shopping carts are already a part of our daily lives and expected to continue growing at an accelerated pace.
  • Wearables: There is a lot of buzz around wearable consumer devices such as intelligent eyeglasses, watches, footwear and apparels. and this is likely to double year on year.
  • Cognitive computing and machine learning: Nowadays, a retailer can easily track a customer’s profile and understand his buying patterns through mo­bile devices and customer’s social media accounts. Software intelligence is helping machines to make “informed decisions” with the influx of big data.
  • Digital fabrication: Retailers and manufacturers are exploring ways to leverage 3D printing of apparels, stationary and even the supply chain to meet customer-specific demand.
  • Digital payments: The payments landscape is undergoing significant transformation. With the millennial customer adopting the digital payment and electronic wallet technologies in a big way, this market is bound to disrupt the way payments are made.

What are some of the enterprise and mobility solutions deployed by your company? How have these helped the company enhance its business operations?

In order to stay ahead of the competition and focus on growth we have over the years implemented enterprise systems such as SAP, WMS and Success Factors to integrate all business areas. This has helped improve productivity, efficiency and allowed the company to take informed decisions based on facts. We are also working towards a strategy for enterprise mobility solutions to connect our field staff, stores and business managers to get real-time reporting, booking orders, and various updates about other activities to achieve business goals. Customer experience is another key focus area for Raymond. However, the main challenge is to deploy a real-time retail model across all channels to enhance customer experience.

Moreover, the company has rolled out a cross-format loyalty programme (Ray­mond Rewards) which will help us achieve our omni-channel strategy.

What are the key challenges faced by retail enterprises with regard to managing their IT and telecom infrastructure?

The major challenges faced by the company have a consistent theme that is how to operationalise the omni-channel strategy. Retailers need to create a consistent customer experience, define their e-commerce and mobile strategies, as well as use social media platforms, which are now considered table stakes. Retailers across all formats and sizes also need to create a single, unified commerce platform, which eliminates individual channel silos and offers a holistic customer experience ac­ross all touch points.

Some of the other decisions that retailers need to take revolve around managing infrastructure. An appropriate approach must be adopted regarding the existing investments and decided whether the company wishes to continue hosting data in house or on the cloud. A rate of return needs to be worked out by chief information officers along with the business heads to chalk out a long-term plan. Besides, there should be compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard. Moreover, internal and external threats to data security need to be taken care of.

Further, retailers need to be careful about the adoption of new technologies such as cloud, IoTs, big data analytics. You can either choose to be experimental and be ahead of the curve or be a “smart second” based on the learnings of other players. Retailers need to be clear about big data and cloud computing. One needs to define the relevant data that needs to be hosted on cloud and what systems need to be integrated to use this data, as this will also mean higher costs with regard to connectivity, data security and systems integration. IoT is one of the most interesting spaces to look at from the manufacturing, logistics and sales perspective.

Finally, technology heads need to work closely with the top management to understand the overall business plans and to chalk out a clear IT strategy.