Sandeep Hebbar, CTO,

The Indian retail industry is undergoing a significant transformation, with consumers increasingly adopting the digital way of living. Enterprises in the retail space are incorporating information and communication technology (ICT) in their operations to gain operational benefits and effectively cater to the targeted consumer base. Point-of-sale, order management and digital payments processing systems are some of the key ICT solutions that retail enterprises are investing in. Further, there has been an emergence of online retail channels. Going forward, the adoption of next-generation solutions like cloud, big data, internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will help in gaining better insights into market trends and consumer needs. Retail enterprises are also planning to explore technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to enhance the customer experience. However, there are several challenges related to the adoption of new technologies and overhaul of legacy systems. Some of the key enterprises in the retail space share their experience of leveraging ICT solutions to gain benefits…

What are the key ICT solutions being used by your company to enhance business efficiency?

Kirana11 uses a mix of on-premises and cloud-hosted infrastructure, in-house-developed and commercial-off-the-shelf software, cross-platform and omni-channel applications to run its business.

Customers can shop through iOS and Android-based mobile apps and desktop browsers across all operating systems. Our Trust Center (customer care centre) runs its operations through a software-as-a-service (SaaS)-based cloud telephony system. Similarly, our customer delivery executives (CDEs) connect to customers seamlessly through the Kirana Delivery app that is integrated with a cloud telephony application so that the CDEs do not have direct access to customers’ telephone numbers.

Our warehouse and logistics operations are fully automated for driving large-scale efficiency through a host of cloud-based mobile apps and web applications. Every operation from sourcing and receiving inventory, fetching a list of orders for delivery, picking and packing items for each order, allocating drivers and CDEs for orders, to final delivery is fully automated.

We extensively use big data analytics to understand our customers better and offer them the right products at the right price and the right time. In addition, we are testing and deploying an AI-based chatbot with the aim to provide a superior customer ex­­pe­rience and improving business efficiencies.

How have your technology requirements changed with the growth in digital transactions and omni-channel retailing? 

Customers’ fast changing digital ex­peri­ences and expectations push our tech­­nology decisions towards selection of the best technology. As a result, our platform consists of individual pieces built with different technologies, all aimed at giving our customers the best shopping and delivery experience. Changing customer behaviour and expectations almost always lead to our technology stack becoming more complex, but at the same time, seamless in operation.

What are some of the challenges faced in managing ICT infrastructure?

The biggest challenges are managing te­ch­­nological complexity and finding multi skilled (technologically) people who can work on newer technologies and/or new ways of building applications.

What is the scope of big data analytics, AI, cloud and internet of things in the retail industry?

There is a huge scope for big data analytics, AI, cloud and IoT in the retail industry be­­cause of the benefits these technologies bring in. Big data analytics and AI help in classifying and predicting customer behaviour patterns to cater to their requirements and drive business efficiencies.

In particular, AI-based chatbots are likely to become a ne­­cessary component in the customer care infrastructure because of their ability to scale up. IoT is likely to see increasing deployment in warehouse and logistics operations as the cost of deploying IoT solutions continues to decrease.

What are the key emerging technology trends that will shape the retail industry?

Technology trends are being dictated by the key trend of providing the exact global or locally sourced products that the customer is looking for, at the desired price.

To enable this, big data analytics tools, AI and ML services, and integration with global logistics networks will become the key focus of retailing firms going forward. To manage this technological complexity, cloud-based IaaS/PaaS/SaaS platforms will be at the heart of every brick-and-mortar, online and hybrid retail firm.