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Interview with Raymond Limited's Kunal Mehta

September 20, 2019
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The role of information and communications technology (ICT) in the retail sector has grown significantly over the past few years. Enterprises are increasingly deploying various technology-driven solutions to streamline operations, improve business efficiency and provide better customer experience. As customer comfort takes centre stage, trends like multichannel retail, hyper-personalisation and automation are redefining the business requirements of retail enterprises. Technological advancements in the sector have provided various benefits; going forward, the adoption of new technologies like cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) and internet of things (IoT) across Indian retail companies is set to reach higher levels. Kunal Mehta, Head, IT, Lifestyle Business, Raymond Limited, talks about the key ICT trends shaping the retail sector, the challenges involved and the way forward...

What are the key emerging technology trends shaping the retail industry?

In today’s times, competition between offline and online retailers is getting fierce. Customer/Brand loyalty is depleting and retailers are struggling to meet targets and keep customers engaged. In such a scenario, retailers are adopting technologies to enhance customer experience, introduce personalised shopping and provide instant gratification to customers. AI, machine learning and 3D imaging are some of the fast growing technologies that are being implemented.

What are the key ICT and telecom solutions being used by your company?

We are using a mix of technologies. We have mobile applications for learning and development of our retail staff across geographies, and SuccessFactors and other tools for our corporate employees. We are evaluating various productivity and social engagement tools to improve employee engagement, communication, productivity and alignment across all levels.

How are trends like multichannel retail, hyper-personalisation and automation affecting the business requirements of retail enterprises?

These are the most challenging times for every retailer. Customers expect the same level of experience across all platforms. They expect the brand to provide the same personalised services, product recommendations, instant deliveries across geographies. Retailers need to keep upgrading their technologies and adopt an agile framework, which will allow them to move quickly across platforms and manage them at low costs. However, retailers need to invest in strong back-end enterprise resource planning, point-of-sale and customer relationship management (CRM) systems to manage huge volumes of data, and drive data analytics and multichannel retailing.

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

Organisations today want to keep trying new tools and technologies. The biggest challenge is the investment required in new technologies. Does one follow a capex or an opex model? How does one constantly change technologies and integration touchpoints in a short span of time in order to stay relevant? Technology leaders need to ensure that they have agile infrastructure, which will enable retailers to try new business models, ideas and strategies.

What are your views on the adoption of new technologies like cloud, AI, AR/VR and IoT across Indian retail companies? What are your future plans with regard to these?

These are not the technologies of the future any more. Every retailer, big or small, is in some way using these technologies to improve their back-end operations and customer experience across platforms in order to stay relevant and engaged with their customers at all times. These are the technologies that will change the way retailers function and drive sales and user experience. The adoption of these technologies is the need of the hour and not just a fashionable trend. However, retailers need to be clear of their roadmap for technology deployment and ensure that it aligns with the brand ethos, else it may backfire.

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