IT in Retail: Does India Have the Talent Potential?

Date:   Tuesday , December 01, 2009

The success of India in the Information Technology space and as an emerging destination for R&D is no new story. However, over the years there has been a subtle transformation in the way the world looks at India from an outsourcing perspective. The country became one of the most preferred destinations, primarily because of the advantage global companies accrued due to the availability of trained manpower at a low cost. But today, India has certainly moved up the IT value chain from just complementing the innovation centers in Silicon Valley and elsewhere in the world, to become one of the most preferred destinations for end-to-end product development that can be implemented globally.

Not only global technology majors, but a wide range of industries that leverage the power of IT are looking at the talent in India supporting their global IT initiatives. This is not only restricted to delivering IT implementation services, but they also are expecting complete product development support. The solutions that are being offered by the Indian R&D setups many a times also impact the bottom-line of some industries.

For instance, in the retail industry one needs to consider innumerable factors that are dynamic in nature and can pose serious business challenges. These challenges include managing consumers, suppliers, warehouses, inventory, facilities, employees, transactions, etc. Retailers across the world are leveraging IT to overcome these challenges. Having said that, the Indian IT talent has, over the years, certainly acquired the necessary skills to be able to deliver IT based solutions that alleviate a lot of challenges faced by retailers across the globe.

If you are in the retail business aspects such as ensuring customer satisfaction is critical to being successful. However, it is easier said than done. For instance, how do you, as a part of your customer satisfaction program ensure that there should not be more than one person in front of a customer at the billing counters so that they don’t have to wait in a queue? Additionally how do you ensure that employees are optimally used and do not stand behind empty billing counters, while they can utilize that time to help customers who are shopping? Clearly solving this problem can lead to significant creation of value not just in terms of customer satisfaction but also in employee effectiveness.

Other typical business challenges could include replenishment of the stores multiple times a day that aligns with customer demand by maintaining low inventory and achieve shorter lead-time in the supply chain. If resolved this could result in improved product availability and productivity of employees, facilitate seamless movement of goods between warehouses and stores avoiding storage delays, etc.
Other challenges for global retailers include managing customer loyalty programs, providing supply chain visibility to suppliers, and other transaction related issues.

Clearly, the need for having robust IT solutions that are tailored to address such specific business challenges for global retailers comes to the fore. Not only they alleviate these challenges but they can contribute significantly by improving the bottom-line of retailers by improving productivity of employees, optimizing supply chains & transaction and helping in creating value by enabling effective consumer engagement/ loyalty programs. A study done by IDC corroborates this fact. It had forecasted IT usage in retail sector to grow by over 32.5% CAGR during the period 2006-2011.

Finally, does India have the talent, which could deliver such end-to-end solutions for the retail sector? The answer is “yes”. While we have the expertise in technology, it is also necessary to develop deep domain knowledge. As we continue to grow, we will have many opportunities to develop retail knowledge.

The authour is CEO, Tesco Hindustan Service Centre, Bangalore