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April - 2014 - issue > CIO Insights
Customer to Define the Next Competitive Frontier
Niranjan Bhalivade
CIO-CEAT Limited
Saturday, April 5, 2014
CEAT Limited (BSE: 500878, NSC: CEATLTD) is a tyre manufacturing company based in Mumbai. The company has a current market cap of Rs.1,581 Crores.

Major players in the automobile arena are pursuing global strategies to bump up their competitiveness and technology has a great role to play in it. In olden days, we had few options to choose from and suppliers (companies) were ruling the market, but with incoming of plenty of models produced based on different pocket sizes and preferences, the customer has become the King pin of the market. Currently, auto industry has its own set of challenges and businesses are looking for very high level of cost optimization to become highly competitive. Triggered by growing business demands, there are new technological trends clearly coming out. Some of them are as follows:

Mobility: Automobile companies are working towards pull system in the market and are looking at improving real time demand generation and faster delivery to end customers. Mobility plays a major role in mobilizing the work force with high level of decision rich information systems in forms of dashboards & customer insights. CEAT is pioneering in the mobility application space and has very strong CRM system giving real time business dashboards and ground information required to have meaningful discussion with customers. As a pilot, we are also receiving raw material prices directly from the farmers in the form of SMS and creating purchase orders automatically in the ERP systems. With exponential growth in telephone industry, there are numerous business applications developed by individual companies for their business needs and user segments. Different apps are made available on different platforms for employees and for variety of business functions like Investor relationships, customer relationships, transport managements and so on.

Cloud: Automobile industry is sturdily looking at reducing capital expenditure and operations & maintenance cost by opting for cloud based solutions. There are multiple installations taking place and being planned for Sales Force Automation, CRM, SRM, mailing solutions and other small non-critical applications hosted on cloud. Cloud in a true sense will give lot of flexibility & scalability to organizations to unlock new possibilities. Even after being very lucrative in service level deliveries, cloud partners still need to come a long way to be competitive enough to win over in premises models with respect to cost & security.

Enterprise Social Networks: There are real time sentiments creating data tsunamis on the enterprise social networks. When CEAT Tyres launched a product in association with Movie Dhoom 3, there were two million plus direct connects ensued with potential customers. Account executives, field force, and marketing managers can make use of social networks to discover what customers think about brands and products, and use that intelligence to plan better communication strategies. It also helps Product Managers, Operations Managers and other top level executives to obtain right feedback and work on the products accordingly. Social media is the way forward for collaborating with customers, partners and employees. Social network has not only pled its magic in the external world but even within the organization. Many companies are creating inhouse social sites and I don't see it too far when employees will give 'Likes' to new CEO selection, publish quality awards & Kaizens. This is truly going to work as magic and enterprises have to be ready to accept the Gen Y work force.

Big Data Analytics: Being rich with data in multiple domains like customers' data, business financial data (ERP) and unstructured data,the industry is pushed towards big data analytics to get real insights from amorphous data, making it more like a decision support system. The organizations need more collaborative analytics for decision making and also predictive analysis for future planning or to handle "unevenness of situations" more precisely. There will be lot of organizations consolidating their multiple business applications going for a centralized big data analytics in the near future.

Technology Enhancements at CEAT
In past three years, CEAT has made major technology enhancements right from state of the art mailing solution to mobility based CRM application integrated with BPO. CEAT Tyre is first in the industry to launch Tab-based CRM with high level real time dashboards. It helps the sales force to have focused discussions with customers and give relevant information to them about all schemes, account information, online stocks & other features which empowers the sales team. CEAT is pioneer in the automobile sector to invest in in-memory technology for ERP.Recently it has successfully migrated from the traditional RDBMS based SAP ERP to in-memory SAP HANA platform. The entire project was completed in record 100 days and yet it was the smoothest transition without causing any disruption to business transactions. In-memory technology has empowered the teams to not only run the business faster but has also made the platform ready to take on new initiatives of predictive analytics & real-time business reporting. We are working on how to make best use of this technology in advance planning and optimizations, gaining productive insights from customers, providing right product at right time, and help business in the commercial offers, schemes & automations of processes. CEAT is working towards single platform of online transaction processing & online analytical processing to reduce overall carbon foot print and complications with better results for business.

What does the Future ask for?
Technologies of more collaborative and integrated systems can really be game changers for automobile industry. Customer would define and select shape, color, power, tyres and other frills and would want the vehicle to be delivered as per their specifications. Companies need to traverse beyond traditional feedback mechanisms and understand the core of customers' expectations. This will help them address their assorted needs. In a nut shell, new products will be designed by the customers and not by a group of people in conference rooms.

To be competitive in the global marketplace, organizations need to drive innovation in their products & services and also towards the way they reach out to the customers. It is important to have a clear vision of where the company is heading as it will define the role innovation has to play in enabling profitable growth. Companies must determine the kind of innovation they need - incremental, breakthrough, or radical. And that's what had been the CEAT story towards growth.(As told to Pankaj Kundwani)
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