Who says Digital is just for Retail?

|March 20, 2015 0
Sandeep Dhar
A retail veteran unfolds the formula for surviving and making it work in the digital age

KOCHI, INDIA:  The first day of India’s leading Business-Technology conference, C-Change saw digital luminaries sharing their own stories, and their versatile versions of the digital revolution.

A very poignant version among them was from Sandeep Dhar, Ex-CEO, Tesco HSC who showed different aisles that are making never-before digital approaches come out of sleeping shelves.

In a session he took CIOs and delegates on an enjoyable walk through retail industry’s digital re-incarnation. He highlighted in his session the heightened role that CIOs are now playing around propositions for customers and employees. “Development of technology has reached a new level in India. India isn’t a low-cost market anymore and retail industry is facing problems because the sector is costly. Yet, what is fascinating is that, with technology, we can now leap-frog to a new scenario.”

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These are not just opinions but definitely insights gathered from a hands-on tete-a-tete that he has managed in his deep and vast experience in this vertical.

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So, we caught up with him on the sidelines and got some grip on how and why the wheels of digital transformation are moving fast in and beyond the retail vertical.

Digital Transformation, as we call it, is not just a hype wave and is a relevant  inventory of change for India too. Would you agree, and exactly why?

It is very much a drastic and radical change. India holds a special place as we are great when it comes to leapfrogging. Just look around at how we have moved to a wireless and mobile world so fast. Suddenly, being behind-the-curve is a good thing for us. Organised retail has been having a lot of on-ground footprint but now there is an opportunity to leapfrog compared to others and our precedents.

How big is technology as a factor in enabling the new face of retail?

It is absolutely a big one that way. The cost at which technology is deployed is changing and radically coming down. When I started the largest of enterprises in India were dealing with some half a gigabyte of data. Now that much data is available on the mere RAM capacity of an average smartphone. These are times facing and accommodating large volumes of data. Technology has become much more affordable. Today researchers do not wait for a technically-viable option to become market-feasible.

Thanks to Moore’s law?

Yes, technology has accelerated much beyond such predictions and hardware, storage, and other elements have become so affordable.

What other verticals might dovetail this digital trend, in your opinion?

All verticals, I would say. Think of banking and micro-finance and it’s easy to wonder why full-blown banking is not taking over in place of mundane balance checking or analog stuff, specially when smartphones in India are so well-spread and promise a new level of potential now. This is again an application to leapfrog in a low-capital-intensive mode for distribution of services, and this can happen for any vertical willing to take the strides.

But doesn’t a dark side lurk around this new alley? Like – Privacy, data theft etc. that many big retailers have been challenged with already?

The way we look at privacy and define our expectations has to change. It’s about time. You can not be on Facebook and looking for interconnected life and not want any openness. If you are having a strong notion of privacy, just don’t be on a networking site. That said, the way information security is changing is a huge shift. Every time the lock gets bigger and different, a new key comes up too. This is a constant and ongoing battle.

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