The burden of legacy
When Unni Krishnan TM took up office as Shoppers’ Stop CTO in 1998, things were not bad, but they weren’t rosy either.
The chain of stores, the first of its kind in India, was running a dated IT infrastructure. Its affiliate retail bookstore Crossword was running close to a dozen disparate applications, from accounting to inventory management. The challenge for Krishnan was not only to deal with the legacy infrastructure but also gird up for the big leap ahead in terms of scale and size.
Lesser mortals would have baulked at the challenge, but Krishnan had successfully met such kind of challenges in the past at his stint at Nortel and close to 14 different industry verticals that he worked at. He started off by changing the structure of the whole department, for the first time; there would be no seniors, no juniors in the team. And then he set on changing the mindset.
“We started to look at every problem from a business perspective. Analyzing every customer issue, evaluating the options and then coming up with a robust solution. We decided not to look at technology for the sake of technology,” he says.
Thus, Shoppers’ Stop was steadily shifted to the JDA-MMS platform with Oracle at the back-end. “Once the system was running smoothly at Shopper Stop stores. We decided to implement it at Crosswords, that was quite a challenge as we had to re-implement the core applications,” says Krishnan.
But he had a hyper challenge at his hands, when the group decided to venture into the bigger shopping format, namely, Hypercity.
At Hypercity, Krishnan faced issues that he has not come across previously. His biggest challenge was volume; the volume of customers, the volume of products, the volume of transactions.
Like Shoppers’ Stop, Hypercity also went for the JDA suite, integrated at the back-end with a centralized data center, located in Mumbai.
Through all these changes, Shoppers Stop has managed to stay ahead of the pack. “We have a history of firsts. We were the first one to implement Salesforce.com in India. We also deployed E3, an advanced replenishment solution for the first time ever. We have the largest installed base of 360-degree scanners,” adds Krishnan.
Currently, the infrastructure comprises IBM servers runningAS/400 and a DB2 database. “We had installed i550 machines long time before anyone else dif and now we are in the process of installing i570 machines at our data center,” he adds.
Krishnan is more or less satisfied with the changes that he has brought into the retail industry at large. In the past two or more years, over 100 new technologies have been implemented at Shoppers Stop and its affiliate retail outlets.
“The best thing is we have had a 100 per cent success rate, unheard of in this vertical,” he says and his fingers reach out to touch the wooden wall at the back, “touchwood,” he smiles.
As of now, there are over 20 Shopper Stop outlets in India, over 60 Crossword bookstores, and the company has intentions of setting over 55 Hypercity malls in India.
Yet, Krishnan knows all too well, that he cannot rest on his laurels after all the big daddies of retail industry are set to romp into India. He is currently testing a new technology in the BI space, “the first across all verticals in India,” is all he would say. Staying ahead of the pack, can often be a habit, and Krishnan seems to be bitten by it.
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