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By Abel Correa, CIO, Arvind Lifestyle Brands Limited
Retail has become much broader in scope in the recent years, thanks to the expansion of Internet retailing and other, less-traditional retail channels. However, most retail businesses are struggling to move to the virtual sphere to keep up with the expectations of the consumer. Customers today look at engaging with retail on Omni channel platform with retailers on the business side. IT plays a major role for enabling such engagement with the same customer. Mobility based solutions are becoming key element of this platform which needs to meet the - Right Now Right Here – needs with high predictability of fulfillment timelines.
With accelerated technology development, retailers are opening complex Omni channel models that thrive on the promise to deliver in the shortest possible time. These opportunities are pushing the envelope for the back end engine to scale and conduct business with the same customer on different brick and mortar or software platform including the mobile platform. Also a half backed Omni channel will build up inventory at every node in the supply chain which if not well managed lead to deep discounting, eroding the valuation of brands in the near future.
Trading models have evolved over a period of time which is slightly away from demand driven supply chain and hence leads to excess inventory in the supply chain. This excess inventory is further spoiling the margin growth, required by the retailer to fuel growth. We are gearing up to face this challenge by building end to end supply chain visibility wherein on one End Customer (incl, distributors & consumers) and on the other End supplier participates to keep the inventory at appropriate levels in meeting consumer needs.
Over last few years we have mastered the art of using information pieces to bring predictability for a rich fashion driven business. We are putting together a platform using our existing investments in IT Assets and our own algorithm for Supply Chain Management of high fashion Products.
Opportunities Galore for the Retail Industry
End to End supply chain planning or visibility tool involving the supply side and consumption side partners is still a missing piece today. For an instance, for fashion retail, one would look for a solution that covers concept (design) to wardrobe kind of single platform solution that even connects the transportation module. Efficiency improvement driven by partner collaboration still remains a big opportunity for the industry. Menace created by Sale or Return business model could be balanced out with inventory visibility across channels and nodes in the SCM (Supply Chain Management).
Otherwise technology pieces are more or less available to meet the retailers’ needs at all the levels of SCM. The industry only requires the right kind of expertise (Human resources) engaged by these software vendors who have experience with End to End SCM buckled with Customer Engagement solutions. Current approach of - Sell it Forget it – cannot work in the long run as software vendors have to partner with retailers to increase adoption of their products in the user community.
Innovating is the Key
As they say, need is the mother of innovation, business teams should place a need for optimizing the Demand Planning or Supply Chain cycle times, which pushes the IT department to take a collaborative approach on development of such tools in house. Every project delivering innovation should be tracked against the project charter defined by the business heads. This ensures of meeting the business needs to 100 percent. Further various software innovation programs can focus on three dimensions.a) Product Leadership: Deliver in the shortest possible time from Design to Wardrobe b) Operational Excellence: Reduced cost to serve c) Customer Intimacy: Using data analytics related pieces to understand consumer needs.
Keeping up with the need for innovation and problem solving, we have completed implementation of Auto Replenishment System (in-house developed) for meeting the business requirement of fulfilling the demand generated by the network of stores automatically. Our business is seeing an improvement in sell through for high fashion product range. We are about to launch our socially engaged omni channel platform developed internally by one of our group company.
We live in exciting times. Only two percent of India’s retail market is organized. India itself is a big retail market. The Indian retail sector is ready to take on challenges and the future shows tremendous potential for growth in it. Specialty retail stores and malls as well as e-retailing services are the future of Indian retail market.