Kunal Mehta | Head of Information Technology – Lifestyle business| Raymond explains the importance of IT in his organization especially in the current situation
What are the dynamics of lifestyle business at Raymond?
Raymonds has a very complicated business in so many ways, especially the lifestyle arm, because we have multiple formats of retail stores in terms of brands. We have got ColorPlus, Parx, Park Avenue, Raymonds ready to wear and make to measure among others. At the same time, we also do a lot of textiles and that is our bread and butter in so many ways. We are actually a mix of doing B2B and B2C. We do end to end integration, right from processing of the wool and the yarn, to making the fabric and then selling it to the end consumer. So that is the entire value chain that we provide to our customers.
What are the key technology solutions used by Raymonds and what are their use cases?
We are implementing SAP S/4 HANA that would provide us an end-to-end integration of all our businesses that we carry out. This would also enable us to understand the customers better, have better production, a lot of cost saving,and improve our market share overall in the organization. We are also implementing D365 for POS across all our brands across all our stores, campaign management, etc, which will again elevate our front- end and provide a better customer experience.
How are digital technologies helping Raymonds tide over the current COVID19 crisis?
By the time we were in March, we had a lot of our projects ready. A lot of them were already initiated by the businesses. We have about 5,000 of our dealers tagged onto our mobile solutions. At this point of time, when, you cannot have your sales guys going across, you are taking orders on these mobile solutions. They already have an app where the tagged dealer can view the product, view the promotion, pricing and start ordering. So, the human intervention has reduced over there hence allowing the organization to connect directly at the same time and continue business as normal.
With the business model shifting towards an online model, how critical it is for Raymonds to focus on enhancing customer experience?
We have got an Omni channel strategy in place, where, we have our physical stores– about 16,100 physical stores across the length and breadth of the country that helps us to be connected to our customers at any point of time. We also have our Omni channel medium like custom tailoring, online tailoring, mobile app, E-commerce application from which the customers can directly reach out and do their purchases. These areconnected with all the marketplaces which again help us to sell our products online and at any point of time. We are also working on multiple strategies where the customer can buy online and collect from the stores. We have a lot of digital products within our stores, which again will help the customer to improve their customer experience. We have got Park Avenue- Design It Yourself, a mobile solution within the store. The customer can kind of come and design his own shirts, trousers, jacket by selecting the cuff, collar, etc and can give its own feel.
How is the IT team structured at Raymonds? How do they ensure complete synergy with each other?
Internally, it is a very lean team that we have, which helps us to move very quickly. We do not have a huge internal IT team doing all the projects internally. Instead we prefer working with a lot of partners. We have program managers who work with me and then to multiple vendors out there who have more capabilities.
Having served as a CIO in retail over the year for various organizations, what would be your advice to organizations looking at tech anchored business transformations?
The whole COVID situation has again forced people to look at things differently. The ways of working has changed drastically. So my only advice would, be to be more open to trying things out. You cannot be fixated just by having an SAP box in the back-end and some systems running in the front end. Try out different technologies, and see what is best. Some of the things may make sense initially, may not make sense later. These are also times when need to keep trying out and see what is going to work for your business
How would you advise them to architect execution models for digital transformation across processes, people, technology and change management?
The most important thing for any CIO is to ensure that your back-end systems remain extremely strong, well designed for you to allow to make changes and to do things, and try it out. So you cannot keep playing around with your back-end. You then add layers onto it, where you keep trying out and see what technologies would work and what will not work over there. That needs to be quiet agile in a lot of ways.
How do you think newer technologies like AR/VR, blockchain and robotics benefit Raymonds or overall the retail sector?
We have done it in certain cases where product, planning is very important for us. But besides that our concentration has been on doing things which we have been doing all this time and see how much of success we get out of that before moving on to newer technologies.
We have business cases that we want to look at from the perspective of certain areas like finance, customer behavior. Also a lot of AI in terms of our production planning where we have a lot of machinery and see which equipment is going to have a downtime. Those are the places either we’ve been using it, or we intend to use it.
What is going to be Raymond’s IT strategy post COVID-19 ?
I think the IT strategy will be to have a very secure back-end, improve your overall infrastructure that you have in terms of these productivity tools, in terms of your back-end systems.
As an organization, you’ll have to keep trying things and see what’s going to work for the customer. Stay connected and stay engaged, I think that’s going to be the most important thing, stay engaged with your customers, with your suppliers and all of them and work collaboratively, try out and think out of the box.