Emerging technologies will help us move forward

by Sohini Bagchi    Apr 02, 2013

Harkirat Singh

Woodland is one of the leading names in the footwear industry, bringing quality shoes to the Indian and South East Asian markets. In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Harkirat Singh, Managing Director, Woodland elucidates the role of IT in his company and informs that the company is banking on emerging technologies to reach the next level of growth. 

What are the key business challenges faced by the footwear industry? How does IT help you in overcoming some of those challenges in your organization?

The top most challenges faced by the footwear industry are entry of multinationals brands, fast changing fashion trends, smaller players replicating and producing identical products and selling it at a lower cost. Yet with all these challenges Woodland has created a niche for itself in the market by specifically catering to the needs of adventurists. With our unwavering commitment to quality and the introduction of the latest designs we stand firm amidst our competition. IT is certainly a key differentiator in the company. Whether its about design, backend operations or meeting customer satisfaction, we have always used both traditional as well as new technologies to stay afloat. We are one of the early adopters of IT and this has made us a technically savvy and functional brand. Our products are especially designed for outdoors and we specialize in adding specialized, technical aspect in each of our product. Design is one of the key aspects and we leverage CAD/CAM and other inhouse computer aided systems to present cutting edge innovations in our products. we also have online procurement, online marketing, and a strong Supply Chain Management (SCM) and inventory management system to automate our various internal activities. We have restructured our distribution system for better efficiency. We also leverage green IT in a big way, as a result of which almost all our products are environment-friendly.

Woodland is a customer-centric company. Can you give us an example where IT has helped you connect with your customers better?

IT has helped us achieve better connectivity with our customers whom we consider to be our brand ambassadors. We have an inhouse customer relationship management system in place and we constantly leverage emerging technologies to propagate our new collection and invention to our customers and reach out to them. The advent of social media has also contributed abundantly in sharing a close relationship with our global end users. Woodland has a presence in all the social media sites including, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Youtube among others. This enables direct feedback on our product and services from our valuable customers, which in return help us in customizing our product range based on the their requirements. Our inhouse e-commerce platform is already growing leaps and bounds and has helped us in increasing the company’s turnover in a very short span of time. I believe that emerging technologies such as the Web, mobile and social will help us move forward and reach the next level of growth.

What is the role of the CIO in your organization?

The Chief Information Officer plays a very important role at Woodland because we use IT in every area of our operations. The CIO in my organization is a specialist in the application of technology to the business, especially in the context of business processes which constantly help us in improving efficiency and fostering innovation. He has a set of responsibilities from analyzing and reworking existing business processes to identifying and developing the capability to use new tools that reshape enterprise’s physical infrastructure and network access. In other words, he is expected to look after the development of a sound and integrated IT architecture. However, we also believe that in the current business landscape, the CIO must appreciate business and bring value to business. It is also expected that the CIO provides advice and assistance to senior managers on IT acquisition and management related issues. From that perspective the role is very strategic.

What are your key IT initiatives in the next one year?

IT initiatives and developments is an ongoing requirement for a company like Woodland. The adoption of technology is so fast and momentous and sometimes it becomes a little challenging to predict or share technology roadmap in advance. However, there are certain areas the company is diligently working on and will go live soon. First of all, we see a lot of traction with mobile technologies. We have built a Woodland Mobile Application that can be accessed by the users through mobile phones and tablets and where customers can get all the updates about the company, products, offers and announcements on their mobile device.  Then we are coming up with an initiative - StepOut2GoProPlanet for our customers. For this initiative, we had run a pilot project last year utilizing LinkedIn’s network of professionals to come-up and share ProPlanet ideas and the project was an instant hit. We are in the process of developing more concrete programs in this area, taking this effort to the next step. To give you an example, we are currently working on a portal on adventure ‘exploremore.pro’ – that will enable search functions like the Google and is targeted at adventure sports enthusiasts. We already have a dedicated program, a page on Woodland ProPlanet Ambassadors on a twin platform that include elite ambassador and young ambassador on the website through which we connect to our customers on a regular basis. We invite comments and feedbacks and then utilize those data for analytics and BI functions to understand our customers’ needs and serve them even better. There will be an overall thrust on strengthening the IT infrastructure within the company as it is the backbone of Woodland and we will continue to explore and innovate with IT.