Retail IT: Vendor Push Or Need Of The Hour?
If the recent first national annual retail technology conference in Mumbai is anything to be taken cognizance of, it does appear that the retail business in India has almost become an industry cult in itself, although retail in India in its present avatar, is just a half a decade wonder.
Two other aspects add credence to the above thought. Firstly, the Retailer Association of India (RAI) formed around seven months ago that conducted the conference, and second, the extensive stress on IT as an enabler to the retail business.
Speaking to CXOtoday, Gibson Vedamani, CEO, RAI, elaborated, “The retail segment in India has metamorphosed into greater significance from its days of being just the last point of product distribution channel. This is largely due to the availability of better infrastructure, and increase in purchasing power among consumers.”
While formation of an association seems to be appropriate to address the concerns and challenges associated with merchandising, operating processes, expertise etc., the talk of adoption of technology seem to be a case of too early too soon in India. In many aspects, the retail industry might face what the famous dot com enterprises encountered before they finally went bust.
T. M. Unnikrishnan, customer care associate and CTO, solution and technology team, Shoppers Stop, refutes the idea by saying that one size does not fit all. He says, “Not all retailers are at the same stage of evolution. While it is appropriate for a large retail house to adopt technology for the smooth functioning of its business, those at the bottom of the evolution pyramid need to first strengthen their business objectives more than anything else.”
While retail evolution in India is a fact that cannot be discounted, the talk of retail specific enterprise resource planning applications being doled out by vendors indicate how the benefits accrued to tier one retailers are being conveyed to tier two and three retail houses for adoption. Says Abel Correa, AGM-IT, Piramyd Retail & Merchandising Pvt. Ltd., “There is a vendor push in terms of convincing upcoming retail houses of specific ERP applications the way they have indeed benefited major retail businesses in the country.”
But not all technology in retail bears the same story. Elaborates Correa, “A case in point is the talk of RFID for smoothening the supply chain. The technology itself is a question mark as there is no uniform standard as of now in its usage, apart from the cost factor.”
Speaking on the initiatives of RAI, Vedamani said, “For RAI addressing the challenges associated with technology usage in all major processes namely merchandising, operations, learning and research assumes priority.”
The retail association has three category of membership, namely, the core member, retail real estate member, and the associate member. In addition, it also has facilities for academic members to impart retail specific training. Those enterprises with a turnover of more than Rs 5 crore pay a fee of Rs 5 lakh while those with less than Rs 5 crore, shell out Rs 2 lakh as the annual membership fee. The association has recently tied up with Gurukul Online to devise and roll out manpower training modules specific to the retail segment.
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