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BW Businessworld

King Of Retail Goes Shopping For New IT System

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Kishore Biyani's Future Group is junking its old IT systems and with it will go its $32 million customer science platform or analytics system.
 
What comes in is an end-to-end automated analytics platform, from Manthan, which has integrated all data, from finance to vendors to logistics to consumers, to provide real time information to teams across all functions within the organisation.
 
His organisation is also piloting WiFi-based Internet-of-Things (IoT) technology to engage with consumers in the store and is also going to roll out a mobile-first engagement strategy soon.
 
"It is all about being customer-centric," says Rakesh Biyani, joint managing director at Future Retail.
 
The platform has helped each of the 500 stores, like Big Bazaar and Fair Price Shop, to serve hyper local needs. This hyper local view has resulted in tailoring assortments, inventory, replenishment, marketing promotions and store engagement.
 
"The platform has the potential to recover seven per cent lost in sales," says Rakesh Biyani.
 
Why is the new platform different?
 
The old system allowed capture of data. But it was more static in a sense. Teams worked in silos and meaningful consumer-based questions would take time to analyse. Say, for example, there is a current sale campaign on rice, oil and sugar. The system must be able to tell you, with historic data, how people have brought other additional items when they came for items sold under the promotion. It must pinpoint those incremental purchases that will sell the largest and also tweak inventory according to what is happening within a week-long sale.
 
Data allows teams to negotiate with multiple vendors on the fly to bring the right inventory to the store. Future Group experimented with Manthan for four months before going live.
 
Kishore Biyani met Atul Jalan, founder of Manthan, at a retail conference in New York early last year. On hearing Jalan speak about how technology can help retailers understand consumers better through technology-empowered retail staff, the Future Group chairman became interested in the system.
 
Kishore Biyani junked the old systems in three months and brought in Jalan's team to let data empower each employee of Future Group.
 
Now that the entire back-end data is ready, Future Group is readying a strategy of using tablets to engage consumers, and may be even close purchases, rather than line up the customer at the cash till.
 
There is already talk of engaging customers through WiFi-based beacons in stores. This could be even more powerful because it allows capture of the mobile code and then Manthan can bucket the individual uniquely. This allows personalization to become even more powerful.
 
It's no wonder global retailers are coming to India for ideas. Target has worked with 10 startups in India, through their accelerator program, to figure out how to identify the consumer and personalise the sale to that person (Right On Target).
 
"Today one must move at the speed of the consumer and technology is serving what the consumer wants, which is hyper personalisation," said Jalan, the Manthan founder. He said the era of product-based sales was gone, and now "it is all about the experience."
 
Although Future Group refused to comment on using beacon-based technology, it would be the first to use automated analytics to capture customer data at the store level and share it across the network. The price of the engagement was not revealed. The business model for Manthan is based on an annual license fee for using their software. The system would also be integrated into the recently merged Bharti Retail and Nilgiris supermarkets.