Retail, a nascent industry in India has not really adopted technology in a big way until recently. This scenario is now slowly but surely changing, with the competition increasing due to the entry of many big and small players entering the foray. An opportunity that has been cashed in by Rakhee Nagpal. Coming from a business background of business solutions, this 29 year old graduate in economics and business finance and holding a masters degree in marketing from London University started Dynamic Vertical Solutions (DVS) in the year 2006 to provide IT solution to businesses. She is quite happy how her organisation has been functioning and feels it was a strategically smart move to start focusing on the retail industry specifically. In a recent tête-à-tête, she shared her views with Sarimul Islam Choudhury of Indiaretailing.com about her dream project.
IndiaRetailing: How does technology help retailers at large?
Rakhee Nagpal: Technology helps retailers run their entire business on a single platform. For instance, a retailer, running a store/chain of stores comprising 5,000 employees, means he has to manage not only a lot of people but also keep track of a whole lot of merchandise at any given point of time. So, if the business is structured on a Microsoft platform or the retailer has access to an IT based solution, managing such a store becomes a whole lot easier. A solution like this would mean that, the CEO, managers, marketers can check transactions instantaneously and other merchandise/stock movements even sitting remotely at a back office. An ERP based solution allows the management to announce instantaneous in store promotions, start a contest, withdraw a faulty product and take other such decisions quickly and remotely. It is the speed which matters here and this comes only with connectivity and proper systems in place.
IR: Can a single store retailer afford to use DVS software?
RN: Absolutely. In fact currently we have over 50 customers across India who are running end-to-end business solutions on our retail applications and few of those customers are single-store companies. The beauty of our solutions is that they are built for retailers who want to grow and is not restricted to retailers who only have a single store. We have special schemes where after providing single store solutions, if they add more stores, we can upgrade them into bigger solutions. Specifically this year our focus is the single store market – the biggest market in India; and taking part in this transition from unorganized to organized retail is a great achievement on our part. We have been working very closely with associations like CII, RAI and NASSCOM on issues concerning the implementation of IT for smaller retailers.
IR: Does a single-store retailer really need an IT infrastructure for his/her business?
RN: As far as I am concerned, whether it is a chain of hundred stores or only one store one still needs to manage it. I think a lot of times a single store has less margins or less profit to play around with. It is even more important for them to have the right information based technology to eliminate errors which may creep in if things are done manually all the time. Technology not only helps to eliminate errors it also helps to plan movement of goods, take pricing decisions etc. I do not find any differentiation between the need for IT as a support for them. I would say IT can never replace manpower; alternately manpower cannot replicate some things made possible by use of IT, but together they can do the best things.
IR: How difficult is it, using DVS technology?
RN: Not at all. Since our solutions are based on the Microsoft platform, grasping the basics is fairly easy for most retailers, since almost everybody is aware and used to working on either MS word or excel. A lot of our clients are quite knowledgeable but lack the specific skills and manpower to implement the technology properly. Hence they prefer to outsource the entire deployment of the IT solution and choose a company like ours. We not only provide the software but take care of the implementation as well. We also always educate our clients about the possibilities and advantages of using our products, because being a development company we are constantly coming up with solutions about which they may not be aware or may not want to deploy at this point in time.
IR: Is it not a problem tapping big brands that have in house retail solutions?
RN: Every company has a different way of running their business. In the past, especially in India, the only way for advanced retailers to have a technology that could meet their business requirement was to develop it themselves. But today, looking at the competitive nature of the retail business, people are keen to adopt products which are internationally proven rather than investing in managing their own custom based solutions. This is a huge cost for a retailer and they want to reduce cost in general, be it in inventory, merchandising or IT. So, we are finding a lot of big companies wanting proven solutions which can take them into the future. Rather than a hindrance we find it is more exciting and rewarding to be working with these big companies, as we get to understand the nuances of business much better.
IR: How different are DVS’s products from that of Oracle and SAP?
RN: The general consensus is that we compete with players like Oracle and SAP. But the fact is that our products are very different from them. They are built on a different platform, they have much lower costs associated with implementation and training and they are much simpler. But I am proud to say that I believe we are leading the entire market place in an end-to-end integrated solution perspective.
IR: Does DVS have solutions to counteract retail shrinkage?
RN: Shrinkage is a huge cost for any retailer today. We do have something to counteract the problem, called “store vision”, which actually monitors the cashier and his activities.
IR: Where does the prospect of DVS’s growth lie?
RN: In India, according to latest data, just over 3 per cent of the retail market is organised, which is a very small number; that means 97 per cent of retail is unorganized, has no structure, does not use IT. That by any standards is a huge market for companies like us to grow.
IR: How is DVS planning to boost small retailers?
RN: A lot of the upcoming softwares would be for the smaller retailers. Single-store approach is something that we are looking at. Besides, we are enhancing our service offerings in terms of the trainings that we offer, not only to our partners but also to our end customers and also to all the users. We are also working closely with our principal companies to build functionality and services to be able to cater to any need of a retailer. Be it hardware or software, we would be able to solve their problems and want to be the one stop shop for any retailer from an IT perspective.
IR: How is DVS faring during the current retail slowdown?
RN: Everyone is talking about it. To be frank, I think it is a little too soon to see what the implications are. As of now, we do not see any direct implication. But I think our country is more conscious and is more careful about its spends. So, while certain people may think of it as a hindrance, I think it a huge opportunity because people will be looking for solutions which are cost effective and scalable and looking for something that they can buy and help them grow. The impact, if any, can only be observed 2009 onwards. Right now it is all just speculation.
IR: What are the upcoming softwares from DVS?
RN: There are many new initiatives on which we are working. Some of them are being developed for the international market and will be available for India also when India is ready for them. We are developing things like credit models for retailers who offer credit. We are moving towards designing more functionality within the depth of the retail verticals like ‘Planogram’ for fashion retailers and getting into more advanced inventory control. We are also exploring solutions for dealing with security within retail for retailers.
IR: What are your expansion plans?
RN: We are continuing to expand our business in India, signing more channel partners of different types in different markets. So, that will be a key focus for us. We will continue our growth plan with retailers as our customers. We are also building our servicing and training business this year and that will be a very important initiative for us. We will be working with various national and international organisations and institutions and are very excited about it. Besides, we will continue to build our depth into the retail and hospitality verticals and further will build new verticals, with initiatives into different industries. Our expansion plans are moving on and we still looking at 100 per cent growth this year.