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Aspire Systems: Strengthening Retail Technology

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Aspire Systems is a global technology services firm serving as a trusted technology partner for its customers. On the IT Solutions front, the company has intensified its focus on the retail and consumer goods vertical. Recently, in order to  strengthen its retail focus, Aspire acquired in December 2013, a Hyderabad-based global software technology company. , CEO, Aspire Systems talks about the changing technology landscape in India and the future plans of the company.

Aspire Systems

Aspire has today emerged from an Outsourced Product Development (OPD) company to an end-to-end IT solutions provider with its DNA in product engineering. The company works with some of the world’s most innovative enterprises and independent software vendors, helping them leverage technology and outsourcing in Aspire’s specific areas of expertise. Aspire System’s services include product engineering, enterprise solutions, independent testing services and IT infrastructure & application support services. The company currently has over 1,400 employees and over 100 customers globally. It has a growing presence in the US, UK, India, Middle East and Europe.

Versant Technologies and Applied Development acquisition

Gowri Shankar Subramanian, shares: “The acquisition of Versant Technologies is extremely strategic and important to us. Retail is one of the fastest growing industries across the globe and it is heavily affected by the increasing influence of social media, mobility and analytics. Our comprehensive service offerings for the retail sector combined with Oracle’s leadership position among the world’s top 20 retailers positions us well to capitalise on the US$ 6 billion IT services export market in retail.”

“The acquisition of Applied Development is also strategically important. Expanding our geographical presence to Continental Europe will enable us to win more customers in this important market,” he added.

Technology landscape in India in the Indian retail sector

It cannot be stressed enough that retail business is defunct without a robust technology to assist it. The modern retail formats address to thousands of customers every day. Considering factors like infinite SKUs, complicated discounts, ever shifting customer choices, plastic money, omni-channel retailing and sophisticated customer expectations, technology is the only way to keep the buyers satisfied, fulfilled and engaged.

India is catching up fast with the current retail technology. In a consolidating, high-potential retail market like India, there seems to be a surge in demand for technology. The Gartner research pegs the rate of growth of IT investments in retail at about 18 per cent. Retailers are adopting sophisticated technology to gain advantage over the competition and ultimately providing world-class experience to the consumer.

Subramanian asserts: “We have observed an increased use of the mobile platform. Mobile devices are playing a major role in retail – from product discovery to purchase decisions. Also, omni-channel retailing is under adoption by the leading players and with the unquestionable benefits it is bound to offer. The supply chain will be consumer driven in near future connecting all aspects of retail trade right from order tracking, warehouse management to forecasting.”

Indian retailers in terms of technology adoption

Indian retailers have made a steady start in the use of technology, but they still need to catch up earnestly with the global levels of technology adoption in retail. A lot of work needs to be done in the area of backend integration for the seamless flow of information. “The maximum value of technology can be harnessed when all the points of the value chain are made IT enabled, right from inventory to sales. Having said that, the leading retail businesses have anticipated the need for technology and hence technologies like mobile PoS, analytics and enablement are already visible in the metropolitans,” informs Subramanian.

Retail offerings in India

Aspire offers comprehensive solution implementation services to the modern retailers. The company focuses on the retail sales and service, inventory, managing merchandise and warehouse, merchandise and supply chain planning. It also addresses the retailer’s need in financials, human resources, customer relationship and project management activities. Aspire’s solution expertise consists of a range of ERP products – Oracle Retail Suite, Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Fusion Applications, Oracle Taleo Talent Management and RightNow.

Apart from the array of Oracle products, Aspire carries a legacy of extensive product development and testing experience in retail and e-commerce.

Speaking about the company’s target group of customers, Subramanian says: “We have worked with retail clients from different domains as mentioned above and we would like to continue serving them in our full capacity. We are also reaching out to the retail startups for laying their IT framework in place – right when it is the most important. After working with different formats in retail, our concentrated efforts are also towards enabling omni-channel retail for aspiring clients.”

Clientele

Aspire’s retail clientele includes players from home furnishings, consumer electronics, food and grocery, convenience stores and stationeries, telecommunication, pharmacies, etc. “We have worked with e-commerce platforms on several occasions. Many a times, Aspire Systems has suggested improvements and handled customisation requests for customers with unique business model to satisfy their business needs,” informs Subramanian.

Talking about whether a retailer can measure ROI on the technology being used, Subramanian says: “Retailers need to identify the objectives that lead to an impact on their revenue. For example, wastage of perishable products due to overstocking results in revenue loss. The average spending per customer, ability to attract new customers, reduction in payroll for unskilled and redundant activities are a few other areas. Once these parameters are taken into account, every such parameter can be measured before and after the technology implementation to arrive at the resultant benefits versus the investment in the technology (amortised over its expected lifetime). The challenge lies in exhaustively defining such parameters. Nevertheless, we agree that intangible benefits cannot be measured accurately and indirect benefits are difficult to spot.”

Products and services

Aspire services include (OPD), Independent Testing Services, Infrastructure Management Services, Enterprise IT Solutions includes Collaboration, Integration & Business Intelligence, Engineering Services & Oracle Retail Solutions.

Aspire works with partners, system integrators and end customers across verticals such as retail, independent sofware vendors, CPG, logistics and distribution to name a few. The company provides offshore development and on-site resources for its customers depending on their requirement and comfort level.

Challenges

To justify IT investments for retailers in India who have trusted the traditional ways of retail business can be challenging. To embrace technology at a deeper level, they need a departure from the traditional way of doing things. However, with intensifying competition from the big players in retail technology, others are catching up too. The growth in IT spending had risen significantly in the last few years and Aspire Systems anticipates that this trend would sustain.

“Organised retail in India is yet to make serious inroads in tier-II and -III cities although the growth rate is phenomenal for some of the cities. The awareness in using technology is seen in the bigger players who are expanding their footprints from tier-I to tier-II cities but we need to emphasise on the value of technology for the traditional retailers in these cities. We also observe that customers are slowly but steadily getting accustomed to the new retail formats from the classic mom and pop stores. Investments will increase once the volume of customers increases across the growing Indian cities,” explains Subramanian.

Economic slowdown

Economic slowdown hits the retail sales adversely but these fluctuations are not new to the global market. After a few years of conservative purchase patterns from customers, the market is picking up rapidly. Consequently, new channels of selling, new retail formats and proliferating organised retailing is observed across all the markets. Also, global retailers have grown more focused towards investment in technology. It has been considered as a key factor in achieving their targets even during recession.

Expansion plans

We will continue to look at and expand our offerings as we have aggressive growth plans. We will also continue to invest in people both on the technology and business fronts to achieve this.