The retail industry has undergone a sea change in India with the onset of digital thanks to technology, digital literacy and internet penetration. While digital business models started as an additional revenue channel, the pandemic has pushed the retailers to look at it more holistically. 

India’s leading casual and denim player, Arvind Fashions Limited announced their financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ended March 31, 2021. The report states that overall online channel sales have increased four-fold YoY in Q4 FY21, while Direct-to-consumer online sales witnessed 3.6 times growth over last year.

As a part of our Tech Gurus Series, we talked to Satish Panchapakesan, Sr. VP and CIO at Arvind Fashions to discuss the emergence of technology in the retail industry, especially in recent times.

A Techpreneur professional with over two decades of buy, sell, and delivery of digital services experience, Satish has a deep consumer and industry connection. He is known for his global outlook.

Technology, A Utility For Businesses

Arvind believes that the opportunity for digitally immigrant businesses to adopt tech has been the biggest game changer. The pandemic has changed the mindsets of the people on how much can be achieved irrespective of the place of work. Lockdown has pushed brands towards ‘outcome oriented’ conversations or ‘customer experience’ based conversations from traditional ‘in person at office’ or ‘footfall based’ in terms of productivity.

Talking about tech as a necessity, he added, “ A great degree of standardization of tech stacks and configurable application architectures across platforms, databases to support business models is mainstream. Cloud adoption to scale, automation that compactly frameworks all development activities coupled with Machine Learning tools have eventually arrived and reduces time to market”.

Where modern day technology has provided a number of opportunities to scale and optimise business processes, it is also crucial to be agile and open to change in terms of managing business demands and shaping these demands with a strong business led collaboration. 

“The priorities would be to address these and create a delivery framework which is continuously measured and evolves, keeping in view the changing tech landscape both from leveraging capability and optimizing cost standpoint”.  

Internal Change Management

Panchapakesan believes that any tech function should and must lead this change from the front, much like the saying goes “eat your own dog food”. Referring to the pandemic he added, “The scenario also provides a great opportunity to fine-detail people’s roles and what can be done on and offline modes and for what duration”. 

Though tech was never the impediment, these were aspects never considered pre-pandemic and inevitably managing things just the one way which we were comfortable with came with a cost and some lack of innovation. Any internal change places win-win for all stakeholders in the current context and this is a lifetime opportunity to execute that. 

Arvind Fashions has made significant investments into omni-channel and digital solutions, which has yielded great results for them. 

Digital Dividends

Talking about the financial aspects, the tech-professional said, “In the current context where you can “own a crop” or “a farm”, budget and funding has some relevance, but definitely not more than what it was earlier. I would say focus is more on how much we can scale on innovations basis the investment that would determine decisions.”

Having said that, he believes that the sector still needs the innovation engine to funnel through possibilities for accelerating customer and employee experiences. He also believes that modern day technology has optimised the current startup ecosystem.

“In today’s context the incubation around the startup ecosystem gives us a great place to start any journey from, without having to commit seed capital. So literally you have a positive IRR from day-1, when we detail the right business problem to solve”.

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