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Technology has been a true differentiator for Myntra: Raghu Krishnananda, CPTO

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Mannu Mathew
Mannu Mathew
With over four years of experience, Mannu Mathew specializes in business journalism with a focus on technology, the retail sector, D2C, and E-commerce brands. He is working as the Assistant Editor for India Retailing and Images Retail Magazine.

Raghu Krishnananda, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Myntra on how the leading online fashion destination uses technology to operate, differentiate and innovate

New Delhi: With almost three decades of experience, Raghu Krishnananda is a technology leader with experience in driving product development and innovation. As the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Myntra, Raghu oversees the strategic direction and execution of technology initiatives, playing a pivotal role in shaping the company’s digital transformation.

Before Myntra, Raghu held senior positions at Yahoo, Samsung, Wipro, Goldman Sachs and other companies where he led large-scale projects and product engineering teams, delivering cutting-edge solutions that drove business growth.

In his current role at the Flipkart-owned Bengaluru-based fashion, beauty and lifestyle e-commerce company, Myntra, Raghu leads a team of over 600 engineers across retail and partnerships, storefront, supply chain, platform services, data science, security, DevOps and IT.

The scope of Raghu’s work is expansive: The fashion, beauty and lifestyle e-commerce destination hosts over 2.3 million styles spanning men’s, women’s, and kids’ apparel as well as beauty and personal care, footwear, luggage, travel & accessories, watches & wearables and home categories.

It serves over 19,000 pin codes nationwide and on an average clocks more than 55 million monthly users. It is also the partner of choice for over 6,000 domestic and international brands as well as works with ecosystem partners including delivery partners and over 10,000 artisans.

Being a digital-first company, technology is core to Myntra’s business

According to leading business information and analytics platform Tofler, Myntra’s operating revenue grew 25% to Rs 4,375 crore in the financial year ended March 31, 2023. The firm had reported Rs 3,501 crore in operating revenue in the previous fiscal year.

Being a digital-first company, technology is core to Myntra’s business. And It is Raghu’s responsibility to ensure that the tech-led innovations are at the forefront of providing a superlative shopping experience to Myntra customers.

In an exclusive interaction with IndiaRetailing, Raghu gives insights into how Myntra uses technology to provide a differentiated and innovative shopping journey.

Edited Excerpts

How has been your journey with Myntra?

It has been a fantastic experience of pushing the boundaries to elevate customer experiences. We have an amazing team of individuals who are passionate about building innovative, high-performing and scalable features. There are several new capabilities and industry-first features that we have been able to deliver over the last four years.

We make constant innovations to enable the easy discovery of products while also providing personalised assistance. We introduced curated app-in-app experiences such as FWD for our GenZ customers, Luxe for our customers looking for luxury products or Beauty for customers looking for beauty and personal care products. We have also introduced several personalised recommendation widgets through the shopping funnel to help users discover relevant products.

We launched our social commerce proposition, with the first content-led commerce features in the country and revamped our partner portal to provide rich dashboards and insights. We also introduced M-Express to deliver products in two days to our metro customers.

How do you use technology to offer differentiated experiences?

Our ability to identify global trends swiftly has allowed us to cater to the ever-evolving tastes of our fashion-conscious shopping cohorts. Moreover, our integration of new partners and products onto our platform ensures a diverse selection for our users.

Additionally, we’ve invested in creating immersive and differentiated experiences, setting new standards for excellence in e-commerce shopping. Beyond the purchase journey, we’re committed to providing stellar post-purchase experiences, characterised by expedited delivery and top-notch customer care.

In addition, there are immersive experiences such as virtual try-ons to help users visualise the products on themselves. Another similar personalised experience that we have launched is a skin analyzer to recommend personal care products suitable to an individual’s skin condition.

True to our mission of democratising fashion through technology, we launched MyStylist to provide a personal stylist experience by recommending complete looks for users based on products that they have already bought or browsed. Most of these features use AI. Most recently, we have been the pioneers in introducing GenAI-based features such as MyFashionGPT and Maya giving our customers new ways to shop on our platform.

You added 75 million new app users in 2023. What do you attribute this rise to?

In addition to scaling up our selection with top-notch styles from leading global brands, on the tech front, 2023 saw us introduce the Vernacular Search feature, catering specifically to our non-metro customers. Launched to accommodate linguistic diversity across India, we launched this feature after recognizing that many customers are more comfortable shopping on Myntra using their native language to search for products. This feature supports queries in 10 regional languages, in addition to Hindi and Hinglish, making the shopping experience more inclusive and accessible.

Over 4-5% of the queries on our platform are currently through the Vernacular Search feature, with ~40% of users coming from non-metros. We have been witnessing significant improvement both in query abandonment rates, and user conversion.

We also rolled out Myntra Minis, a short-form video content offering inspired by Instagram’s Reels. We seamlessly integrated these videos into the shopping journey to offer valuable fashion inspiration. The success of this initiative is evident in the fact that we clock over a million video views daily and approximately 2500 videos get added monthly.

Today, Myntra isn’t just a shopping destination; it’s a dynamic platform where customers immerse themselves in fashion trends

What’s truly remarkable is the high engagement rate of about 40%, surpassing even the most popular social media platforms. This can be attributed to the educational and entertaining nature of our content.

Today, we aren’t just a shopping destination; it’s a dynamic platform where customers immerse themselves in fashion trends, learning about styling and pairing. These features represent our commitment to continuously enhancing the shopping experience, ensuring it remains engaging, informative, and enjoyable for all.

What’s your stand on AI?

At Myntra, we leverage technologies that help us cater to the evolving needs of the customers. From that perspective, we have been using AI for over seven years now and leveraging AI has helped us enhance customer experience in many ways. For that reason, we will continue to focus on this technology.

What’s new on the payment side?

UPI has been a big game changer for payments in the country. We have integrations with key players for pre-payment as well as Cash on Delivery options. We see increasing adoption of buy now pay later and have integrated with partners including Simpl to enable this option to customers.

We partnered with Kotak Bank to introduce the Myntra Co-branded credit card, which offers additional benefits for our customers. On the experience side, we introduced the delayed online payment option feature allowing users to lock in their purchases even if there is a failure in the pre-payment option by converting it to COD and allowing them the option to change the payment option later.

What was the idea behind the FWD fashion portal?

Gen-Z today is the defining voice on where fashion and beauty, and overall tech, is headed. They are an important cohort to us and play a big influence in how we are shaping our initiatives. Said to be born with smartphones in their hands, they are constantly seeking more immersive experiences as well as newer trends.

Myntra FWD stands out as a distinctive and immersive in-app shopping experience tailored specifically for GenZ, addressing their unique needs and expectations. With a focus on unlocking inspiration, discoverability, and access to the latest global fashion trends, FWD offers a trend-first selection, featuring over 1 lakh styles from over 700 brands and 2500+
weekly drops. It also has a relevant Mini video from influencers to help provide fashion inspiration to these users.

Tell us about your omnichannel operations.

As part of our omnichannel technology, we have over 350 brands and 5,600 stores in our network across more than 140 cities. Myntra’s efforts with omnichannel technology enable customers to get orders delivered from the nearest store, crunching the delivery time significantly. Brands leveraging this technology can list selections from their stores, giving customers much wider options.

Some notable global brands included in our omnichannel network are Mango, Vero Moda, Jack & Jones, USPA, Fila, Vans, Tommy Hilfiger, and Calvin Klein, as well as luxury retailers like Collective and Iconic.

We have also been pioneering initiatives like Beyond Borders and omnichannel enablement to make international brands and trends more accessible to our customers through technology-driven solutions.

What’s new in AR/VR?

The technology is relevant for Myntra and will continue to become increasingly popular, allowing shoppers to try on clothes virtually before they buy them.

We have this try-on feature available for both apparel as well as beauty products, enhancing the end-to-end shopping journey, which has led to a 1.5X increase in consideration and a 2X boost in conversion for Makeup category styles last year. Myntra’s commitment to technological advancement extends to AI tools like Skin Analyzer and Product Finder, simplifying and personalising the shopping experience.

What is Myntra’s approach to technology?

The role of technology in the ever-evolving fashion and beauty landscape is to not only enable access but also do it in a way that caters to the unique needs of every individual and makes the whole shopping journey as simple and seamless for them.

Brands that are able to leverage technology to the fullest will be able to drive the market and stay ahead of the curve. Technology has been a true differentiator for Myntra, helping us build customer loyalty in a way that we are able to extend an elevated customer experience, offering them a seamless shopping journey.

In 2023, we continued our mission to democratise fashion through technology by introducing innovative features that assisted users to give them an unparalleled shopping journey. Features we offer have significantly expanded Myntra’s tech-enabled offerings, solidifying our position as one of the leaders in this space and strengthening our commitment to offering an unmatched shopping experience.

Which technologies will shape the future?

The major technological transformations that will shape the future of the fashion industry will be:

AI and Gen AI: With GenAI becoming mainstream, we will see this trend accelerating. Some of the potential use cases are the use of LLMs for query and intent understanding, the use of GenAI for fashion design to help designers, helping customer care agents with faster issue resolution and the automation of creatives for merchandising and notifications

Immersive Shopping Experiences driven by AR/VR – VTR: This will aid confident and informed decision-making and allow customers to experiment with different styles and trends.

Blockchain – Trust Building: We will also see the increasing use of blockchain technology to provide visibility to users on the entire manufacturing journey of the product.

Rapid fire with Raghu 

Challenges as a CPTO: Ensuring product strategy and prioritisation with the goals; Being on top of industry trends; leveraging emerging technologies; ensuring platforms built are resilient; high standards of data privacy and security

Advice to young CIOs and CTOs:  Have a deep growth and learning mindset; Stay updated with emerging technologies; Understand the business you are in; be a strong team player and communicate and collaborate effectively with all stakeholders. Also, experiment, learn from it and incorporate feedback. Lastly, balance short-term needs with longer-term strategic bets.

Tech mantra: My mantra revolves around five pillars. 1. To create a best-in-class shopping experience, and ensure seamless, personalised, and engaging interactions. 2. To be the platform of choice for partners and sellers, offering them the tools and support they need to thrive. 3. To drive engineering excellence, constantly pushing the boundaries of technology to enhance products and services. 4. Enable organisational goals, and align technology initiatives with broader business objectives. Finally, to build an innovative and high-performing team.

When making tech decisions…: I rely on both tech and gut. It’s important to experiment, learn quickly, be agile and be ready to implement changes as needed.

More on the tech leader

After a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics and Communications Engineering from Bangalore University in 1990, Raghu pursued a Master’s degree in Computer Science from the New Jersey Institute of Technology. He also has an MBA in Finance and General Management from NYU Stern School of Business, graduating in 1999.

His expertise spans a wide range of areas, including programmatic advertising, e-commerce platforms, and mobile payment solutions. Raghu’s understanding of technology trends makes him a driving force in the e-commerce and fashion tech industry, shaping the future of online shopping experiences. His experience of handling a team of over 400 engineers during his stint at Wipro has given him invaluable lessons.

His finance domain knowledge from stints at Citibank and Goldman Sachs gives him an edge over others. Similarly, Yahoo exposed him to new technologies and consumer internet products at a global scale. Samsung taught him about cloud platform-based product teams, mobile apps and services.

 

More insightful and stimulating conversations on technology trends in retail are expected at the Phygital Retail Convention (PRC) 2024.

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