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Reliance Retail eyes blockchain for security, 5G for AR-powered in-store navigation: Suman Guha, 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.

Suman Guha, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Reliance Retail speaks on the leading retailer company’s technology investments, strategy and focus areas

New Delhi: With over 17 years of experience, Suman Guha is a seasoned technology leader with experience in developing and scaling business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) products and platforms. As Chief Product and Technology Officer (CPTO) at Reliance Retail, he leads fast fashion and heads Omnichannel tech for Fashion, lifestyle, and beauty brand initiatives of the company which operates over 18,650 stores and digital platforms.

Guha’s expertise spans product, technology, strategy, management, design, pricing, go-to-market strategies, and customer success. He has leveraged technology to drive significant growth, scaling product-led businesses to multi-billion-dollar revenues and achieving high adoption rates.

Guha started his retail journey with Tesco, a British multinational retailer, which equipped him with invaluable experience and insights that helped him in his role at Reliance Retail.

“Working at Tesco shaped my retail approach by emphasizing customer-centricity, global perspective, and tech-driven innovation like self-checkout and loyalty programs. This experience deepened my expertise in e-commerce, leadership, and customer retention, inspiring the development of a loyalty platform now powering Reliance Retail and beyond,” said Guha.

Reliance Retail, part of Reliance Industries Ltd., owns fashion and lifestyle brands like Reliance Trends, Avantra by Trends, Azorte, Fashion Factory, and Centro. It also partners with over 50 international brands, including Armani, Burberry, and Marks & Spencer. Operating over 18,650 stores and digital platforms, Reliance Retail covers grocery, consumer electronics, fashion and lifestyle, and pharma sectors.

The company reported a 17.8% increase in annual revenue to Rs 3.06 lakh crore for the financial year (FY) 2024. In the fourth quarter (Q4), revenue grew 10.62% to Rs 76,627 crore, with net profit rising 11.7% to Rs 2,698 crore.

Tira store Chennai

Suman Guha, Chief Product and Technology Officer, Reliance Retail speaks on the leading retailer company’s technology investments, strategy and focus areas.

Edited excerpts…
What is your area and scope of operations?

My primary focus is integrating physical and digital retail channels to create a seamless, customer-centric shopping experience. This involves leveraging cutting-edge technologies to enhance online platforms, optimizing the supply chain for efficiency, and ensuring that physical stores are equipped to provide a unified shopping experience.

Cutting-edge technologies that you work with…

Currently, we are working with Artificial Intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) for personalised recommendations and augmented Reality (AR) / Virtual Reality (VR) for virtual try-ons and contactless payments. We use smart inventory management with IoT for real-time, accurate stock counts and timely replenishments. We also use AI-powered chatbots and offer assisted shopping experiences like that with an in-store fragrance finder. Edge computing helps us deliver a seamless shopping experience in-store.

Tell us more about how Reliance Retail uses AI/ML.

We use it across product recommendation, inventory management, demand forecasting and automated replenishment, supply chain optimization and customer support—chatbots, and sentiment analysis.

In addition to this, we also use the tech in product development and merchandising, trend analysis, assortment optimization, process automation, pricing strategies, fraud detection, security and so on.

How much do you invest in technology?

While we cannot disclose the figures, we are deeply committed to leveraging technology to drive our omnichannel strategy and overall business growth. Our investment in technology has been substantial and is continually growing to keep pace with rapid advancements and changing consumer expectations.

Reliance’s Azorte enters Delhi

Specific investment areas are AI/ML, data analytics, AR/VR, IoT, enhanced connectivity with 5G, robotics and automation and customer engagement platforms.

Do you adopt different tech strategies for different brands of Reliance Retail?

Implementing tech strategies involves understanding and addressing the unique customer needs and market dynamics of each brand while also approaching these challenges as platform problems. While there are commonalities in terms of foundational technologies and platforms, such as inventory management systems and e-commerce platforms, customization is key to catering to the specific requirements of each brand, whether it is in fashion, lifestyle, beauty, or other sectors.

By adopting a platform-centric approach, we build horizontal platforms that provide shared infrastructure and functionalities while also developing vertical platforms that cater to the specific needs of each brand.

How do you aim to enhance customer experience?

In addition to the utilisation of cutting-edge technologies as mentioned above, our mobile apps and digital platforms provide intuitive interfaces and omnichannel capabilities, allowing customers to browse, shop, and engage with our brands effortlessly.

How do you ensure secure data management and analysis?

We implement robust data governance policies and employ state-of-the-art cybersecurity measures to safeguard customer information at every touchpoint. This includes encryption protocols, access controls, and regular security audits to mitigate risks and prevent unauthorized access or data breaches.

Additionally, we comply with industry regulations and standards to uphold data privacy and protection laws. By prioritizing data security and privacy, we not only build trust with our customers but also ensure the integrity and confidentiality of their personal information, enabling us to derive valuable insights into their buying patterns while maintaining their privacy and security.

How do you use technology to future-proof your business?

We are investing in several key technologies to future-proof our operations and drive innovation. Additionally, we are exploring blockchain technology for enhanced security and transparency in our operations, as well as 5G technology to improve connectivity and enable new capabilities such as augmented reality-powered in-store navigation. By investing in these technologies, we aim to stay ahead of market trends, meet evolving customer expectations, and maintain our position as a leader in the retail industry.

Which retail technology do you think will change the shopping experience in future?

Augmented Reality (AR) and Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) have the potential to revolutionize how customers interact with products and brands, offering immersive and personalized experiences both online and in-store. In the context of retail, generative AI can be employed to create highly customized and unique product designs tailored to individual preferences, thereby offering a level of personalisation and novelty that was previously unattainable. From clothing and accessories to home decor and beyond, generative AI has the potential to unleash a new era of creativity and customization in retail, fundamentally reshaping the shopping experience for consumers.

Reliance Retail’s Yousta opens store in Jamshedpur

When making tech decisions, do you rely on gut or technology?

Data is paramount in driving decision-making processes, especially when it comes to technology decisions. We place a strong emphasis on data-driven insights, leveraging analytics, market research, and customer feedback to inform our strategic initiatives. While intuition and experience play a role, we prioritize evidence-based decision-making to ensure that our choices are grounded in objective analysis and aligned with our business objectives. By relying on data, we can mitigate risks, optimize outcomes, and effectively meet the needs of our customers and stakeholders.

Reliance Retail’s Tech Basket 

Personalized Customer Experiences: The company has been able to analyse vast amounts of customer data to offer personalized recommendations and promotions. This technology enables to predict customer preferences and tailor the shopping experience to individual needs, whether online or in-store.

Unified Inventory Management: Implementing IoT and advanced inventory management systems allows real-time tracking of stock levels across all channels. Customers can check product availability online and choose to buy online.

Click-and-Collect Services: It enables customers to place orders online and conveniently pick them up from their chosen store location, improving convenience and reducing delivery times.

In-Store Engagement: AR technology has revolutionized the in-store experience by allowing customers to virtually try on products such as clothing, accessories, and makeup. This interactive and engaging experience helps bridge the gap between online convenience and in-store tangibility.

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