RAI Chairman BS Nagesh opens ReTechCon 2016 with a thought-provoking address

What’s important today is how we use technology to connect with consumers. Herein lies the biggest challenge and opportunity for the retail fraternity. Had I not visited a technology conclave in Singapore in 1996 and had JDA not served me a cup of tea at their stall, technology at Shoppers Stop would have turned out very differently. Brick and mortar has limited reach. But it’s not so with digital which has no barriers and restrictions. The brick & mortar growth was driven by the malls which is akin to the growth of Bollywood supported by the enormous growth of multiplexes like PVR. Today, malls have been replaced by the digital platform. Even startups today talking about 1000 town reach. Such is the reach that digital offers.

Earlier, those working in the head offices/back offices of retail organisations thought that they served those who served the customer. Today, this has changed fundamentally. Today, even the back office connects directly and with consumers be it through social media or other digital platforms. Information is available instantly. There is a need for change in attitudes by the CXOs. The environment is changing and in addition to learning about the latest in technology we need to learn change management. It’s easy to buy technology, but managing the change it brings is what’s difficult.

With digital becoming such an integral part of business, there should be no conflict between brick and mortar and online platforms. We need to think about how digital evolution can actually be capitalized by the front end staff to enhance sales. Digitization has to be integrated in the operation system to create an ideal platform for serving the customer. Digital revolution has enabled retailers to know customers even when they are not shopping. Retailers have now come to a stage where the phrase “loyal customer” doesn’t make sense. A brand has to be loyal to the customers. Today, every technology is supporting retailers to be loyal to the customers.

Five years down the line, online retail will jump to 10-20% of the retail pie. The modern retail with omni-channel presence will be 10-12% in next five years. There’s a probability of emergence of digital or regional player who has good connect with the consumers for mass logistic delivery across the country, not solely depending on the metros. There is good number of young population to boost up this digital revolution.

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Retailers Association of India (RAI) is the unified voice of Indian retailers. RAI is a not for profit organization (registered under section 25 of Companies Act, 1956), works with all the stakeholders for creating the right environment for the growth of the modern retail industry in India. RAI is the body that encourages, develops, facilitates and supports retailers to become modern and adopt best practices that will delight customers. RAI has a three charter aim of Retail Development, Facilitation and Propagation.