ROBES 2014 SESSION – State of Multichannel Retail

TCSLast year,  I had the pleasure of sharing  with you a pioneering survey on Store Operations.  This year, it gives me great pleasure to present to you India’s first ever ROBES survey on Multichannel Preparedness of Brick & Mortar Retailers.  ROBES stands for Retail Operations Benchmarking Excellence Survey.

This ROBES survey is an important and powerful tool to help Indian retailers make an objective assessment of their businesses and  drive their operational excellence agenda.  As adopting new channels will help the Indian retail industry to expand and grow, this survey could not have come at a better time!

Let us first examine the paradigm shift brought about by multichannel retailing in the Retail industry today – globally as well as locally. From our experience in retail and through our interactions with hundreds of retailers across the globe, we have observed that the emergence of multichannel retailing is pushing retailers to relook at their business models.

1. Roll out plans and store sizes are being relooked at.

2.  There is a substantial increase in the number of home delivery options.

3. Assortments are being  tailored to suit individual needs.

4. Virtual stores are being set-up.

The scope for new initiatives in this scenario is endless.

The old maxim of retailing success – location, location, location – seems to be changing to – reach, reach, reach – the customer wherever he/she wants to be reached.

We also have a fair idea of the needs of a digital consumer who seeks more variety, convenience, quick transactions and quick delivery.  ‘More & Quick’ are what shapes the digital consumer’s thinking. 

What is interesting to note is that the expectations of an online, digital world are also moving into offline transactions. For example, if the transaction time of buying a t-shirt online is less than 1 minute and the item is delivered within 24 hours, the consumer expects the store transaction time to be the same. When they routinely receive 20 likes from their friends on their daily updates on Facebook, they expect the retailer to register their feedback and respond as quickly.  With experiments in drone-based home delivery becoming a reality, businesses need to evolve to cater to the multichannel customer!

We know that retailers in all categories – Value, Specialty or Luxury – are taking steps to meet this opportunity, even though they have not yet fully leveraged the synergies that will emerge from having a multichannel presence. While research has established that the strength and synchronization of its back-end operations contributes to the success of multichannel retailing, it still continues to remain a challenge. Meeting the challenges of today will help the retailer shape up for tomorrow and the answer lies in evolving through the continuous adoption of technology.

We have all heard the maxim ‘what gets measured, gets done’. To evaluate current capabilities, a diagnostic tool is a requirement. To evaluate future opportunities to evolve and excel, a benchmark is desirable. And these tools already exist in the mature retail markets – we see a number of reports on various aspects of retailing.  These industry-wide studies act as lighthouse beacons for all the retail players, irrespective of where they stand in their journey – they illuminate what is already there and indicate the way ahead. Every retailer in the industry contributes towards this exercise as part of the group and every retailer gains individually from the insights derived.

Such studies do not exist for organized Indian retail, which is now more than two decades old. Also, unlike the mature markets, the retail industry in India is still in a growth phase, where most companies are still privately held. As a result, even the most basic information like industry-wide rentals, customer service times and shrinkage numbers are unavailable. While I agree that they are informally available through friends, vendors and partners, the information lacks credibility.  Most Indian retailers are not confident that their current business processes are on par with broad industry norms? How does one measure the gap with the best practice in the industry? And what are the five specific areas of operations improvements they need to make to get there? There is need for a single platform at an industry-level that can help achieve this.

The advantages of establishing such a platform are many.  Let me list three:

  • Firstly, it provides a robust healthcheck for the industry as a whole.
  • Secondly, at an individual retailer level, it provides a health check on how its operations compare with the best in the industry and where it is lagging with its peers.
  • Finally, such a platform will help towards the continuous evolution of the industry. If some KPI or process is a best practice today, it may be considered a necessity tomorrow. So, everybody needs to graduate to the next level and then the next. This evolution will lead to a sustained improvement program, individually as well as at the industry level. And we believe the right time to establish this platform is now.

We are confident that this report is a potential instrument towards achieving these objectives. And it can only be achieved with wide-spread industry collaboration, trust and contribution. RAI has played a stellar role in combining the best interests of Indian retailers and is committed towards their growth.  TCS contributes its rich global exposure, retail domain expertise, technology leadership and, most importantly, an un-biased framework that is based on transparency, integrity and neutrality. Our India-focus is unmatched among our peers.

With RAI, we are committed to establishing a culture of pursuing excellence in Indian Retail Operations. TCS and RAI plan to partner in this exercise over the next few years and we propose to add more formats and functional areas in the future editions.  For now, I can assure you that the findings and recommendations of this survey will help you make choices that will have a positive impact on your business and transform it into the business of the future.



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J RAJAGOPAL J Rajagopal (Raj), Executive Vice President & Global Head, Consulting at Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., is responsible for leading the global consulting business. With over 1500 professionals, the Consulting practice has an established presence in USA, UK, Europe, Australia, India, and is growing in other markets. Prior to this role, Raj headed the Global Life Sciences and Healthcare practice at TCS. Raj has consulting experience spanning over 30 years in international management consulting, having been Managing Director of Coopers & Lybrand (India) and KPMG Consulting (India) Ltd. Raj is a regular speaker at international and national forums, including leading business schools. Raj is a Chartered Accountant and Company Secretary from India and holds an MBA from the Stuart School of Business Administration, IIT, Chicago. He is a Chartered Management Accountant from CIMA, London and has completed the Advanced Management Program from Harvard Business School. Raj is a Certified Management Consultant (CMC) from the Institute of Management Consultants of India. Raj is a qualified and accredited coach of the Coaching Foundation of India Ltd. (CFI). Raj is member on the Board of AMCF (Association of Management Consulting Firms) which is headquartered in New York.

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