The business just can't get enough of Analytics: Future Group CIO Vinod Bidarkoppa

Plan-buy-move-sell are the core processes in a retail business model. With such a seemingly linear structure, one would expect the underlying IT strategies also to be fairly straightforward as compared to say, banking or the aviation industry. Vinod Bidarkoppa who runs the technology organisation for the retail giant that is Future Group explains how it's not as simple as it sounds. "There is a large amount of interaction between external entities like brand suppliers, customers, B2B, B2C and logistics - which in itself is a broad ecosystem," says group CIO and CTO Bidarkoppa. In conversation with Tech2, he also shares what he faces every day, in terms of living up to business’ expectations of IT, especially analytics, that he says is CEO Kishore Biyani's number one tech priority today.

Operating in such a customer-centric and customer facing vertical, how do Future Group IT strategies manage to keep up?

Technology has become the mainstay for any retail organisation. I can't imagine a business as complex as ours, which is so widely distributed in 240 cities with 30 million loyalty customers and more than 1200 stores, working without a firm and fantastic tech foundation. For us, IT is the core ingredient of increasing engagement with customers, making business processes efficient and also helping colleagues interact and collaborate much better.

Technology is the key ingredient for success for any retailer.

How are you making the best use of analytics? Are there any specific areas of analytics that you are looking to invest in?

In Future Group, we have this strategy called 'One by One' which essentially means trying to get one lakh rupees from one crore customers - this is part of our vision for 2021. We have to have a firm analytics and data science foundation if we want to get to fulfilling it. I would call it data science rather than analytics because it is the science behind how do we get there from where we are right now.

So if you talk about looking at customer base, preferences of customers, looking at skews in categories, change in mix of products, how we sell to different customers - all this is led by data science. Analytics is surely an important lever in achieving our vision and targets.

What is your analytics team at Future Group like?

We have a dedicated analytics capability. We do have technologists, data scientists, domain experts, and they all need to work like one logical entity with some business folks who are also working very closely with us.

Analytics is one capability that can't really work in a silo, and has to work iteratively with business. While we have embedded analytics as a part of the tech organization, we have brought in other parts of the organisation too, in the endeavour. So much so, that we have physically put them in one place. We work with simulations; we experiment and take the outcomes back to the business. This helps us further validate our thinking and bring in that desired result that the business is looking for.

Does the business expect too much too soon from analytics?

Frankly speaking, the business just can't get enough of analytics. The organisation understands the power of analytics and the more they get it, the faster they get it, the better it is. I am running 90 miles per hour on my analytics treadmill and we're pushing data driven decision-making and will continue to keep building on it.

Is analytics top priority for you as the technology head?

Analytics is top priority for the CEO. He will tell everyone in the organisation this (analytics) is going to make a big difference to the business, to the customer, in the way we choose the right products or choose the right channel to communicate with our customers. We definitely look at analytics as a key lever in helping us grow disproportionately and also know what our customers want - which is the prime driver for us.

How has the role that technology plays evolved with emerging paradigms in retail like e-commerce or mobile commerce?

Technology is like an Air Traffic Controller in an organisation. There are very few parts of the organisation that can see everything going on and technology is one of them. They have to play a bigger role - of a change agent. Sometimes they have to be an influencer or an evangelist and sometimes take hard messages back to the business. Technology has grown from a back office to becoming strong partner with the business. And analytics is the tool that helps this conversation because it's not gut feel, it's based on real data - data that the rest of the organisation doesn't see.

Updated Date: Jul 22, 2016 16:45:25 IST