I write this with full enthusiasm in introducing the gem of Xplorazzi, Mr Pranabesh Dash. He is the founder of Xplorazzi. He’s the type of person who ponders and works on his passion, as he says, Picture is worth a thousand words – 360 & 3D like an immersive experience is worth a million words according to him. As asked, how xplorazzi came into his mind, Xplorazzi – Explore being a Paparazzi – enables a deeper understanding of situations/scenarios using images is what made me start Xplorazzi. He has a knack for researching and reading about the latest advancements around. There also come situations where he loses himself but always remembers ‘This too shall pass’ – keeps him not getting too worried about difficult situations. Outside the tech world, he is fond of adventure hiking, mountaineering and rock climbing.
You might have come across loads of interview blogs where they talk about their struggles, vision, basically a back story, although this write-up is strictly related to the retail industry vision in his eyes. The retail industry has been going on certain changes which need to be talked about. As a person curated in this sector Mr Pranabesh has given his sights.
Get ready to get your hands some insider information on what goes in the mind of a re-teller.
1. How has the Internet impacted traditional ways of Retailing?
There was a clear separation between online and offline retail. Although with the internet the distinction is blurring slowly – the industry is moving towards omnichannel. The consumer goods companies never had a clear idea on the inventory level at the retail stores, but retailers placing online orders with the distributors or directly with manufacturers gives them better visibility. Amazon/Flipkart like retailers are using small stores as distribution/pickup centres. The role of traditional retail has expanded and has become more efficient with the internet.
2. We often see the term “Retail Apocalypse” here and there. This means that we are drifting apart from brick-and-mortar stores. How would you comment on the same?
Yes, it is true that 1000s of large-format stores closed due to reductions in footfalls in the developed world. Due to the current situation, online shopping increased. In developed countries like the US where it increased from lower 10% to higher 10s now has come down as lockdown scenarios have eased off settling a bit higher than pre-lockdown time. 60% of the world is still not connected to the internet and almost 90% of the shopping is offline. The margins for retailers on products sold in offline stores are higher than on online platforms. There are many items that people want to touch and feel before buying, online shopping can not fill this gap. There is a huge potential for online commerce growing but offline retail is not going away anytime soon. It’s definite that the offline stores have to be more efficient in operations, rely on technology and stay profitable to continue to be viable.
3. What is the most effective way to deploy and support mobile devices in retail?
Smartphone penetration in India was at 22% in 2016 and in 2020 it stood at 54%. There are 390M Whatsapp users in India. Most workers in the modern workforce have access to smartphones and Whatsapp. So the applications must work on a range of smartphones already in use by the workforce rather than expecting it to work on certain hardware specifications or Android versions. In China, WeChat has come up with mini-apps that work within the WeChat framework. Whatsapp is mostly used for Audio/Video Calls, Messages and file sharing. Now it has introduced Payment. I believe instead of introducing new apps if WeChat-like mini-programs are introduced into WhatsApp, it will get adopted a lot faster and in a swifter way. Today Salesforce has very good penetration in retail, Salesforce (SFA) allows others to put their application for integration so the customers get a choice of what application to use for a specific need. I see the existing SFA-like players in the retail space opening up their platform to integrate with different services.
4. How can a retailer make better use of its inventory?
Traditional retailers used their experience and gut feeling to decide the level of inventory in their stores. Now with technology, the retailer can put their inventory online as large online retailers as Amazon/Flipkart does. They can accept orders online but let customers pick them up from the store or deliver them at home. They should track item sales and use technology to forecast sales and plan inventory accordingly. Like us, we help such retailers in avoiding their inventory costs by managing their store needs via planograms. This not only lessens the burden of a retailer but gives employees relief from manual and tedious work. They should be able to use image AI to identify, count and update stock levels automatically and enter data into the system using voice commands.
5. Where do you think retail will stand after 10 years?
There is no doubt that online retail will continue to grow. The exact price of the item will not be the competing point for a customer but to choose between online and offline retail. The customer experience will matter a lot. This is similar to a person going to a movie theatre 10-20 years back and now. Now we go to the movie theatre for the experience not just because we can not watch it on other online channels (not considering die-hard fans who want to catch the first-day first-show!!). If the online shopper wants to take a walk through the store – he should be able to do it virtually (Ex: Yihaodian.com). For offline stores, it should be a fun family trip not a boring grocery shopping experience.
Conclusion: Our team is an asset to us and thus we will be introducing our human assets to you turn by turn. More such articles await in sequence.