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Panel Discussion 2016

Panel Discussion on Omnichannel Retailing: Is it the Future on August 20, 2016

The panel discussion organized by the Centre for Retail looked into the status of online and offline retailing in the present context. The event started with lighting of the lamp in the gracious presence of the director, Dr. H. Chaturvedi. In his opening remark, Prof. Arindam deb underlined the context and the background of the omni channel retailing and its presence in a country like India. Further, the director praised the presence of the eminent industry speakers and called them “the change makers” in their respective fields. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Pooja Misra, Chairperson Retail Management Programme. The eminent delegates we have with us for discussion were

MODERATOR: Dr. PoojaMisra, Chairperson, The center for retail


AmitThapliyal, Marketing head, Vinculum Group

S. Srinivasan, CEO, Kaya Skin Clinic

Anup Jain, Senior VP, Bata Retail

K. Radhakrishnan, co-founder, Grocermax

PunitMudhgil, co-founder, Octane

The session started with an addressal by Mr.Anup Jain who talked about the prospects and challenges of Omni-Channel Retailing.

So let me begin my saying a little bit about omnichannel retailing, Omni-channel is a multichannel approach to sales that seeks to provide the customer with a seamless shopping experience whether the customer is shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in brick and mortar store. Omnichannel is a cross-channel business model that companies use to increase customer experience. The approach has verticals in healthcare, government, financial services, retail and telecommunication industries, including channels such as physical locations, FAQ webpages, social media, live web chats, mobile applications, and telephone communication. Companies that use omnichannel contend that a customer values the ability to be in constant contact with a company through multiple avenues at the same time.

Let us delve into the history a little bit, and find out about omnichannel- Until the early 1990s, retail was either a physical  brick and mortar store or catalog sales where an order was placed by mail or via telephone. Sale by mail order dates back to when British entrepreneur Pryce Pryce-Jones set up the first modern mail order in 1861, selling Welsh flannel. Catalog sales for an assortment of general goods started in the late 1800s when Sears & Roebuck issued its first catalog in 1896.] In the early 1900s, L.L. Bean started its catalog business in the United States.

AOL, CompuServe, and Prodigy experimented with selling through their proprietary online services in the early 1990s. These companies started sales channel expansion, while general merchants had evolved to department stores and Big-box store electronic ordering. In August 1994, NetMarket processed the first Internet sale where the credit card was encrypted. Shortly thereafter, Amazon.com was founded and the eCommerce sales channel was established. Mobile commerce arrived in 1997, and multichannel retailing really took off.

Omnichannel's origins date back to Best Buy's use of customer centricity to compete with Walmart's electronic department in 2003. The company created an approach that centered around the customer both in-store and online while providing post-sales support. Omni-channel was coined as a form of "assembled commerce" and spread into the healthcare and financial services industries.

Let us come back to the session, various speakers spoke about different aspects and gave their real life experiences, for instance- S.Srinivasan (CEO, Kaya Skin Clinic), talked about ‘any time shopping’- which is more like shopping as per your own convenience, and that is somewhat changing the business scenario nowadays. Retail is present everywhere and anywhere, there is an omnipresence of it like the all-mighty. And, he gave some real life examples of catering to the customers and cited the example of how footwear stores actually deal with customers keeping in mind the retail perspective.

Then Mr. Anup Jain, (Senior VP, Bata Retail)- he stated a classic example of how banks have evolved and changed their way of services. The most striking phenomenon is the emergence of ATM over the years. Citibank was the first one to come up with this service according to data. So he just explained in simple words how keeping in mind the convenience factor of the customers, so banks have changed and started spreading their wings to come near up till customer’s doors. So, that exactly my friend, that is omnichannel retailing, where retail is present everywhere.

Now, let us hear what Mr. Radhakrishnan had to say at this point of time, he had already started with a start-up selling groceries. He was the firm believer that retail is duly changing its course and online retailing is the in-thing, and going to become the next big thing. The most important factor was the art of selling –where he laid emphasis on selling depends on the particular product type you are pitching in front of the customers. Every product takes a different shape and positions themselves in the minds of potential customers. So, he started saying that online retailing is increasing its reach and are driven by tech-savvy persons, and that is the plus point. And to increase the market reach, the vision has to be more diverse and expansible. He made an important remark that has a very deep and metaphorical angle to it that is- More things change, more things remain the same.

The audience then got enthralled by the speech delivered by Mr. Punit( Co-founder- Octane). He just made the most milestone remark by saying that Google is thebiggest retail platform on this planet. And everyday, we visit that store, and that marks the very beginning of Omni-Channel. It is the just the new term,otherwise, the business arena remains same. It is like understanding the customer both online and offline. There are a lot of buzz words coming up, click and mortar , brick and mortar- however, the whole idea remains the same about providing services to the customer. As far as Omni-Channel is concerned, the retailer should understand and gain an insight into the customer's lifestyle, passion and standard of living so that they can cater to those.

Mr. AmitThapliyal came and tried to change the context of the talk, where he explained the whole retail ecosystem. He talked in terms of value proposition across all channels, for instance, multi-channel, cross-channel and so on and so forth. The harsh reality which he described that Omni-channel is the future in India and it is a past in abroad, the reason behind this harsh reality is in India ,many retailers are still trying to project themselves into the online platform. The thumb rule plays the important role where –

You have to know your customer-What he wants and when he wants.

These questions have to be answered. The customers in today’s scenario are very much aware of all the technological developments. They are very much brand conscious and status friendly, as the society is taking a big leap each day. So, the retailers in today’s scenario have to allow them to have that platform where the customers can explore the whole store or the website so that all the above questions can be answered. In his words- Omni-Channelis about two things:-

Customer Convenience

Huge investment and increasing profits

This covers up the supply chain, inventory, and logistics perspectives’ and also going into collaboration business tactics, bringing more data into action.