Technology and innovation seem to be the only saviours for
the highly competitive Indian retail industry as it now faces up to global competition.
By Varun Aggarwal
Indian organised retail segment is seeing companies like Globus, Pantaloon and
Reliance gearing up to fend off the challenge of foreign players who are poised
to enter the Indian market. However, it is not going to be that easy for Indian
retailers to handle the competition. Indian companies need a sound infrastructure
something that foreign companies already possess. Today, a shopper needs much
more than just a wide range of products. He needs convenience and quick cash-out
all at a competitive price. Technology plays an important role in overcoming
such hurdles. Cost savings through technology can help garner a competitive
price for a retail vendor.
At the point of sale
Instead of a PC or cash register, a growing number of Point of Sale (POS) solutions
take advantage of a colour touch screen at the sales counter. Many POS systems
connect to in-store computers that, in turn, link to computers at the companys
headquarters. With well-designed software, touch screens can provide a simple,
easy-to-use mechanism for cashiers to handle just about any transactionreducing
training time while improving productivity and customer service. Touch screens
are popular in the hospitality and convenience store industries and are rapidly
gaining acceptance in other retail markets.
Some businesses choose to combine other options with a touch screen POS. For
example, full motion video and integrated stereo speakers (or optional headphones)
provide a multi-media platform that allows these workstations to do double duty
as Web- or computer-based training during non-business hours. Add a swivel base
and your associates will be able to use a workstation to review services or
products with customers.
|Cisco retail solutions have four modules,
each designed to meet specific needs in the retail environment:
||Increases operating efficiency across
stores using wide-area networks (WANs) and virtual private networks (VPNs)
to access corporate and store information, including radio-frequency identification
(RFID)-based inventory management and standard retail applications
||Uses wireless technologies at the point
of sale for faster checkout and real-time product information, in the store
to improve operations, and throughout the supply chain to reduce costs
||Reduces retail costs through converging
data and voice systems, providing instant communication throughout stores
and with enterprise applications and resources
|The Store as a Medium
||Supports employee training and productivity
and maximizes customer satisfaction with in-store broadcasting, multichannel
shopping, and digital signage, as well as revenue-boosting smart technologies
and information kiosks
Bar code scanners enable you to collect detailed data regarding products that
your customers purchaseinformation that is useful for inventory management,
merchandising and marketing decisions. Successful retailers use this information
in data warehousing applications to fine-tune store assortments and help assure
that consumers find the products that they want on the shelves, when they shop.
A quality scanner that reads bar codes on the first try will speed checkout
and lead to cashiers who are more comfortable and less frustrated. A pleasant
cashier will transfer this positive energy to customers.
On the customer side of the counter, most POS workstations are available with
a choice of customer displays, ranging from simple one- or two-line read-outs
to full colour screens that display Web-based colour graphics. The latter devices
allow your customers to learn more about your store, merchandise, or special
promotions while they view details of their transaction.
Electronic payment peripherals enable you to readily and efficiently handle
credit and debit card transactions. Among these are terminals that not only
process electronic payment but also capture signatures electronically. A signature
capture terminal incorporates a credit/debit card reader, provides means to
enter a PIN number, and includes a display for other customer input (e.g. for
market surveys) and graphics-based advertising.
Retail POS printers, especially thermal printers, deliver fast, quiet printing
of receipts and paper forms at the point of service. A quality thermal printer
can have a positive impact on store productivity through intelligent design
and operator-friendly features. Because of their speed, thermal printers can
produce a record of most transactions in a fraction of a second. This makes
it possible to add information and graphics, such as a companys logo,
to the customer receipt, or to print multiple receipts for credit authorisation
or for coupons, rebate offers or gift receipts, without adding to the transaction
||Detects and eliminates viruses, worms
and spyware in real time. It scans incoming and outgoing email attachments,
FTP, and HTTP traffic.
||It inspects content in network packets
to ensure that unauthorised traffic does not pass into or out of the intranet.
With adequate performance, a firewall can be deployed in-line for real-time
|Intrusion Detection and Prevention
||Stops attacks at network perimeter by
analyzing traffic for worms, viruses and other hazards. Analysis techniques
include behaviour-based learning and heuristics in addition to signatures
defining known hazards.
||Enables secure communications tunnels
across the public Internet between computing devices. With adequate performance,
a VPN can authenticate users, encrypt data and manage sessions.
||It stops junk e-mail in its tracks.
||Optimises or guarantees network performance
with packet classification, queue disciplines, policies, congestion management,
quality of service, and fairness techniques. It improves latency, service
availability and bandwidth utilisation for cost efficient, high performance
|Web-based Content Filtering
||It processes Web content to block inappropriate
material and malicious scripts from Java Applet, Cookies and ActiveX scripts
entering the intranet.
Networking and Security
With standalone networking systems, retailers run the risk of not getting information
quickly enough. Problems such lack of visibility into inventory, weaker relationships
with partners, poor forecasting, lost sales opportunities, or inconsistent customer
service can materialise. Globus understood this and implemented VPN. According
to Meheriar Patel, DGM & Head IT, Globus stores Pvt Limited, We are
using LAN and WAN setup connected by MPLS, VPN. All our stores are connected
through RF VPN.
Many retailers lack instant lines of communication between workers, customers,
managers, vendor partners, and stores. This shortage of real-time information
exchange often compromises service, inventory, policy changes, and management
decision making. A solution that maximises responsiveness by offering full networking
of data, voice, and video communications is essential. This can include mobile
communications, providing information access to workers at every level, from
stockroom to store to executive offices.
Retailers still often rely on older processes that increase operational costs
and lower productivity, such as outdated point-of-sale systems and technologies,
ineffective employee-management and training practices, or outdated inventory-management
and partner policies. The hurdles can be overcome using products from vendors
such as Cisco that improve store operations and productivity with offerings
in mobile and telephony communications, collaborative technologies, in-store
broadcasting and training, and integration with inventory-management and supply-chain
Many retailers have set up data centres. Raymond has a data centre at Thane
at its HO. According to Anil Arora, Sr. Manager, IT, Raymond Limited, The
stores are not interconnected but they are connected through a bulletin board
which is a collaboration Web site, where the stores exchange information.
The company also has a DR site to ensure business continuity. This site is also
located at the HO.
Though security solutions such as IP surveillance and automation remain a pipedream,
most retailers take other measures to ensure a secure network. For instance,
Globus uses a SonicWALL 4060 UTM box, which works as a firewall, content filter
device, gateway antivirus, IPSec VPN appliance, spam filter, Intrusion prevention
system, antispyware etc. Pantaloon on the other hand chose to deploy Fortinets
FG500A after an intensive evaluation process. The device allows unified
capabilities and is easy to manage and monitor. It is used at the perimeter,
said Vishak Raman, Country Manager India, Fortinet.
RFID for inventory control
In the retail industry, RFID assists in inventory control. All stocked items
in a retail outlet sport an inexpensive read-only tag that stores the product
code and its description, including the manufacturer, brand, batch number, expiry
date and price. The shelves, exit gates and warehouses are fitted with a small
antenna that senses the RFID tag and reads the information on it to update the
inventory system in real-time. The benefits of such a system are that it provides
for total asset visibility, full inventory history with tracking and reduced
inventory-stocking levels that facilitate just-in-time deliveries. It also ensures
better process control for products in the facility, reduced shelf space and
lead-time that shorten across docking time, higher-level security, fewer errors
and better visibility of goods.
In warehouses and container depots, pallets and containers are marked with read-write
RFID chips that contain details of origin, destination and other material details.
Entry and exit gates, vehicles and cranes are fitted with an antenna that senses
the RFID tags and records and updates the system to check for any deviation
in the schedule. With precise tracking of the location of pallets and containers
within the warehouse, it is easy to pinpoint unscheduled movements. The system
also considerably helps reduce costs and time for check in and check out.
While Globus has already begun testing RFID, Madura Garments has implemented
the technology at its newly opened retail store, Planet Fashion in Bangalore.
RFID tags help automate dispatches from one factory and inventory at the warehouse.
Pantaloon Retail (India) has piloted an RFID project at one its warehouses in
Tarapur using a thousand RFID tags. The company is starting by implementing
the technology at its warehouse. It has selected a few lines of apparel, primarily
shirts and trousers, for the RFID pilot. The RFID application developed by Wipro
Infotech fits to the overall solution in line with Pantaloons business
processes and IT landscape (from the factory outward to the warehouse inward
and from the warehouse outward) in order to capture real-time data. The application
integrates with Oracle database 10g and middleware along with an implementation
of the RFID hardware. It integrates with the existing IT infrastructure, the
in-house developed Retail Enterprise Manager. The primary objectives are a smoother
product lifecycle and item-level tagging for identification. The pilot was also
an opportunity to do a feasibility study regarding additional uses for RFID.
An interesting technology deployed at HyperCITY is the I-Scan (Symbol Technologies-New
York) that allows the customer to scan merchandise as they pick products off-the-shelf,
thus saving them significant amount of shopping time. Once he finishes shopping,
the customer can hand the device over to the customer service desk and cash-out
The I-Scan hardware supports applications such as inventory scanning, price
check, self-check, self-check-out PoS and warehousing receiving.
IP surveillance is picking up steam. With IP cameras going for as low as Rs
7,000, the technology is ripe for deployment. CIOs can use it to monitor remote
locations over a LAN or the Internet. R Mall uses D-Links IP surveillance
cameras. D-Link has two more advanced IP based Video Surveillance Cameras from
their SecuriCam range, the DCS-6620 and DCS-6620G (Wireless) with 10X Optical
Zoom. The cameras feature dual Codec support, a 10X optical zoom lens, built-in
microphone and low-light sensitivity for nighttime surveillance.