The Prime Minister has taken a delegation out to India to show off our businesses and culture; but when it comes to retail and technology the ideas flow won’t be all one way.
Kingfisher Group chief executive Ian Cheshire is the sole retailer among the business and political minds that set off on the trade mission earlier this week. His company has a good track record of innovating and using technology well across the world. In fact, Retail Week has just written about an ideas sharing event Kingfisher ran at its annual management conference.
But when it comes to India and retail technology how much can the country learn from the West? While organised retail still makes up only a tiny percentage of Indian consumer spending, the country has proved itself highly organised when it comes to training graduates to develop, implement and run the software that all major retailers rely on such as Oracle, SAP and Microsoft.
Tesco has even set up a service centre in Bangalore, which is involved with integrating the retail giant’s IT systems, working on IT development and fix projects, and testing new technology in its retail lab.
And where organised retail is springing up in India, it is as innovative as anything seen in the UK.
Take Indian online shoe retailer Bigshoebazaar.com. The site has many of the same features and functionality as its peers in the West. It has a blog that would put many UK online retailers to shame. And earlier this year it began allowing customers to order shoes they had seen advertised in newspapers and magazines by SMS; the perfect multichannel response to a consumer audience where mobile phones are the computing device of choice.
Don’t be surprised if Ian Cheshire arrives back at Heathrow having taken away more innovative new ideas than he arrived with.