For businesses, it's time for digital transformation

For businesses, its time for digital transformation

The plan of Facebook, Reliance Jio to turn kirana stores into tech-savvy outlets is a monumental idea

Facebook recently bought a 10 per cent stake in Reliance Jio for a hefty sum of forty-four thousand crores. Let's look at the outcome of this and what we, as the spectators, can learn from this monumental deal. They plan to transform the vast business of kirana-retailing in the last mile. Mixing of WhatsApp with JioMart to leverage the 400-million database will jump start smart retailing across India. Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries and the brain behind Reliance Jio, saw the opportunity to digitally transform the kirana shop business into a multi-billion dollar opportunity by bringing in the appropriate digital partner, Facebook. Together, they plan to empower three crore kirana stores in the neighbourhood into the magical world of digital commerce. The strategy is being touted as the 'phygital commerce' game plan, where your local kirana store is on WhatsApp, and you send them a message to order your groceries. This may eventually lead to the selling of more things like mobile connections, media, music, and education at kirana stores. Word on the street is that Jio and Facebook, together, are gunning to be the WeChat of India.

That is the power of thinking out of the box in taking today's regular brick-and-mortar business into a tech-savvy multi-billion dollar pan-India solution. The point, I am trying to make here is, if a simple kirana store business can be upgraded into modernity using digital transformation, so can many other businesses that are primed up for it.

When we hear a lot of tech pundits and futurists talk about the "Digital Transformation" of several businesses, most business owners immediately dismiss it, saying that it is meant for high tech companies or large enterprises, and not for their company.

What are some of the tell-tale signs that your business is, in fact, a candidate for digital transformation? These signs can appear across different parts of your organisation. They may not scream "it's time to go digital!" or "Why aren't you on Instagram?" Instead, they could manifest as business problems such as:

Referrals are not coming by as easily as in the past

Today, the referrals are done through social media, emails, apps and other forms of messaging. If you don't have a sharable presence online, you lose out.

Repeat business has slowed down

Your competitors could be doing a better job of being in touch with your customers. Things such as promotions, lack of follow-up with them, ease of engaging with them, could be draining out your repeat business.

Your employees are asking for better features in your business systems

Spreadsheets may not be the only solution for all data work. There are neat business apps that serve the specific needs of employees for data sharing, insights and offering user-friendly experiences. Collaboration is the operative word in today's progressive business cultures, and getting your data out of silos and in front of whoever needs it has become the key to growth.

Smart promotions from the past have stopped working

Why aren't the killer promotions effective anymore? Do you measure their return on investment (ROI)? It's harder to pinpoint the effects of print, TV and outdoor campaigns. If your time tested promotions aren't doing the trick, it might be time to take a holistic approach towards marketing.

Once you go past the surface of these issues, you will realise that the core problem is that smart business data may not be supporting your decision-making at various levels. If that's the case, you will need to put a modern face to your business to survive, grow and sustain in the changing market place. Consumer buying behaviours are changing as well. Pricewaterhouse Coopers recently found that 78 per cent of consumers were in some way, influenced by social media during their buying process. And nearly half of consumers said their buying was affected by the comments and reviews of their friends online.

As an example of business disruptions, take a look at Netflix; it started as a mail-order service and disrupted the brick-and-mortar video rental business.

Today, Netflix takes on traditional broadcast and cable television networks and production studios all at once by offering a growing library of compelling content. Amazon, on the other hand, disrupted the bookseller business. LinkedIn went from a recruitment business to an online social network.

Digital transformation is not a case of adding a few techies, servers and computer programme to the existing business. It's a modern business strategy which looks at their core market and how one can disrupt that with a brand new approach aided with the smartest tech tools and systems.

(The author is Chairman and CEO of Hyderabad-based Brightcom Group)

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