[TechSparks 2020] Hari Vasudev of Walmart Global Tech on the future of retail during the pandemic
The retail sector has kept the world moving during the pandemic. Retail giant Walmart has often successfully dealt with such crises due to the copious amounts of data it has access to, which is used to predict when it needs to stock up on the essentials that are needed.
In fact, it is well-recorded that during every crisis, Walmart stores have always had a full inventory. And making this possible is technology.
Hari Vasudev, Country Head of Walmart Global Tech, in a virtual fireside chat at YourStory's flagship annual event, TechSparks 2020, said:
"Over the last decade, we have formed Walmart tech into a single organisation. All our stores, associates, and suppliers communicate on a single platform when we serve our customers."
Walmart's global tech centre was set up in 2008 in India.
"The tech is important because it has to serve value to the customer. It allowed us to plan for the pandemic with our supply chain across the world. It allowed us to serve customers by offering them contactless solutions, where our associates would drop the products at their homes and a photo would be sent saying the product was at their doorstep. The other service was kerbside pickup where senior citizens could drive down to the store and an associate would load the car for them. All this is made possible by technology," said Hari.
Currently, despite little respite from the pandemic, Walmart is gearing up for a spike in digital sales in three countries. In India, it is planning for Diwali, in Mexico it has "Revolution Day" and "Day of the Dead," and in the US, it has the Black Friday weekend coming up.
For this, the technology has to be resilient, secure, and seamless. Walmart plans ahead for each festival and its tech ensures that peak loads can be handled during all festivals. While the tech focuses on the consumer’s needs, it also focuses on keeping store associates ready with products to stack up in the store, while enabling them to work in a safe environment. Every employee uses an app to help customers with information on products.
As the world of retailing is heading towards open APIs and hyper-personalised services, Walmart is also planning to focus on data protection and privacy. It wants to ensure that all digital experiences are safe and secure.
While protecting customer data, it offers a personalised service called smart substitution, where the app suggests a substitute for a regular product when it is not available in the store.
"Retailing is headed in a direction where every job role is converging with tech. The future will show us several possibilities in customer experience. In a global and omni-channel world, Walmart Global Tech will continue to integrate more technology. "
"In India, the company works in the B2B and B2C formats, and the entire back-end supply chain can be tracked by us. You have to remember that just a decade ago, both ecommerce and brick- and-mortar had different technologies. Now is the best time to be a global retailer with technology that seamlessly converges from supply chain to customer experience," said Hari.
He believes that engineers who come and work at Walmart India must be willing to have a customer-centric focus and be ready for continuous learning and improvement. Finally, he believes that integrity and respect for fellow individuals is essential. These, he says, are the four core values that drive Walmart’s success.
TechSparks - YourStory's annual flagship event - has been India's largest and most important technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship summit for over a decade, bringing together entrepreneurs, policymakers, technologists, investors, mentors, and business leaders for stories, conversations, collaborations, and connections that matter. As TechSparks 2020 goes all virtual and global in its 11th edition, we want to thank you for the tremendous support we've received from all of you throughout our journey and give a huge shoutout to our sponsors of TechSparks 2020.