Abhay Tandon of Lowe’s India on how backend offices of global companies are turning into innovation hubs with GCC

At TechSparks 2021, YourStory’s flagship event, Abhay Tandon, Director, Lowe's India, spoke about how multinational companies are gradually converting their Global Capability Centers (GCCs) or backend offices in India into innovation hubs.
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Multinational companies are gradually converting their Global Capability Centers (GCCs) or their backend offices into innovation hubs, expanding their existing facilities and creating new Centres of Excellence and backing innovation. And India is emerging as one of the innovation hubs and centres of excellence for many large global companies. 

One such global company is US-based home-improvement retail giant Lowe’s Companies Inc. With its Innovation Lab (LIL) in Bengaluru, Lowe’s is leveraging emerging technologies to create a frictionless home improvement experience for customers. 

Lowe’s has partnered with seven startups from across India to explore a wide range of applications, including automated content generation, talent acquisition, and sustainable, next-generation home construction technology. 

Some of these startups are Rephraise.ai, which helps in creating studio-quality AI videos; Headway.ai, a smart talent platform blending AI and behavioural science for enterprise talent acquisition; and Stylumia that helps retailers with real-time analytics for trend forecasting, which includes identifying fashion trends and selling products accordingly.

Why India?

According to Abhay Tandon, Director, Lowe's India, over the years, GCCs in India have created tremendous value in building organisations owing to key factors like great talent in India, global companies are getting help in building strong products and solutions from India, and innovation and creativity that India brings.

While speaking at the 12th edition of YourStory’s TechSparks 2021, Asia’s largest startup-tech summit, Abhay said that large companies should look at India beyond GCCs to broaden their various innovation channels as India is big on innovation. He highlighted that it has been raining unicorns in India this year and the investments and exits are very strong, which cannot be missed. 

“The startup ecosystem is very important to feel the underlying pulse and the culture to really be able to absorb and create more value for the organisation,” said Abhay. He asserted that India is continuously growing in terms of Global Innovation Index.

Abhay added that India brings a lot of advantages as a market and big global companies have,  from time-to-time, tapped this potential. He shared examples like Google backing Freshdesk (Freshworks) in 2014. Similarly, Bengaluru-based Halli Labs was acquired by Google in 2017 to strengthen the Google Pay mechanism. 

Abhay Tandon, Director, Lowe's India

“There are hardware tech companies like Intel or Nvidia who are building something very innovative in India. There are also startups that are now part of global organisations -- like Flipkart is now part of Walmart. They are significantly contributing towards the growth story of GCCs and global corporates as well,” said Abhay. 

He said there are a lot more companies who have realised and tapped India and have scaled up their functions with their GCCs. 

Challenges and scope

While he spoke at length about the innovation, talents, and untapped potential in India for innovation and GCCs, Abhay also pointed out some of the challenges. He said that one of the big challenges is that with GCCs, companies look for short term gains. 

“When you tap into innovation, it is incremental and disruptive. If you really want to create value for a larger organisation, then you have to look at both the horizons. You have to make upfront investments, and the results may not be visible in the first six months or a year. Sometimes it takes a year and a half to two years as well,” said Abhay. 

Another challenge, according to Abhay, is the cultural aspect of large organisations versus partner organisations -- be it startups or innovators or disruptors. He said that it is important to bring in a culture of agility for smoother integrations and transitions. The third challenge, according to Abhay, is bringing more innovation-friendly policies for internal as well as external innovation. 

“If we are able to work on these, GCCs will be able to work more effectively, which will result in tapping into the innovation potential much better,” he said.

Overall, he focussed on three T's -- Talent, Technology, and Transformation. “There's a lot of technology that's shaping the world now, whether it's digital or physical world technology. 

There's also a huge amount of talent as represented by startups, innovators, corporates, or academic institutes. And last, but not the least, is transformation. We should transform our engagement with the ecosystem,” he said.

What’s next?

Speaking on the theme of TechSparks 2021 -- ‘What’s next, or what’s the future’, Abhay concluded that the black swan event like the pandemic has increased the speed of adoption of emerging technologies at a global level. 

“But, these technologies alone are not sufficient . They have to be in the form of meaningful product solutions for the consumers that can actually solve a particular problem,” he said. 

Some of the technologies Abhay is bullish on include tactile ecommerce environment, robotics at the store environment, technologies such as hashtags to allow anyone to touch their mobile screens or any digital screen and actually feel a particular product, material sciences for sustainability, digital payments, and so on, which are specifically related to retail.


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For a line-up of all the action-packed sessions at YourStory's flagship startup-tech conference, check out TechSparks 2021 website.



Edited by Megha Reddy

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