How Lowe's tech wins ensure the team keeps pace with the evolving global retail landscape

We interviewed Ankur Mittal, Senior Vice President - Technology and Managing Director, Lowe's India, to understand the center's remarkable growth and its secret sauce for success.
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On July 21, three of Lowe’s India leaders walked up to the stage to collect the prestigious Zinnov award for 'Champions in Unlocking Center Value'.

The award honoured those 'Titans in Tech', who've had an impact at a global scale. Lowe's India is the global capability center of the $96 billion Fortune® 35 ranked home improvement company Lowe's, Inc. The India teams have been pivotal in driving Lowe's massive tech transformation through the years, accelerated through the pandemic.

On this special occasion, we interviewed Ankur Mittal, Senior Vice President - Technology and Managing Director, Lowe's India, to understand the center's remarkable growth and its secret sauce for success. Ankur joined Lowe's India in May 2019, drawn by the complexity and scale of Lowe's operations, its desire to leverage technology for advancement, and an honest and courageous culture.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

YourStory [YS]: Ankur, congratulations to you and the Lowe's India team for this award. How would you describe the center's journey through the year?

Ankur Mittal [AM]: Thank you so much! It's indeed an honor to have received this award. The Lowe's India journey has been phenomenal since its inception in 2014. The first few years were about establishing a foundation and then we took off without ever looking back. As I reflect on our journey, I know we have come a long way from our initial days of providing operational support to keep the lights on to now building cutting-edge technology products and solutions in-house across the retail value chain. Over these years, we created—and perfected—a global operating model that ensured functional portfolios lie with a leader in a specific location while s/he gets to build expertise in an area and deliver value to the business. This helped us attract top talent, scale our tech stack, and move quality work to India. We increased our India leadership by over five times, while our overall headcount increased by over 60 percent through the pandemic, bringing enhanced functional focus to the work we do from India.

Today, our associates in the US and India collaborate to deliver value and great associate experiences.

YS: Can you throw light on some of the key tech work driven from India?

AM: At Lowe's, we are creating a seamless omni-channel experience for our customers, no matter how they shop with us. We are driving it via our Total Home Strategy, to provide a full complement of services to our different customer segments. Our India team delivers features and solutions to support our omni-channel and Total Home priorities across each touchpoint.

For instance, this team is at the forefront of supporting and boosting our online sales through our e-commerce site by building features around search, personalisation, seamless checkout, and improving overall site stability. And we are doing it by building our own enterprise platforms for search, personalisation, customer 360, with built-in intelligence. In 2021, we rolled out the One Roof Media Network, a one-of-a-kind retail media sales and marketing service on our e-commerce site. The media network delivers meaningful margin, shopping traffic, and product sales growth. Our India team developed the platform in collaboration with our teams in the US.

To improve the in-store customer experience, physical stores' side, our team has delivered several contactless and seamless shopping experiences, rolling out critical tech solutions, including lockers and self-checkout capabilities.

Likewise, our teams are doing phenomenal work on customer loyalty. Our India team played a crucial role in delivering Lowe's MVPs Pro Rewards and Partnership Program, through which we are engaging our PRO customers and increasing their share of wallet.

We are also involved in building and scaling our intelligent pricing engine and order management systems, built on modern and scalable microservices architecture.

We have not restricted our tech footprints to this – our teams are doing cutting-edge work on data engineering, data science, AI/ML, RPA and cloud engineering to support other tech and business priorities.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Our roadmap is to build smart and intuitive platforms and products to deliver sustained and long-term value to our parent company, Lowe's, Inc.

YS: Can you take us through what changed for your business with the pandemic? How did you scale?

AM: I can think of a quote by Vladimir Lenin, "There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen." Something similar happened during the pandemic. The environment around us changed rapidly and so did our customers' demand. Turning this into an opportunity, we modernised and upgraded our systems and processes to support increased demand from customers who were stuck at home due to lockdowns and who began spending time on home improvement projects. Through the pandemic, our online sales doubled, and we saw similar trends across other selling channels and customer segments: DIYs and PROs. Many of the key solutions I spoke of earlier were built in record time—a testament to our team's agility, ingenuity, and a deep passion for adding value to our business and solving customer problems. I am deeply honoured and privileged to lead Lowe's India team.

YS: How has the growth been for Lowe's India beyond core engineering and technology?

AM: Analytics was among the first few capabilities we established here in Lowe's India when most other companies were either outsourcing it to boutique firms or doing it at an insignificant scale. We were helping solve problems on merchandising, inventory, marketing mix, route optimisation, category management, shipments, establishing test stores for pilot initiatives and measuring it, and enabling financial decision support through our Financial Decision Support & Analytics (FDS&A) teams. Our Data Analytics and Computational Intelligence (DACI) team—comprising data scientists, data engineers, data analyst, product managers and software engineers—are now building shrink-wrapped products with baked-in intelligence for our business users and helping them make better decisions using data.

As we grew, we tapped into the talent pool to expand our marketing, merchandising, supply chain operations capabilities. Similarly, we now have Global Finance & Accounting teams to support our global CFO organisation, from invoicing, order management and guest payments and maintaining books of accounts to strategic financial planning and cost analysis to support strategic financial decision-making.

Additionally, to find great vendors and bring Lowe's customers high-quality private brand products at the best value, we created Lowe's Global Sourcing (LGS) unit. Today we have delivered multi-million-dollar value in Freight on Board (FoB) and have seen double-digit y-o-y FoB growth since 2020. Recently, we have also established capabilities in Global HR operations, undertaking work on payroll and HR systems management, among others.

YS: What's next for Lowe's in terms of enhancing your core engineering capabilities?

AM: A key focus area for us now is to enhance developers' productivity. That's where our platforms team is helping build foundational frameworks and platforms to support engineering teams. This is a game changer for us as we can build and test technology solutions faster and continue adding value to our business.

At Lowe's, we are also doing some amazing work in the spatial commerce space with Measure Your Space, driven by our Lowe's Innovation Labs. We have built this leveraging emerging technology like LiDAR, computer vision, AI, and mixed reality hardware to deliver an intuitive end-to-end room scanning, measurement, and estimate experience. For its intuitive design and innovative concept, Measure Your Space took home the honour of Best Consumer App at the 2022 Augmented World Expo. Another example of our foray into spatial commerce is Infinite Kitchen, an immersive, inspirational prototype expanding on an in-store kitchen vignette that enables customers to create personalised kitchen designs and visualise the results in real-time.

Another example I can think of where we are expanding our footprints into newer technologies is around Metaverse. At Lowe's, we aim to equip builders, at no charge, with items from their real-world shelves to make their creations more beautiful, valuable, and inspiring. To begin with, we have created a 3D product library with more than 500 assets available to virtual and augmented reality developers at no cost. These product assets are available for free download via Lowe's Open Builder, a newly designed asset hub we have made available to all creators, addressing key challenges of interoperability and accessibility.

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