Future Generali

How will the major shift from retail stores to online retail stores take place

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Rakesh Wadhwa:

This is moving away slightly from the future of the workplace. With the social distancing norms, safety protocol requirements, are we heading to scale disruption in the way traditional retail business model operated? Is it like the beginning of the end of physical retail set up and this online something, which will rule the roost?

 

Rajshree R:

An interesting question takes me back to my retail days. We had already started to see a major disruption in the retail business for the last four to five years. We had seen significant adoption of retail, digital retail, in many businesses.  So many of our retail clients today get about 25% to 30% of their revenues from online. And what has always fascinated us was the online, offline interaction. So that concept is very much valid to workspaces as it is valid for shopping. So it not about digital replacing physical or physical replacing digital. It is about both of them working extremely synergistically to provide an end to end experience to consumers. Many businesses have done a very good job of it. I mean, we work with great retailers, who've done a very beautiful job of orchestrating that journey. In many retail businesses, including some of the businesses in India, these are viewed as two separate channels. Even if you look at our workforce conversation today, we talked about remote replacing. It's never going to be like that. It is about a holistic physical digital journey. In that journey in the last two months, we have seen a further acceleration of digital.  So there are more aspects which are getting transmitted into physical.  So for example, we've seen, the use of AR VR. We've been talking about augmented reality and virtual reality for a long time in retail. It always remained in innovation labs and it remained in corners of the business. It never became mainstream. But now just in the last month, we've seen a large number of retailers have set up a virtual shopping environment where you can actually see a store and you can actually see the products. You can probably even pick it up, take a look, and then shop. So I think this is a trend which is already prevalent. I think we are going to see a much larger adoption of that trend. One of the key things we have observed as a company is the risk appetite for the adoption of technology has improved a lot in the last 30 to 45 days.  So companies which were thinking, will this technology work, will blockchain work, will artificial intelligence work, now, suddenly these conversations have become boardroom conversations and they are adopting and taking the chance with these technologies much faster than what they used to do historically.

So there was a WhatsApp message which said, who is driving a digital transformation, CEO, CIO, CTO or COVID? The answer is probably COVID! So we definitely see a transformation and an accelerated transformation. Retailers were on that journey already, but we see that is really increasing. I think Indian retailers were still a little bit slower, but I definitely see a huge acceleration. Digital-Physical interaction is going to be very critical for the future.

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