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Women Leaders in Digital Commerce Future Gaze at Where the Indian Shopper Is Going

COVID-19 has nudged even the average Indian shopper to go digital. Bright women leaders in digital commerce kept business going in the face of this massive transformation.

Women’s Web, in association with Accenture India, had organized ‘Digital Commerce Tomorrow – Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnichannel’ to celebrate and connect bright women leaders who kept business going in the face of a raging pandemic and onwards.

COVID-19 has undoubtedly pushed the great Indian consumer market past its reluctance to embrace the digital even as they continue to keep up with traditional shopping habits. In what experts denote as ‘omnichannel retail’, integration of different methods of shopping available to consumers such as online, physical stores, or by phone has been accomplished. Consumers from different pockets of the country have stepped up and into the omnichannel ecosystem, to the point where users in semi-rural and rural areas too now confidently and conveniently shop online.

We cannot but acknowledge what a great leap for the average Indian shopper this is! What is often overlooked is that this tectonic, nearly instantaneous transition was spearheaded by some of the sharpest minds in the e-commerce industry. A big part of this transformation came from bright women leaders in the industry who rose to the occasion, acting with intuition, empathy, diligence, and agility.

Women’s Web, in association with Accenture India, had organized ‘Digital Commerce Tomorrow – Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnichannel’ to celebrate and connect these women who kept the lights on in the face of a raging pandemic and onwards.

Digital Commerce Tomorrow – Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnichannel

At an exclusive 2-hour virtual roundtable on February 18, 2022, this thought-leadership event brought together fast-rising women in the digital commerce & e-commerce sectors.

The virtual event saw participation from senior women professionals representing leading companies including Shopify, Amazon, Marico, Reckitt Benckiser, Schneider, and others. Interesting discussions on various strategies and industry insights kept the event alive from start to finish.

The women participating in the roundtable as well as other leaders at the event shared their thoughts on a range of topics from the dramatic expansion of user openness to digital commerce, to the evolving world of immersive tech that makes the digital experience come alive for users.

The women driving e-commerce share their insights

Bharati Balakrishnan, Country Head and Director, Shopify India, in her opening note to the event spoke about how supply-demand dynamics drive omnichannel marketing and operations. “Regionalized, customized promotion is key to appeal to shoppers across segments,” she remarked. Online shopping platforms and physical stores have to work in tandem to deliver a seamless user experience, she added.

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Bharati went on to share some valuable insights as summarized below:

1.      Future-ready thinking and tech adoption is what will help sustain success in e-commerce strategy and operations

2.     Watch out for points of intersection between traditional retail and traditional e-commerce; figure out how the latest technology can tie in the two areas to stay relevant

3.     Tell your consumers the whole story – keep it real when it comes to stock availability and services

In keeping with the momentum of Bharati’s expert talk, Neha Kumar, Managing Director, Accenture India, led an interactive roundtable discussion, opening the forum to all participating senior women professionals to share their experiences of new-age digital commerce.

The discussion revolved around their unique learnings, topics, and concepts such as:

1.  Pandemic-induced shift in mindset from reactive to proactive adoption of tech innovations; adoption of the ‘new normal’ across business landscapes

2.  The  scale of the disruption driven by technology-led evolution on marketing and supply-chain management; upcoming trends in fast shopping and quick commerce, and how these have broadened the audience base greatly

3.  Discoverability and relevance of a brand – the need to rethink marketing in terms of empathetic consumer experiences

4.  Evolution and adoption of owning high-end merchandise through convenient payment arrangements and e-installment solutions

5. The rising significance of the metaverse; how e-commerce players including some top fashion brands are tapping into virtual fashion demands and more on the metaverse

6. Scope of customer behavior-based, data-driven personalization of products and services in the digital age

7.  Relevance of forecasts and global market trends in predicting emerging pockets of demand for proactive supply-chain management 

8.  Leveraging omnichannel resources from delivery to discovery and the challenges in manifesting the strategy; the ‘e-commerce meets Kirana’ concept to optimize anything-anytime-anywhere accessibility

9.  Automation as a strategic resource to increase convenience to the customer and reduce pressure on the workforce

10.  Pertinence of perceiving data from a unified marketing-and-supply-chain POV– integrating analytics across functions such as warehousing, merchandising, marketing, delivery, customer support, et cetera to achieve realistic trend forecasting

11. Need to educate and evangelize tech adoption; adopting a culture of agility to enhance resilience in IT infrastructure and operations 

12. Undeniable importance and relevance of the ground force in last-mile service/product delivery

The participants discussed how the adoption of e-commerce is bridging the great ‘India-Bharat divide’. They also touched upon the challenges faced wherever digital and traditional commerce are looked upon as two distinct ways of trade and why the integration of the two into an omnichannel model is key to relevance and success in the coming years.

How culture drives business in e-commerce

A notable part of the event was the panel discussion that saw more industry leaders join the women at the roundtable; the panelists were Premika Chandrasekaran, Head, E-commerce at Schneider Electric; Juhi Singh, Head – Digital center of excellence (India & International), Marico Limited; Sameer Amte, Managing Director, Life-Science and Retail Industry Lead, Accenture in India, and Pawan Sarda, CMO, Future Group. The panel, moderated by Aparna Vedapuri Singh, Founder & CEO, Women’s Web, made way for some intriguing discussions on how organizational culture drives business in the e-commerce and omnichannel era.

Sameer interestingly remarked how ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’, and why cultural transformation is essential to move the needle from ‘thought on the Paper, however not believing’ to ‘believing and accepting’ of tech innovations to steer e-commerce.

Pawan spoke on how omnichannel has evolved from being an interesting topic in the pre-pandemic times to being a core means of brand relevance and reliability now, and Future Group’s work to move fast in this respect.

Juhi elaborated on how Marico was able to mobilize an agile strategy within a week on Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) as soon as COVID-19 hit India, and how faster decision-making cycles, reliance on data-driven decisions and hiring functional experts together helped create a faster digital growth for Marico. “Flatter organizational structures and open cultures enabling faster and democratic decisions are gaining importance in this context,” she quipped.

Juhi also spoke on how Marico as an organization encourages innovation with an award category ‘dare to try’ which recognizes efforts on path-breaking innovations than absolute business results led awards only.

Premika shared her experiences and insights on how e-commerce has evolved into a serious business pursuit from being looked upon as ‘hobby projects’. “Agility and experimental approaches are strategic to success in this domain,” she added, “Secure the base viables and experiment around it.

The discussion at many points brought forth how important it is to have the freedom to fail, to innovate, and implement strategies successfully and on time. Also, the topic of hybrid work arrangements and improved overall productivity was touched upon. Everyone agreed that ‘change is driven by culture, and culture is driven by leadership.’

Women are better leaders. Not only do they have an eye for detail but also have tons of empathy,” remarked Pawan, after the roundtable. An empathy-driven culture is indeed the need of the hour in shifting the whole business mindset from a ‘competition-driven’ approach to one powered by a ‘customer-driven’ strategy – the secret to success in any mode of business, and especially in the e-commerce space. 

Image credits: Canva

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About the Author

Sindhu Priyadharsini Sankar

Sindhu is a writer and a mother of two. A self-confessed bibliophile and a movie buff, she finds relief and meaning in doodling, cooking, escaping to hill towns, and her friends. A big fan read more...

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