Dharmender Khanna is a dynamic retail professional with 2 decades of experience in the retail industry as well as online sales. He has proven to be an expert in product merchandising, category management, sales and distribution, optimum sourcing, product styling and imaging, business development, brand management, international licensing and client management, with an aim to drive incremental business growth. He has been maintaining profitable retail operations with success in capitalizing on growth opportunities, implementing promotional/marketing strategies and upholding fiscal integrity.
Dharmender has done his Executive General Management Program from IIM Bangalore. His interest in global economics led him to studies related to blockchain in 2016; he is now a speaker and advisor on blockchain in industry forums. He was awarded the ‘Most Influential eCommerce Professional in India’ title at the Asia Retail Congress in 2019.
What notable transformations have you witnessed in the retail industry over the course of your career?
Retail has seen multi-fold changes in India in the last 2 decades; It is a strong pillar of the Indian economy and contributes almost 10% to the country’s GDP, estimated at $672 Bn in 2017 and projected to be at $1200 in 2021 with a share from eCommerce at $39 Bn in 2017 and projected to reach $120 Bn in 2020.
Two decades back, retail was majorly unorganized, store format was mostly mid-sized to small, cinemas were all single-screen and QSR restaurants were limited to Nirulas, etc. Back then, FDI(Foreign Direct Investment) was not permitted in retail. There were no LFRs(Large Format Stores), limited malls (Ansal plaza 1999, UB City Bangalore/ Inorbit Mumbai/ MG road Malls 2004-2008). All this has changed today. Shopping has evolved from ‘Kirana’ to hyper-retail. Furniture markets now compete with IKEA, wholesale markets compete with Walmart and it’s a win-win for the consumer and for the industry overall.
The last decade specifically has witnessed the evolution of malls, entry of single brands through FDI, and the growth of eCommerce as major transformations. Malls induced impulse shopping in the Indian customer and eCommerce took it to the next level by curating personalized feeds and never-before offers in aspirational brands. Also, brands now find it much easier to expand their reach with the help of eCommerce and omnichannel, and even the marketing has become targeted which bears quantifiable results.
Kindly elaborate on the possible use of blockchain in expanding a business or simply put,
the benefits of being a certified blockchain expert while dealing in business?
Blockchain basically helps in taking digital transformation decisions in businesses.
For retail specifically, blockchain and AI is helping in:
1. Customer Support: AI-based chatbots are helping Swiggy resolve its customer queries in no time and requires minimal human intervention
2. Customer Loyalty: personalized and curated content offering for every customer, wherein blockchain helps in earning and redemption of loyalty rewards in a smooth and transparent manner
Inventory and S&OP(Sales & Operations Planning) in supply chain management, generating real-time proof of work in blocks, drastically reducing time delays and reduction in costs by removing human errors are some other benefits of deploying blockchain. Blockchain also helps build trust in your operations and customers through its transparency.
Do the improvement and advancement in technologies worldwide come in handy
while strategizing online sales?
Although global investments bring along the technical advancements from leaders in the industry, eCommerce in India is also setting benchmarks in technology. Many of the home-grown eCommerce company’s tech developments are way ahead of any similar businesses globally. Take, for example,
Ola: OTP before the ride ensures that you avoid mix up, they also offer credit
Paytm: Started as mobile recharge venture, to the most used wallet business globally. Its local reach is so strong that even a coconut seller at a remote beach would accept it comfortably
Myntra: Personalisation, try and buy
Flipkart- Buy more pay later, and the best part is their supply chain. Most unique feature – a Mumbai dabbawalla delivering your Flipkart orders
What ignited your interest in eCommerce so far as to set up the eCommerce unit at
Karvy and become the co-founder/vice president of its eCommerce services altogether?
When I connected with Karvy’s leadership and understood their vision of starting an eCommerce vertical, it took me no time to envision a strategy. We conceptualized becoming a service support business for the eCommerce industry – catering majorly to seller verification, catalog creation, supply chain, and customer support. Our proposal was very well accepted by the industry and within a few months, we had business agreements for all verticals from major eCommerce and TV commerce businesses in the country. Karvy eCommerce (Karvy Next Limited) is now a market leader in all these services domains.
As the current head of brand at SSIPL Retail which stands as one of the major players in the Indian lifestyle industry and has a reach of over 92 cities, what challenges did you face while endorsing and strategizing its business plans?
We are partners with major global sports brands and a lot of our new initiatives have to be in sync with the brand’s global guidelines and require their approvals. Although we learn a lot from their global initiatives, any India specific initiatives get delayed due to time lag from the principals. Most of our plans are usually as per the approved yearly calendar, however, India is unique in terms of its festivals’ culture. We are also seeing a lot of new achievements in sports, which require us to take some quick initiatives, especially in promotions and marketing.