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Neither Technology, nor Business Model, Customer Drives Innovation!

Absolutely every business leader – CEO or CTO or CIO who spoke at the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum 2019 stressed upon aspect that an entire business hinged upon. While it may not be rocket science or news, amid the chatter of blockchain, AI, AR & VR, and business models, the customer still emerged on top.

Whether it was Rama Iyer or Ulrich Spiesshofer, Nisaba Godrej, or Lindsay Patterson, everyone would agree, the buck stops at the customer.

In a panel driven by online and office consumer business leaders, moderated by Microsoft’s Anant Maheshwari (President), with Vivek Biyani (Director, Future Group), Srikant Velamakanni (Co-founder, Group CE and Exec VP, Fractal Analysis), Ashish Hemrajani (Founder-CEO, Bigtree Entertainment), the unequivocal consensus was, “Consumer needs, desires, motivations, and what you can build for them helps build business model,” in Hemrajani’s words.

Successful modern consumer businesses run on data – and a lot of it. Instead of geography & physical market size, the parameters that count today are customer profile – consumption, personality, etc. Every business focuses on the singular question of how customer experience can be improved. At the heart of it, consumer centricity is a lot “about being common sensical and looking around and finding incremental opportunity for incremental change,” adds Hemrajani.

Indian-isation model

India is full of diversity. Companies – especially consumer businesses – that embrace this Indian-ness have, and will do well in India. “Learning ground-up, observing consumer behaviour and data helps hyper-personalise consumer experience at an individual level,” says Biyani, whose company most famously runs Big bazaar, which, “despite being the equivalent of big box retailers like Walmart, etc. in the US, was started as an upgrade to a local market.” What Velamakanni calls the “Brush & Butt effect” is at play for the consumer products retail chain – people see people act and mimic. The alleys are narrow and multiple floor plans are by design.”

Into India, Out to the World

“In terms of getting things into the country, customisation is critical,” says Hemrajani. Relating  his experience of the South Indian market, he revels that theatre movie watching in India is still sold in semi urban and small towns based on air-conditioning! You can’t be just a toll collector – you have to pave the road, build the toll booth, employ cashiers and then begin collecting. Both backward and forward integration are required to build in this way.”

Drill Deep into the Consumer Mindset

In the online world of website-based and app-based products, privacy has been an issue with several people in recent years. Hemrajani is candid in belling the cat, “Let’s face it, everyone knows everything. But when I’m in a hurry to get down to booking tickets, who will read reams of disclosure clauses?” Velamakanni agrees, “Users say yes to everything because they want to cut to the chase.”

However, Biyani says, “There are two Indias: one that cares about privacy, and we respect it, and the other is the India that isn’t really bothered. The India concerned about privacy is just 3-5%.” According to Biyani, it is important to empower the customer with awareness, and rewards (whats in it for them?). Velamakanni adds to this wishlist an important third cog: selective disclosure.

So even though business model innovation may seem like a boardroom buzzword, translating it into action is as easy as understanding your customer. The rulebook boils down to the buyer.

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