E-commerce in need for better infra: Indium’s Ram Sukumar

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“E-commerce industry has experienced a sudden spike leading to the need for better infrastructure to handle the number of users,” says Indium Software’s Ram Sukumar.

E-commerce industry during recent years, according to research and industry reports has witnessed tremendous growth and a further surge is expected in the coming years.

However, the global pandemic of Coronavirus and prolonged lockdowns have severely impacted the entire business chain including the e-commerce segment. And this situation is no different in India as it has continued to take a major toll on the e-commerce segment as well.

Software companies like Indium Software that closely work with e-commerce ecosystem probably would know better than others about the state of e-commerce in India and its challenges amid the COVID-19 crisis and the prolonged lockdown.

In this interview, Indium Software’s CEO and Co-Founder Ram Sukumar talk to TechHerald.in on the overall impact on e-commerce market in India and the new challenges that are grappling the segment along with technology changes that reshaping the online shopping as well as the traditional retail businesses.

He also discusses how Indium Software is addressing those challenges with its technology offerings, the company’s overall business and growth and so forth.

Edited excerpts…

Q1. How much impact do you see on the overall E-commerce market and functioning in India due to the pandemic and the lockdown?
Ram Sukumar: The organised sector of the Indian retail landscape constitutes the brick and mortar stores and e-commerce websites. This amounts to only 10% of the entire retail landscape in India. The e-commerce industry in India used multiple schemes to draw in buyers – Offers, clearance sales, free delivery, exchange offers and more. However, things have changed drastically during these unprecedented times. We are seeing a massive increase in FTUs (first-time e-commerce users) in India.

A similar pattern was seen back in 2002 when SARS hit and people were afraid to go out and shop, it was not on this scale though. There has been a 30% increase in the online purchase of household items, medicines and the likes. Many of the online shopping apps had messages saying, ‘Unserviceable at the moment due to unprecedented demand.’

The e-commerce industry has experienced a sudden spike leading to the need for better infrastructure to handle the number of users. A change such as this is not likely to die down once the pandemic passes. People who have jumped onto the e-commerce bandwagon may not see the need to go back to traditional shopping.

Q2. Given the current situation in India, what sort of new challenges do you see in the e-commerce segment today that were not there in pre-COVID-19 times?
Ram Sukumar:
There are positive aspects to look at from an e-commerce point of view, however, it has not been all smooth sailing. E-commerce companies are struggling with a backlog of order deliveries because of the ensuing lockdown across the country. Another area where they face a major challenge is the ban on selling non-essential items online. 90% of sales have been generated through non-essential items till date.

That is a rather big hit to take. Bottlenecks in deliveries forced the e-commerce players to explore different avenues such as tapping into the local stores. An example of e-commerce players negating these difficult times is where food delivery apps started servicing people with grocery delivery.

Q3. Are there any technology changes in the short term particularly in the retail and e-commerce space in India?
Ram Sukumar:
Quick adoption of digital technologies has been the core of India’s digital transformation journey. The obvious ones are app-based shopping, digital payments, digital wallets, literally everything has become app-based today. We see chatbots to help facilitate online buying, we even see blockchain technology-based security and payment methods in use today.

Young India and cheap data rates have been catalysts in the boom of e-commerce. E-commerce websites and apps have incorporated Virtual and Augmented Reality to engage with customers in a more interactive and meaningful way. Technologies like AI and Machine Learning along with cloud adoption and IoT have seen maximum adoption rates. These advanced technologies are put in use by the Indian e-commerce industry to increase campaign efficiencies, boost growth and remain competitive.

Q4. How can Indium Software address some of those challenges and help retail and e-commerce players from the technology perspective? Can you also brief about Indium Software’s technology solution offerings?
Ram Sukumar: With decades of experience in providing services that help businesses stay competitive and grow, our service offerings are structured according to the requirements of the digital economy. To drive digital transformation, our key service offerings are based on Machine Learning and AI, mobile, web and cloud technology. Some of the key offerings include:

eCommerce Platform Development & Maintenance:
Our e-commerce platform for development and maintenance enables businesses to scale across various channels. The key services offered are:

  • Consulting: We examine and study your business landscape and provide consultation to optimise your e-commerce strategy.
  • External platform Onboarding: We aid in onboarding onto various Selling Platforms like Amazon, etc.
  • E-commerce Portal Development: We design and develop state of the art e-commerce platforms for web and mobile versions.
  • E-commerce Testing – We perform functional, compatibility, performance, ad security testing of the e-commerce portal to maximise efficiency.
  • E-commerce platform Maintenance: We enhance, support, and maintain the e-commerce platform.

Digitisation needs have paved the way for the introduction of a product that can extract and analyse data from various sources and types of documentation. Our product, teX.ai is an Ai-based text analytics software for extraction, summarisation and classification that can deliver undiscovered insights from existing business data.

Advanced Analytics & Big Data:
Our Data and Analytics services enable businesses to gain actionable insights from varied existing data sets and available external data sets. We have experts in Data Science and Data Engineering. They can leverage data engineering technologies and advanced analytics techniques such as mathematical, statistical modelling, probabilistic, and analytical modelling to aid in the betterment of business performance, prediction, and automate the decision making process.

Low Code Platform Development:
Our Low code platform development services help businesses with agility and shortened time-to-market. We build complete applications using Mendix and Alpha software to provide modern user interfaces, logic, and integrations.

Q5. Brief on Indium Software’s business, markets and the company’s growth in 2019?
Ram Sukumar: Indium Software focusses on the US, UK, Europe, APAC and India markets with the US currently being our largest market. Indium focusses on digital transformational solutions encompassing application development, low code development, AI, analytics, big data and QA services. Indium has grown over 40% in 2019 and is optimistic about 2020 despite the COVID crisis.

Q6. Indium Software has a wider global presence today. So, what’s the overall strength of the company and what are the major business plans over the next few years?
Ram Sukumar: Indium has over 1100 team members globally and the business plans are to accelerate growth in high growth areas such as AI and Analytics, Data Engineering and Big Data, Cloud and Game Testing while continuing to execute and maintain steady growth in traditional services in application development and software QA.

Q7. Being a tech company, how are you driving innovation and R&D?
Ram Sukumar:
We ensure that the core of our focus is innovation and bring out many R&D driven cutting-edge solutions. Our IPs, teX.ai (AI driven text analytics solution) and uPhorix (a Smart Test Platform) are prime examples of our ‘continuous innovation culture’. With innovation at the core and customer-centricity defining us as a company, we constantly look to add value to our customers.

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