There are a few common challenges which every start-up retailer would face initially. Firstly, they need to addressto find a niche for themselves as businesses today, must constantly innovate to cater to changing demands of their customers. Another challenge that they face is finding a cost-effective, scalable platform to address their business needs.
Innovative solutions from technology providerIBM has enabled next generation start-ups to solve the most complex problems. Speaking exclusively with Retailer,Seema Kumar, Country Leader, Developer Ecosystem & Startups, IBM said, “In retail and e-commerce, where customer satisfaction is imperative, be it interaction or personalization, there are a lot of start-ups trying to achieve it. They have just one question “How can my organization make a difference?”
Going further she informed that IBM is an enabler, “We aim to be the technology partner providing access to new age technologies like Cloud and Cognitive. We also provide mentorship ideal for start-ups who require versatile solutions to address new challenges, without compromising on performance capabilities. Today everything with startups is done on the cloud, for both technological and financial reasons. We enable them in making the right choices by helping them design and scale their operations. Therein lies our expertise. We are constantly working with start-ups from various domains including retail and e-commerce and helping them align and transform their go-to-market strategy, be it through the cloud or cognitive technologies.”
IBM has worked with over thousand startups and in India across various sectors including retail and e-commerce. The company has been committed to supporting startups and enabling a strong ecosystem for the retail and e-commerce enterprises.
Moreover, Startups less than five years old, get an opportunity to enroll themselves as part of the IBM global entrepreneur program, “We provide IBM Cloud credits worth USD $12,000 for a year and they also get access to IBM Watson APIs on Bluemix. Once the credit is over, we work with them to understand their use case and the cost model varies from customer to customer depending on their consumption of IBM technology,” informed Kumar.
Going further she informed, “We have scaled our program at many levels for startups in India. Over and above the IBM Global Entrepreneur program and our Smartcamps, we help startups in their go-to market strategy, help them connect with our enterprise clients to look at ways of co-innovation to address our enterprise client requirements. We also offer Design thinking workshops, cognitive workshops to help startups in building their business. From a technology perspective, we now offer dozens of Watson services available on the IBM Watson Developer Cloud on Bluemix, and the number of services continues to grow. These services are powered by over 50 underlying technologies that allow innovators to discover, explore and create a new class of applications and businesses fueled by Watson.”
Start-up retailer 99RetailStreet has deployed IBM solution to scale-up its business. Let's hear from the CEO of the company.
In an exclusive conversation with Alok Jayant, CEO, 99 RetailStreet highlighted how IBM solutions helped him. Excerpts:
What was the biggest challenge you faced when you were starting the business? Give us a brief about your business?
99RetailStreet is a Common Commerce Platform on Cloud targeted at the large unorganized retail segment (more than 90% of Retail business in the Indian Subcontinent) comprising of “Kiranas”, Pharmacies and other consumer facing retail businesses in developing markets. The 4 Key components of the solution include–
Point of Sales Solution for Retailer
- Real Time Analytics for the Manufacturers & Ecosystem Partners such as Mobile Service Providers, Wallets, Banks, Debit/ Credit Cards & Payment Gateway, etc.
- In-Store Advertisements, Promotions & Loyalty Solutions
- Technology Platform for Unorganized Retailers and its Ecosystem partners such as Mobile Service Providers, Telecom Service Providers, Banks, Credit/ Debit Card & Payment Gateway Solutions, Mobile Wallets, etc. It also connects the Retailer to the Manufacturer, and the Distributor & Sub-Distributors
How did you come to know about IBM solutions? How these solutions have helped in transforming your business?
We wanted to build the solution on an in-memory cloud platform. There were a few criteria we had in mind while evaluating a platform and we did evaluate different platforms. We found IBM Bluemix a great fit for what we wanted to do and achieve these were certain criteria we used during our evaluation.
For a solution like this, we felt the need to partner with the best and most flexible platform that would be able to handle massive loads, have strong processing capabilities as well as built in intelligence. We found IBM Bluemix, with its BLU in-memory acceleration, in-data predictive analytics with built-in Netezza algorithms- and where everything is offered as a service- provided an ideal platform for us to be able to deliver the in-depth analytics and solutions that our customers are looking for.
We were not looking for freeware solutions or any shortcuts. We were clear that we want a platform which is highly secure, which offers products as services that we can pick and choose, and which are integrated on the platform.
IBM cloud platform enables us to offer our products and services integrated in their IBM Bluemix offering. This enables us to deliver a very integrated solution and helps us focus our efforts on what we do best- build a solution that covers the needs of the unorganized retail world.
We also wanted to ensure that we partnered with a company which could support its products. This was crucial because if there was any product issue, we knew we could work directly with the principal to ensure that the platform was supported at all times, 24x7.
We wanted to have following components to start:
· In Memory Database – DashDb fitted in as we wanted a highly secure, robust in-memory database
· Netezza Algorithms and IBM Predictive Analytics for providing cutting edge analytics to our customers
· Mails send and receive across the platform – SendGrid fitted in
· Object Repository for File storage
· GitHub – bundled services helping to ensure code control and version management
· Work scheduler – For getting batch jobs scheduled across the application
· And many more we have added up during our journey
We are one of the most extensive users of the entire IBM Bluemix Stack. Our partnership with IBM for Bluemix- and our planned tie-up for IBM Watson with its ability to even analyze unstructured data and understand complex questions - enables our platform to provide an amazing and unique analytics experience with fully automated intelligence.
Today we have a built a platform which supports our POS solution at the store, integrated back into the cloud. The solution is robust enough to be able to do 50 K transactions at the store to cloud on a monthly basis with a capability to get to 300 K to 400 transactions happening monthly.
We in 99RetailStreet feel proud to partner IBM for a key reason – “IBM BlueMix is a robust integrated platform with an inbuilt services model, which helps start-ups to enhance and concentrate on business and not worry about the technology issues.”