Fevicol ka Jod with Digitization
Bharat Puri, Managing Director, Pidilite Industries
How do you think some of the emerging technologies such as AI, Blockchain, IoT can transform chemical industry in India?
We live in exciting times from a technology point of view and all these technologies in their own way will impact chemical industry – not just in India but across the world. Instead of approaching this question as what can AI do or what can Blockchain do, my belief is that we must approach usage of these technologies from a “business-out” perspective rather than a “technology-in” perspective. We must be clear on what are critical business problems we want to solve and therefore only from a solutioning point of view, look for which of these available technologies can help. These technologies together, will rapidly and disruptively alter a lot of our current sales & marketing processes, as well as manufacturing and supply chain paradigms. They will also end up changing some of our R&D efforts and create increasingly rapid changes in the chemical industry.
At a very broad level, we can expect these to play out over three different dimensions:
Increase in availability of data and better analytics capability leading to targeted issue resolution – which will have applications across areas right from raw material production/ procurement to manufacturing and distribution all the way on to sales and customer service. It will also create remarkably improved customer “awareness” across the industry. It will also increase in the pace of innovation, decrease the time needed for new products and services’ creation and force us to manage customer lifecycles much more efficiently than what we do today.
Skills required by employees to manage operations, teams and transactions will move away from “managing the routine” to making decisions on exceptions and softer aspects of management which are much more judgement based and less rule based.
Fundamental disruptions in routes to market are also likely with the creation of new ecosystem of organizations that work with each other in a way that we may not necessarily understand or appreciate now.
You have often highlighted your growth mix strategy of 2/3rd grow the core and 1/3rd innovate. Tell us more about this mantra and how have you gone about driving innovation at Pidilite?
We believe that innovation is one of the key skills in Pidilite that has helped us become who we are and preserving this DNA is accepted as a critical part of our continued success.
In Pidilite, we have set ourselves a goal that 1/3rd of all incremental revenue should come from innovation. We have put in place Pi2M (Pidilite innovation to market) – a process with clear stage-gates and every single idea that is created anywhere in the organization, has to pass through this process before it becomes a reality in the market. It ensures that we have sufficient visibility not just of what we will produce and bring to market today but also in the future. This process is however only one of the aspects and a lot of its success depends on our ability as an organization to engage with our users and influencers in the market and continue to generate actionable insights based on what they need. This behavior is encouraged across levels and heavily incentivized.
In parallel, we have continued to increase our R&D spend over the past few years and will continue to do that. We have tie-ups with the “global best” in our fields and we will continue to build these partnerships with leading institutions and experts. We are also in the process of setting up and incubating various businesses in what we call “pioneer” categories. These are categories where Pidilite has a clear “right-to-win” and we believe in the long-term potential of the category.
How has the digitization experience been for Pidilite?
Pidilite has used digital technology to connect extensively and deeply with its stakeholders and the pace of digital connect has increased in the last couple of years. We have been one of the first Indian companies to have launched Facebook@work (now called @workplace by Facebook) successfully. We use @workplace to share new ideas, connect with the field and celebrate achievements. Our brand loyalty programs are digitized now, thus making the field programs more effective and increasing satisfaction of our end-users with our brands. With few selected and relevant brands, our e-commerce foray is beginning to show very encouraging results. Last but not the least, the social media programs of our brands have taken a big leap by activating all our digital assets and significantly increasing our reach & engagement. This is evident across our relaunched websites – Corporate, Fevicol, to name a few and social media assets of Fevicol, Fevikwik, Fevicryl and Dr. Fixit. But the key to accelerate this is continuous awareness and training of our people on digital and our emphasis has been on getting as many people as possible in the digital stream within the organization.
How do you weigh the pros and cons of investments in digitizing supply chain?
The purpose of any robust supply chain system is to deliver the product to the consumer at the right time and place at the optimal cost. Digitization of the supply chain definitely adds value by providing insights which can be used to improving these objectives. Comparing the costs vis-à-vis the benefits, the investment will definitely provide better returns in terms of better service levels to the customer and higher availability of the product. But, any investment in digitizing supply chain needs to be evaluated from a long term perspective and the digitisation drive needs to take into account the business specific needs of the organisation.
What have been your big challenges in digitizing financial supply chain and how have you overcome these challenges?
Supply chain initiatives are always complex to implement, as Pidilite operates in multiple distribution channels, customer types and business models. The key to digitizing financial supply chain is to develop a tool that is so simple yet providing relevant insights in a timely manner. We endeavour to overcome these challenges at Pidilite by working closely on the ground, understanding every aspect of internal and external customer needs and implementing a robust system.