Growth takes time. But at times, it also takes tech.
Manifesting even a small change in the supply chain, can be a daunting task. So how does digitally transforming the supply chain look like? In this episode of Bizom’s Masters of Change: Conversations with Change Makers, Akskansha Neeraj, Head of Ecommerce and Digital Transformation at Shell India speaks with Prarabdh Mishra, Regional Sales head at Bizom to discuss what are the hardships and the benefits that a mature brand like Shell faces, while digitizing their route-to-market with data-driven retail tech.
Prarabdh – Alright, so our association obviously is very strong. Shell and Bizom go along a long way but what were you looking for in an RTM digitisation partner when you came across us?
Akanksha – Sure, so I think one was when we looked at the solution stack that you were able to provide. What we really felt was that even though you had solutions which you know FMCGs would have deployed, and I would you know very honestly say that FMCG organizations would be easily 4-5 years ahead of us in this journey. You definitely had those learnings from people who are experts in this space, so there was definitely something that we could repurpose from your learnings and deploy in our space. So, I think that was definitely there.
And the kind of solutions that you had and the understanding that the team brought in you know, not just from the digital perspective but from real market understanding, and you know what are the challenges that a value chain member whether it’s a distributor, whether it’s a distributor sales rep, whether its a retailer, he faces, and therefore building solutions that addresses their pain points. I think those were some of the things that we really, I would say that really worked in favour of Bizom and helped us really you know decide that it’s the right organization for us to partner with.
Prarabdh – For a global energy brand like Shell, what role digital transformation plays and how much emphasis is given to it?
Akanksha – Ok. So as part of the digital strategy for Royal Dutch Shell, which you know encompasses Shell’s businesses across, whether it’s upstream, downstream and whatever we are trying to do, across the globe, the way that the digital strategy has been defined is that, digital is going to play a role in either bringing in efficiencies in our current businesses and transforming them or using digital as a way to create new differentiated value propositions. And thirdly, it’s about using digital again as a way to create an alternate value stream and drive sustainable revenue.
Prarabdh – Interesting to know, my follow up question would be, what challenges did you have in leveraging technology for planned growth in an ever-changing market like India, before Bizom?
Akanksha – The foremost challenge, Prarabdh, I would say is that, if you were to look at Shell, it’s a traditional oil and gas company which is now transitioning, into being an energy player. Now if you look at ourselves versus much more tech enabled companies, I think one was the digital capability and understanding in terms of what is the role that technology can play in helping us drive our business objectives. So I think the foremost challenge was in terms of getting that buy-in from the leadership. And once that was there, having the right people, to find the right solutions that could help us solve our business problems.
Because initially, when we started on this journey, the focus was more on the solution, rather than the problem that we were trying to solve. And what we ended up doing was creating multiple platforms with data sitting everywhere, with data hygiene being at I would say you know less than 50%. And just focusing on the roll out and not really the value that the organization was trying to derive out of it. And that is the change that me, along with my team have been trying to bring in since the last two years, with the roll out of Bizom in our organization.
Prarabdh – Okay, so there is a bit of perception about change management being a lengthy and cumbersome process, how did you plan and execute your migration?
Akanksha – Ok, firstly I dont think it’s a perception, it is truth right. So in any digital transformation journey, the biggest roadblock or challenge that one has to face is around change management. Now how did we manage it? I would say we also learnt along the way. And if you would have seen my experience, I am no digital expert. I am a marketer, I understand business. But I have also relied on my team who are experts on this space and relied on partners like you to give me that understanding of the digital space.
So, how did we drive this change management was, always starting with the business objective, like I said right. Whosoever is the stakeholder that we are talking to, and it always starts I think I would say first with the sales team. And that’s the discussion we always have with them that you are our champions, you are our change agents. It’s not just the onus of the digital team to drive that change, you are the ones who are basically the face of our organization. If you are convinced, we are sure the channel partners will also be convinced. So I think one was in terms of really showing them the big picture, this is what we are trying to achieve. It’s not just about rolling out a distributor management system (DMS). It is about getting the insights, and having a data based meaningful conversation with your channel partners.
And of course, you’ll have a mortley crew. There will be all kinds of people. There will be early adopters, there will be laggards. And then you find people who are earlier apodters and then can be your ambassadors in that journey. And then you take them along in other conversations, when you are having with another region where you think it’s lagging behind, and you say, hey see, look at this account manager, he has been able to drive xyz change in his territory.
And similarly, you know when we are talking to the channel partner, we really worked hard and I would really commend Bizom team here. Because there were a lot of challenges, the initial teething issues right. How are you making sure that you are providing a seamless experience to the actual end user. Because we might have a vision that I am trying to achieve xyz, but if my distributor or my channel partner, or his agent you know who does the billing everyday is facing technical glitches, or he is not finding it very user friendly, it’s gonna fall flat.
So we really worked hard. I would say that initial 3-4 months just went in going distributor by distributor and understanding that is he comfortable with the new platform that we have built in. There were some changes, there were some improvements that we kept on doing and then we will go back to them and ask them are you happy with it now? And then again he’ll become my ambassador for the rest of the channel community. And I would say it’s a step by step process turning people into our ambassadors and using them to drive change with the rest of the community.
Prarabdh –Everyone believes Technology can facilitate growth but to actually do it is a different story. How did you happen to do it so well?
Akanksha – Ok, I am not sure whether I have done it so well or not and I am not a technology expert. But whatever little success that we have seen, I think the way me and my team have approached any technology solution is to first test it on three parameters:
First is, does this technology serve any business objective? You know, what is the needle that I am trying to move, what is the KPI that I will measure the success on? So I think that is one thing that has to be very clear and you know backed by a business case.
Second is, what is the customer pain point that I am addressing and how will he be better off after using this technology versus where he is today? Because if the customer says I was better off before using the technology then you know, it’s gonna fall flat right from day one.
And I think the third is, how friendly the platform is to the end user. Because there are organizations, you might have a vision, you might want to launch the best of the solutions. But till the time you don’t put yourselves in the shoes of the actual users, test the technology and see how easy or cumbersome it is, then I don’t think anything will help succeed that particular technology or solution. So I would say, these are the three parameters that we consistently test every new technology, every new innovative idea on and that’s the approach that we have been using and we would continue to use.
Prarabdh – So Digitization change takes a lot of effort. Organizations we work with, we take a lot of pride in the fact that we make this step, this phase easy for them. Anything you want to share with respect to our implementation and account management team?
Akanksha – Absolutely, I mean it’s been a fantastic support that the implementation team, the account management team has been providing and I would say it’s pretty much like an extended team. And we rely on your expertise rather than having so many people in-house. And I would say you have been like constant partners over the last two years in our digitization journey. It would not have been possible to reach where we are without your support. And even if I were to take an example, when we first launched, we rolled out Bizom with our indirect automotive channel which is very similar to the FMCG indirect channel. But then when we tried to replicate it for our industrial business, we realized that the software was more fit for purpose for the FMCG space and we had to a lot of improvisations because there was a lot of noise that started coming in from the B2B space.
That this is not the right software, you are trying to fit in an FMCG software. But I think the support that the Bizom team provided that, Ok we will make it happen right. Anything is possible, we do understand that we might have not done it for any other industrial business but we are happy to it for you. And there were a lot of developments, customizations that you made in that software to make sure that it works for the business that we were trying to roll it out in. And today we have reached a pretty healthy level of adoption in industrial business as well. So you know that’s just one of the examples, and you know the tele-DSR example that I gave you, in terms of you know proactively helping us. Even the One View one. So, when we started off the data visualization platform was very basic. And my team, Kanika, I would like to really highlight her name, because she really worked along with the Bizom team in updating and upgrading the whole visualization piece, so that it becomes very user friendly for my internal stakeholders. So I think the support has been fantastic and we look forward to that continued support as we move along in this journey.
Prarabdh – We’ve worked with a lot of organizations and we know that leaders today want a single source of truth, a real time view, which can help them take more informed decisions, can give them better clarity with respect to what is happening on the field. Any such thing you would like to talk about with respect to Shell India?
Akanksha – Absolutely, and I would say that is the role that Bizom is playing for us. Because like I said earlier right, in our initial journey there were multiple platforms where the data was not talking to each other, the data accuracy was very less, and even though there was a lot of data nobody was looking at it. The decisions was still based on gut, there were based on anecdotal evidences, there were based on, you know, who could wield more power over the another, and that is not really the right way to do business and I think that’s the role that Bizom has been able to play. The last two years, I think more than the roll out, one if of course the change management and moving from an earlier platform to the new platform. That was of course, there was one team that was dedicatedly working on it. But there was another work stream which was working on ensuring that the right data is there, the right dashboards are there and all the conversation is moving from excel based or anecdotal evidences, to a single source of truth.
So today, we have reached a level where in Shell we have a system of DILO (Day in the life of), WILO (Week in the life of) and MILO (Day in the life of). Its basically the reviews that we have. And today, we have reached a place in the indirect channel where DILOs, WILOs and MILOs are happening on Bizom. So whether its a conversation happening internally within the sales team or it is a conversation happening with the distributor, we just refer to one single source of truth. Not only that, even our distributor incentives and our entire sales variable pay is dependent on the Bizom data. So then, you can imagine the level of effort that has really gone, in terms of you know making it the ultimate source of truth for us.
Prarabdh – Akanksha, what changes in the lives of various stakeholders do you see because of the initiatives you have taken, ranging from distributors to maybe sales leadership?
Akanksha – Ok, So I will start with Shell, internally. So, for our channel team and our sales team the day starts with Bizom dashboards right. They’ll look at what is the YTD, MTD or you know, for that particular day what is the secondary performance – for their territory, for their distributor, for their DSR. And there could be different KPIs. We have also linked up the primary GSAP system to Bizom now. So we also see how the primary is getting converted into secondary. How many DSRs are there in the market. How many unbuilt outlets are there. So all of that information is something that my sales team is spending or starting their day with. And all the conversations, all the reviews are dependent on the Bizom data. So I think that’s a very significant change. If I go to the channel partner, my distributor right, because he invests a lot of money in having multiple DSRs. Earlier he had no visibility of the kind of productivity that his DSRs you know were able to produce in the market. Now the kind of visibility that he has, he even has real-time visibility right. At a particular point of time where is the DSR in the market? How much time is the particular DSR spending in the market? How many outlets is he covering? How many of them has he converted?
I will just give you a very interesting case study. So we started with a concept of SKILL-WILL matrix, which I think is followed in other markets, in other organizations as well. It is about really checking whether the DSR or the feet-on-street has the right SKILL and the right WILL. If he has the Right WILL he will cover more outlets, if he has the Right SKILL he will convert more outlets.
And then, we kind of created 2*2 matrix and we plotted our DSRs, and you could drill it down to any level. You could start at national view and you could drill it down to a distributor level, where are his DSRs in that 2*2 matrix. And depending on where they were, then our learning team or our network capability team would work with those DSRs in ensuring if it’s a SKILL problem then they will give them the right training. If it’s a WILL problem, we have to make sure that he has the right beat and right number of outlets stacked to him. So in the last one year, with this kind of focus, we’ve seen that, we have been able to reduce. So Quadrant 4, I would say, is the area that we have picked up, LOW SKILL, LOW WILL. And we have been able to bring it down by one-third. So most of those DSRs have now moved to Quadrant 1.
So that has you know kind of doubled. So this is just you know one interesting case study about how the Bizom data and the real time visibility of data has helped us in driving our productivity in the market.
Prarabdh – So COVID-19 hit everyone unprepared but few organizations like yours did very well with adapting to it. What steps did you take as a response to COVID-19?
Akanksha – So, I think when you know the first wave hit, and there was that draconian lockdown that everybody refers to, which I think was still required at that time. But nevertheless, the economy kind off completely plunged and everybody was stuck at home and you know that was like the worst period when you look at the business charts there was a complete dip. The DSRs were sitting at home, distributors were ready to lay off because they were not getting any revenues and then you know we had a connect with the Bizom team to understand how is it that other organizations are adapting to this and it was very interesting to see that you guys had introduced this tele-DSR functionality. Which was something which was very relevant for that particular point of time. And we turned it around I think quickly, within a month or within a week or so. Where we said that ok, all the DSRs who are sitting at home, the retailers are still there, don’t lose touch with your customers. Don’t let that gap of one or two months come in. Stay connected.
So earlier what they would do is, they may not have the mobile numbers of all the retailers. If they had, they’d use a notepad and then they’ll input into the Bizom SFA. It was getting very cumbersome. So we ensured that the tele-DSR functionality was a part of their regular beat. So the only difference was, rather then stepping out into the market they would start with their tele-DSR, they would know that these are the numbers that I have to call. It was pretty much like a virtual beat covering, which really helped us drive the coverage and stay connected with our customers. And we continued to use that in the second wave and even today. What we have done is, that there is a census that we did through which we were able to triple our universe in Bizom, and we ensured that every outlet was attached to a DSR. And then, since we have a limited DSRs and it was not possible to physically visit all the outlets because we had you know tripled the universe. We said, we are gonna augment the physical visits with the tele-DSRs. And what that really helped us in really achieving is, that our coverage has doubled. And in that coverage, 25% of that coverage is achieved through tele-DSRs. So what it really helps me is in building that pipeline, and then of course it then depends on the skill and the over all proposition that you are offering in terms of converting. So I would say, that was a very timely, agile and innovative introduction that we were able to do during Covid times.
Prarabdh – So Akanksha, you and your team have achieved quite a few things, what is one achievement you are really proud of?
Akanksha – If I would just pinpoint on one achievement, it would be that today, India has become a benchmark when it comes to any regional connects, when it comes to any global connects. Whatever we have done whether it’s in the space of data hygiene, whether it is in the space of digitizing our value chain, whether it is in the space of you know launching innovations like tele-DSRs or what we are trying to do with ARS, we are way ahead of it you know what other markets were doing or even thinking about. So this speed with which we are experimenting, we are learning, we are optimizing and also driving business results. That is something that I am really proud of.
I am really proud of my team for having given their 200%. For having that external focus. For ensuring that digital not just becomes a technology in itself but it becomes a solution to a problem. And that is something I am really proud of.
Prarabdh – Good to know. So I have just final question, What’s next for Shell India with respect to your sales transformation journey?
Akanksha – There is a lot more to achieve I would say. There’s a pyramid that you guys only had shared with us, in terms of digitization journey for organizations which starts from putting in the basics to assisted selling to you know inspired selling. I would say, right now we are in the basics and now, we wanna move into the assisted and the inspired selling part of it. Which is, now the adoption is there, what more can I do to assist my DSR in improving his productivity, in improving his coverage. Whether it is through using data based algorithms, whether it is through dynamic beat planning, whether it is through the merchandising solutions, you know, those are some of the things we would be focusing on.
Another interesting piece that we are piloting with you guys which is in the auto-replenishment space, that basis the secondary and the inventory level can we you know auto-replenish the orders. So I think those are some of the things that we will be moving into, which I would say will go into the assisted and the inspired selling part of it. But yeah, there is a long way to go.