December 13, 2012



As part of quiz series OPEP Club IIM Raipur organised an Operations Quiz on 30 August 2012 at Raipur campus. Students from 1st year and 2nd year participated in the event. The event got overwhelming response. More than 20 teams participated in event.

November 27, 2012


Strive, the biannual publication from OPEP (the Operations and Supply Chain Club of IIM Raipur), was launched on 24th of November, 2012, by Prof. B S Sahay, Director, IIM Raipur; Prof. Sanjeev Prashar, Chairman (Placement & Corporate Communication) IIM Raipur; Mr. Abraham Ranji, Director – HR, Delphi, along with other dignitaries during the Management Confluence 2012.

The first issue of the second volume of Strive magazine is a special issue on Manufacturing. Strive, was initiated last year to create a platform where experts from academia as well as industry and corporate world could contribute their views, opinions and experiences about the contemporary issues and challenges in the field of Operations and Supply Chain Management. It also represents an opportunity for the students of IIM Raipur to voice their interests, views and relevant experiences.

The main features of this publication include articles on Taguchi’s Design of Experiment by Prof. Maddulety, NITIE, Operations strategy by Dr. Dinesh Likhi, Director (Production and Marketing) and Member, Board, in Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited and the views of Mr. Jawaharlal Aggarwal, Vice President (Projects), Danieli India Ltd., on project management in the steel industry.

From left: Prof. B S Sahay, the Director of IIM Raipur; Mr. Abraham Ranji, Director – HR, Delphi; Prof. Sanjeev Prashar, Chairman (Placement & Corporate Communication); Subhash Kumar, PGP 1st year student

The publication also includes articles written by students about some of the contemporary issues in the manufacturing sector – ‘National Manufacturing Policy’- discusses the new manufacturing policy of the country. ‘Dark ages of Manufacturing’ discusses the challenges that stand in the way of the growth of the sector.

The emerging areas presented in the magazine are the impact of FDI on the manufacturing sector, the column Gurumantra which explains Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) and a debate on the importance of having a significant manufacturing base in an economy. Also included in the publication are the summer internship experiences shared by 2nd year PGP students of IIM Raipur, a book review of “The Toyota Way” and a brief account of a visit to Bhilai Steel Plant by IIM Raipur students.

The launch of the magazine was part of the Management confluence 2012, organized by the Indian Institute of Management Raipur. The efforts of the club in contributing to the sharing of knowledge on fields related to Operations and Supply Chain Management and bringing together the various aspects of and challenges in the Manufacturing sector were appreciated by Prof. Sahay, faculty and the dignitaries who were present on the occasion.

The magazine will now be available for students of all B-schools across India and abroad and also for industry-relevant professionals.

November 24, 2012


What is common amongst  P&G, HUL, Dominos, EBAY, Flip kart, & our local newspaper delivery person?

It is the constant struggle and innovation that they have to do in order to ensure an efficient last mile delivery of their product at the customer’s doorstep. For any company it is very important to deliver its product economically, timely, reliably and efficiently to maintain an edge in the market. But distribution in India is not an easy job. The geographical diversity, inconsistent infrastructure and low at par transport facilities form major challenges for a company to plan its distribution network. Moreover there is a multi-layered distribution system in India comprising of number of middlemen which increase the cost as well as time of delivery.
Another problem is that there are a large number of fragmented and unorganized shops all around the country which add up to the complexities of the distribution network. Also due to the lack of proper communication system, the companies are unable to keep a proper track of stock movement which many times leads to unavailability of the product when the customers require it.
The TV channels have to rely on a number of cable operators around the country, the pharmaceutical companies have to rely on large number of stockist's, semi stockist’s retailers and distributors to avoid the non availability of the medicine which is critical in this industry. During a recent analysts call, Apple's Tim Cook cited India's multi-layered distribution as the main reason for his company's small share of the market. The delivery of fresh vegetables to the market depends heavily  on the middlemen in mandis and any delay in the transportation leads to a whole lot of wastage.

Recently a report by research firm McKinsey & Company said that the Indian demographic will go through significant changes which would drive unique supply chain complexities. Research by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that by 2030, there will be 68 cities, each with population greater than one million (up from 42 cities in 2008). This is nearly 60 per cent growth over two decades. Cities will cater to a significantly large population. By 2030, around 590 million people will live in Indian cities, and around 200 million rural Indian living in the proximity of cities will depend on cities for growth. By 2030, the per capita disposable income in urban India is expected to grow four-fold. Around 100 million households will move up to the middle class. This is based on annual income between Rs. 2 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh.
The above report points to the growing demand and huge untapped market in India which is a major opportunity for the companies but this also means a bigger challenge in coming up with innovative supply chain solutions for the increasing distribution complexities. Mckinsey suggested that the companies should focus on channel innovation, consumer differentiation, volatility, near shoring and talent scarcity. Also one can learn from how Tupperware has carefully used the agents and women social groups to directly reach the customers. Another strategy that companies can look for is associating with the existing distribution channel as P&G did when it entered the Indian market by associating with the Godrej. Complex products or services may require setting up a complete channel including systems integration as Husk Power Systems used a “micro-franchising model” to supply equipment and training to local entrepreneurs to set up and operate village power-systems in India.
One of the most interesting innovations in the area of the last mile delivery is the impeccable delivery system of the Mumbai Dabbawallas. The Mumbai dabbawalla with six sigma certificate have been delivering around 200000 lunches daily without any error for a long time. The secret behind their efficient and robust system lies in the use of the existing train network and cycles.

Third-party logistics providers have a significant role in optimising the supply chain performance and costs where standalone supply chains cannot be economical and fruitful partnerships cannot be created. Services like logistics, delivery & payment collections and referral services, which are often complementary to online transactions, have become crucial for the e-commerce industry as portals jostle for more clicks in a crowded space. For instance, when 22-year old Aadhar Aggarwal opened an online grocery store, he realised that it was the logistics part of the business that was becoming a challenge. This led him to start, a last mile logistics firm that specialises in delivering the product at the customer's doorstep. Cash-on-delivery has become an important option for a lot of online buyers. Newbie firms like Hyderabad-based Gharpay are betting big on the growing need for cash collection firms.
About the Author:
The author of this article is Pulak Jain. She is a first year PGP student at IIM Raipur. She graduated in Electronics and Communications Engineering from IGIT,GGSIPU Delhi. Her interests include
reading fiction and philosophy. She can be reached at

October 29, 2012

Future Supply Chains: on Cloud Nine with Cloud Computing

Last month, Pfizer, one of the major global pharmaceutical giants, completed transforming its complex and sensitive supply chain into a robust, more efficient and well-insulated one by moving it to “the cloud”. Needless to say, Pfizer isn’t the first company to do it. Philips, DHL, Nestle and Hewlett Packard are some of the other organizations who are already enjoying the fruits of mounting their respective supply chains on “the cloud”, and many more are likely to follow suit.

Let’s start by understanding the definition of cloud computing or “the cloud”. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), U.S. Department of Commerce, defines cloud computing as follows:
“Cloud computing is a model for enabling ubiquitous, convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction.”

The above definition is a brief, but somewhat exhaustive description in itself about the underlying benefits and attributes of this technology. It is widely believed that cloud computing could be the answer to the following woes of the modern supply chains:
1. Increasing Complexity: Globalization and internet have made it possible for organizations to build huge, global supply chains. But to manage them is a whole different game. And as these networks get more complicated and bulky, they might even fail to meet the very purpose they were built for. “The cloud” enables seamless sharing of information between the many partners (vendors, suppliers, buyers etc.), hence allowing them to function in sync with each other and take quick decisions to maximize profitability and efficiency of the whole supply chain.
2. High Set Up Costs: Cloud computing allows one to do away with the otherwise essential expenses - procurement of expensive software, building and maintaining infrastructure and hiring people to operate the system. So it is much cheaper and easier to set up. Besides, it allows the popular “pay as you use” model. All of this while providing any time access to the services.
3. Problems with Legacy Apps: The traditional on-premise enterprise software solutions are called legacy applications. Though in many cases, they might be good enough to handle the supply chain challenges at the present, the pace of change is high in this field. And upgrading legacy apps can be very tedious. Modern cloud based solutions are built to be highly configurable and adaptable in anticipation of rapid changes in the business.
4. Rising Competition: The famous adage “Organizations don’t compete, supply chains do” could have never been more correct. Since cloud computing is known to enhance the efficiency and productivity of the supply chain, it provides a significant edge over the competition. It has already been established that this technology will only accelerate the speed with which new products and service reach the markets.
5. Low Flexibility: Each organization or business has its own requirements that it expects its supply chain to meet. Going back to the case of Pfizer, it is worth mentioning that the company competes in two distinct drug markets – “patented” and “generic”. While the former calls for speedy and agile delivery strategies, even at higher costs, eg. overnight air delivery, the latter favours highly optimized logistics and tight control over inventory. Cloud computing ensures that the supply chain is flexible and adaptable enough to cater to such varied needs of the organization.

Now that we have listed almost all the benefits that come with “the cloud”, a few words of caution wouldn’t hurt.
1. Implementing cloud technology might require a lot of time (Pfizer took 18 months). More importantly, the decision to go for it usually involves several partners in the supply chain, which makes it vulnerable to even minor conflicts between these parties.
2. It should not be taken for granted that cloud computing would fit all the requirements of any supply chain or organization. Meticulous research is advisable.
3. Security of data could be a problem in cloud-based supply chain. This factor has gained even more prominence with some recent events which indicate the importance of securing one’s intellectual property.

In conclusion, it can be said that for most organizations, switching to cloud-based supply chain is a matter of “when” rather than “if”.


This article has been written by Akshay Agarwal. He is a PGP student of Indian Institute of Management, Raipur and has done his B.Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. He can be reached at

October 27, 2012

Experience : Industrial visit to Bhilai Steel Plant

Industrial visit to Bhilai Steel Plant, a Government of India undertaking had been organized by OPEP club of Indian Institute of Management Raipur on 18th Oct’12. A batch of 57 students, 55 from Post Graduate program and 2 from Fellowship program participated in the industrial visit. It was a great opportunity for all of us to gain knowledge about the technical and managerial work flow and operations of manufacturing industry.
Bhilai Steel Plant is one of the largest producers of Steel rails in the country with annual production capacity of 3.153 MT of saleable steel. It was established in 1955, with the collaboration of India and Russia. The main consideration of setting up the plant in Bhilai is because of the easy availability of Iron ore near the city. The Iron ore of BSP comes from 3 mines, Dalli Rajhara, Nandini and Hirri.
In the industrial visit we were accompanied by  Mr. Panna lal, to be with the students and explain the processes, and functioning of the departments. First department which we came across was Rail & Structural Mill, we were explained how raw material is converted in to the rails of various length. The set up of the process was autonomous and so well designed that it was self illustrative in itself. We saw the complete production line of the rails and also the raw material and finished goods inventory. The other products manufactured in this department were angle, rods and TMT bars.
Then we headed to Blast Furnace, there were 6 Blast Furnaces. It was a fantasy to watch hot sparkling metal flowing and getting collected into a container. It was amazing to witness the performance of those tough and automatic processes, one needs to appreciate the human precision and brain who have designed them, which made all the complex process simple and perfect.  The next department in line was coke oven, where we saw how COKE is prepared, which is the input for the blast furnace and the purest form of coal. Apart from these we also visited Merchant Mill, Wire Rod Mill, Steel Melting Shops and Plate Mill.
The industrial tour was concluded by the warm and energetic interaction with the DGM-HRD Mr. TCS Prasad, who had promptly arranged all the necessities for the tour. We also thanked Mr. Prasad for his support to make the trip as educative as possible.
I am very thankful to all the members of the OPEP club for organizing and streamlining the very educative and exhaustive industrial visit for us.

The article has been contributed by Namrata Sharma, who is presently a first year Fellowship student at IIM Raipur. She can be reached at

October 22, 2012


On Thursday, the 18th of October, 57 students of PGP 2012-14 batch of Indian Institute of Management Raipur visited Bhilai Steel Plant, the flagship unit of Steel Authority of India Limited. This plant is popularly known for being the sole supplier of the country's longest rail tracks of 260 meters.
Bhilai Steel Plant is located about 35 km from  Raipur,the capital city of Chhatisgarh, and is one of the major producers of steel plates, wire rods and other structural parts.
The students had the opportunity of visiting four main sections of the plant namely the rail and structural mill, the blast furnace, the plate mill and the coke ovens. 
The seven different products from the rail and structural mill are used by the Indian Railways and various other companies in the business of construction equipment development. In the Plate Mill, heavy and medium plates are rolled out, using continuously cast slabs as input.  It was a new experience for the students to find the automated process of heating the steel, converting it into plates and then cooling it for the purpose of quenching and stress relieving. The plates produced here are widely used in the defense sector and ship building processes.
After this the group headed to the Blast Furnace shop and had the opportunity to watch the hot sparkling metal (Pig Iron) flowing and getting collected into containers. There are 6 furnaces in the plant.
The students also visited Coke Oven area where coke is produced, which is the input for the blast furnace and the purest form of coal. From there the group also had the opportunity to visit Merchant Mill, Wire Rod Mill, Steel Melting Shops and Sintering Plant.
The team was accompanied by officer from BSP, Mr. Panna Lal, who provided various insights regarding production of different type of steel products beginning from the processing of iron ore. The session that came to an end with a vote of thanks turned out to be well coordinated. All in all it was a great learning experience – an opportunity to gain knowledge about the technical and managerial work flow and operations of a large manufacturing firm.

October 15, 2012

An Insight into Apple's Supply chain

Agility or the ability to respond quickly and effectively to market demands has become an important competitive tool in the manufacturing industry. Companies that deploy global sourcing strategies need to balance the monetary benefits against the limitations of off shore productions. Improving supply chain performance is a key to achieving this, and the improvement largely depends upon the degree to which uncertainty can be reduced in the supply chain. As the industry saying goes "A dollar saved in the Supply Chain is worth 10 in the books". Supply chain management is one of the most important element in any business. And if you are the world's biggest company, it is all the more daunting. Apple has forever been known for its innovative products and awe inspiring designs but one factor that differentiates Apple in terms of services is their supply chain know-how.

Operations expertise is as big an asset for Apple as product innovation or marketing. Apple's new CEO Tim Cook may not be Steve Jobs when it comes to stunning the world with product launches or marketing campaigns, but he excels in the unglamorous but certainly essential task of managing a supply chain. Apple's operational efficiency can be affirmed by this example. When Apple's design master Jonathan Iverealized that the new MacBook should have a green light beside the webcam to indicate when it is turned on, the manufacturing team deemed it near impossible as it was not possible to shine light through a metal and they did not have equipment to drill such a small hole into the aluminum. To conquer this problem, Apple bought laser equipment from a U.S based company at $250,000 each machine (of course with an exclusivity agreement!) This shows the amount of dedication for the supply chain at Apple for something so small and hardly ever noticed by the customer. Apple's success has been credited to their ability to look from a user point of view and then work the supply chain backwards.

Apple is a very American company in many respects. But, their supplier management is more reminiscent of the Japanese way of doing business. Apple has built a closed ecosystem where it exerts control over nearly every piece of the supply chain, from design to retail store. This coupled with the volumes Apple operates today, brings in a ruthless cost efficiency which results in astonishing profit margins that competitors can only aspire to reach. When iPods sales were at a peak in the early 2000s Apple started shipping directly to the customer from their Chinese manufacturing factories, thereby reducing heavy logistics and airfreight costs. In their retail operations, teams are given the go ahead to spend what ever is required to get around a bottleneck of not availability or defective items.

Weeks before the famed Apple product launches, key part manufacturers and assembling units work overtime to meet the announced date of delivery. To see through that before launch there are no fallacies in their secrecy Apple places electronic monitors in few boxes of parts that allow observers in Cupertino to track them through Chinese factories, an effort meant to discourage leaks. Manufacturing is where Apple really flexes its financial muscle to deal with suppliers. They select their suppliers through a very stringent process, which even requires them to declare the profit margin that they acquire by this agreement. Apple's bargaining tactics coupled with their financial muscle allows them to consume all of the supplier effort and concentration that rival companies' wait time for key parts is increased massively. Before the release of the iPhone 4 in 2010 many of mobile manufacturers were not in a position to source their requirement of screens, as most of the screen manufacturers were busy fulfilling their Apple contracts.

But Apple is not all about the pie, there is a dark side to the story too. Data suggests that 3% of supply chain workforce was putting more than 60 hours a week into assembling Apple products at Foxconn, China. Apple has been criticized for the appalling working conditions and army style discipline at the plant. Although these were actually better than many of the other plants in China and most of the multi-national manufacturing operates in these conditions in other parts of the country, Apple has been made a lightning rod for the issue given its reputation as the world's largest company. Responding to this criticism Apple announced a wage increase of 25% for workers at Foxconn and also declared that it will be increasing the staff from 500,000 to 800,000.

With such efficiency in the supply chain, Apple is able to earn huge profit of upto 40% while positioning at a similar price range as the competitors, who earn far lesser profit margins. With operations experts like Tim Cook at the helm as CEO and with over $100 billion dollars in cash reserves with continuous investment into operational efficiency, things are looking brighter than ever in the supply chain at One Infinite Loop. This emphasis on efficiency is set to keep Apple poised at the zenith of technology industry for a long time.

And yes we agree with Tim Cook, nobody wants to buy sour milk.


The article has been contributed by Varun Bora, who is presently a first year PGP student at IIM Raipur.  His areas of interest include adventurous sports & technology.  He can be reached at

September 29, 2012

5S in Manufacturing

A work place organization method, developed to, create a comfortable working environment, increase productivity and efficiency and reduce waste. It is typically the first lean method, which also provided foundation on which other lean methods – six sigma, cellular manufacturing, just-in-time production, etc. were introduced.

The 5S methodology which originated in Japan, is based on the notion that the foundation of a good production system is a clean and safe work environment. The 5S – Seiri, Seiton, Seiso, Seiketsu and Shitsuke are translated from Japanese language to the closest English equivalents - Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. Apart from the 5S’s, three other S’s are sometimes included – Safety, Security and Satisfaction. 
SORT – (seiri)
Organizing the work area, by keeping only the essential tools and materials to perform the required task, so as to increase the product quality and productivity. Sorting also helps reclaim valuable floor space. “Red tagging” is one effective visual method used for sorting (Red-tagged items are those not important to perform the required task).
SET IN ORDER – (seiton)
Systematically arranging necessary objects to eliminate waste in production and clerical activities. Placards to designate proper storage locations, outlining work areas are few of the strategies for effective set in order.
SHINE – (seiso)
Maintaining clean and well swept work area, which is safer and mess-free. Potential problems caused by any sources of contamination can be easily identified and rectified, by developing standards and norms for cleanliness.
STANDARDIZE – (seiketsu)
Developing and formulizing standard operating procedures for carrying out tasks and procedures. Orderliness is the core of “standardization”. The most widely used tools to standardize the practices are job cycle charts and visual cues.
SUSTAIN – (shitsuke)
It is the one that keeps the first four S’s going and perhaps is the most difficult S to implement. The prerequisites for sustaining the 5S cycle - Imparting the necessary training, encouraging workers to properly maintain and continuously improve operating procedures and the workplace environment.

5S – Its application at a manufacturing company – Toyota
Toyota was the first company to implement 5S and the main objectives to adopt 5S were to facilitate team work, eliminate wastes that contribute to errors, defects and injuries. The company had implemented 5S by imparting the necessary training to the workforce from the shop floor to the management and rewarded to encourage them, to maintain and continuously improve operating procedures.
5S being one of the important principles of Toyota company, helped it achieve high performance that continues to add value to customers.
Though 5S is a system designed to build a work ethic that is practical, efficient and highly disciplined, it has a few potential short comings like increased use of paints and cleaning supplies, increased waste generation leading to complications in waste handling. However, the advantages of 5S far outweigh the disadvantages. 
The article has been contributed by Sujitha Tikka, who is presently a first year PGP student at IIM Raipur. She has worked with Aarvee Associates architects engineers & Consultant Pvt Ltd for 25 months. Her areas of interest include Supply chain management & logistics.She can be reached at
The 14 Principles of the Toyota Way: An Executive Summary of the Culture behind TPS

September 19, 2012

Impact of FDI in Retail: A 360-Degree View

There is whole lot of mayhem about FDI in retail ever since it knocked the doors of Indian Economy. The mere word “FDI” has haunted the corridors of parliament, big retail outlets, mom n pop store owners, the middle men and even the end consumers. The arguments citing the advantages of FDI in retail mostly revolve around the following:
  • Improvement in Retail capability building
  • Improvement in management of supply chain
  • Push to productivity
With the recent development in this context, it is very much essential to analyse the impact of FDI in retail without any bias. To cut the long story short:

What is FDI in Retail?

Now after all this media show, let’s try to figure out how it will affect entities across the supply chain.

Single Brand Retail: FDI investment till now was 0.03 % (INR 204 Cr) of total FDI investment from April 2000 to September 2011. This relaxation will increase FDI in retail sector through the entrance of new players (Foreign or Domestic), increase or buy outs in stake, M&A amongst existing single brand retailers, Joint ventures with foreign and existing players.
There will be sourcing norm of only 30% from local sources. This will lead to lower procurement locally. So MSME sector will lose but the luxury retail market will witness growth. This will surely lead to outflow of money from India. Growth in luxury retail market and low or no growth in MSME sector will lead to negligible employment generation.
Possibly, there will be changes in existing licensing/ distributor/ franchise arrangements being converted into joint ventures or complete buy out by foreign entrants.

Multi brand Retail: FDI here will lead to increased investments and growth in Indian retail sector. In this case too, new JV’s and M&A will be seen. Tactics of buying stakes or complete buyout will be played. This should provide options for existing Indian retail companies to raise long term capital for expansion.

This financial inflow will lead to development of retail infrastructure and value addition to the existing supply chain. The sector will see investment in setting up supply chain mechanism, transport infrastructure, cold storage, technology etc. This will directly enhance the operational efficiency of the entire supply chain.

Agriculture: The farmers/producers will be benefitted as they will get better price for their produce. Although the buy will be completely based on bulk buy i.e. entire stock based on quality. This means if the company decides to purchase only the quality produce then the not so good produce will find its way to local market (if it exists) or in garbage. Either way the farmer/producer will get paid for the quality produce. This in turn will encourage farmers/producer to improve their existing ways of farming/production. Again this will require investment in technology. 
Companies may go for contract farming and this again will lead to improvement in the method of farming by introduction of better seeds, better fertilizers, new farming equipment etc. provided by the companies.

FDI in retail to benefit the farmers & consumers

Middlemen: Another very visible impact will be the eradication of middlemen from the supply chain. It is usually believed that this would lead to lesser exploitation of the farmers/ producers and at the same time competitive process for the end consumers. But at the same time, the big retail brings in new breed of middlemen- quality controller, standardiser, certification agency, processor, packaging consultants etc. It is these middlemen who would now take their share from the farmers’ profits and the consumers’ savings.
Thus, it is premature to comment on how much the farmers and end consumers will gain out of this elimination of traditional middlemen and introduction of the new middlemen.

Employment: the Indian retail market is estimated to be around $ 400 billion with more than 12 million retailers employing 40 million people. A contrasting picture will be seen as the small retailers, “Kirana shops”, departmental stores etc. will find a tough time to compete or even exist in such scenario. In such scenario, the landless farmers or labours that turned into small time retailers will be worst hit. Government will have to face the question of how to compensate for their loss. This problem will further get intense considering the very low employability of such landless farmers/laborers
Another viewpoint is that the damage will not be so extensive as the big retailers will operate in the outskirts or in a very few locations in any city or town and the “Kirana shops” will co-exist in the interiors. In any of the cases, the sheer magnitude of impact to society will be intolerable.

What Retailers Think

Role of State government: As clarified by the central government, it will be on the state governments whether or not to allow multi-brand FDI in the respective state. But India, being a signatory to Bilateral Investment promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPAs), has to provide national treatment to the foreign investors. The fact that such agreements have been signed with more than 70 countries will certainly force the state governments to open up for big retailers.
It will be interesting to see the regulation norms set by the state governments as it will clearly guide the extent of FDI in their respective states. One thing is for sure that State government will be able to get more revenues by keeping FDI in place. But how that increased revenue will justify the lost livelihood of millions of people or what steps will the government take to minimize this loss.

India Speaks about FDI in Retail

Consumers: The consumer in this entire exercise will be delighted with increased number of choices, better quality and decreased prices due to tougher competition in the retail sector. But clearly the winners will be the foreign players who will able to make attractive market share and profits. The tale of FDI in retail sector may lead to monopolistic behaviour of retail players once the small time competitors are eliminated from the market.

This article has been contributed by Harish Verma, who is presently a second year PGP student of IIM Raipur. He has worked with Essar Power Ltd. for 19 months. His areas of interest include project management, supply chain management & customer service. He can be reached at

September 14, 2012

Effect of Retail Channel Integration through use of IT

Most of the retailers now offer consumers with different channels to buy products. Consumers can buy products through traditional stores, online, mobile, call centres, kiosks etc. However these multiple channels have less integration with each other .For example, consumers dealing with the same organisation will find different pricing, inventories and policies depending on the channel being used. Moreover, the customer service personnel in the physical store may not be knowledgeable about the “in -store payment for online orders”, “in-store returns of online orders”, “online gift cards” etc for products brought through online. Since there is less integration with different channels, a consumer cannot pick the product from physical store which he/she has ordered through ecommerce site. These are the main issues faced by a consumer today due to lack of transparency between different channels within an organization. So it is the need of the retailers to provide consumer with cross-channel convenience.

IT is becoming one of the critical resources in multi channel service operations management as it provide share ability and reusability of information which is  necessary for business process integration. So it is important for the multi channel retailers to use IT effectively in integrating their activities. With retail chain integration, companies can provide advertising and publicity of one channel through another channel. This will encourage customers of one channel to use the others, and increase awareness of the different channels .For example, the physical store can be used as an advertising medium for the Website through brochures, receipts, carrying bags and posters. Likewise, the Website can provide contact information about the physical stores and announce in-store promotions.

 Some of the other major effects of retail channel integration through IT are as follows.

1. Offering customers to choose their preferred channel to buy and complete their purchases. In South Korea, Tesco’s Home Plus has found a way to help time-pressed commuters to shop on the go using their smart phones by building virtual stores on the platform of subway stations. Home Plus displayed images of food items  across the walls of train platforms and every item has a corresponding QR barcode associated with it. People waiting on the platform can scan the QR code of the required item using their mobile and adds products directly to their shopping cart. When the online purchase is done, it would be delivered to user’s home within hours.   

2. Ensuring the consistency of product and pricing information across different retail channels. This can be achieved by integrating product catalogues and ensuring that product descriptions, product categories, prices, and discounts are consistent in the various channels. It ensures the transparent flow of information between processes and reduces confusion arising from information inconsistencies

3. Providing customers to access information available in one channel from another channel. For example, the Website can allow customers to search for products available in the physical store through an integrated database. Likewise, information kiosks at the physical store can help customers search for product information, availability, and the store location of products from the Website. Information on real-time inventory can be made available online so that customers will not make wasted trips to the store when the product is not in stock.

4. Collecting customers online and offline transaction information and making it available across multiple channels. This increases the richness of the information available and the quality of services that can be provided. It allows the retailer to provide many value-added services such as personalized Web pages to users.

5. Providing services for customers to access service support in the channel of their choice. Support can be offered at physical stores for problems related to online purchases, such as allowing customers to return goods ordered online at a physical store and vice versa.


Lih-Bin Oha,Hock-Hai Teob, Vallabh Sambamurthy. The effects of retail channel integration through the use of information technologies on firm performance.

The article has been contributed by Thousif Mohammed, who is presently a first year PGP student at IIM Raipur. He has worked with TCS for 2 years. His areas of interest include Supply chain management & customer service.

August 30, 2012

Effect Of Supply Chain Management On Customer Satisfaction

Supply chain management typically establishes the process of planning, sourcing, procuring and controlling the movement of the raw material to finished goods right from the hands of the suppliers into the lap of the customers. These activities can be seen as originating from an order of the customer to the delivery of the products which will interconnect various stakeholders from customer to retailer to distributer & wholesaler to manufacturer to vendor and supplier.

The SCM system of a company can directly influence the customer satisfaction and hence the profitability of the company. In recent years manufacturers have realised that the SCM can be leveraged as a big differentiator in providing customer satisfaction & value by eliminating the barricades between customers & suppliers. The decision taken by one of the links of SCM can be detrimental to the effectiveness & profitability of the entire chain.

A company having great customer service has an obvious advantage over the competition. To stand out amongst today’s aggressively competent marketplace, a company should capitalize on every opportunity that presents itself and SCM is one of them. If a company is exceeding the customer expectations then it can also expect the customer retention and also affect word of mouth publicity. A good SCM will help in adding to the customer satisfaction in following ways:

1.    It can deliver the products in the fastest time and without errors. It can help in the reduction of the lead times to the orders.
2.    It can help the companies to maintain optimal level of inventories at point of sales so that what customer demands is always in stock.
3.    It can help the customers to track the status of their orders.
4.    It can help the companies to reduce their spending on raw material inventory by controlling the stock.

 In case of E-commerce companies like e-bay, myntra, tradus and others, who are selling products online, the SCM is an inherent part of the business. Companies which are creating additional value by exceeding customer expectations are a source of delight for the customer and can ensure their publicity through reviews and feedbacks which they get from the customers. For example, Flipkart has spent a lot on creating warehousing infrastructure as well as a sound delivery system with Bluedart to ensure that in major cities the product is delivered within 24 hours & at the earliest in other places too. In such a venture, it is equally important to collaborate with the right logistics partner who can deliver as per the company’s targets and help in improving customer satisfaction by leveraging their competencies.

A good SCM will also provide huge opportunity to the make-to-order companies to influence customers, like companies producing capital goods. The integration is not only required for delivering the product to the customer but also at the backend where the company needs to integrate the deliveries from various suppliers of raw materials and sub-assemblies as per their production schedules. This will enable them to reduce the lead time on the orders and keep control on the inventory.

In case of make-to-stock companies like FMCG & consumer durables, the SCM apart from looking at the backend & frontend logistics, also needs to include the inventory and display of the products at the dealer and retailer locations. The target should be to enhance the customer satisfaction along with returns to dealer/ retailer. In such businesses where the offerings are similar, the need for differentiation by providing better services is greater.
When a company is able to meet the customer expectations, the customer is satisfied but when the company exceeds those expectations the customer is delighted. With the increased global competition and with the need to differentiate their products in terms of features & services it has become imperative for organisations to improve the quality of their SCM to gain preference with customers by enhancing the value provided to them. It is only through a better quality and value adding supply chain that a company can pave a path for its success in the long run and sustain itself in the market which thrives on satisfying the customer.

1. Article on "How Supply Chain Management Decisions Impact Customer Values” on
2. Paper on “Customer Satisfaction from a supply chain perspective: An evolutionary process in enhancing Channel Relationship” by Stanely Fawcett & Michael Swenson, Birmingham Young University.
3. Paper on “Consumer Behavior, Supply Chain Management and Customer Satisfaction: An Investigative Study in Small and Medium Enterprises” by Samuel P.D. Anantadjaya, Astari Walidin & Egah Sari, Swiss German University. 

The article has been contributed by Anubhav Sood, who is presently a first year PGP student at IIM Raipur. He has worked with Telco Construction Equipment Company for 5 years. His areas of interest include project management & customer service.

May 07, 2012

Less is More: Not Just a Retail Phenomenon

One of the major advantages of organized retail, apart from low prices, is the vast array of choices it provides to the consumers. In the last few years, the rapid increase in the number of super-markets and mega-markets in the country has been accompanied by an explosion in the varieties of every imaginable merchandise that populates their shelves.

But like many other transformations that retail sector has been undergoing, a rather unexpected one has been gaining grounds, and it is not so recent. Retail giants like Walmart are already cutting down the huge number of choices offered in their stores, favouring only selected varieties which are generally preferred by the customers. But how does this make any sense? As it turns out, organized retail players all over the world are facing heat due to at least one of the following factors:
1.    Rising real estate prices,
2.    Expenses of managing a large number of SKUs, their supply chains and inventories,
3. Loss of opportunity of tapping consumers in urban centers where space is a scarcity and huge shopping centers cannot be established and
4. Loss of opportunity to tap communities of consumers in rural areas, which are too small to sustain a super or mega market.
These are also the significantly responsible reasons for the losses being incurred by almost all the organized retail players in India. Stocking a large number of products and their varieties calls for huge real estate investments, and that has been made very difficult by the sky-rocketing real estate prices. Towns and villages are usually dominated by unorganized retailers as they have been so far neglected by the organized players.

Another important aspect is related to the consumers. It has been found that though providing some variety boosts customer satisfaction, going too far might lead to “customer confusion”. Too many choices overwhelm the customers and lower their buying intent. The solution lies in bringing to them a few, “well-researched” types of products instead of too many varieties. This is the simple concept of “Less is More”. So, in a nutshell, this enables the organized retailers to achieve the following:
1.       Better customer satisfaction,
2.      Lesser number of SKUs to manage and hence simpler inventory,
3.      Ability to establish small-sized stores with low real estate investments and
4.      Ability to establish small-sized stores in urban centers as well as in rural areas.
It follows that Walmart’s decision of opening dozens of scaled-down stores in the near future is not surprising at all. It is interesting that some Indian retail giants have already been following this model. One close example could be the Mumbai based D-Mart. Future Group also runs a chain of small stores called KB's Fair Price, apart from the giant Big Bazaar stores.

“Less is More” has far wider implications than what appears from this article so far. For example, in a recent interview with The Economic Times, the MD and CEO of Bajaj Auto Mr. Rajiv Bajaj stressed upon the relevance of this idea to the competitive motorcycle market. Apparently, this has allowed Bajaj to gain a strong position in the market in the last few years. Though the top position is still held by Hero Motocorp, Bajaj Auto has stunned everyone by becoming the most profitable motorcycle manufacturer. The company claimed 58% of the total profits generated by the industry in 2010-11.
As the companies go “on diet” to become more efficient and move faster than the competition, the focus will now shift on selecting the “right diet” or the best choices to be provided to the customers.

March 25, 2012

IIM Raipur Launches Special Issue of Strive on Retail

On 11th March 2012, the Operations and Supply Chain Club of IIM Raipur, OPEP, launched the second issue of its magazine Strive. This issue of Strive focuses on the Retail Sector, an area which has been in the headlines for quite some time and needs immediate attention. The Magazine was launched by Prof. B S Sahay, the Director of IIM Raipur, along with Mr. Satyan Mishra, Co-Founder & MD, Drishtee Foundation and Mr. Bahadur Ali, MD, IB Group. Prof. Sahay lauded the efforts of the club in bringing together the various aspects of and challenges in the retail sector in a special issue of the magazine.

From Left : Akshay Aggarwal, Rohit Bhagat (Editor, Strive) , Mr. Bahadur Ali (MD, IBGroup), Mr. Satyan Mishra (MD, Drishtee Foundation) , Prof. B.S. Sahay (Director, IIM Raipur) , Anshu Katiyar and Nitin Kuraien at the Launch.

Just as the inaugural issue, this issue of Strive has also been launched in a Tablet Friendly version which helps it to be viewed easily on smartphones and tablets. The magazine was launched on the second day of Enspirit 2012, the inaugural edition of the Entrepreneurship Summit of IIM Raipur. Other eminent personalities who graced the occasion were Mr. Abhishek Sinha, CEO, EKO India Financial Services, Mr. Nirmal Kumar, Founder, Nirmal Group, Mr. Snehanand Sinha, Advisor to Social Businesses, Mr. Phanindra Sama, CEO, Redbus, Mr. Rustam Sengupta, CEO, BOOND and Mrs. Rashmi Bansal, the well-known Author & Entrepreneur.
Speaking on this occasion the Editor of Magazine and a Second year student, Rohit Bhagat, highlighted the salient features of the magazine. The second issue of Strive contains articles from both academia and the industry with Companies like Jubilant Foodworks (formerly Domino’s
Pizza India Ltd.) and Technopak contributing articles for the magazine. The magazine features an exclusive interview of Mr Arvind Singhal, CMD, Technopak. Other noted contributors include Mr Ajay Kaul, CEO, Jubilant Foodworks, Prof. Bhalender Singh, Prof. Omkar Prasad Vaidya and Prof. Naval Bajpai.

Students have written articles on the role played by Farmers and Middle-Men in the Supply Chain, emergence of E-Tailing in India, Retail in China, Book Review of “It Happened in India” and Success stories of Amul and Walmart. The local challenge discussed in this issue is the upcoming Logistics Hub in Raipur. In addition to the earlier column on Summer Internship Experience, two more columns have been added. Through the column of Gurumantra, some relevant technical terms would be explained. In this issue, the RFID technology has been explained in details. The other column is a debate, where students have presented contrasting views on “Should India allow FDI in Retail?”

Rohit thanked his team for the successful release of the special issue of Strive. The magazine will now be available for students of all B-schools across India and abroad and also for Retail Professionals in the industry. To access the magazine, please click here.