Vikas Chandak, Senior VP, Head of Strategic Businesses, Financial Products, Partnerships & Alliances, InterMiles

Vikas Chandak as Senior VP and Head of Strategic Businesses, Financial Products, Partnerships & Alliances at InterMiles has set an example on how businesses can explore meaningful partnerships across avenues to benefit consumers. He has been the beacon guiding InterMiles’ evolution from a frequent flier programme to a cross-industry loyalty & rewards programme, providing members a gamut of interesting offerings to earn and redeem their Miles.  Vikas has successfully touched and managed partnerships with businesses beyond airline, including cobrand, financial products, hotels, fuel, retail and all member accrual & redemption platforms. Under his capable leadership, InterMiles has witnessed 6X growth in non-air miles issuance in a short span of 4 years and the innovative use of the partnerships identified have won JetPrivilege several recognitions from reputed industrial bodies. 

 

The pandemic has affected manufacturing and dependent service sectors including hospitality, travel and  tourism, healthcare, retail, IT, recreation and other industries – ultimately impacting the workforce. Given the interlinked nature of our circular economy, any impact in one quadrant will directly affect the working  of the entire eco-system. While multiple phases of lock-unlock and social distancing caused productivity  loss, both these factors have also resulted in an exponential increase in digital innovations across business  models, networks, and touchpoints. After all, necessity is the mother of invention!  

Banking and payments – critical pillars of the economy – are among the primary sectors which have seen  a serious uptick in digital offerings. Underlying this shift is the need for greater organizational agility in  sync to build closer ties with customers in this fast-paced world. As we move forward in what today is  called the ‘new-normal’, the need for retail innovation, especially with the world’s acceptance of digital  technology, is speeding at an extraordinary rate. With a pulse on the ever-evolving consumer and their  progressing requirements, the need to constantly keep innovating and bringing new products to help with  digital revolution keeps growing. 

The evolution of e-commerce  

A combination of factors is driving the evolution of e-commerce. At the core of this is grassroot level  internet penetration achieved under the ‘Digital India’ drive. The complexity of online transactions have  picked up in co-relation with India’s e-commerce momentum. E-commerce today goes beyond simply  processing electronic payments and enabling internet sales. It also goes beyond merely knowing your  customer, crucial as that is. Successful e-commerce sales are caused by an amalgamation, dependent on  the robust performance of just about every aspect of modern enterprise, from operations and supply  chain to delivery services and customer loyalty programs. 

In the face of pandemic induced uncertainty, business owners made commendable efforts to survive,  signifying tremendous flexibility and adaptability, rethinking traditional ways of doing business, and  rapidly pivoting to meet the needs of their customers, which quite literally changed overnight and are still  transforming. To stay competitive, traditional retailers need to consider how adopting digital technology  can improve the in-store customer experience, provide access to more data on customer preferences and  habits, and potentially improve omnichannel operations. Local retail is quickly picking up pace in this  digital marathon, by enabling customers to scan QR codes and also offering e-payment possibilities using  mobile wallets and applications, as well as cards. 

Meeting the consumer where they are!  

The consumer today is constantly evolving and so is the pace of disruptive innovation. The goal is to use  digital technology to meet consumer expectations of flexibility, instant gratification, convenience,  immersive shopping, safety, and speed. The retail sector aims to fulfill these 

consumption needs of the end consumer who is on the look-out for easier, faster purchasing experience.  

Moreover, because digitization facilitates accessibility, today’s consumers are more aware of the various  ways in which technology can back them up. They expect businesses to be able to read their minds and  preempt their needs. They seek more a personalized and customized experience from brands – one that  is tailored to delight them at every touchpoint! As a result, brands must now devise two-forked strategies  that focus on both, consumer acquisition and long-term retention. 

Forging a path to a digital tomorrow  

The rising popularity of e-commerce in India is understandable and expected due to their irresistible  offerings and convenience, ranging from simple and secure payment methods to doorstep deliveries.  India’s e-commerce growth story is on the way to being inclusive—one that empowers both the seller and  consumer communities. For consumer across all geographies and income segments, this will provide  suitable access to a wide range of products. For sellers, it will provide an extraordinary push, by creating  an easy access to a large base of customers across the country and keeping their stores running 24×7. 

Online orders by Indian consumers via e-commerce websites increased drastically in 2020. A recent  survey by Local Circles shared that 33% of the 130,000 respondents purchased everything they needed  through e-commerce, while a further 29% said that over 75% of their spending was on online platforms  over the last one year. Furthermore, there is an expectation of online retail reaching newer heights in the  years to come. This boom is only just beginning! Digital-first mobile retail solutions are no longer a nice to-have, but a need-to-have, especially since the onset of the pandemic. They are a direct result of the  adoption of technology worldwide and have fundamentally changed shopping behaviors.  

Not only are consumers buying more goods online, but digital-first companies are co-existing with  retailers’ property by opening their own physical stores that combine online and offline attributes. In  addition, Indian FinTech and digital payment companies have made significant progress towards offering  a wide range of integrated and user-friendly solutions that bind advanced technologies and deploy  innovative business models. Growing internet and mobile penetration, availability of low-cost data plans  and therefore, the shift from offline to online shopping channels, are also giving a stimulus to the adoption  of digital technologies. 

These changes will cause a fundamental shift in the way retailers approach digital customer shopping  experiences. Whether the future looks dark or light, what is clear is that technology will play a major factor  in which retailers are able to survive the pandemic. Sellers must study their shoppers carefully and actively  respond to their demands – however small – to stay afloat. Because at the end of the day it is clear that,  our world has changed.  

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