A well-known name in the Indian tech circle, Ushasri Tirumala, one of the foremost women in technology, has held several leadership roles across the spectrum — from building high-performance teams, strategic alliances, technology management and product development — at IT bellwethers like Cisco, Wipro and Digital Globalsoft, among others. Presently, Tirumala, SVP & GM is the head of Indian operations at Manhattan Associates Inc., an Atlanta-based technology leader in supply chain and omnichannel commerce. The company has developed and deployed solutions such as Manhattan Active supply chain, Manhattan Active Inventory and Manhattan Active Omni.
At Manhattan Associates, she is working on strategic direction, growth and development in India. In an interview with Analytics India Magazine, Tirumala talks about steering the company’s product development, R&D efforts and opines on how India can take a lead in AI, analytics maturity and global best practices in omnichannel retail.
Talking about her role at Manhattan Associates, the industry veteran shares that the company’s India operations were set up in 2002 in Bengaluru and have now grown to 1,200 associates. “We work in an integrated development model where innovation teams across the US and India offices collaborate. A significant part of product development work happens from our Bengaluru office,” she said. The Indian operations support R&D, professional services, customer support and cloud services for global customers across Americas, EMEA and APAC regions.
India’s Analytics Journey From Service To Product-Based Innovation
As an industry veteran, Tirumala believes that India is still in the evolution stage of realising the true potential of analytics even though real-time analytics is rapidly growing in the supply chain sector. “A lot of things are happening in India as well – both in terms of products and services. From forecasting, inventory management, to logistics — big data and analytics are transforming the supply chain management. Clearly, the ecosystem is evolving continuously and is poised for exponential growth,” she said.
But for AI technology and adoption to become mainstream in India, companies will have to create an ecosystem of professionals. Over years, India has been mainly recognised as a cost arbitrage play. However, with emerging technologies such as AI, automation and machine learning, India is on the road to becoming the hub for technological innovations, notes Tirumala. “India scores in the vibrant startup ecosystem, which is doing excellent work in these emerging technologies. When it comes to global MNCs, their GCCs (Global Capability Centres) are at the forefront of technology innovation and are rapidly scaling. These GCCs would continue to contribute in these emerging technologies too,” she observed.
On the upskilling front, the key ingredient for success would be to create an ecosystem of professionals, startups, established organisations, educational institutions, industry forums and effective programs to collaborate. “Indian professionals can also look at applications of AI technologies to newer sectors such as agriculture, healthcare, education, mobility etc. These are the core issues that we face as a country and emerging technologies can be leveraged for improvements in these sectors,” she said.
Retail Technology Trends And Adoption of AI
Talking about trends in retail, Tirumala noted that there is a wider scope for adopting AI. Consumers are looking for a more personalised and consistent experience across channels. “AI will have a profound impact on retailers delivering a personalised experience. Retailers will deploy digital shopping assistants that will take personalisation to the next level – determining customer needs by providing real-time recommendations by asking context-sensitive questions. Systems will be able to determine what the customer wants and for what purpose, the style they’re looking for etc. The use cases can span from choice of products/services that customer would need to what items customers would not find useful,” she noted.
In the future, retail companies would combine AI technologies with sophisticated Order Management solutions that possess rich data on inventory and customer transactions. They would also get granular insights on consumer interests and tastes and will be able to pre-empt purchases and preferred fulfilment options before they even realise they have a need.
In terms of inventory optimisation and order management aligned, Tirumala believes retailer can take a systematic approach that orchestrates real-time execution and provides a stronger forecast for inventory utilisation. “The demand for omnichannel will see the highest impact on retailer’s need for supply chain visibility. Scalability and flexibility should be essential characteristics of any technology solution put into practice for supply chain visibility,” she said.