Manoj Warrier: The CIO’s role in transforming Nakumatt


The face of IT is changing rapidly with more innovations. Five years back, few would have predicted the explosion in mobility, social and cloud computing. The retail business today is facing the difficult task of keeping up with customer demands.

Finding ways to overcome these challenges can be the key to business success. As a result of this, the CIO of a retail organization is not a person who keeps count of IT inventory but an integral part of strategic leadership for the organization.

This leadership role, is further underlined by the dynamic nature of retail where prefer Omni channel options which are largely IT driven.

Over the last 10-15 years, the CIO’s role has changed dramatically. Initially it was to keep control of the infrastructure, inventory and ensure that the systems are up and running. Today, the role is more strategic, it involves active participation with business to identify, recommend and integrate the the best system suitable for business, best partner who understand the business, while focusing on revenue assurance and business profitability.

After joining Nakumatt in 2013, I realized that there were various challenges the business was facing because the then information technology framework, was not aligned with the prevailing business demands. This was negatively impacting business growth my first task was to mobilise a team of Information Technologists with a good understanding of retail technology needs. This team had to evaluate the end to end technology needs and get down to the design and integration of the relevant systems.

In the retail scene and particularly here in East Africa, whatever system you implement, if the uptake on the ground is not correct, then there is a high chance that the project will fail. The first priority was to bring the business on track with the help of technology. Fortunately, we got partners who was very passionate about technology and has got experience in Retail. With that team we worked on a model to bring the technology operations stable and steady.

We had various round of discussions with business to understand its expectation from technology. Once that was finalized, then we identified key users from business and technology and assigned roles and responsibilities for each individual based on their role. Further, we undertook a multiple rounds of training to each individual.

For some people, we even sent them for external training to bring them to par with the system requirements. It was a sudden change for the team but they adapted swiftly. Their morale was impacted positively and slowly we saw business is getting confidence in technology and the systems that we implemented at Nakumatt. From that day, we have never looked back.

In the last three years, we have rolled out our backend system with Oracle across all the four countries of East Africa where we are operating. Not a single project has gone beyond the projected time lines and cost.

As a result of this we see the efficiency in our supply chain, the confidence in our internal technology team which is geared up to face any pressure situation.

During that time, the technology team has travelled a long way – from nowhere to an integral part of the business. This was an outcome of the TEAM effort which includes the external service providers and the internal technology team.

Today, we can proudly say that IT at Nakumatt has transformed the business and it has become the back bone of the business in all aspects. Today, the Nakumatt management team has greater visibility of the business operations, literally at the click of a button from warehouse stocks levels, fleet management, and human resource planning to merchandise. In a unique way, we are now relying on real time analytics and data to guide the business to greater heights.

What Manoj Warrier say’s about Nakumatt’s strategic direction

“Nakumatt is a Customer-centric organization. We value the customer sentiments, demands and go all the way to full fill them. We want to give good quality, variety, ambience and world class experience to our customers.

Our mission statement is: enhancing the lifestyle of people in Africa by delivering the ultimate shopping experience.

If you have gone through any of the 60 Nakumatt outlets across East Africa, you can see that difference. With the support of our customers we have come this long. Our loyalty program which has been running from 2003 has under gone various changes and evolved over a period of time.

By end of 2013, we have come up with Nakumatt Global prepaid card powered by MasterCard, DTB and KCB, which was an excellent piece of Innovation with the help of technology. With the Nakumatt Global card, customers can earn loyalty points, load and withdraw money and use for any transaction at 40 million merchants across the globe.

We are constantly looking for innovation through technology to give a unique experience to our customers. In today’s world DIGITAL is the buzz in the market. Omni channel, mobility, social media, cloud computing etc are some of the recent topics everyone is talking about.

In the coming days you will see more and more innovations from the technology team at Nakumatt which will outperform the competition and the new entrants to the market.

Nakumatt: Mastering Supply Chain Transformation using IT

Over a year ago, the supply chain Nakumatt Holdings started on a journey of remarkable transformation that has seen the business totally changed through alignment with new IT resources.

Nakumatt Holdings does one of the largest supply-chain business operations in Africa. In fact while it may be comparatively a small operation by global standards, it is in a class of its own in the four East African countries including Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda. In Kenya alone, it runs 40 Stores. Among other things, this local retail giant boasts of having 14 Hyper Markets, 13 Super Markets and 13 Convenience stores all served by 80,000 stock keeping units and yet they also have a warehouse spread over 350,000 sq. ft. that operates 15 hours a day and 365 days a year moreover servicing seven branches (on an average) each day.

The company is supported by its own fleet of delivery vehicles including four trailers and hundreds of smallsized and medium-sized capacity trucks.

By East African standards, it is a daunting task to realise successful daily operations of that magnitude. It took the strategic IT leadership of Manoj Warrier the CIO of Nakumatt Holdings to get things moving away from making huge losses to totally minimising them and as a result, Nakumatt has never looked back again. Warrier is also a member of the CIO East Africa council.

First of all, they realised that the company was running different IT systems at their different branches in the four East African countries. Doing away with the different IT systems became the starting point for aligning the company’s business to IT where they had to introduce single IT platform.

Moving to a single IT system immediately brought a new challenge – change management. It brought problems to do with the adoption of new information technology. Warrier had to respond as soon as possible.

As if that was not enough, there existed real tough physical challenges. These included, identification of storage locations, the need for demarcation of areas by categories, lack of control on incoming and outgoing goods, long waiting hours for suppliers and delivery trucks, prioritisation of deliveries, management of stock allocation, handling of damages and pilferages, the issue of supply chain efficiency and prolonged stock taking processes.

Technology interventions had to be put in place. This of course got Warrier explaining to management the best available measures to put in place to diffuse the challenges. “We brought in new technologies,” Warrier said. They implemented a state of the art IT system (Oracle Retail WMS) and introduced the Motorola Hand Held Terminal for receipt, shipment and inventory tracking.

They revisited the entire storage and warehouse management process and mapped the storage location based on categories. They recommended and saw introduction of infrastructure changes like: multi story racks, gangways addition of mezzanine floors, separation of separate receiving and shipping docks, the replacement of the wooden pallet with reusable plastic pallets, addition of bar code identification of each storage location, labelling of cartons with product information, addition of visible fire exits.

With the new technology, they started on training and assigning individuals to important IT responsibilities. They then embarked on user awareness and motivation of the teams on warehouse best practices, goods handling and storage.

Warrier says they had to identify key users and process champions among the staff as they went through a rigorous user training. It meant giving all concerned staff an introduction to new processes for put-away, picking and cross-docking of the goods that would eventually be bought by customers who come to Nakumatt’s various stores.

Warrier proudly asserts that IT human resources are very important for any organisation. “We have given each of these individuals responsibilities, they are to do and the freedom to perform and support the business. They are empowered and we are in a position to handle any kind of business issues that come up,” he says.

Today, as a result of the changes introduced, Nakumatt and all its branches all over East Africa have become a clear image of what it means to align Information Technology to business.

There are many examples of how the transformation is taking root at Nakumatt. For example previously goods delivered used get lost at the receiving door of a Nakumatt supermarket unless section in charge is present to collect them (person dependency). But on implementation of the changes, the new IT System suggests the location where to put away. The delivered containers are scanned to confirm location. Here you cannot rely or depend on a person.

Another example is that before the introduction of the new system, stock reconciliation was done once a year due to the enormous tasks involved, but today any disputed locations can be marked and stock taking can be done at any time resulting in the benefit of inventory accuracy.

Generally, the company has realised reduction in damage of products, lost stock, product search times, paper work, human error, time taken to complete physical inventory and overall processing time. It has witnessed improvements in inventory accuracy, space utilization, cross docking, resource planning and labor productivity.

This year, Nakumatt being a customer centered organisation, is going out of its way, according to Warrier, to find all ways to give the extra service to customers and deliver to them an ultimate shopping experience. He says they plan to go the extra mile to deliver what the customers are looking for. “We are aware that the demands of customers keep on changing every day,” he notes.

In his predictions for this year, Warrier says, the ICT industry will be impacted by Cloud computing, Mobility, social media and Nakumatt has already joined in the chorus to service the bandwagon as their customers are increasingly tech-savvy.

This year Nakumatt is looking to stabilise its IT operations. Warrier claims that they on the path to enhancing their technology to accommodate customers’ changing demands.

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