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Re-telling the Retail Tale: How Cloud Telephony Will Change the Indian Retail Industry in 2017 As cloud communications emerged and evolved brilliantly in the year 2016, it promises to just be a silhouette to the rosy picture it paints for 2017.

By Ambarish Gupta

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The retail industry in India has gone through a sea of changes in the last 5 years, most important of them being the emergence of e-commerce.With online stores going from being novel concepts to becoming the default transactional mode, strong communication channels have become all the more necessary for retailers. Through its innovation-driven approach, cloud telephony has made a telling impact on retail by offering solutions that immensely improve end-user communication. As cloud communications emerged and evolved brilliantly in the year 2016, it promises to just be a silhouette to the rosy picture it paints for 2017. But first, let us analyse the challenges faced by the retail industry and how cloud communications can be actively used for addressing these:

Challenges faced by Indian retail industry:

  1. Innovation:While the number of e-commerce players in India continues to multiply, the model of transactions and overall consumer interaction style remains similar. In order to meet the most dynamic consumer demand and be ahead of the competitors, innovation is one of the most pressing needs in the realm of Indian retail.
  2. Seamless customer experience: It is believed that the overall consumer experience is even more critical than the price point at which the product or serviceis being offered. Retail industry needs to improve its cohesive customer experience in order to improve customer retention and increase brand affinity.
  3. More effective resource utilisation: Resource utilisation is a challenging task for businesses. More growth directly results in even more complex business operations which further complicates the overall situation. Retail businessesdemand state-of-the-art solutions in order to ensure effective resource utilisation.
  4. Agility:Agility is the key factor ofdifferentiation as it enables rapid development and deployment of new solutions. Retail industry, with its exponential volume and variety of products, requires agile and adaptable technological solutions.
  5. Business Manoeuvring: Retail industry is subjected to constantly deviating consumer demands. It is challenging for businesses to upscale and downscale business operations as per the changing business landscape.
  6. Technology: With every passing day, technological dependence of consumers is escalating sharply. Consumers not only demand seamless services, but also need to be catered to with ulterior digital technology to enhance their experience.
  7. Fragmented Legacy systems: As new challenges have emerged, fragmented legacy systems are have become almost redundant. In order to increase their productivity, businesses require cutting-edge technology to meet this challenge.

Cloud telephony trends

Cloud telephony is a very effective solution for retailers to build capabilities quick enough to attract consumers; it allows them to adapt their offerings to meet the expectations of today's digitally connected consumers. In addition, retailers will start to recognise cloud computing as a cost effective technique that can enable rapid adoption of the latest solutions. After a phenomenal 2016, the year 2017 will observe the following trends in the retail industry:

1. Increased Business Manoeuvrability:

Cloud telephony has paved the way for businesses to increase their manoeuvrability according to the change in consumer demand. It enables them to implement one of the most challenging tasks such as upscaling and downscaling their business operations easily.As cloud communications is a third party platform, it helps the business to easily decide when and how much of the services have to be availed as per the present business needs.

2. Cloud-based PBX and UC:

Increased flexibility and decreased costs have enabled businesses to adopt cloud-based PBX and UC systems against their on-premises systems.It has not only resolved the issue such as additional infrastructure and high initial investment in trying to maintain an on-site IT team, but has also eliminated additional licensing faced by businesses during expansion. Platforms with expertise in VoIP and SIP trunking services will experience a surge in demand as businesses begin to migrate to cloud-based systems.

3. Cost-effective operations:

Cloud telephony has made it possible for retail businesses to analyse heaps of digital data to increase their consumer experience. By doing so, businesses can also increase their overall efficiency and bring down their overall expenses. Additionally, the digital technology also enables them to encounter irrelevant business processes and take suitable measures against them through digital adeptness.

4. Real-time reporting:

Technological interventions have enabled retail businesses to keep an eye on their business anywhere, anytime. This includes crucial business operations such as supply chain management and customer servicing. In the year 2017, more retailers will begin to realize the ease with which data tracking can be achieved through cloud technology. Furthermore, the use of apps that detect consumer movement from store-to-storemake it easier to send out adverts and messages at the correct time. By analysing digital data of consumers, stores can help personalize merchandizing to make the purchase experience highly customized.

5. Adaptiveness:

Cloud telephony is rapidly accelerating the pace of offline retail channels and bringing them neck-to-neck with a more technologically-evolved online retail network. It has considerably increased the adaptiveness of the offline retail businesses. This aspect has become more essential for retail businesses in the wake of demonetization, which caused a significant blow to the offline retail industry due to its low adaptiveness. This year, businesses will begin focussing on increasing their adaptiveness and cloud telephony will become pivotal in the process.

6. Retail-as-a-Service (RaaS):

Most retailers have different verticals of operation, known as fragmented legacy systems (Inventory, product development, shipping etc.) which record data in different formats and pathways. Cloud enables retailers to use Retail-as-a-Service by allowing users to load multiple operational processes on a single platform. In 2017, it is expected that many retailers will adopt cloud communications to reduce costs by utilizing this unifying feature of cloud.

India's retail market is expected to cross $1.3 trillion by 2020 from the current market size of $500 billion, says a PWC Report. But it's not just the market that's growing. Customer expectations, too, are bigger than ever before. Cloud telephony industry is actively bolstering the prospects for retail businesses in India and is enabling them to offer a superior service to their customers. With digital on-boarding of retail industries, the year 2017 will be the year when cloud telephony makes its presence felt in the Indian retail arena.

Ambarish Gupta

CEO & Founder, Knowlarity Communciations

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