“In this age of the Customer, the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.” – Forrester Research
Businesses change with changing technology, customer demands, innovative products, and competition. What does not change is the bottom line – Customer Connect and Engagement. A business is nothing without its customer. A product or service is what its consumers make out of it. If a product hits all the right chords with the consumers, it’s a hit. While it is easy for the big businesses to indulge in research, trend analysis and other market tools to capture what the customer fancies and how to get in touch with them, it is the small and medium enterprises (SME) that often are at a loss of means to connect. The other fact is that these businesses have a huge share in the market and their combined forces may at times overtake major players. With changing times in the retail industry, the need to empower these retailers with tools to capture and benefit consumers in a huge opportunity in itself.
Rising to the Occasion
Rise Retail & Payment Solutions is focused on creating solutions which enable small retailers with consumer engagement and develop efficiency in office management. It addresses the core issues such as the need for enterprise skills, technology, consumer engagement, loyalty benefits that small and medium retail market lacks.
The company’s solution portfolio is broadly divided into two major segments that are significant for any retailer to be competitive — Consumer Engagement and Office Management. The Consumer Engagement Solutions ride on a cloud-based system boarding the consumers once they come to a retail store and then further managing their complete lifecycle as a consumer. The two significant factors that Rise Retail & Payment Solutions stresses on to build a strong connection between the consumers and the retailers are Loyalty Benefits and Continued Communication (automated wishes or offer based messaging). It helps retailers in touching lives of consumers beyond a single transaction by sending relevant offerings. Additionally, the solution helps the retailers in creating an online database empowering them to understand the different customer categories and effectively target these for revenue optimization.
Rise’s Office Management module caters to the basic operational need of a retail store such as basic invoicing, inventory management, staff productivity management etc. Other additional solutions like customer referral module, enquiry generator, credit management etc. increase the overall ROI for the retailers.
A Multifaceted Leader
Being an active sportsperson contributes greatly to one’s personality making one sharp, agile, critical thinker, responsible, focused and a leader. Ajay Prasad, Founder, Rise Retail & Payment Solutions is all these and more. He is- an avid sports person, and has led a cricket and a football team, a singer who sings for his soul, and a keen follower of National politics. A man with an opinion, he always believed in the need of creating an ecosystem for the SME businesses to help them grow and utilize technology to improve efficiency and consumer engagement. A management graduate from IMDR Pune, his initial career saw him working with MNC banks. He also managed the business for one of the JV of First Data for India and Sri Lanka markets utilizing his strong domain expertise. After 18 years of handling national level roles and creating new businesses in retail payments, finally, it was his time to work on his ideas, and a time to have a focused strategy with a long-term mission, hence Rise Retail was formed.
Connecting the Dots: Industry, Retail Store and Consumers
Indian retail industry looks very promising with its phenomenal growth rate making it essential to keep stability in this segment of SME. The higher mortality rate is a big concern which can be attributed to the lack of structured fund, knowledge transfer and cost factors for running a business. Being an unorganized segment, percentage of regional/ local brands is increasing and hence the need to digitize and tech-based solutions. However, as Ajay points out, the industry lacks understanding of its consumer engagement needs and it has to move to next level of its current focus on new customers’ acquisition.
Rise Retail has taken lead to bring the required stability and is strongly dedicated to educate them on focusing on managing consumers using technology and analytics and focus on micromanagement. But the path is uphill as the industry, in this context, is still in the nascent stages and Rise’s initiatives are a little early. Educating businesses and making them aware of the need of consumer analytics and the need for tech derived system was the first set of challenges that the company faced. In spite of understanding the need businesses need sales to push for the decision. This has led Rise into a constant evolution journey making many modifications in its product, business model and propositions. As it ventures into the 5th year of its strong presence in the industry, the company is witnessing the hard work and perseverance it carries being paid off. It is slowly observing more awareness in the industry and retailers getting sensitized.
Technology and Focus for Expertise
Solution development at Rise is all about process orientation and feedbacks. As Ajay explains, “As a product model, we first work on the prototype of any feature/ product then look at technical stability and then the advancement work start. During this process, a real-time feedback is taken from the market in terms of product efficiency, user-friendliness and other key parameters.”
The company keeps upgrading its methodology by making use of emerging technologies. It recently introduced an integrated invoicing solution which works through its loyalty rule engine. It is also looking at transforming our backend from single store to hierarchy based structure to give more flexibility, interactivity and command to its customers.
Rise is on a mission to improvise the way small retail stores run their business and impact the larger ecosystem. And this mission has received recognition with the company being identified as one amongst the” 25 Most Promising Retail Technology Service Provider in Asia Pacific in 2018” by a leading magazine. It also received the Pune Brand Leadership award by CMO Asia in collaboration with ABP News and Yes Bank in 2018.
A Note for Employees and Entrepreneurs
Being a young company means significant dependence on individuals for Rise. Hence it is paramount that each member is aligned with the mission and vision of the organization. Employee motivation comes from the long-term focus, strong value system and a sense of creating something new in the ecosystem to serve society. Ajay himself firmly believes in contributing to the society and nation and for him, the journey has just begun.
As an experienced entrepreneur, Ajay suggests that there are different business models which entrepreneurs work on. “My suggestion is to choose a product/ service which has a long-term impact on the society. Keep building up the value to make yourself stronger in offerings and returns.” Entrepreneurs must have a strong focus on key metrics i.e. staff productivity, cost and pricing command in the initial years.
Like all successful companies, Rise Retail & Payment Solutions has a vision for innovation, growth, and expansion. The company is focused on horizontal growth which will help it to expand its portfolio of solutions and services at the same time. This could be achieved by creating a distribution system which is a first ever in the retail sector. Though many companies struggle to balance scalability and profitability, Rise Retail & Payments Solutions aims to perfect this balance by first building a strong base and then bring in the products. Web-enabled products and solutions are the company’s next project which would let them connect all the consumers engaged with the retail stores. Further, the firm also looks at expanding its retail base drastically and enabling it with payment solutions. Rise aims to reduce the loss of customers at small and medium retail outlets and build an enhanced brand image to pull customers to the outlets. This change in the ecosystem will bring lot more smiles to customers, who will be the ultimate winner of its effort.