I had never planned to be a CIO, it just happened, says Vivek Agrawal, CIO of IndiaMART

CIOs in any organization is more important now than they have ever been

Digital transformation is the key and this will become the single most important factor for the measurement of success for the CIOs

This is an exclusive story conducted by Santosh Vaswani, Content Writer & Editor at CIO News with Vivek Agrawal, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of IndiaMART InterMesh Limited on his professional journey.

When asked about his plans in his career path to be a successful CIO, Vivek Agrawal, Chief Information Officer (CIO) of IndiaMART InterMesh Limited, in an exclusive interview with CIO News said, “Honestly speaking, I never planned to be a CIO, it just happened. I joined IndiaMART as an Assistant Product Manager in December 2010 and worked over multiple products in my 7.5 years of Product Management role until April 2018. I always went deep and built good control over both product and technology for all the products I owned. This, coupled with a good business understanding made me a strong contender for the CIO role in April 2018.

When asked about IndiaMART InterMesh Limited and his key business priorities, he said, IndiaMART is India’s largest online B2B marketplace, connecting buyers with suppliers. With a 60 per cent market share of the online B2B Classified space in India, the channel focuses on providing a platform to Small & Medium Enterprises (SMEs), Large Enterprises as well as individuals.

The key business priorities of IndiaMART include:

  • Bringing intelligence to the customer service executives for better customer service and customer satisfaction
  • Automation of the various operational processes to bring efficiency to the system
  • Increase customer revenue by giving high-quality prospect recommendations
  • Information security 

When asked about digital technologies he plans to implement in an e-commerce company, he said, some of the important digital technologies an e-commerce company must implement are:

  • Seamless UX on Mobile platform (Website and App)
  • Cloud-based server/tech stack
  • Voice Assistants based platform usage
  • Image Search
  • Artificial Intelligence-based personalization and recommendation
  • Efficient checkout and payment process
  • Automated shipping tracking
  • Chatbots based 24/7 customer assistance

When asked about the future an e-commerce industry can expect after the implementation of digital technologies, he said:

Seamless UX on Mobile platform (Website and App)

  • Today, more than 550 million Indians use the internet and 80 percent of them use the internet on their mobile/smartphones.
  • A seamless and easy-to-use mobile site and app are essential to the success of any e-commerce platform today.

Cloud-based server/tech stack

Shifting the tech stack/servers to the cloud gives the immediate following impact:

  • Helps in quick deployments as it does not require physical machines to be installed
  • Helps in meeting business demand quickly as it is easily scalable
  • Reduces cost as there is almost no maintenance of cloud deployments and payment is as per usage

Voice Assistants based platform usage:

With the new internet user-base coming from Tier 2 & 3 towns, the e-commerce platform must be very easy to use for this user base. Enabling Voice-based typing and searches does this perfectly.

Today there are ready-made tools available which one can integrate with the website and enable the voice assistants.

Image Search:

This has always been the need of all e-commerce platforms as most of the time it is very difficult to explain the buyer’s requirement in keywords.

However, image recognition was not very successful until some years ago. Now that good readymade algorithms and tools are available in the market, image search has become a must for all e-commerce platforms.

Artificial Intelligence-based personalization and recommendation:

User personalization on an e-commerce platform is very important for better user engagement and conversion. Artificial Intelligence-based algorithms help provide strong personalized recommendations leading to improved user satisfaction.

Efficient checkout and payment process:

Checking out along with the payment process on any e-commerce platform should be the easiest process without any friction. Single-click checkout and a single-click payment system enable e-commerce platforms to achieve the best conversions.

For easing the payment process, there are good white label solutions available in the market which must be explored.

Automated shipping tracking:

Once the order is placed, every customer wants to track the status of his order and shipment. Single-click order and shipping status visibility is the most desired feature at this stage.

Seamless API integration with the shipment providers or an aggregator helps here. This is a must for e-commerce platforms. This results in customer gratification increasing customer loyalty. A loyal customer uses the platform repeatedly reducing the incremental cost of customer acquisition.

Chatbots based 24/7 customer assistance:

Customer support/assistance plays a vital role in customer satisfaction. Chatbots have taken customer support to the next level by making it available round the clock adding to the customer gratification.

Chatbots also bring in more control over customer communication and reduce errors and repeated executive training.

When asked about the challenges faced by a CIO today in the e-commerce industry while implementing digital technologies and how can CIOs overcome the challenges, he said, I feel the following 2 are the biggest challenges for CIOs today:

Data Security & Data Protection:

Data security has always been difficult for CIOs. The advent of AI and movement to SAAS & Cloud-based platforms have only added to the security threats.

To overcome this, CIOs need to be extra vigilant towards the detection of such threats and training their systems against them. AI-based protection systems shall help in strengthening their systems.

Digital Transformation:

Changing the existing business ERP user flows becomes very difficult when the entire organization is already used to the old flow and measures productivity on the same. Being able to share innovative solutions and getting agreement from all stakeholders can sometimes become nightmares as there will always be a lot of resistance to change.

CIOs need to be more proactive and more involved in the entire Digital Transformation process. They should lead from the front to bring in all the confidence and help in executing the digital transformation initiatives.

Digital Transformation is an important responsibility of all the stakeholders and not only the CIO. This will ensure that everyone takes full responsibility for the successful digital transformation.

When asked about best practices, industry trends, and advice he would like to suggest to fellow CIOs for their successful professional journey, he said:

  • Define KPIs, create measures and keep a daily tab on them. Once you start measuring daily, identify the roadblocks to improvement, you should find innovative ways to solve them.
  • Liaison well with the business stakeholders and lead the digital transformation initiatives.
  • Hire industry experts with relevant experiences for the next layer of management. They will bring in best practices.

He said CIOs in every organization are more important now than they have been ever. This has led to 100s of CIO vacancies in the market today. It is now important for the new CIOs to learn faster and stay relevant. Digital transformation is the key and this will become the single most important factor for the measurement of success of the CIOs.