Economic Times: February 10, 2015
Bengaluru: Lowe's, the second-largest US home improvement retailer, is making India its global technology war front as it looks to fight against larger rival Home Depot with the help of futuristic technologies. Today, the $50-billion company's chairman and CEO Robert Niblock will launch Lowe's first technology innovation centre outside the US at Bengaluru where the team will work on areas such as data analytics, mobile applications, payment technologies and on ensuring that all of their technologies are highly secured.
Lowe's expects to spend approximately $350Mn in their annual IT capital expenditures, including Omni-Channel capabilities. "We met with other retailers, asked them to explain how they were working on newage technology, and many of them pointed us to the global innovation centres they have in place in India," Niblock told ET in an exclusive interaction.
Bengaluru is fast becoming a hub for many large global companies, including retailers such as Walmart, Tesco, Target and Amazon, which are using local talent at India's Silicon Valley to work on futuristic technologies.
Lowe's will also explore partnering with Indian startups and even a corporate accelerator in the future, he said.
Niblock said that before setting up its GIC in Bengaluru, Lowe's steering committee visited here to evaluate the possibility and decided to go ahead with the plan after seeing ample talent available who could work on areas such as data analyt ics. "You need to have the ability to use analytics to start thinking about how do we better anticipate the needs of the customer," Niblock said.
Niblock said Lowe's GIC in India would continue to build futuristic technologies such as augmented reality, which makes it a lot easier for customer to visualise how the new furniture will look like in their existing home.
Niblock, however, said the company is not looking at setting up its retail operations in India in the near future. "We are currently focused on scaling our international operations in Canada, Mexico and Australia. Once that's done, we'll evaluate newer markets for expansion," he said.
Lowe has, for years, lagged its peers when it comes to technology adoption but Niblock wants that to change for good. About 75% of the company's sales are still fulfilled by physical stores. "In the past few years, we may be behind what some of the others are doing but we've come a long way with some of the technology that we have developed. Now the real focus is to better anticipate through analytics, what the customer wants and help him with the purchase path and how can we go truly omni-channel. That's what our team in India will be focused on," Niblock said.
Lowe's joins a fast growing breed of the world's biggest corporations tapping Bengaluru's tech and startup talent pool.
There are more than 800 captive centres in the country and more are being added each year. In 2012, captives employed about 5 lakh people and delivered as much as $15 billion Rs 90,000 crore) worth of work, according to Nasscom data.
While the over $100 billion Indian software services industry employs around 3 million staff and is forecast to grow at 13-15%, captives are growing at nearly twice that rate.
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