Decoding CRM in India's cultural capital
When discussing the merits of technology for business, one that is often brought up is its ability to bring enterprises and consumers close to each other. And while this is undeniably a good thing, the new wave of digitisation has also brought with it a number of challenges relating to customer retention, customisation and communication.

This topic was at the heart of the discussion at the third edition of ICICI Bank and CNBC-TV18’s high-powered ‘India Business Summit – Leaders Speak’. Here, some of the biggest names in industry came together to deliberate upon how the traditional principles of customer relationship management can be combined with new-age technologies to bring out the best in both. It’s only appropriate that the event was held in Kolkata, a city known for embracing the future without diluting its rich legacy.

ICICI Bank Executive Director Vijay Chandok delivers the opening address

Setting the tone for the evening was an insightful address by ICICI Bank’s very own Vijay Chandok, who talked about how digitisation’s impact has gone far beyond tech companies. While they may have been the driving force of this transformation, no area of life and industry has remained untouched by the phenomenon. He cited the example of banking, which was once thought of as a face-to-face, brick-and-mortar operation. The financial sector, however, has been a forerunner in adopting digitisation, as witnessed by the fact that less than 5% of the transactions at ICICI Bank now take place at a physical branch.

However, banking is far from the only sector undergoing a major change in the mode of business-customer interaction. And while they may use some of the same technologies, different industries – and arguably, companies – leverage them in unique ways to build and improve customer relationships. CNBC-TV18’s Latha Venkatesh discussed these changes with a distinguished panel comprising of Harshavardhan Neotia of the Ambuja Neotia Group, Paharpur Cooling Towers’ MD Gaurav Swarup, Sanjiv Goenka – Chairman of RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, ICICI Bank’s Vishakha Mulye and Aditya Agarwal, Director, Emami Group.  

Dissecting the impact of technology has made on CRM

Together, they deliberated on a set of topics as diverse as the industries they come from. But though they might operate in different spheres, the changes each of their ventures are seeing are quite similar. The one advantage of technology that everyone agreed on was its ability to provide customised communication to each of their customers. Recognising this potential, the Emami Group offers targeted communication through social networking platforms in a way that isn’t possible through traditional media. The importance of this function was echoed by Harshavardhan Neotia, who added that “Technology is an enabler for easier dissemination of information, easier redressal of grievances, and better communication.”

But communication is far from the only way in which enterprises are leveraging technology. They’re also using it to understand the needs of their users and serve them in ways that they might not even have known were possible. The RP-Sanjiv Goenka Group, for instance, maintains elaborate customer profiles that help them provide assistance to those in need. In their case, this translates into providing inverters to elderly clients in case of power outages.

That’s not all; digitisation’s ability to transcend borders has also made it a great equaliser, by bringing down the cost of customer acquisition and allowing businesses to better serve those in remote areas. Nowhere is this more evident than in financial services, where the simple click of a button can now help institutions access a potential borrower’s fiscal, employment and credit history, to make a decision. As Vishakha Mulye pointed out, this is a far cry from the days when just conducting a background check on someone could take up to one month, in addition to the cost incurred to physically verify all their information!

Emami Group's Aditya Agarwal on Digitisation & CRM

And while technology has innumerable benefits, we’ve only just scratched the surface of its potential when it comes to building customer relationships. The rising popularity of emerging technologies like big data analytics, 5G, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things holds much promise for the future of client retention. Gaurav Swarup of Paharpur Cooling Towers noted that the prevalence of sensors and consequent growth of preventative maintenance will revolutionise after-sale service, especially for electronics.

With that and many more such changes on the horizon, the next few years promise to be an even more exciting time for both technology and industry. And while this may be accompanied by a degree of uncertainty, thought leaders and titans of industry are all set to chart the future of work in upcoming editions of the India Business Summit, scheduled to take place in major Indian cities throughout this year.