A boost for retail
Pantaloon Retail (India) has ambitious plans to grow its
business and is using IT as a strategic tool to achieve its goals. by Soutiman
Pantaloon Retail (India) [PRIL] is a successful retailing company and plans
to grow its business in a big way this year, with the help of new outlets and
IT will play a critical role in the organisations productivity, and the
company has crafted a roadmap to ensure that its information infrastructure
will scale as required to support business growth.
Going by its IT strategy roadmap, as a key effort, PRIL plans to deploy secure
nationwide connectivity links. It has also built a sizeable server infrastructure,
created a security architecture from scratch, and deployed a financial management
The company also plans to deploy an ERP, set up a B2B portal, put up a Disaster
Recovery (DR) site, use Business Intelligence (BI) tools, implement VoIP, and
install CCTVs at all locations that can be monitored from a central console
Business along the way
We had to design the network so that the geographically
dispersed workforce would have uninterrupted access to the enterprise
applications from any corner of the country
Senior Manager, IT infrastructure, PRIL
The company began as a textile and fabrics manufacturer in 1987 and its foray
into the retail business was kicked off with the first Pantaloon retail store
in Kolkata in 1997.
It ventured into other retail business lines and now has 13 Pantaloon stores,
nine hypermarket discount stores (Big Bazaars), 13 Food Bazaars, and one Central
mall in various nationwide locations. The Central mall has restaurants, shopping
arcades, toys, books, and lifecycle products all under one roof. As we read,
the actual number of the outlets is rising at a good pace.
The company owns brands like John Miller and Anabelle, and has also purchased
a few companies such as Indigo Nation and Scullers to add to its business portfolio.
It plans to build 20-odd outlets more in the next few months as a part of its
business expansion plans.
Technology Game Plan
The IT strategy has been framed keeping in mind its ambitious growth plans.
The highlights are:
- Create a robust and reliable information infrastructure.
- Keep the large base of customer and financial information
secure with no scope of unauthorised access.
- Network all offices and outlets of the company to
exchange information in real-time.
- Use tools to simplify operations and accounting
processes across the entire organisation.
- Build the IT infrastructure with special emphasis
on scalability to allow growth on a large scale.
- Keep looking at ways in which the business can reduce
In line with the IT strategy the company has made a number of deployments, and
has plans to introduce large scale deployments in areas like connectivity, security,
server infrastructure, networked storage, and enterprise applications.
Key to the strategy
The key to the success of the IT strategy lies in the ability to network all
nationwide company locations in a secure and organised manner.
PRIL has a head office (HO) in Mumbai, has regional offices in Kolkata and Bangalore,
a manufacturing unit and central warehouse in Tarapur (Thane district), zonal
offices, and retail outlets in various nationwide locations.
Due to the companys geographical spread and critical nature of business,
the most significant need laid out in the IT strategy was that of connectivity.
Jitendra Sarode, Senior Manager, IT infrastructure, PRIL has taken up the responsibility
of creating a nationwide secure connectivity.
Connecting the business
Earlier all locations including retail outlets and warehouses were not connected
directly to the HO. A group of three or four outlets in a particular vicinity
were connected to the nearest regional or zonal office, which, in turn was connected
to the HO.
We had to design the network so that the geographically dispersed workforce
would have uninterrupted access to the enterprise applications from any corner
of the country. As we grow, it is necessary that information from locations
is constantly updated to the central servers, explained Sarode.
Keeping in mind the need for scalability and complexity that may arise from
an organisation thats growing at a fast pace, Sarode created the blueprint
of a VPN architecture to link all the companys offices to the HO. (see
The VPN network will link all company locations including retail outlets and
the manufacturing unit in phases. In the first phase, we have connected
around 24 locations. In the second phase, we plan to connect 25 more, depending
on the growth pattern. The last mile connectivity will be on Radio Frequency
(RF), explained Sarode.
Keeping it secure
Information security is a very important consideration in the IT strategy because
the network has to handle a large amount of company and customer information.
After careful consideration, the company decided to use multi-function
device (MFD)-based security rather than point solutions. Following the evaluation
of products from companies such as Fortinet CheckPoint, NetScreen, and CyberGuard,
PRIL chose to deploy a solution from Fortinet called FG500A. The device
allows unified capabilities and is easy to manage and monitor. It is used at
the perimeter, said Vishak Raman, Country Manager India, Fortinet.
Corporate data centre
The corporate data centre is situated at the Mumbai head office and houses around
12 servers for the various enterprise applications, networked storage boxes,
backup tape libraries, security devices, and other networking devices like routers,
and switches. The data centre backbone is based on optic fibre.
The nationwide network is monitored and managed from this setup and a separate
IT team monitors the network regarding aspects such as connectivity, uptime,
continuity of service, quality of service, and utilisation.
The apps do the work
The company developed Point of Sales (PoS) application in-house and evolved
them over time across all retail outlets including the malls and food markets.
The company is now evaluating an ERP system so that it can standardise its retail
It has evaluated demos of solutions such as SAP Retail and will soon make the
buying decision. It will use other applications like a B2B portal, and a BI
and data warehouse tool for which it has evaluated Cognos.
PRIL is testing VoIP applications and also plans to introduce
video conferencing facilities. It also plans to deploy a network of CCTV cameras
at all locations. This network will be managed from a central location in Mumbai.
As far as business continuity measures were concerned, PRIL uses a backup server
and tape libraries for archiving and retrieval. It plans to set up a remote
DR site very soon.
The company expects a number of business benefits from the enhanced network.
- There will be a free flow of information between
the head office and various nationwide locations.
- It will be easier to create sales and analysis reports.
- Customer profiles can be stored and the use of BI
can help predict behaviour and create targeted ad campaigns.
In any store if a particular shirt has a high demand, I can make a requisition
from a central location to ensure that the particular item is available in the
store. Functionalities like this matter a lot since it saves cost and provides
transparency in the supply chain, explained Sarode.
Soutiman Das Gupta can be reached at: