Medium: Padmanabhan Raman of Verte on the Supply Chain and the Future of Retail
Martita Mestey of Medium interviewed our Chief Product Officer, the legendary Padmanabhan Raman. We have summarized it below, but we encourage you to read the entire interview on the Medium website HERE.
Padhu is a digital supply chain and a global technology leader with 25 years of experience conceiving and building enterprise-level innovative solutions to drive profitability and customer engagement in a $3trillion industry. As a trained engineer, he specializes in mapping out a go-to-market strategy, building solutions for omnichannel retail, customer journeys, network modeling, fulfillment architecture, end-to-end supply chain automation, and prescriptive supply chain.
As a founding partner of Project Verte, he is the accredited visionary behind the operator-built, cloud-native, and eCommerce enriching tech stack designed to modernize supply chain operating systems. He conceptualized and implemented the state-of-the-art multi-seller 750k Sq Ft robotics fulfillment center and was the mastermind behind the company’s micro-fulfillment center. Padhu also leads market differentiation strategies, cross-organizational and industry partnerships, sales, operations, and engineering streams. He has been instrumental in building the global organization of 100+ team members across multiple geographies from the ground up and has groomed teams of next-generation leaders.
What brought you to this specific career path?
Knowing how things are procured, moved, and delivered is something that was always really fascinating to me. As I was gaining work experience, I was also in the process of finishing school, studying mechanical engineering, and was then recruited by Bosch India, which was also heavily involved in logistics and manufacturing. This eventually led me to move to the U.S. and work for Manhattan Associates, one of the biggest supply chain software companies in the world. I was at Manhattan Associates for over 17 years, where I got to work with some of the largest retailers and fortune 500 companies like Foot Locker, Grainger, Falabella, and Groupon, to name a few. After working on implementation projects for both North and South America, and understanding the many eCommerce challenges these retailers face, I was motivated to build something from the ground up. That’s how I became one of the founding members of Verte.
Are you working on any new exciting projects now?
At Verte, our vision was to build a visibility platform for supply chain, a cloud-based platform that’s always current, powered by AI that unifies and automates all commerce operations for retailers, brands and third-party logistics. We manage all backend operations and provide real-time data insights to enable our customers to focus on their growth.
Can you share a few examples of different ideas that large retail outlets are implementing to adapt to the new realities created by the pandemic?
The pandemic has made retailers find creative ways to sell their products in different marketplaces and expand their scope in the process. For example, when the pandemic hit, two of Verte’s biggest customers created different models around procurement channels for their stores as well as their online inventory. Once we were in the midst of the pandemic, their entire store inventory got locked as stores were physically closed. They had to pivot and switch to e-commerce, which is exactly what Verte’s technology is made for. Our platform helped our retailers quickly connect to different demand channels and marketplaces. As a result, these two customers increased their sales growth by almost 25%. Overall, Verte’s platform is focused on supporting brands so they can provide a consistent experience from the end-to-end customer perspective — blending engagement, convenience, and experience.
Can you share a few examples of what retailers are doing to pivot because of the bottlenecks caused by the supply chain crisis?
One of Verte’s customers was suffering some serious disruption and a massive backlog, which almost resulted in losing a season. They are now catching up, as they found alternative secondary markets to sell their products, moving away from wholesalers. This resulted in their inventory no longer being locked up.
How do you think we should reimagine our supply chain to prevent this from happening again in the future?
Everyone has to adapt to a multi-tier adaptive distribution network. What do I mean by that? You need to be available in all of the demand channels that your customers are in. Also, the inventory is being insourced. Everyone is moving manufacturing capabilities locally, but we need a balance. So, you need exceptional visibility to know what the demand is. And that changes all of the time.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a fantastic retail experience that keeps bringing customers back for more? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Centralized operations. Focusing on engagement, experience, and convenience is required. But you also need strong traceability and visibility to manage this. Today customers expect to know exactly where their package is in the product journey, 43% check the status of their delivery at least once a day.
- Breaking the silos of fragmented data across the supply chain. This is important from an enterprise perspective and a multi-enterprise perspective as well. When you’re integrating with the supply chain, you’re also talking to a demand channel.
- Going out of the enterprise. Making a prescriptive supply chain creates a balance from a fulfillment cost perspective.
- Focusing on sustainability practices. You obviously want to do what’s best for everyone involved, but be keen on optimization.
- Re-commerce optimization. We’re seeing a trend where companies like Stitch Fix send you three or four different outfits to try on, but those outfits need to be returned. This is an attractive model to keep the flow of goods constantly moving. But what do you expect the customer to return? It used to be about a 25% return rate, but it’s now basically 100%, because the customer knows the retailer is shipping out multiple items, but you’re very likely to return at least one item. Your returns capacity and the merger of information are going to keep increasing.