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Stringing I.T. pearls

Avanti Kumar | April 27, 2011
How Indian group Marico’s ‘Operation Pearl Necklace’, which streamlines and connects people and processes, has brought enhanced results.

Though each pearl, or IT project, is valuable as a standalone initiative, it is only by carefully stringing together appropriate pearls across the entire value chain that brings truly enhanced value to a company. Marico’s IT head Girish Rao says the company’s ‘Operation Pearl necklace’ initiative may seem, at first glance, to be a non-ERP implementation, yet it still positively impacted the company’s business processes and cost control. Headquartered in Mumbai, Marico offers beauty and wellness products and services.
“The initial objective was to use Web 2.0 and mobile technologies to bring together all stakeholders in our beauty and health business chain. The investments comparatively have been quite low, but the leverage it has given to business is tremendous,” says Rao. “Our rapid growth over the last five years has necessitated a larger purpose to unify and bind our members, which include consumers, members (i.e. employees), shareholders, business associates, partners and the society as a whole. Our IT team used this as the starting point to develop an agenda for the future.”

Strategic Benefits
“Operation ‘Pearl Necklace’ uses a two-pronged approach to create strategic benefits across the value chain,” Rao says. “Firstly, to develop a robust platform using best-in-class technologies and secondly to build a strong internal team to develop intuitive front-end IT solutions to sufficiently meet our business needs.”

“For example, our efforts, such as a Copra Portal, which enables efficient sourcing of Copra (Copra is the dried part of coconut used to extract coconut oil for one of the company’s products – Parachute), MIDAS (software to track sales at the distributors end), Mi-NET and PDA (to track off takes at retail outlets) have made it possible for a farmer in Kerala, an MBA in Mumbai and a shopkeeper in Kolkata to share the same workspace,” Rao says, adding that his team tried a number of IT products available in the market but no others met their needs.

He says the team upgraded the company’s SAN (storage area network) and added hardware capable of offering virtualisation facilities. “Simultaneously, we added intuitive IT solutions that helped raw material sourcing from farmers, setting up a members portal, as well as budgeting and planning.”

Qualitative Benefits
“We started our initiative with the primary purpose of integrating stakeholders like vendors, customers, rural distributors, farmers, as well as to capture transaction information on the ground and to equip decision makers with real-time business analytics,” says Rao. “The entire rollout, which included vendor products from HP, Microsoft, Nokia, Samsung, Oracle, VMware and IBM, took place across 14 months in six phases and ended in June 2010.

“Qualitative benefits include increased satisfaction among farmers, obtaining real time pricing information, increased connection with our customers,” he says. “We also saved freight charges as well as faster salary payments to our staff.” 


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