Lowe's Innovation Labs enhancing the future of retail

Mr. Abhay Tandon,<br> Director and Head,<br>Lowe’s Innovation Labs India1. What is your opinion on the rapidly changing retail environment?

The rapidly changing retail environment is reflective of more aware customers who are looking for higher convenience, specific products and faster access. Thus it is important for retailers to continue to evolve, keeping ‘Customer Centricity’ as the core of the transformation to develop unique and innovative solutions, creating seamless and friction less experiences for the customers across channels.

The infusion of innovative technology is no longer a thing of the future but rather being considered as an essential tool in retail to power their strategy towards creating the best experience for customer, associates (team members) and other stakeholders with clear financial impact.

2. Why home-improvement is the fastest growing retail category?

There are multiple reasons that is leading to the fast growth of the Home Improvement category. Apart from the psychological confidence of owning a home, the re-modelling of homes, basis change in the fashion aesthetics across demographics is an important factor. It is also the infusion of millennials who are highly keen into buying and re-modelling homes and that too is acting as an additional factor.

Another reason that I feel is important is the way technology is being used to create unique and innovative solutions that is driving the growth of the sector, thereby meeting the demand through solutions that are more personalized and friction-less.

3. What are some of the latest technologies driving the industry and how are these advancements making the lives of consumers easier?

Technologies are being applied across the value chain of retail to enhance customer experience. Only when it is applied across the value chain like sourcing, supply chain and distribution, in stores, digital, omni-channel, last mile deliveries etc. will the customer benefit the most.

Some of the technologies which are enriching customer experiences include Artificial Intelligence/ Machine Learning, Natural Language Generation/ Natural Language
Processing, Computer Vision/ Image Recognition, Augmented Reality/ Virtual Reality, Robotics, Haptics, Autonomous Vehicles etc.

There are a number of applications of these technologies which are allowing Retailers to offer faster, better and scalable solutions, thereby providing personalised solutions to customers and driving stronger business impact.

4. Where are we headed in terms of the future of the industry and technology advancements?

The technologies and their applications are continuously evolving. Data Analytics along with technologies such as AI/ ML allow for us to assimilate a lot of data, apply intelligence, generate insights which allow our internal associates to create more value for our consumers.

Technologies such as Blockchain, IoT (Internet of Things), AI (Artificial Intelligence) can help us bring more transparency to our customers, increase sustainability, reduce carbon footprint and create a stronger circular economy.

Technologies such as Robotics, Haptics, AI, AR/ VR can create a stronger visualization environment for the consumers and build an immersive sensory enabled e-commerce environment, consumer adaptable stores, faster fulfilments etc. blurring the lines between stores and digital.

5. On a concluding note, based on your robust industry experience and knowledge, what message do you want to put across to the readers/investors/business partners/start-ups?

As technology is evolving rapidly, we are at the junction of collaboration over competition. It’s important for various stakeholders to collaborate together to create a sustainable future of an integral part of our lives – our home!

Lowe’s Innovation Labs is looking forward to co-development opportunities through unique collaborations with start-ups, academic institutions, global technology companies and others to building the future of home improvement retail.

6. What is Bangalore Cohort 2020 and Lowe’s Innovation Labs?

Lowe’s Innovation Labs is the innovation hub for FORTUNE 50 retailer Lowe’s Companies, Inc., with locations in Kirkland, Wash., Mooresville, N.C., and Bangalore, India.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs is what’s next for home improvement retail. Through emerging technologies, the Labs accelerate the experiences our customers and associates expect today and develop the capabilities that will power tomorrow.

The Labs explores how emerging technologies can advance home improvement; rapidly prototypes solutions and puts them to the test in real-world, living labs; and scales solutions that drive value for Lowe’s customers and associates.

Lowe’s Innovation Labs – Bangalore (LIL – B) is launching its 2020 Cohort with selected startups across India. The 5 city roadshows (Jan and Feb 2020) across Mumbai, Hyderabad, Delhi NCR, Chennai and Hyderabad allowed for LIL – B team to interact with startups from the major startup hubs of the country and evaluate synergies.

We received 300+ startup applications and are in the process of shortlisting the top few startups that will be a part of the launch of the program towards end of March or early April.