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A good fit: Koutons improves its business profile through system upgrade

February 25, 2011
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Koutons Retail India provides apparel for the corporate, formal and casual dressing segments. The company was incorporated in 1991 as Charlie Creations and started off as a denim-heavy brand. Today, its brands include Koutons, Les Femme, Koutons Junior and Charlie Outlaw, and it has more than 1,000 outlets across the country.

As its operations expanded, Koutons Retail India realised the importance of leveraging telecom as a strategic business tool. The aim was to create a value chain involving everyone in the production process and streamlining the flow of information. tele.net takes a look at the company’s telecom-related initiatives so far...

Legacy system 

Initially, the company used a simple IT and telecom infrastructure. All the departments were linked via a local area network (LAN) and the computers connected to a master computer, which had limited functionality.

With the company’s business profile expanding rapidly, Koutons Retail India realised that its telecom infrastructure was not adequate. The technology was outdated and had little room for scaling up applications to meet the company’s growth goals.

The shift 

To begin with, the company focused on enhancing its wide area network. Several technologies were implemented, including DLC (local loop and national long distance [NLD]), international private leased circuits (IPLC), the internet and multi-protocol label switching. Says Raman Sinha, IT manager at Koutons Retail India, “A multi-tier infrastructure is of immense value as it helps cater to different functions in one go. Moreover, the DLC set-up has provided the company with 24x7 connectivity, which supports bandwidth-hungry applications and helps us trim overheads.”  Koutons Retail India’s DLC (local loop and NLD) and IPLC set-up’s bandwidth was 6 MB each.

Moreover, leased lines, with a bandwidth of 4 MB, were used for last mile connectivity. Going a step further, Koutons Retail India set up a data centre that performs several functions such as ensuring server uptime, data recovery and power back-up, storage management, hardware and network operations, and providing support for operations and end-users. “We have set up our own data centre, which comprises six servers, 250 desktops and 25 laptops. These are Wi-Fi enabled and are connected to our LAN. All our outlets are connected to the data centre via the internet and conduct business in offline mode. At the end of the day, data is imported to the data centre through the internet,” says Sinha.

Security is a key priority for the company.  Koutons Retail India has a three-tier security structure in place, comprising firewalls, security mediums at the gateway level and antivirus protection at the client, desktop and server levels.

To stay connected while on the move, the top management uses mobile email, mobile data connectivity and a corporate intranet, albeit in a limited way. According to Sinha, these tools have been beneficial for the company as apart from the advantages of any time, anywhere mobility, the corporate intranet has provided it a cheap, flexible and user-friendly medium.

In terms of applications, enterprise resource planning (ERP) and a point-of-sales software called WizApp are being used. ERP delivers a single, unified database that contains data for various software modules pertaining to functions such as project management, customer relationship management and financials. Also, the package contains several modules which have simplified the company’s production processes and made the supply chain more transparent.

Advantages 

The retail major has achieved seamless integration with its suppliers, partners and customers, and the new, improved infrastructure has helped the company reduce its telecom-related costs. There has been considerable reduction in downtime, and the new infrastructure has provided adequate support for back- and front-office operations.

Key issues and the way forward 

According to Sinha, a major concern is inadequate connectivity in rural areas. “We find it difficult to connect with our outlets in rural areas due to inadequate internet connectivity. In these areas, we depend entirely on our clients. We are able to obtain data only when they connect to the internet or the server. This is a serious issue,” he says.

Going forward, the company plans to implement enterprise applications such as web-hosting, VOIP, and audio- and videoconferencing. Sinha expects audio- and videoconferencing to not only reduce travel costs but also help senior officials collaborate and take business-related decisions in real time. exchange and share information and data, etc. 

Therefore, by stepping up its IT and telecom infrastructure, the company has been able to cut communication costs, and improve its overall productivity and efficiency.

 
 
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