Advances in autonomous driving and drone technologies will be the answer to getting items delivered to customers efficiently and quickly.
There’s no doubt that Covid-19 is playing a part in accelerating digital transformation efforts. For some of the smaller, independent retailers, the pandemic brought them fully online. For larger retailers, it has helped them advance initiatives to better predict shoppers’ preferences, peaks in demand and inventory.
As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Manish Mistry, Chief Technology Officer at Infostretch, a Silicon Valley digital engineering professional services company.
His passion for technology helps set the foundation to drive the company’s customers through their digital transformation journey using innovative approaches to develop digital engineering solutions. His extensive background in delivering and managing all phases of Digital Engineering enables him to create solutions that help customers launch products and services in areas ranging from mobility, IoT, and cloud engineering to Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning. Manish is passionate about sports, music and esthetically beautifully designed products and anything which leverages engineering marvel. He has worked at startups to Fortune 500 firms in areas of product management and software architecture, and has led highly scalable engineering teams.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always been a technologist at heart. I’ve worked on the technical side of things since the beginning of my career as an engineer and have always been intrigued by the extent of what a computer can achieve. I was able to foresee how anything can become software as a function and how anything can be controlled, managed, developed and monitored by the software industry. In my role as CTO, I work on driving multiple architectures for our clients and providing them with ready-made solutions that add value, save time and streamline the whole process. One aspect of the role I particularly like is to influence how clients think of their products or offering from a technology, process, capability and people perspective. It’s a privilege and passion to work alongside them through this journey.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
The early mistakes that happen at the beginning stages of any company come about when people are scared, afraid or uncertain, making them too cautious in their decision-making. This tends to slow down the growth of the whole company. My advice to anybody in the same position is to go after their goals more aggressively and with more determination even if you are scared. This is what makes the difference. If you succeed, great, keep going, if you don’t, that’s fine, learn from your mistakes, regroup and try again.
- Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?
Yes, and I think that is partly because we are living through a golden age of technology where the range of tools and opportunities has never been more exciting. There are so many ways to combine technologies in creative ways. The Cloud is playing a big role in advancing what is possible in the software industry. A great case in point is the IoT. Devices with software as a function are where we are seeing a lot of innovation, particularly medical devices. We’ve helped develop and test smart wearables ranging from ingestible sensors to skin patches to a pump for breast-feeding mothers. Health devices are just one part of the healthcare story. Disruption and innovation come in many forms. Off the shelf software solutions and frameworks enable cross-pollination of ideas and techniques because they enable companies to quickly apply the same technologies across disparate industries and different use cases. Some of the applications we are working on in healthcare and other industries will re-define those sectors and some will create entirely new ones. What you’re about to see come through next will blow your mind.
- Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Burn-out is a result of not creating sufficiently strong supporting tiers in an organization. There needs to be a delegation mechanism. Are you able to scale? Can somebody else do you work? It is essential to create a team underneath you, mentor them, help them grow and take ownership. By being able to distribute the work you are in charge of in this way, you can prevent yourself burning out. The real question is: are the people under you ready to take on more work, and if not, how can you make sure they are ready to do so? Spend time mentoring your team so that they can be comfortable with their own workload and in turn prevent their own burnout.
Hard skills can be learned, but soft skills need more work, especially for technical people.
- None of us is able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
It is actually essential to have multiple people, multiple mentors. As you grow as a person and along your career, you need to identify the areas you need help in. If you are a technical person, who can help you with leadership? Execution? People management? You need people who will be your guiding forces in the specific areas of development you require, and they must not have had any expectations or direct rewards correlated with your growth or success. This shouldn’t be a transactional relationship; it should be purely altruistic and selfless.
- How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
People need to feel empowered to make change. That is why at Infostretch we are serious about giving back. The company has made the 1% pledge, that is, we donate 1% of staff time, products, profits and equity to our communities and charitable causes. That’s an approach that has seen us effect meaningful change in our communities through a range of initiatives: education for the underprivileged, menstrual health awareness and ending hunger, to name a few. We estimate that we have touched the lives of over 1,000 people, pledged over 100,000 dollars in software licenses, tech implementations and donations to non-profit organizations and contributed more than 10,000 hours between us.
Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?
- There’s a clear change in the way we are shopping, but the demand for quality remains. Let’s take clothing as an example. We want the texture, fit, fabric and so on to be just right. Traditionally the only way to guarantee that has been to physically go into a store. Looking ahead, expect to see hybrid models enabling customers to try out items, decide what they like and what they want to return without compromising the quality of the product or experience. One way will be rapid delivery systems thanks to drones which have a 5–20 mile delivery radius, enabling customers to get instant delivery, try items there and then and return whatever they don’t like. Expect the retail experience to get increasingly personalized. Retail companies are increasingly examining how they can leverage new technologies to meet customer needs, which will increasingly include technologies such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to optimize the shopping experience.
- Advances in autonomous driving and drone technologies will be the answer to getting items delivered to customers efficiently and quickly.
- There’s no doubt that Covid-19 is playing a part in accelerating digital transformation efforts. For some of the smaller, independent retailers, the pandemic brought them fully online. For larger retailers, it has helped them advance initiatives to better predict shoppers’ preferences, peaks in demand and inventory.
- Expect a change in the role of digital currencies in the retail world. Many retail stores have loyalty programs in place to encourage customers to come back, but they tend to be specific to the brand or even the specific store. Consider how the airline industry collaborated to enable a consolidated points system. I anticipate retail going the same way. Multiple retailers will align around a single loyalty program which will become a kind of currency for customers.
- Automation and AI-driven innovations will continue to make an impact. Smaller retailers will need to leverage automation, online, autopayments…everything.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
As much as we are moving towards a fully digital era, there is a huge problem that affects millions of people across the world: hunger. We have hardly done anything to solve that. We know how to produce a lot of food, but there still are many underserved areas in the world. Technology has to evolve at multiple levels in order to track every item of food produced in order to answer the essential question: is it reaching the right people? Is it reaching the people that were meant to receive it?
We produce enough food for the entire planet, but distribution is a huge challenge, not only because of logistics and operations but also because it is a power game. It’s sad that on one side of the world we are talking about drones, but the other side doesn’t even have enough food to eat. On one side we waste thousands of pounds of food and the other side doesn’t have anything at all. If we were to all come together, we could solve it in a heartbeat. It’s a tragedy that basic needs are still not met in the 21st century.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!