Mumbai: The next time you visit your neighbourhood grocery store or call the corner shop for a home delivery, don’t be surprised if your grocery shopkeeper remembers what you ordered the last time and reminds you to restock your Kissan Jam or your detergent and toiletries supply as they are running out and he has an offer. All this and more will soon be possible as the country’s largest consumer packaged goods company, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), is re-imagining the way we shop at neighbourhood stores.

Spread across 600,000 villages and 10 million outlets, general trade will continue to remain big in the next 10 years, HUL said in a presentation on its website on 6 June where it outlined Project Maxima, which is focused on precision marketing at scale.

The re-imagining of its supply chain and corner shop strategy is part of the company’s bigger initiative undertaken over the last four years for its entire business with initiatives like Winning in Many Indias (WiMi), which divides the country into 14 zones. Also, management is decentralized with the formation of Cluster Category Business Teams, which are mini-boards for brand building and marketing.

Under Project Maxima, HUL is able to do targeted marketing within 100m of a grocery shop, which it will geofence for distributed marketing and offering. The company plans to extract details such as who visited the grocery store over the last three months, what they bought and when they are likely to buy next time, it said.

The Indian arm of Unilever Plc will achieve this through the use of predictive analytics, cloud technology, Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. “HUL’s data strategy would be how do we acquire, how do we store, how do we use this data and how do we manage it. In this VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world, HUL will prefer to disrupt than be disrupted," the company said.

The company is using predictive analytics, Jarvis—a software that uses several artificial intelligence techniques—to gauge demand, volume, sales and profit scenarios under different simulated scenarios. Also, with the use of artificial intelligence, the software keeps improvising itself. “Error percentage is barely 3-4%," the company said.

The company is also listening in to conversations on social platforms and picking up trends. Based on searches done by consumers, the company has created micro-marketing strategies. This has resulted in a 225% increase in reach and a two-fold increase in engagement during events such as Lakme Fashion Week, resulting in 20% increase in sales, it said.

The company will continue to focus on modern trade and e-commerce as well. E-commerce already accounts for 1.5% of overall revenues and growth and profitability is higher in the e-commerce and modern trade channels compared to general trade, HUL said.

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