Honing the connecting skill

Honing the connecting skill

Anil Bhasin, Senior VP, Sales, Cisco India and SAARC

The network plays a key role in the functioning of various sectors like government and defense, manufacturing, banking, finance, insurance and IT/ITES. Worldwide enterprise network infrastructure spending has significantly increased and IT networking is expected to create thousands of new jobs in the technology industry in the coming days.
IT networking is increasingly growing as a promising career opportunity for students and academicians alike. In sectors like retail, the profile of an IT networking professional has evolved to become an employers' choicest profile today. It has significantly scaled up the demand of skilled candidates who can confidently manage service and maintain the network challenges.

Retail in India:
The Indian retail sector is the fifth largest global retail destination. In India, the retail sector contributes around 35% to the Gross Domestic Product, making it an important driver of the economic growth of the country. The Indian organized retail market is estimated to reach US$ 50 billion by 2011 and industry experts predict that by 2012 the rural retail market will contribute to more than 50 per cent of the market share.
The Indian retail market is dominated by the unorganized sector, with the top five players holding a combined market share of less than 2%. More than 80% of the retail sector in the country is concentrated in the large cities. According to a Government of India estimate the retail sector is likely to grow to a value of Rs. 2,00,000 crore (US$45 billion) and could yield 10 to 15 million jobs in the coming five years. The sector currently employs about 8% of the working population.
Key players in Indian retail space include the AV Birla Group, Reliance and Pantaloon Retail along with Trent, Westside, Landmark Group, Lifestyle International and K Raheja Corp Group. Foreign retailers in India include the likes of Wal-Mart, Tesco and Carrefour, most of whom sell only single-brand goods.

Networking in retail:
In recent years, the retail industry has been faced with numerous challenges to its IT infrastructure. Industry consolidation, cost pressures, and increased use of in-store technologies are all driving IT decision makers to better align server architectures with changing business practices. Growth is being achieved either by opening new stores or by expanding sales channels such as Web sites or catalogs. Profitability strategies are shifting between operational efficiencies (having the lowest possible operating costs) and creating a differentiated niche (that justifies premium pricing).
Retailers are also challenged by the need to create a store environment that enhances customer experience, accelerates employee productivity and increases revenue in order to be successful. They need to scale up their in-store technology and adopt advanced networking equipments to develop a quick responsive system. Technology apart, the need of the hour is also for a well-equipped workforce that has the capability to further the business and survive against increasing competition.
There are several solutions available that help to improve the retail experience as well as bring about business efficiency. Solutions like Cisco's Lean Retail for example provide best practices and implementation guidance that optimize performance, scalability, and security while lowering application ownership costs. The solution enables more applications to be deployed centrally, cutting down dramatically on the time of deployment thereby reducing the cost of opening new stores, integrating acquisitions and helps improve retail capabilities.
Ironically though, one of the greatest challenges faced by the retail sector today is the dearth of well trained retail management personnel who can utilize these solutions to improve the retail experience. A lack of Internet-supported education and shortage of technology-savvy workers is threatening to place the Indian retail sector at a permanent disadvantage in the new economy. The increasing shortfall of networking professionals combined with the increasing skills gap in verticals like voice, security and wireless is likely to arrest the growing market and the economy besides having a detrimental effect on ICT adoption across all sectors in the future.

Future trends:
For a very long time, retail was not considered as a preferred career option. Things are however changing slowly and salary packages are improving due to the demand for retail professionals. Retail is emerging as a science and the Industry is constantly communicating with management institutes on the need to introduce retail management as a discipline and not just as a sub-set of marketing management.
As the retail sector seeks specialists for their high-end technology solutions, the growth prospects for a professional within the diverse networking domain are high. Networking professionals who wish to maximize on this opportunity can secure their future with the right choice of specialization and certifications to compliment their core networking skills.
A valid certificate from a networking technology provider company acts as a value-add to all the 'on-job experience' that professionals gain. Almost all domains accept professionals with networking education certifications for example, such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE). Combining instructor-led, online education with hands-on laboratory exercises, these certifications prepare students for lifelong opportunities in the real world.
Aspiring network professionals benefit from globally recognized training, good communication skills, and their ability to be 'goal driven'. Their capacity to innovate and adapt to any customer's demand and situation furthers the advantage. While opting for a career in networking the challenge is to continue learning and keep a tab on changes in technology.

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