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The best part in any business is the unfinished business: Pizza Hut’s Vipul Chawla

With digital changing the way businesses work, every brand has to keep ahead of the consumer trends and evolve their offerings accordingly. For Yum Foods, the parent company of Pizza Hut, this means coming up with new innovations to drive consumer engagement. Vipul Chawla, Managing Director of Pizza Hut Restaurants Asia Pacific, talks to Digital Market Asia about what the brand’s focus on digital is and why Asia presents an exciting opportunity for the transformation of the customer interaction.


How is Pizza Hut making the digital transformation journey?

We see ourselves as a brand that is trying to make the customer experience easier – from the beginning right till the end. When a customer seeks out an experience with a brand, whether it is online or in-store, it is about acquisition. When they interact, or make a transaction, or provide feedback, that’s the second part, and it is how we convert them from intent to transaction. And thereafter, measuring ourselves against what we have promised is all about how we retain them such that they come back. Our job is to make every end of the journey and every experience a customer has, as easy as possible!

There are a whole series of steps that we have taken over the last couple of years, but now we have become a lot more intentional about it. From the first tap of the phone, a simple user interface should allow our customers to easily navigate our menu, select, transact and enjoy our experience in a few easy steps.

For example, in markets like Indonesia, we are set up countrywide rider tracker for our delivery business which allows customers to track and get ready for the arrival of the pizza.

We are testing a digital store in Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore, which simplifies engagement and transactions with our customers and there is more to come.

Different markets in Asia have different dynamics and not all markets are evolved yet. Which are the APAC markets, besides Japan, that Pizza Hut is looking at for the digital transformation?

It is usually a natural assumption that the more developed the economy, the more developed the digital interaction will be. However, the state of the GDP of the country, does not matter, as in reality, you can do a digital leapfrog at anytime, if the basic infrastructure is available. Digital transformation does not necessarily happen more quickly in the evolved countries. It happens everywhere at almost the same time.

What we have learned is that you don’t need to necessarily wait for a country or a customer segment or the ecosystem to evolve digitally. We can make our changes because the basic infrastructure is already there.

We are making some very intentional steps as far as the customer experience is concerned – from the improvement of the digital experience or the app to the order fulfillment system.

How important is the APAC market for Yum Foods globally?

Our APAC region, including China, accounts for more than half the global business. It’s a large market and we’ve got scale.

We have leadership positions in most markets in which we operate. We have a lot of brand love (ranked 29th on the list of most Trusted Asian brands across categories (through an independent survey conducted by AC Nielsen), but we are still quite underpenetrated. We believe there is a long run of growth for us and we are looking to build on our strong foundation. We feel very good about the opportunity that is there, not just where we are today, but where we can be tomorrow.

The best part in any business is the unfinished business. We are focused on further penetration and staying ahead of the curve of others. Asia is a very exciting place to be and being sure that we are at the forefront of the industry and thought leadership is important to us.

Since competition is growing in the QSR category, how do you stay ahead of the competition?

The retail space is very close to the customers, as close as you can get as a sector. The only way you can get to where you are and then stay ahead, is by being very closely engaged with customers and constantly reinventing yourself. You cannot stay in the same place. Therefore, our brands have needed to constantly reinvent. The manner in which consumers are consuming brands is changing rapidly and thus digital transformation is leading the brand reinvention.

When we talk about customer experience, we no longer only talk about the physical experience inside the restaurant as that’s only one part of our business now. There is a very significant customer experience happening off premise – over the phone – that changes the way we do our business.

There are so many delivery aggregator apps. Do they affect your business?

These apps are making their presence felt in a lot of places. We are currently working with them in some markets in Asia and trying to understand how our model, overlaps with their model and how our model can help them. We are learning our way how on collaborating with the aggregators in a way that’s best suited to our customers.

How important is mobile for Pizza Hut and have you done enough on mobile?

We have done a lot on mobile – but I believe that we have just started the journey. There is a lot more we can do and I’m very excited about that. I won’t say we have figured it all out.

There are two factors driving our mobile strategy – brand engagement and customer acquisition. Our brand allows us the opportunity to do so much in this space and that’s the beauty of mobile. Not all brands are being consumed online to the extent that we are because there is a natural consumer affinity, to use these modes to interact with us, we have a lot of width to play with and make it better.

Shubhi Tandon

Shubhi Tandon is the Assistant Editor at Digital Market Asia. Fascinated by the evolving digital media industry, she has focussed on tracking developments in the Asia Pacific market since 2014.