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Nancy Powaga
By
 |  September 25, 2020

Lohith Dhaksha is a fifth-generation owner and operator of his family business, P S Jewellery. Founded in 1896 and based in Tiruttani, Tamil Nadu, India, the company sells jewelry and watches for men, women, and children. The shop has thrived for more than a century by providing quality, fashionable accessories made from gold, silver, and other precious metals. They also sell diamonds and gemstones.

lohith-dhakshaA qualified chartered accountant  with an interest in computer programming, Lohith was tapped to step in and run the business, taking the torch from his father. “We wanted to expand our business to all over India,” Lohith says. “But my father was initially reluctant to invest in and embrace technology.”

After rounds of discussion with Lohith, his father was ready to embrace digital transformation. Now, Lohith is about to launch his e-commerce website in October, 2020, to attract customers beyond their loyal, local base.

“We’ve built our family business on loyalty and trust,” he says. “We may be a little pricey, but we guarantee quality. But I realized, even though we’re a very old business, we didn’t have a way to keep track of our customers — including those families who purchased jewelry from us for generations. I figured we were losing business to other shops because we didn’t track our visitors.”

To remain competitive in the 21st century, P S Jewellery needed to establish an online presence, kick e-commerce into full gear, and modernize its customer communications, data tracking, and marketing. Says Lohith, “The biggest problem I faced was logistics.”

The challenge: Kickstarting a digital transformation

Lohith acknowledges his family business was slow to adopt technology. “We should have done some of these changes in the early 2000s,” he laments. “Now, I am running to catch the bus.” But they didn’t survive 125 years only to be left behind. Lohith knew he had to get the business online and create mobile-friendly tools for company communications and other essential operations. It was now or never.

They started gathering customer information the old-fashioned way — using a sign-up book in the shop. Employees entered the sign-up data into Google Contacts. This synced with Lohith and his father’s company Gmail account, which the business owners accessed from their mobile phones. It also provided a central means for father or son to respond to customer inquiries.

“But the problem was, since mobile numbers are very sensitive [one digit off and it’s wrong], they are prone to error while typing,” Lohith recalls. Trying to decipher customers’ handwriting wasn’t working. “What I needed was an app, so employees could enter customers’ information before they leave our showroom.”

Lohith began searching for apps, but soon realized “I was not in a position to invest a lot” in off-the-shelf software. “I was searching, searching, searching,” he says. “I found some other companies that offered no-code app development. But what struck me about Google Cloud’s AppSheet was it worked with Google Sheets.”

Choosing AppSheet: Finding gold in no-code apps

Lohith had some experience with survey creation tool Google Forms, and he and his father already shared a company Gmail account. So he was comfortable working with GSuite tools and made an easy leap to AppSheet. “I wanted to build a database in Google Sheets,” he explains. “I was struck that AppSheet could [connect with] Sheets or any other database. It even provided me with a neat interface for the staff to use.”

Lohith’s first AppSheet-powered app works with SMS by Zapier Integrations and MSG91 communications API. “AppSheet captures the raw data, which goes into Google Sheets,” he explains. “I can make Google Sheets [data input] as a trigger. So whenever a new record is created or updated, it will automatically go and create a contact in Google Contacts. And at the same time, it will trigger a personalized SMS. Whenever the customer purchases something, and before leaving the showroom, they'll receive a thank-you SMS message.”

He then created a second app with AppSheet for inventory management. P S Jewellery sells a wide range of bracelets, necklaces, rings, earrings, and anklets in different styles, both elegant and casual.

“With jewelry, you have very minute differences in the various designs,” Lohith says. “When we give orders to our suppliers, we have to specify all the specifications and variations in designs,” including, for example, the weight and measurement of anklets.

psjewellery-appLohith’s father had traditionally written down these specs on a piece of paper. Like the sign-up book in the store, this left room for interpretation — and errors. “There was too much lack of clarity in communication between us and the supplier,” Lohith says. “[This results in] too much discrepancy in the design. So I created an AppSheet app to track inventory and create a supply order, which specifies anklet weight, length, design — all those things.” This ensured suppliers got the right orders, and the store got the anklets customers desired.

The results:  Bringing a family business into the future

The next AppSheet-powered app on Lohith’s list to develop? Customized text message marketing for customers at different stages along the sales funnel. “We want to customize our SMS messages for a new visitor, a returning customer, and a retained customer,” Lohith says. “We’re exploring ways to create an app with AppSheet to provide different content for our customers.”

No-code development gave Lohith the opportunity to flex his technology skills and become a true citizen developer — while modernizing his family’s business operations and paving the way for the future.

“My childhood dream was to become a software engineer, but that never landed me a job,” Lohith recalls. “I chose finance as my profession. But I always had a passion for technology. Even still, I have a dream to learn a programming language.”

By building no-code apps with AppSheet, Lohith can continue to expand his technology skills while finding fast-and-easy solutions to his family’s business challenges. His father is now the best QA expert and tester Lohith could ask for.

“He now understands the benefits [of no-code apps] and how efficient we can run things,” Lohith says. “He started to adapt to the changes. And he started to give me suggestions. ‘Can you try this?’ For him, he just needs a base. I learned all the complexities of the business and different situations through him. He always tells me one thing: ‘When you see through your eyes, you won't get that error. When you see that through someone [else’s] eyes, they will easily find that error.’ He’s the perfect tester.”

The family will continue to explore how no-code apps and other technology tools can help keep their jewelry business sparkling for generations to come.

Adds Lohith, “I am sure no-code will be the future.”

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Nancy Powaga

Nancy helps app creators build and learn with AppSheet.

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