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Mapping the Future

Digitisation coupled with innovation and disruption has revolutionised the way businesses operate. For a business to survive, it is integral to make use of cognitive technologies like big data, analytics and AI A panel discussion with the industry’s leaders in Mumbai threw up interesting insights on how they are preparing to meet the challenges brought by digital disruption.

Nishita.Chandak@timesgroup.com

Digitisation has the power to change – best use of technology can help increase productivity, reduce costs, and increase efficiency, but also bring challenges at the same time. A panel of CXOs from different sectors brainstormed on how companies could meet digital disruption, in a discussion facilitated by The Economic Times and Microsoft in Mumbai.

Kicking off the discussion, Jean- Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Global Sales, Marketing and Operations, Microsoft Corp., talked about how digital disruption and artificial intelligence are creating new frontiers of possibility. “The three big shifts happening in the marketplace are: a) The user (customer, employee, patient, citizen, etc.) is at the center of any application development. b) Micro-services architecture is used for processing of data on the edge to reinvent the user experience c) All companies and businesses are going to be infused by AI,” he said. That is as true for digital companies as for brickand- mortar companies like Eureka Forbes. Talking about the impact of technology on his company, Marzin Shroff, MD & CEO of Eureka Forbes, said, “Everything is digital nowadays. We have 5,000 sales people and 8,000 service people. Our door-todoor service is also digitally empowered. 23 per cent of our sales is driven from digital leads. We saved Rs 4 crore merely by giving digital invoices.”

All the leaders were in sync for one thing: the digital universe continues to expand rapidly, but only a fraction of the data is being analysed. The question also is: do we really need all the data? Ashank Desai, Founder of Mastek said: “I think we are just at the tip of the iceberg. The huge influx of data observed these days requires a lot of critical analysis. “Data usage by a company and its scale depends on two things, competitive nature of the sector and data dependency of the company in getting a competitive advantage Adding to his views, Microsoft India’s President, Anant Maheshwari said, “the market disruption by start-ups is powered by data. The advantage is that they don’t have the disadvantage of the past and can leverage data for better customer services or transform their supply chain.” Entertainment ticketing platform BookMyShow banks entirely on its digital platform for its business. CFO Mitesh Shah pointed the presence of more opportunities than challenges. “We have almost 500 million Internet users, 300 million-plus smartphone users, with 180 million online buyers.In a population of 1.3 billion, there is a huge upside from here.” The thought leaders also debated if the large or the small companies were better equipped to use data to gain competitive edge. IndusInd Bank’s Head (Direct Banking, Consumer Banking) Ritesh Raj Saxena said, “In the global and Indian context, large players – whether in the entertainment industry or the banking sector – are sitting on reams of data, and a lot of opportunities exist in terms of fine tuning digital models and cross-selling helping increase the businesses from within.” At the same time, the panellists agreed that more than big and small companies, it’s the one which depends more on data that would use it better.

The discussion then moved to the challenges faced by the financial services industry. From banks’ viewpoint, Bank of India’s GM and head of alternate delivery channels, Shyam Sunder Banik said, “Customer segment is vast and we have to strike a balance between young, digitalsavvy consumers and older users who are conservative about digital banking.” From the NBFC point of view, Vivek Pathak, CDO of Reliance Capital feels that NBFCs, unlike banks, are considered mere transaction shops, with no customer relationships. He adds, “To get over this hump is critical in terms of growth. And digitalization is a key tool of our strategy to help us remain competitive and hold relevance.” Bringing in a different perspective, Amitava Neogi, ED & COO of Centrum Wealth said, “Wealth management involves balancing investments in equity, debt, complexities around tax, overseas investments, estate planning, etc. “Our three-year plan has several technological advancements and AI-based applications built into it,” he said. The discussion then moved from finance to e-commerce and supply chain. Deepak Sharma, CFO, Shopclues traced the scenario in smaller towns as to how it is only now that Internet and good bandwidth is beginning to make an impact. He added, “Consumers in smaller geographies aren’t digitally mature. For businesses in unstructured categories, digitization will make a world of difference towards the supplier base.” Adding heft to the supply chain discussion, Chinar Deshpande, Member of Executive Team, CHRO and CTO of Stellar Value Chain, said, “He hopes to use machine learning and AI inside his warehouse. I will put IoT on every single moving asset within the warehouse and figure out if I can identify newer matters for smarter picking, so that by using the same set of resources, I can deliver higher output.” Overall, the roundtable saw much depth in the discussion, from leveraging technology and data analytics to understand the customer better, improve customer services, to the back-end issues of managing the supply chain and inventory. Aptly put: Technology will impact businesses everywhere, including in India, especially in an increasingly connected and wired world. And going forward, all companies will have to become digital businesses in some form.

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