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Full of Promise: New technologies open up new possibilities for enterprises

February 15, 2019
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Enterprises across sectors are increasingly focusing on new technologies to improve their operational efficiency and service delivery. In the past one year, all organisations, irrespective of their size, industry and focus area, have undergone digital transformation. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and big data analytics have seen high adoption rates amongst organisations. Interestingly, various state governments have also partnered with technology companies to establish incubation centres to promote the development and adoption of new-age technologies. Going forward, enterprises will have to work on developing skill-sets to leverage these technologies. Also, this will raise data protection and security concerns. Technology experts from leading enterprises discuss the key technology trends and the way forward…(from left to right- Manish Amin, Co-founder, Chief Information and Technology Officer, Yatra.com; Prashant Gupta, Executive Director, Sharda University; C.V. Ramdas, General Manager, IT, Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited; Aruna Rao, Sr. EVP and Group CTO, Kotak Mahindra Bank; Mohit Rochlani, Director, IT and Operations, IndiaFirst Life Insurance)

 


What were the key technology trends that shaped the Indian enterprise space in 2018?

Manish Amin

The year 2018 has been a year of technological advancements in travel and online travel agencies (OTAs). Every company has tried to enhance traveller booking and enquiring experience across various platforms such as website and social media. In the next couple of years, these offerings will be further refined and technology will be deployed to meet all customer requirements. With travel becoming more experiential than functional, brands are personalising their offerings. They push relevant offers to their target consumer segments, and recommend options for stay as per their preferences.

Big data, cloud technology and personalisation are creating an impact on the travel industry as these offer insights into customer behaviour, which were not available earlier. Chatbots, AI, voice search and other enabling innovations will gain traction among all brands in the coming days. Customers are spoilt for choice when it comes to travel platforms. Thus, to be on top of its game, each brand needs to keep pace with the changing needs and trends, and come up with solutions before others. At Yatra, we continuously study the behaviour and buying patterns of customers to understand their needs and preferences , and provide relevant services.

Prashant Gupta

Advanced functions like face and symbol recognition, and study of behaviour patterns have become possible in cities with tools like AI and deep learning. New technologies are being readily deployed in various sectors ranging from urban design to healthcare, resulting in the creation of smarter cities. The digital revolution has facilitated collaboration in areas like e-commerce. New-age detection technologies that help measure traffic flow, space allocation and movement across huge cities have been further refined. In addition, robotics can prove to be a promising, and highly accurate and productive equivalent of manpower/ human resource in the future.

C.V. Ramdas

The technology trends were focused on making the digital solutions used in our day-to-day lives more intelligent. This included personalising web-based content/product delivery services, and providing voice-activated devices that enable hands-free interactions for users. With greater emphasis laid on a cashless economy by the Government of India, many digital payment instruments have gained popularity. The Bangalore metro has taken steps to provide facilities for cashless purchase of travel tickets at its ticket counters. Most of the testing, verification and validation processes in software and hardware development have been automated.

Aruna Rao

For decades, IT has helped improve the productivity of operations staff through automation of business processes, optical character recognition and magnetic ink character recognition for cheque processing, etc. In the past year or two, a new set of technologies has emerged to take productivity to the next level. Robotic process automation (RPA) is one such technology. Any repetitive activity that does not need decision-making can benefit from this technology.

At Kotak, we have seen a reduction in turnaround time with the use of RPA from three days to three minutes in some customer-facing operations. The results have been equally good for internal IT support operations. The RPA automation of 25 processes has helped save 5 FTE (full-time equivalent). RPA can be combined with machine language/AI to automate more sophisticated operations like fraud detection in cheque processing.

Emerging technologies also enable us to reimagine the process itself, rather than just automating it. Mechanisms such as biometrics-based authentication rather than paper-based authentication can entirely change the process.

There has been an explosion of new technologies ranging from analytics, natural language processing, to cloud. Their success, however, depends on how they are applied and leveraged to improve customer experience and deliver business value.

Mohit Rochlani

Today, we are surrounded by smart devices. The technological wonders continue to get better with each passing day. Devices are getting smarter and we need better platforms and architectures to efficiently support the digital transformation. Trends that shaped Indian enterprises and continue to make an impact are business process bots/chatbots, cloud migration and adoption, machine learning (ML) and AI, advanced security architecture, service-based architectures, IoT architectures, blockchain, and augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR).

What is the current trend in adoption of new-age technologies among Indian enterprises?

Manish Amin

In line with the travel industry’s drive to undertake technological innovations, OTAs have upped their game. By assembling the right tools like video-related content of destinations and multilingual voice search, travel brands like Yatra have been successful in becoming a one-stop travel shop offering great deals to customers. Voice-based bots are revolutionising the way people interact with travel service providers and aggregators. They have ushered in an era of intelligent, personalised, omnipresent travel assistants accessible via multiple devices and in multiple languages. Search queries are becoming more conversational. With the help of voice search, search engines can understand the meaning and intent behind a query and thus deliver the best results.

Prashant Gupta

Technologies like IoT, cloud and big data have helped reduce the geographical distances that separate us. Big corporations have invested in the development of such new-age technologies that can take over the workload of human resources. Global marketing chains like Amazon and Walmart have incurred huge investments to monitor and cater to the needs of their customers. Looking at the most searched sections and categories on their sites has helped them develop algorithms to design personalised advertisement campaigns. The identification of fraudulent activities in banking and financial services has become easier due to predictive analytics technology. Modern governments are using technological tools to address cybersecurity threats; undertaking smart policing through the situational awareness platform; and integrating technologies such as number plate identification and face recognition. Companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon have spent millions to develop their renowned AI interfaces.

C.V. Ramdas

Creating smarter environments for the convenience of people has been the general trend, which will continue to grow in the coming years. The year 2018 has mostly been a year of exploration and planning. Technologies such as IoT and AI/ML are enablers of such smart environments. Defining and creating use cases for such environments has been a significant activity in industry think tanks. V2X (vehicle-to-anything) communication technologies have gained significance during the year with some start-ups finding business prospects in the application domain.

Aruna Rao

One of the direct consequences of a digital play is data explosion. Each organisation has to develop technologies and strategies to manage the volume, velocity and variety of data. It is an area where application, infrastructure, security and data governance have to creatively blend to ensure customer delight.

Kotak has established an upgraded structured Enterprise Data Warehouse, an IQ platform for rapid processing, and a governance framework to decide to whom data can be made available. It has also deployed change data capture tools to extract data from core product processors without impacting online applications. Kotak has also established a data lake for unstructured and online data.

AI is applied to the structured and unstructured data to solve a variety of business and operational problems. At Kotak, AI is used to improve the voice bot experience as well.

Mohit Rochlani

India is reaching an inflection point in technology adoption with social, mobile, cloud and analytics driving digital disruption in the country. The world has truly gone mobile, forever altering customer expectations and experiences.

In India, we are moving rapidly towards the next phase of the web, the internet of everything,  which is the connection of people, processes, data and things. The enterprise scenario is changing rapidly. Earlier, where only large companies were taking advantage of the new-age emerging technologies, now even smaller businesses are leveraging similar benefits. They are adopting these new technologies and using them in more innovative ways and more quickly than larger firms. Most of the technologies are offered as services such as software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service. These new models of technology delivery can go a long way in increasing technology absorption in businesses.

What are the key challenges faced by enterprises while adopting and managing new technologies?

Manish Amin

Indian enterprises are in a very good position in terms of technological advancements. This trend will continue in the future given the rising demands of customers, and the need to adapt to global trends and become trendsetters. In order to adopt new technologies and utilise them to their best capabilities, it is important to train the staff. One of the biggest challenges is to develop the right skill set, which can help manage the new technologies.

Prashant Gupta

Buying a new technology is not enough. It must be integrated with the existing systems and procedures to limit disruption. Besides, the workforce needs to be given additional training, which is an expensive proposition. Some businesses get cold feet when it comes to training after spending heftily on new technology.

C.V. Ramdas

The lack of manpower has been a big challenge for enterprises. People with degrees in the field of data sciences are in great demand. Upgrading technology skills of the mid- and senior-level staff in organisations has also been a challenge. Business planning in the new technology areas is also a challenge. Professionals working on new technologies must be given the freedom to experiment with use cases. The industry is in a state of flux, where slowing down would be essential before speeding up.

Aruna Rao

Each technology brings its own challenges. For example, in natural language processing, intensive research on customer behaviour has to precede the actual technology implementation. Then accents and local dialects have to be factored in. However, there are also some common challenges that all new technology implementations need to address, such as change management for the users of the new technology and new cybersecurity challenges specific to that technology.

Mohit Rochlani

One of the main challenges pertains to organisational culture, where people are not receptive to change, and leaders of the organisation are not well equipped to disrupt their own business models. In addition, there is a lack of strategy for digital transformation and limited resource availability.

What is the government’s role in increasing the uptake of new-age technologies?

Manish Amin

The government has been working to transform India through the power of technology by bridging the digital divide at the grassroots level. Technology plays an important role in streamlining various processes in the industry. Big data and personalisation are expected to play a key role in this. By adapting to these trends, businesses will be in a better position to provide customised services, enhance customer satisfaction, and increase operational efficiency. India’s digital economy has the potential to provide employment in the next couple of years. Identifying this as an opportunity, the government is backing companies to innovate further.

Prashant Gupta

Since 2014, the government has taken many initiatives to explore the various technologies and their role in uplifting society. One of the best examples is the Smart City Project, which allows experts from various disciplines to work together. Another initiative is Digital India, which involves the laying of optic fibre to connect gram panchayats under BharatNet. The linking of Aadhaar with bank accounts and mobile phones allows the subsidy to directly reach the beneficiaries, bypassing the middlemen and fictitious claimants. Meanwhile, the Make in India programme has given a boost to electronic goods manufacturing in India.

C.V. Ramdas

A number of start-up incubators have been set up across the country by the government. These are also pushing the industry to adopt new technology trends and encouraging people to use various digital payment instruments (BHIM, Paytm, etc.).

Aruna Rao

IndiaStack, set up by the government, offers infrastructure services and other facilities, such as the India QR code which provides a means of making payments on the mobile device without the need for cash or plastic money. Digilocker enables the storage of digital documents securely. Banks and other financial institutions can develop customer solutions by building on this infrastructure.

Mohit Rochlani

India is fortunate to have a very technology-friendly government. Digital India is one of the biggest initiatives in the world. Be it setting up a new start-up or financing an idea, the government and its schemes have been very helpful. The fintech ecosystem has gained a lot from government programmes.

Which technology trends are likely to dominate Indian enterprises in 2019?

Manish Amin

Technological disruption will propel growth in the Indian market and every sector will be touched by digital transformation. Companies across markets and industries are keen to adopt new-age trends that will strengthen their database and provide focused solutions. Trends to watch out for are AI, AR, blockchain and IoT.

Prashant Gupta

Technological advancements are not going to slow down in the distant future. Business applications are using the principles of ML and AI with data analytics to determine market and user behaviour patterns. Website developers can apply the same principles to enhance the experience of visitors and improve the rate of conversion. For a proficient customer service support, AI-enabled chatbots will be a new rage in business. Meanwhile, tightening of the new data protection laws should be a key concern, which may encourage the adoption of cloud among private and government enterprises.

C.V. Ramdas

India has been a major resource of skilled software professionals for the advanced world. There will be more and more of knowledge dissemination happening in the new technology domains for our professionals to upgrade their skills. A number of short-term and long-term courses in the areas of data sciences, IoT, AI/machine learning will be offered over the coming years in India. Mobile, hands-free, voice-operated, and digital commerce services will dominate Indian enterprises.

Aruna Rao

In recent times, much of the discussion is around digital transformation. The term implies a one-time process to transform into a new way of working. Gartner has started to use the term “Continuous Next” when talking about digital innovation. In other words, there has to be a continuous testing of new ideas and solutions to meet customer expectations.

Meanwhile, the process of developing apps has to be more agile with devops embedded into it. The architecture needs to evolve to facilitate rapid changes through microservices. On the infrastructure side, cloud native hosting and deployments with containers and kubernetes will become important.

Mohit Rochlani

Trends that made inroads in 2018 will grow in prominence in the coming year. These are AI, ML (a subset of AI), RPA; blockchain; edge computing (designed to solve some of the shortcomings of cloud computing); AR and VR; cybersecurity; and IoT. The number of IoT devices is expected to reach 30 billion by 2020. There are also subsets within the ML domain, including neural networks, NLP and deep learning.

 
 
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