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Digital Transformation

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An infographics on Digital Advertising in India



This infographics was originally published on Acodez Blog. Check out the link here

This blog has been authored by Autodesk. 


Enrico Dini quit a high paying job in robotics to make a printer that ‘prints’ houses from sand. Krista Donaldson goes from guiding the reconstruction of Iraq’s electricity sector to creating a $80 prosthetic knee that is changing lives. A group of IIT students cut through the rainforest of conventional design to create a climate-sensitive, energy-efficient campus wellness center.  


Despite the occasional scoff, out of box thinkers and innovators like them can never stop designing for a better world. A world where 9 billion people can thrive by 2050, within limits, of its finite resources. We have already consumed 40 percent more than the planet can sustainably provide, while contributing to pollution and rise of sea levels globally. To keep away the dangerous effects of climate change, we must ensure up to 90 percent of fossil fuels stays where it belongs – in the ground.  It’s time designers hit the road with new ideas to intentionally shape the way we tackle our common problems, from housing to healthcare.


A challenge of epic proportions  

2 billion people, more than a sixth of the world’s population, that’s the number of people in India and it is expected to touch 1.6 billion in 2050, surpassing China. By 2030, India’s cities, already groaning under the weight of growth, will add another 250 million people. Identifying the means to accommodate the aspirations of people flocking to the cities in search of work and a life is the key to India’s future. As precious resources like water and raw materials (natural systems) along with infrastructure and institutions (human systems) are being stretched, cities are under huge pressure to function as sustainable living spaces. Rapid urbanization is also a worldwide trend with the need to accommodate nearly 3 billion people in new urban spaces. This means building more urban infrastructure in the next 30 to 40 years as we did in the last 4,000.  


Problem-solving by design      

Enrico Dini’s D-Shape 3D-printer ‘prints’ stone structures from sand, in the process shaking up the foundations of architecture. The idea was triggered the first time he saw a 3D printer work. D-Shape’s printer head, a matrix of 300 nozzle heads, moves back and forth, dropping a sea-water-based ink on the substratum.  The ink binds the sand layer by layer into chosen designs. Enrico’s masterstroke so far is Rygo, which sits in Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Gardens – the largest 3D-printed stone object in North America. Further along the same innovation road, UK’s Facit Homes is busy rethinking the way houses are designed and built. They create digital 3D models and then get portable computer numerical control (CNC) machines to work on them. The CNC machines “spit out” tiny components and even number them. Workers onsite read the numbers and easily assemble them like Lego bricks into snug homes, which also meet every expectation. This approach holds promise of ‘printing’ millions of homes around the world, thereby addressing one of humanity’s most pressing challenges.


Architects, city planners, builders, designers, engineers, and 3D artists work with sustainable technology solutions in the design area, like intelligent model-based building information modeling (BIM) software, to bring energy-efficient buildings into being. Climate-sensitive architecture as a design philosophy is gaining ground. This is founded on ideas like trying to get people to respond to a certain space in a certain manner and continue the romance between person and space.


IIT Kharagpur architecture students Aaron David Mendonca and Anutosh Kanoria, for instance, designed a primary healthcare center for a large campus. Their brief was to firmly establish a feeling of wellness.

They looked beyond the customary view of planting trees, giving them artificial lighting, providing light openings in the center and strapping solar panels to the building. Instead they brought in nature by keeping the building itself open.


The scale and size were very human, so energy intake was low. The team skipped processing for the most part. Concrete was kept in the raw natural state. So much so that one can feel the roughness and texture beneath the feet. Inputs on the exact sun position and play of shadows are significant in terms of getting the most energy savings and quality for spaces. This information came from the BIM. The team also used BIM to continually view their rough design from a range of perspectives. It helped them simulate the design virtually and perform iterations to improve its quality and function.


With the influx of people into cities, it is important to prepare the built environment to withstand the effects of disasters (e.g., earthquakes, floods). Planners in cities can now get geospatial data, including in compelling 3D representations for both natural and constructed features, above and below the ground.  


Intersecting this data with architectural or engineering design data will help keep the cities safe when disaster strikes. In many ways CAD and GIS data exist along two different tracks; CAD groups often use a mix of digital and manual drafting. There is need to achieve interoperability. This was done successfully by the city of Las Vegas which developed a convergence model for its geospatial data and the trend is catching on.


As we talk about possibilities let us consider under challenge that tend to remain under the radar for many of us. Today, three million amputees (including 500,000 in India) need a new or replacement knee every year worldwide.


For most above-knee amputees in low-resource settings, bamboo staffs substitute for expensive prosthetics. A prosthetic knee, expected to retail at under $80, announced this year by San Francisco based D-Rev, brings hope to these amputees.


At one-fifth the price, it performs just as well as comparable knees and is also lighter. An equivalent microcontroller knee costs no less than $20,000. Krista Donaldson and her team at D-Rev, a non-profit, combined digital design as well as new manufacturing techniques and materials to iterate their way to the latest version of their knee design – V3 ReMotion Knee. It cost $13 dollars to make, but is still considered world-class.


The knee uses high-strength polymers and stainless steel components that can help withstand humid and wet weather. It allows users to kneel, squat and bike, mobilizing them significantly. Not surprisingly, D-Rev is short for ‘Design Revolution’.


At two levels, the company taps into the power of massive collaboration. It networks with Stanford –Jaipur Knee groups on R&D. At the same time, the company works with the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure products meet global standards and with licensees who make and distribute products.


D-Rev raises grants from large sections of people (crowdsourcing) toward the R&D required to make affordable products that can change the lives of more recipients living on $4 a day. In January 2014, San Diego-based Organovo created a 3D printed liver tissue.


The company is a pioneer in bio-printing (a 3D-printing offshoot) that allows researchers to print replacement organs and save and enhance lives through transplants. Since the bio-printed organs are based on the culture of the recipient’s cell, the chance of organ transplant rejections is quite low.   

Human history has always been about thriving over existential challenges by intentionally shaping the environment. From the Neolithic tools, to invention of the wheel to 3D printing today, design technology has been central to driving progress in our societies.


As we face a fresh set of challenges, we need to prepare young people, numbering 1 billion (including 150 million in India) at the moment, for life in a world that demands vastly different skills than ever before. Stirring the spirit of inquiry through innovations in design technology is the need of the hour.

The works of Enrico Dini, D-Rev and the students from IIT Kharagpur demonstrate that a design-led revolution is underway. It may represent our best hope for solving the challenges of 2050.  


This blog has been authored by Divya Agarwal from QuEST Global Pvt. Ltd. To meet her, join us at DESIGN & ENGINEERING SUMMIT 2017  


47% of manufacturing organizations are already embracing digital transformations, as per a recent survey by Fujitsu[1]. This transformation is changing the way modern factories look and operate. By embracing this transformation, manufacturers are able to improve productivity in their own plants, stack up against their rivals, and create value for their customers. With that in mind, here is an overview of the five key technologies that are driving the digital manufacturing revolution


Additive Manufacturing/ 3D printing

3D printing is now a well appreciated term in the world of manufacturing. It uses a 3D model or data from an electronic source to craft a 3-dimensional object with given raw material. The end result is a high precision replica of the original design, there is less waste during the production process, hence it’s very cost effective.


A number of industrial manufacturers are using 3D printers to create products or parts in small lots for product prototypes. It helps to reduce design-to-manufacturing cycle times, and dramatically improves the economics of production. It gives the manufacturers the flexibility to create customised products and allows them to perform customer driven manufacturing on a large scale.


Historically, additive manufacturing technology has been expensive but recent advancements have enabled it to become more affordable, and it is anticipated to become a common option for smaller manufacturers.



The concept of employing robots in the manufacturing process is not new; however the technology is evolving in ways that is having a big impact on manufacturing. ‘Cobotics’ is the new concept wherein, rather than replacing human from the manufacturing process, robots are used to complement the work of employees. In such a factory, the tasks that are burdensome and require precision are assigned to robots, while human involvement brings adaptability and complex decision making. Successful implementations of cobotics so far have mainly been in the area of specific ergonomically challenging tasks within the aerospace and automotive industries. But these applications are expected to rise as more sophisticated sensors and more adaptable, highly functional robotic equipment are introduced on the factory floor.


Predictive Analytics

Predictive analytics uses real time data from sensors and historical data to predict likely behaviour of an entity. A significant growth in computing technology and data storage has allowed predictive analytics to rapidly make its way in the manufacturing process.


Utilizing big data and predictive analytics, manufactures can know when to produce products to maximize profits and predict when parts in factory machinery should be replaced. Manufacturers can provide predictive maintenance services to their customers over and above the product itself. This helps in creating value throughout the product’s life cycle as wastage is minimised and processes are optimised.


Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality turns our surrounding environment to a digital world by strategically placing virtual objects in the real world. Recent advances in this field have enabled manufacturers to deliver real-time information and guidance to operators at the point of use. Operators simply follow virtual cues superimposed onto goggles or real assemblies as they perform complex tasks on the factory floor. AR tools can also assess the accuracy and timing of these tasks, and notify the operator of quality risks.


Augmented reality is being used by manufacturers for hands-free training, enable faster responses to maintenance requests, track inventory, increase safety, and provide a real-time view of manufacturing operations. These services could be sold as add-ons to the equipment itself, creating new revenue streams for industrial manufacturing firms.


Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT)

IIoT has been instrumental in digital transformation of manufacturing as it has streamlined and simplified various manufacturing processes. It allows for real-time feedback and alerts companies of defects or damaged goods much in advance thereby reducing cost and wastage. The term Industry 4.0[2] “represents the vision of an interconnected factory where equipment is intelligent and capable of making its own decisions and communicating it to other equipment.”

Modern customers expect their products to be intuitive and easy to interact with, hence manufacturers are driven to innovate and create smarter products. Post-sale experience for customers can also be optimised by utilising IIoT based value added services.




Gone are the days when brand communication was mostly made up of ads that appeared on billboards, in magazines and/or on television. Today, all of this is augmented with Digital revolution.


The fashion industry is engaging with digital technology in new and different ways, in order to stay competitive and to engage with the ways that consumers are searching for jewelry, clothes, and accessories.


Technology is turning the fashion industry inside out. Today, consumers are most active as digital shoppers in the Fashion industry and are demanding a heartening digital experience across channels. People love the brick-and-mortar stores but also exploit online channels through social media, while on the go and online. These Omni-channel experiences should provide customers with a “wow” factor and Digital Transformation is the way to achieve this objective.


In today’s fashion world, competition is fiercer than ever, giving consumers’ far greater power & they demand only the very best customer service. Most of the fashion brands now have a social media presence on Pinterest, Instagram presence, tapping into our heightened engagement with imagery.


It can take many years to build a successful brand, but only a short time to destroy it. Fashion brands have always needed to be ready and able to respond to issues of uncertainty, risk, and reputation, all at varying times.


Burberry is the poster child in digital for fashion that started with live streaming runshows. Then came iPads and mobile apps for consumers to try out different outfits.


In Paris, a window front invites passers-by to download the Louis Vuitton Pass app in order to interact with the window and explore.


L’Oréal has put up a 'social wall' on its main website so consumers can share posts while shopping.


Harrods is the latest luxury retailer to transform its in-store experience with digital technology. They have many new super-high resolution stairwell displays at the flagship Knightsbridge, London store


Adidas has a store wall which shows shoe collections in 3D to see shoe designs from all angles.


With this availability of streaming big data and resultant analytics, fashion brands use the insights for hyper-personalization, align consumer experience and to track customer trends. The customer’s data is the core component of digital transformation in the fashion industry. So, hyper-personalization of mobile retail experiences will be huge in the near future.


Today, dressing rooms enhanced with augmented reality and social media features have transformed the shopping experience altogether. L’Oreal, Maybelline have already started testing special kiosks that enable shoppers to virtually try on makeup by simply taking a picture.


Even the most successful digital retail experiences are built from desktop experiences but the future is in mobile with a predicted 80% of sales traffic coming via this medium.


With digital at a side, fashion weeks across London, Paris, Milan & New York witness runway shows streamed online, Instagram & snapchat stories in real time, creating a close connection between consumers and brands. 

...Continued from Part 1 (Asian Paint's Customer Experience)


As seen in part 1 of the series, Asian Paints invested heavily to identify its customer journeys, segments, and built Omni-channel presence to serve and expand its customer base. However, a truly differentiated Customer Experience is only possible when the backend processes in operations, marketing, sales, finance, etc. are also redesigned to provide efficiencies that help build and sustain a world class digitally powered organization.


Let us now look at how Asian Paints digitized its processes and created real-time online performance management systems to enable its workforce deliver customer delight.


It invested in advanced customer discovery and real time offer management tools to create dynamic segments and run personalized campaigns and promotions across multiple channels. Thus enabling its marketing team to execute, control and evaluate hundreds of customized promotions at any point in time.


A strategic move to integrate its CRM on SAP S/4 Hana helped adopt to SAP’s in-memory technology that enabled it to simplify its finance systems. It was now able to run real time allocations to identify all price and cost buckets from Gross Sales to Net Margin across 50 dimensions and 45000 dealers globally. This also enabled them to monitor site level profitability and make dynamic pricing/promotion changes possible for over 32000 sites. In order to fully mobilize the organization and enable real time strategic decision making, required a management reporting system that could help the CXOs view key metrics at organization, country, product line level and allowed to quickly drill down (or up) and conduct root cause analyses and build what-if scenarios. SAP again came to their rescue with its Smart Business Executive Edition (SBEE) and enabled business to create smart visualizations that worked on transactional data and helped created distributed metrics to enable the “Boardroom of the Future”.


All of the investments above brought in efficiencies in marketing, sales, finance and IT. However, operations was still mostly untouched. While this is still WIP, the proof of concept conducted in their Rohtak plant (Largest paint manufacturing plant in the world) offers insights into the future of paint manufacturing at Asian Paints. As part of their operational transformation initiative, the company has now embedded sensors across the paint manufacturing and packaging processes and is leveraging IoT, Big Data, and Analytics to enable high speed, accurate and always on processes. The plant manufactures 80-100 containers per minute, uses sensors to capture 9 data points per container and handles 54000 data points per assembly line per hour. All of this results in extremely high quality of color, near zero wastage, and enables advanced predictive maintenance of machinery to minimize fault occurrences.

With a differentiated customer experience strategy and ever-increasing operational efficiency, Asian Paints could now focus on combining these 2 to create new business models and unlock additional sources of revenues. More on this in the third and final blog in this series…


Disclaimer: The views are personal opinions of the writer from data, strategies and frameworks available in public sources.

Sources: “Leading Digital” (,

Part 1: Customer Experience Redesign at Asian Paints


A typical Digital Transformation journey involves intervention on 3 lines, namely –

  • Customer Experience,
  • Operational Excellence, and
  • New Business Models


Let’s take the example of Asian Paints. There have been several references and case studies on Asian Paints and how the Indian paint manufacturer transformed itself into a leader in Home Decor/Improvement industry.


I will try and relate Asian Paints’ transformation along the 3 pillars above and leverage the well-known framework from the book “Leading Digital”. In this first in a series of 3 blogs, I will cover Asian Paints’ Customer Experience journey and the learning that one should derive out of it.


The core of every Digital Transformation journey is “Customer” and how could we deliver exceptional Customer Experience. The process starts with –

  • Understanding the customer and creating meaningful personas by putting yourself in the customers’ shoes
  • Tracing the journey across various customer personas and identifying touchpoints for intervention
  • Identifying avenues to impact Top Line growth across customer life-cycle maps


Asian Paints is the 4th most valued brand in India (Sep 2016 BrandZ study by Millward Brown) and has always been hailed for being pioneers in their industry. The paint industry in India has historically grown at twice the rate of GDP growth but has been slowing down recently. The customers demand more and the competition has steadily increased over the years.


In 2013, Asian Paints decided to embark on its journey to disrupt the industry by “Going Digital”. The first step in the process was to spell out their vision –

“To deliver delightful and engaging experiences across all interaction points thereby creating a positive bias towards our products & services, thus building lifetime loyalty.”


Dissecting the vision, we can clearly see that the company is aiming to engage and delight all its stakeholders across various interaction points through a combination of differentiated products and services to achieve and guarantee future returns.


Having put forth a driving statement, the next step was defining customer journeys, touch-points and identifying typical customer personas by putting on the same lens as the customer and accepting that the modern customer has access to similar or more information than the organization. Asian Paints also extended the customer journey to include touch-points prior to paint purchase and post purchase. The intent was to identify the full ecosystem and build products and services that help place them as the company of choice when it comes to Home Improvement and not just a paint provider.


A typical home improvement customer journey involves some (or all) the following steps –

Trigger > Idea & Inspire > Knowledge & Discussion > Product > Color > Influencer & Approval > Brand > Application & Supervision > Endorsement/Brand Interaction


The next step was identifying typical customer personas and their behavior/intent by mapping their journeys in the path above. Examples of 2 very different customer base included the nouveau riche, upper middle class businessmen who wanted an improved living standard but lacked knowledge or access to resources required. His motivation was to display his newly acquired wealth to the society that he lives in. The company calls this segment “Rangeela”. Another example of a customer type could be the highly educated, foreign returned, techie who has seen the world and now wants to replicate the standards in his own home in India. He has access to all the modern channels like the websites, mobile apps, social media, etc. His purchase decision is very different from a “Rangeela” and the company refers to this segment as “Bermuda”. There were several other segments identified on similar lines.


Having identified the segments, Asian Paints realized that given the vast differences in customer personas and associated habits, Omni-channel presence was the only way for them to fully realize their aspirations. This led to an Omni-channel strategy that involved reaching out and serving stake-holders in all 3 modes – Physical, Human, and Digital. Refer figure below for more details.


Asian Paints - Omni-channel CX


With an Omni-channel strategy to capture a wide spectrum of potential customers and having identified full lifecycle of customer journeys, the final frontier left was to extend the product and service lines to include partners, contractors, architects, and interior designers. This required building systems, processes and business models to cater to these new emerging business models. All of this leading to a potential higher Top line growth in the years to come.


While all Digital Transformation journeys start with Customer Experience, a truly differentiated Experience is not possible without bringing in Operational Efficiency that help deliver instant gratification at the lowest possible cost that our modern customers demand. More on this in part 2 of this series...


Disclaimer: The views are personal opinions of the writer from data, strategies and frameworks available in public sources.

Sources: “Leading Digital” (,

The various challenges that plague the aviation industry globally has not left our very own Indian airlines untouched. Rising customer demand, increased regulations, sporadic demand, heightened competition are just a few challenges that the industry faces today.

However, despite the challenges, there are companies like Southwest, Singapore Airlines and Jet Airways that have used digital to win and retain customers, provide better customer experience, and automate their systems and processes to unlock operational efficiency.

Jet Airways uses social media, mobile, and data analytics to better understand its customers and create targeted promotions. But, in order to understand the customer better, you need data that is not readily available on social media or through surveys. Jet Airways found the answer in its new platform “GlobalLinker” (Online marketplace for SMEs). The platform provides Jet Airways insights on its customer’s behavior, booking patterns, business connections, etc. It also provides Jet an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell to a large community of over 50,000 SME users.

Read more: 

GlobalLinker is Jet Airways’ next step in its digital journey - Livemint 

As per a recent study by BCG, less than 1/4th of organizations in US and Europe have attained digital mastery and a similar proportion are laggards. Telcos, technology companies, and banks are at the forefront of digital mastery and have aced the art by –

  •      Simplifying their technology functions by creating new digital roles, implementing agile/devops processes, and incorporating latest digital tools and platforms
  •      Creating new digital products and services that are aligned to customer expectations, takes a holistic industry/function view and create a differentiated experience for every stakeholder
  •      Adapting to industry 4.0 and digital manufacturing utilizing latest technology trends like IoT, 3d printing, robotic automation, predictive maintenance, etc.
  •      Managing digital change efforts by creating digital champions across the organization and creating people processes that reward innovative ideas and view failures as the cost of doing business
  •      Generating performance gains by looking at full value chain across processes and bringing in automation through use of technology
  •      Enabling data driven organization leveraging data collected from customers, machines (thru sensors), and internal organization (very important) and making decisions supported by data


Some of the biggest hurdles that digital masters face in their transformation journey includes -

  •      Cybersecurity concerns due to lack of their understanding, processes and the right people
  •      Lacking financial resources as the transformation efforts require investments above and beyond their regular IT expenditures
  •      Difficulty finding digital talent given a lot of our current workforce still is engaged in the old ways of leveraging technology
  •      Cultural resistance given challenges in effectively communicating the organizational goals, strategy and benefits of “Being Digital”


However, despite the challenges, the leaders in these organizations were fully committed and continued to invest heavily in Digital –

  •      More than 5% of their opex was set aside for digital investments,
  •      10% of organization was mandated to work on digital projects,
  •      They continued to inject digital across customer touchpoints, and
  •      Built increasing capabilities in their functions and business units.


Follow "Amplify Digital" on NASSCOM Community to get more such insights, reports, and case examples.


Disclaimer: The views are personal opinions of the writer based on BCG’s report “Beyond the Hype: The Real Champions of Building the Digital Future” published in July 2017


3 Pillars of a Digital Transformation journey

Have you heard about “SmartShift”? For those who haven’t, SmartShift is a startup incubated by The Mahindra Group and driven and led by the uniquely talented Ms. Kausalya Nandakumar.


SmartShift is an aggregator for cargo owners and transporters, enabling them to work with each other. Cargo owners can access the SmartShift service through the mobile app (currently available on android), the website or the dedicated call centre. You can learn more about SmartShift on their website Hmmm…. So why am I talking about SmartShift? Actually, I am not. I want to talk more about this interview of Ms. Kausalya with BloombergQuint from Oct 2016. (to understand the article further, please watch the video first)


I found Kausalya a great speaker and an excellent business leader and could not help but draw parallels with some of my own beliefs and understanding about setting up a successful Digital business.


But what is Digital?


What is Digital?


Having introduced Digital and SmartShift, let me now try and take you through the various Digital strategy and culture elements that are touched upon here and I will try and demystify those for you.


Elements of Digital Strategy and Culture


Disproportionate value creation: Kausalya talks about being able to create disproportionate value as one of the key aspirations of SmartShift. While it sounds too complex. In simple terms, disproportionate value would mean that the output (revenue, cost saving, time saving, etc.) derived out of the effort is several multiple times of the investment put into the effort. In this case, the business value derived is across multiple stake holders and areas –

Cargo owners – Increased business, better pricing, more transparency

Transporters – Cost saving, increased opportunity to grow business, better visibility on goods transferred, faster transfer of goods

Government – Increased tax collection leading to higher government revenues or lowering of taxes, improved policies

Mahindra – Opportunity to grow its core automobile business, incremental commission revenue from SmartShift, improved understanding of the industry leading to unforeseen growth opportunities in adjacent sectors/areas.

Majority of Digital Transformation or Reengineering initiatives arise because of stagnating growth from traditional revenue sources. Digital provides avenues that were previously unexplored and hence potential to generate disproportionate value.


Digital Platforms: This is a perfect example of a digital platform where Mahindra (or SmartShift) does not own the vehicles or the cargo but have been able to set up a business around the movement of goods by utilizing their experience in manufacturing automobiles and having faced the complex supply chain issues in our country. The biggest asset they utilized to build the business is their domain knowledge coupled with the wealth of supply chain related data they have collected over the years.

Other examples of successful platform businesses include – Amazon, Flipkart, Uber, Ola, Airbnb, etc.


Data Strategy: Today, we live in hypercompetitive world. A successful platform business is almost always data driven and organizations that consider their core business/customer data as a strategic asset are bound to succeed in the digital space. Mahindra seems to have had the right data strategy to be able to drive SmartShift.


Hyper-competition: Hyper-competition is a rapid and dynamic competition characterized by unsustainable advantage. Established leaders are being challenged by new Digital Disruptors across markets and industries. Companies like Mahindra will need to find avenues to disrupt themselves before someone else does. Mahindra can no longer afford to call itself an automobile manufacturer. In order to sustain continued growth, it will need to establish itself as a leader in the transportation sector and not be an automobile company. SmartShift is Mahindra’s attempt towards this goal.


Digital Disruption: Mahindra is using SmartShift as its strategy to disrupt the age old “naka” ecosystem or truck stands as the sole business model for freight transport in India. Digital Disruption is the phenomenon of new age digital first companies changing market dynamics and toppling existing players who fail to transform themselves. Best examples could be Ola and Uber disrupting the established black and yellow taxi service. Another potential area to watch out for could be the new age digital entertainment providers like Amazon Prime and Netflix and how our traditional DTH providers like Airtel, Tata Sky, etc. would compete with them. Note that Netflix and Prime have already disrupted the market in the developed world. But then India is unique in so many ways that you just cannot copy-paste strategies here.


Know Thy Customer: Kausalya mentions that one of the first things they did was talk to the customers (cargo movers and transporters) and understand their need gaps. As a basic principle of setting up a digital business (or any business for that matter), one should fully map out possible stakeholders, probable customer journeys and do a thorough market research to identify gaps in customer demand vs available best options. Identifying white spaces and possible value add is critical for long term success.


A useful insight that helped shape their digital strategy was 70% of their customer base did not have a smartphone and were reluctant to use SMS(text) on their feature phone. This led to a critical decision of setting up an IVRS based phone service to cater to this segment of the target customer base.


Incubation: A new digital business idea needs a different treatment from the word Go. Treatment by means of thought process, leadership support, budgetary requirements, people, and culture. Incubation helps carve out a separate business unit/start-up within the larger organizational setup and is the only way to ensure that the idea is not bogged down by the limitations that typically come with a large setup. It also needs a combination of like-minded, innovative, self-driven people from the parent organization and fresh new people coming from outside the organization. Kausalya at one moment describes how her 20-member team does everything including voiceover recording and taking customer calls.


3 key ingredients of a successful setup include industry/domain knowledge, a fresh digital first perspective and an agile approach. As per Forrester, a “Digital business is a journey, Not a destination.” And indeed, it’s a bumpy ride with a lot of U-turns. Being agile is key to continuous success in this journey.


Market Sizing: SmartShift did a thorough analysis of available data and found that 65% of all commercial transport vehicles operate in top 29 cities. Also, consumption of commercial transport services is directly proportional to GDP and consumption. They based their business plan on these assumptions and target to cover top 30 cities in next 3 years.

Digital business models require a thorough analysis of the available market opportunity to identify the right target customers and business strategy. A good understanding of the domain is key to arrive at more accurate numbers and hence the importance of domain understanding and availability of business-critical data.


Market Dynamics: SmartShift drew parallels in business model from Uber and Ola but were also aware that the cargo transportation is inherently different from passenger transportation. It is different because the customers are different, the providers are different and the competition is different. Also, the stakeholder expectation, the risks involved and engagement model are quite unique in this space. The transporters want the cheapest delivery of goods and in most scenarios, could compromise on speed. While it is important to track the movement of cargo but the chances of mishandling are high and hence insuring goods is critical. Keeping in mind the above differences, SmartShift built a digital platform with embedded reverse auction capabilities, GIS tracking facility, advanced notification features, and goods insurance option.


Partnerships: SmartShift partnered with telecom service providers (for location tracking on feature phones), LendingKart, IOCL and Mahindra Insurance (insurance service provider) on their platform.

Forging key partnerships is important to build a long term digital business model. Organizations intrinsically have a few core skills and focus on building upon those is more important than trying to do everything on their own. Also, having partnerships with players known to excel in their areas of expertise brings in higher credibility in the eyes of the customer.


Omni-channel: SmartShift is available on Android smartphones and a responsive website. Cargo movers and transporters could also connect with SmartShift over phone (thru IVRS). The support is available in multiple languages and in future could possibly include local languages. Important thing to remember here is Omni-channel does not mean all digital channels only. It means understanding the target customer base, their demographic details including economic factors, usage patterns and interaction with your services and ensuring that the customer is able to connect with you through any/all of their preferred channels and still have the expected/similar customer experience.


Customer Experience: Focus on customer helped SmartShift design the platform that provided its customers the features that they most desired and that was not provided by existing means. For example – Most economical delivery through reverse auctioning process, safe and secure delivery through GIS tracking, instant notification for faster business turnaround, transparent and digital transaction mechanism, availability on smartphones and IVRS, multi-lingual support, etc. to name a few. A good customer experience leads to sustained business success as in the case of SmartShift where they have already launched in 2 cities (Mumbai and Hyderabad) and have over 10,000 customers in just a year and growing at over 50% month on month. They plan to launch in 30 cities and have over a million customers in next three years. In doing so, measuring customer loyalty is key to ensure good customer experience and consistently achieve expected results.


Customer Experience is measured as the cumulative impact of a customer’s interaction with the organization/brand across a typical customer journey (pre-purchase to post-purchase customer support and re-purchase). This is typically measured through customer satisfaction analysis across various touchpoints in the journey. Customer satisfaction is measured on 5 key parameters, namely - rational, emotional, sensorial, physical, and spiritual. An organization that strives for the highest level of customer experience (going beyond customer delight) builds a form of spiritual bond with its customers. An example of such customers could be die-hard brand advocates who could go to any extend to ensure success of their beloved brands. Our favorite actor from south, Rajni Kant seems to have mastered this art. There are temples where his fans actually worship him!!!


Diversity: Kausalya is the youngest CEO in The Mahindra Group and already driving one of the most important initiatives that could define the future of her organization. It is heart-warming to hear success stories of our female colleagues like Kausalya and several others.


Team diversity plays a very prominent role in the growth of a new digital world. Digital is all about thinking the unthinkable. Diversity enables a culture of innovation and critical thinking. Growing protectionist feelings across countries could actually be a dampener in our path to a better digitally driven world.


While I tried to cover the most critical elements of a typical digital strategy, there are several others which did not find place in this article. Do follow me on NASSCOM Community  and on LinkedIn and feel free to post your queries. I will be happy to answer those for you.

Rakesh Kumar

What is Digital?

Posted by Rakesh Kumar Jul 17, 2017

What is Digital?


First Thing First: Appium Equals Selenium

Appium is just like Selenium – but only for mobile apps and games “. One should have heard about it many times, but in fact, Appium is much more than that.

selenium webdriver

It is also suitable for mobile web apps testing, where real devices and real browsers are used in testing. With the same effort and cost, a test automation framework can be built with Appium using real stuff or use an emulator/simulator for the automation.

In a nutshell, Appium is a mobile test automation tool that works for native, hybrid as well as mobile web apps for iOS and Android with the aid of Selenium server. Appium is an excellent choice for test automation framework as it can be used for all these different app/web types.

Fundamentally, Appium derives its root from Selenium and it uses JSON Wire Protocol inside to interact with iOS and Android apps using Selenium’s WebDriver.

In its architecture, Appium is an HTTP server written in Node.js which creates and handles multiple WebDriver sessions. Appium starts tests on the device and takes notes for commands from the main Appium server. It is basically the same as the Selenium server that gets HTTP requests from Selenium client libraries.

Appium has proven its flexibility and scalability in a native mobile app and game testing, as those apps and games tend to be much identical on both platforms i.e. Android and iOS. The benefit of having this cross-platform testing framework helps by using the identical script for running app/game on either platform. The same applies to the mobile web.

Appium scripts run smoothly when web testing is done on Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or WebKit-based browser on Android and iOS where applicable.

Another significant benefit of Appium is that users can write tests using their favourite development tools, environment and programming language, such as Java, Objective-C, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Python or C#, among many others.

How to get started and what things to consider?

Don’t worry about the learning curve. If you are familiar with Selenium, then you’ve got Appium covered: They use WebDriver and DesiredCapabilities in the same way. There is a great chance the existing Selenium scripts work as they are with Appium setup. However, configuring an application to run on Appium has a lot of similarities to Selenium — for example, as those of DesiredCapabilities.

Don’t know about Selenium – Follow the URL 

The below instructions provide everything to ensure a smooth start with Appium, real devices and real web browsers.

Bear in mind that the mobile ecosystem is very different compared to the desktop world. As mobile OEMs are building their own stuff, they also tend to ‘differentiate’ on various standards – such as browsers.

In fact, mobile browsers – regardless how standard they are – is also one of the areas where almost all devices manufacturers want to add their ‘innovation’.

This is quickly leading to a happy mix of different web kit versions with different functionalities; when combined with the OS version, hardware configuration, sizes of displays, memory and so on can significantly ‘differentiate’ what user gets as a form of these browsers. Building your test scripts with Appium/Selenium and automated testing can quickly get the understanding that how well does the web work on those devices and browsers.

Another area that any mobile web developer needs to pay attention at is performance:

Web page rendering time varies expressively from one device to another.

To ensure satisfactory end user experience it should be tested that how the CSS & Javascript renders across devices. There are already great benchmarks – such as BrowserMark by Rightware can be used to measure the performance of the hardware together with certain versions of browsers. This gives an understanding of the workload with certain device and web browser combination.

Selenium has already cemented its place in web test automation standard and Appium is providing very clean high-level API that can be quickly adopted by Selenium developers. It nicely abstracts a lot of the messy stuff related to parallel running tests.

NASSCOM organised a Blockchain meet-up event with Fidelity International as the knowledge partner on the 17th of May.  The theme of the event was ‘Beyond the Hype: Blockchain in Financial Services’.


Mark Muir from Fidelity Labs, presented the main talk of the day, wherein he positioned Blockchain on the Gartner Hype Cycle. Mark shared insights into two key factors that should help decide if a Blockchain solution can be a good fit for a use case: (a) if there is a trust deficit in today’s setup; and (b) ability to generate profit (will people pay).


The talk was followed by a panel discussion with panellists from IBM, Quattro (a payments company), and Satoshi Studios (a Blockchain Incubator in India). They joined Mark in an engaging discussion that delved into topics such as applicability of Blockchain in financial services, consortium approach, smart contracts, democratisation of trust and potential pitfalls. The discussion was moderated by Kamaljit Singh from Fidelity International. The panel also explored the opportunities for the FinTech ecosystem and discussed some initiatives undertaken  by some of the regulatory bodies and governments across the globe.


The audience of about 60+ people from across the industry and Fidelity also engaged actively in the discussion, with a lot of questions being put up for the panel.


The last event of the day was a speed talk by Sahil Baghla, one of the founders of Satoshi Studios, where he explained nuances of the Blockchain technology from a non-technical perspective. He also talked about a couple of businesses they’re building, one of which is looking to build the world’s largest user insights platform.


This event proved to be a catalyst to bring forth the knowledge and experience of large companies like Fidelity International, Quattro and IBM to the larger community. It was also a good networking opportunity for all those who participated.




  1. Please tell us about your journey at Altimetrik, Mr Satagopan.

Four years in business now, Altimetrik started off with an aim to render business transformation through technology, for large Enterprise customers. By focusing on Platforms more than Products or Services, Altimetrik is able to bring about rapid acceleration of business outcomes for its end customers. In an increasingly digitzed world, Altimetrik focuses on the three pillars of digital transformation, viz., assets, experiences and processes. Inasmuch, the two key enablers IoT (enables more data generation) and Analytics (which aids visualization techniques) are considered as closely aligned to the digital revolution.


Business transformation in its parlance here, is about delivering Enterprise Capabilities through consumer technologies (not large enterprise systems). From an industry standpoint, the next five years will be about enterprises adapting to technology used by end consumers. The industry verticals currently under focus for Altimetrik are: Fintech, Healthcare (more wellness), Lifestyle (aka consumer facing Retail), Utilities & Telecom which are perhaps among the quickest adapters of this technology-led business transformation.


  1. Your views on talent that is available in India.

Mr. Satagopan is extremely upbeat and has the highest regard for Indian talent. Indian talent is at the forefront of innovation and business leadership across the world, and Altimetrik is no different, he said. For instance, outside of US, India and Uruguay are the largest centres for Altimetrik, focused on product engineering. In the 4th Industrial Revolution that is often touted, Indians certainly have a major role to play in it.  


The talent they sport in India is young by experience and would predominantly fall into the 3 – 6 year range. It is another matter altogether, where technical expertise is concerned, number of years of experience is highly irrelevant. The organisation believes in a lean leadership structure and a healthy pipeline is maintained by investing in people who are within the 0 – 3 year range. In process, the culture is hands-on that provides a full stack exposure to hires.


Talent hiring is also not stereotypical for Altimetrik. Rather than relying on time-tested methods, they significantly focus on hackathons to map the right fit. It isn’t just about people or products alone, but being able to combine people with the accelerators (enablers, as mentioned earlier). A modus operandi that has worked well, and has given Altimetrik a high degree of non-linearity in its productivity curve.


  1. Your views on “software eating the world.”

 The world is driven by innovation both in hardware & software and the two are interconnected. When we say, ‘software is eating the world’ it essentially means a piece of intelligent code that resides in hardware to make it more efficient or make it do things hitherto not done. So essentially software feeds hardware, and the intersection of these is creating newer possibilities for the world.


On the other hand, if the argument is about software replacing humans, then it isn’t true. Or not as it is made out to be. Software is only augmenting human efficiency ( is again beneficial for the world. So, in essence, Software can never eat the world. But it certainly can make it better, and that is what we are seeing around us in terms of Automation, Autonomic Behaviors and creating Human Intelligent Systems. Altimetrik is at the forefront of all of these capabilities.


  1. Please share your thoughts on Bi-Modal IT. How have you leveraged it in your organisation?

How do you transform and efficiently operate at the same time? Bi-Modal is a structured approach to what is otherwise a common-sense transformation rightly operating under Organizational constraint. But here is a clue – something that Altimetrik has used to truly implement Bi-Modal with its customers. The world is often inclined to think in silos. For instance, either we run operations or we bring about change or innovation. The reality is, we cannot function effectively in silos for long. If it’s about innovation, then it as much about execution. This philosophy is always borne in mind when a sound Platform / Product thinking is driven by Altimetrik with its customers even while executing regular projects. That, combined with a full-stack talent mix gives the ability to “assimilate capabilities to transform”, while “running the current world through projects”. Within the organisation, platforms and solution engineering have no restrictive Great Walls. Essentially, they are two sides of the same coin and when KRAs get defined, a crucial element is about teams assisting one other and not remaining mutually exclusive. When customers spend dollars on change, it has to be about execution. That is how Bi-Modal is implemented and the desired change achieved.


  1. On “data being the new oil.”

With IoT, a whole new world of data has been made available. It gets machines to spew more data which can then be leveraged from an engineering and design standpoint. As prices of hardware continue to fall, it has become even cheaper to store it all. But, the important insight to be drawn here is, research shows 87% of data stored by enterprises is useless and it’s only 13% which is useful. However, to get to the 13% we have to be prepared to go after all of it i.e. 100%. It’s the job of data scientists to sift through humongous data and cull out the vital 13%.  


While we have to store all of it somewhere, technologies must help get to this 13% data faster and process them efficiently. This aspect of Data mining, along with focus on simple data correlation, as opposed to complex data analytics, followed by rich data visualization interfaces - broadly, these three form the cornerstone of Altimetrik’s business fundamentals in making data a “fuel” for driving transformation.


  1. On Gen Y

Altimetrik thinks of itself as being an organization that is “led by the Gen Y and guided by the leaders”, as Mr Satagopan likes to articulate.  


Uniqueness that Gen Y brings, may best be captured as:

  • Uninhibited, boundary-less thinking which aids in differentiated thinking
  • They question status quo. The challenge for leaders is being able to manage this approach and not be straight-jacketed in a top-down hierarchical approach


The work culture in Altimetrik propagates this kind of thinking and is able to put up stimulating challenges for the young workforce. They have also been successful in being able to groom managers who enable this kind of thinking all across, and sustain very high motivation levels. Diversity in thinking, more than gender diversity, is one of the major strengths of the company.


  1. Please share your thoughts on the collaborative model of doing business. How has been your experience in working with startups?

They started out by acquiring three startups in areas of Mobility, Cloud and Enterprise Applications. Inorganic growth strategy has worked well, and it has not only been about acquisitions, but also about building partnerships. Mr Satagopan spends a significant amount of time working with startups which are part of the NASSCOM 10k programme, and is always on the lookout for startups which have competencies complementing Altimetrik, so an appropriate fit may be effected.


  1. 3 business pivots, 3 large bets and business mantra?

3 business pivots would be:

  • Digital transformation for clients
  • Connected solutions
  • A strong focus on consumer technologies


3 big bets:

  • Focus on Analytics including User Behavioural Sciences
  • Personalised computing based on user preferences
  • Focus on Human Intelligent Systems, a strong interplay between machines and humans so that the latter can deliver more effectively.


Business Mantras:

  • Talent with the right attitude - high calibre talent, without the right attitude is useless. Talent can also be wasted if there isn’t a definitive purpose
  • Innovate, but with a purpose
  • Simplify technologies … Amplify possibilities …


To read more interviews, follow leader talk


First of all, let us understand the concept of block chain. Simply put, it is a distributed ledger secured by encryption which obviates the need for verification by a central authority. It builds a decentralized database of different entries using complex algorithms and peer to peer network of computers. This makes it difficult for anyone to hack or get access to the information. Being a shared open system enables all parties involved in an exchange to have an open access to the digital record of transactions which cannot be altered.

Thus, block chain can be characterized as robust and adaptable, secured and distributed, and fit for all types of use cases in any sector- financial, retail, healthcare, and insurance and so on.

In this article, we will look at the luxury retail sector.


The luxury retail industry is increasingly being shaped by the millennial generation who are highly impulsive and go by the latest trend and not by necessity. Highly engaged by digital, these consumers demand more as they possess information in a click. Influenced by global competition and increasing acceptance of e-commerce, the brands face a plethora of challenges. A report by Assocham states that globally counterfeit luxury products market accounts for 7 per cent of the overall luxury market and the market in India likely touched INR 6000 crores in 2016. Copies of luxury products such as bags, apparels, watches, shoes, belts, pens, perfumes and jewelry are found in abundance. The proliferation of counterfeit products online has increased multifold forcing brands to take to building their own e-commerce platforms. Companies like Ray-ban, Louis Vuitton, etc have implemented numerous activities to stop such malpractices. In this scenario, blockchain is an effective measure to address the challenges in the sector.

Future contribution of blockchain to luxury retail

Getting rid of counterfeiting:

The black economy, in respect of luxury goods is posing a nightmare for the manufacturers as more and more of such counterfeit products are entering the market. The global luxury industry is worth $320 billion of which the fake luxury product market stands at $22 billion. Finding out ways to reduce and stop this parallel business gives rise to significant business cost and also consumers are not at peace with their product authenticity. The erosion of brand trust is even more damaging.

This problem is solved by blockchain. It enables assigning a unique ID to the product which helps verify if an item is genuine or not. Products are tagged with Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology at their origin in the factory and that data stored on an immutable shared ledger where it could be tracked through a supply chain, consumers could then buy with confidence knowing the goods were legitimate. Transactional information made available to the consumer increases trust in the brand which reduces the trust tax expenses for the manufacturer. The tagging of the product also enables tracking of the product in case it is stolen. Product authenticity and quality assurance are maintained thereby.

Product attachment:

Today, customers are becoming increasingly demanding. They believe concepts like “organic”, “tailor made” and “boutique” are just marketing stunts to sell more of a product. This belief can be detrimental to the brand and needs a lot of investment to convince the consumer. However, if the consumer can see the above himself, he will become a preacher for the brand. This can be easily addressed by blockchain.

Blockchain helps maintain a record of who currently owns the product. Tracking the product and its past, enables the brand to tell a story about the product, its history, how it originated and it’s ingredients or make. Customers not only get information on the authenticity of the product but also the sustainability practices of the brand. The transactions also depict all the supply chain practices of the brand. This gives a sense of satisfaction to the consumer as he is well informed of his product. Customers get an indisputable proof of the provenance and authenticity at every step of the supply chain. This can also be used as advertisement and for marketing as well.

Supply chain

Supply chain dynamics have changed drastically over the years. The process has become compressed and automated leaving less scope of intervention for individuals. This in turn has led to increase in conflicts and trust issues between manufacturers, suppliers and consumers. Manufacturing organizations spend large amounts of time, money and effort on negotiation, communications and paper work to overcome absence of trust.

Blockchain can dramatically improve visibility into complex retail supply chains, such as information on product status and location, visibility into the entire value added process, and also for advanced analytics.

1.      Tracking ad Monitoring of High Value Goods-

a.      Transaction are saved in the form of permanent records that can’t be altered and are well suited for tracking high value goods where buyers can track the history and story of the product

b.      Large amount of data gets stored through complex supply chain which helps identify and track the location of a particular product and its stage of completion

2.      Supply chain visibility and sustainability-

a.      Every step is recorded as transaction and therefore gives a full picture of the process. Trials prove that the necessary steps have been taken towards all stakeholders

b.      Helps justify premium pricing, while fostering sustainability

c.       Meet CSR requirements

3.      Analytics-

a.      Supply chain efficiency and effectiveness - recording every transaction allows a huge set of data to be analyzed and metrics to be measured basis of this reliable data

b.      Consumer analytics - Blockchain allows quality analysis of consumer behavior and habits

The use of blockchain can make the entire value chain faster, secured and cheaper and give insights to both the manufacturers and the ultimate consumers. It can empower individuals to track the entire journey of the item from assembly to vendor.


The recent display of blockchain technology at the Shanghai Fashion Week asserts the acceptance of technology in the luxury retail sector.  Core influences and values of brands are increasingly coupled with technology to deliver maximum value to ultimate consumer. Blockchain with its ample opportunities to solve the major key problems in this sector is something yet to be explored at full scale.


This article was a pen down by Prerna Goel and published on Indian Retailer.


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