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The third week of February 2018 may even be conceived as the “Blockchain Week” in India, what with PM Trudeau’s India visit propitiously coinciding with WCIT-NILF 2018, which has occasioned the spotlight being turned on the said technology.

 

Blockchain applications in India are at a stage where major breakthroughs are awaited, but the potential is tremendous and its expanse way beyond financial services alone. Though at present, timely evangelization is required if its power is to be leveraged optimally. It is a common enough challenge that subsidies and DBT don’t reach the intended beneficiaries due to leakages, corrupt practices and duplication. Insofar, blockchain promises to address these issues and bridge gaps in a secured manner.  

 

Right now, the infra is almost non-existent and it isn’t a simple case of Plug n Play either. The MoU that NASSCOM signed with Blockchain Research Institute (at the flagship event) should prove to be a catalytic approach. Don Tapscott – the great Blockchain evangelizer and a speaker at WCIT-NILF – classifies awareness levels rather interestingly. Level 1 – What is it? Level 2 – Sparse knowledge; Level 3 – Expert knowledge and finally, Level 4 – It’s my world!  In the US, the level is between Level 2 – 3, whereas in India it’s seen between 1 – 2.

 

The institute (BRI) will aim to get companies and the government in its fold to use blockchain, which can then be presented as used cases for wider evangelization. The media’s role will be to bring these stories to the masses including the under-privileged. In the next stage, one might even think of building fully-equipped CoEs in Blockchain in India which will focus on prototyping, R&D to assist companies in rapid adoption. Inasmuch, it is most encouraging that even the FinMin during his Budget speech this year, made a special mention of Blockchain to pave the way for future adoption.

 

Right now BRI is focused on 75 high-end projects which are led by experts, and now with the MoU firmly in place, India will have access to deep minds in these areas. We have led in global outsourcing and if blockchain is adopted as envisaged, we might even witness the second wave in future – Outsourcing 2.0, if you will!

Raman Roy, the NASSCOM Chairman drew an interesting analogy. Just as toys are likened to China, that day may not be too far when the Indian outsourcing industry takes lead in blockchain implementation & deployment, across industries and geographies.   

 

Finally. To misquote Parkinson’s Law: Work will expand to meet money and earn millions for India to render Internet of Value.           

 

This blog is authored by Sameet Gupte, CEO, Servion Global Solutions. 

 

Data plays a trifecta of roles in the world of Customer Relationship Management (CRM). It is the workhorse, the gift horse, and the dark horse.

 

Every single day, tons of data about customers are generated, warehoused, automated and interpreted. They are constantly put to work to enable your decision-making processes on customer experience. Data is also the prized possession of CRM practitioners. It should not be looked directly in the mouth; instead, it should be curated and retrieved intelligently at the right time, and for the right purpose. Likewise, it is the underdog of technology investments in the hyper-digital race for effortless customer experience. With the industry going gaga over artificial intelligence as a deal-maker in customer engagement, big data and analytics have been emerging as powerful game-changers of the future.

 

According to Forbes, “CRM software has shown a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.1% from 2012-2017, leading all enterprise software categories in projected growth”.

 

Some of the types of customer-related data that drive CRM are:

 

Identity Data: The bread and butter of customer engagement, it comprises established data such as customer name, contact information and other basic personal details.

 

Quantitative Data: It provides transactional data on their buying behavior, and their multi-channel interactions (IVR, chat, email, social networks, etc) to help organizations understand what works and what does not, as far as the end experience is concerned.

 

Qualitative Data: It offers valuable drilled-down insights on what motivates the customer to go through with the purchase or otherwise, how strong their brand loyalty is, and whether they are thoroughly satisfied with the overall experience.

 

 

“We’ve spent the last 30 years focusing on the T in IT, and we’ll spend the next 30 years focusing on the I”

 

Peter Drucker, Senior Consultant & Author

 

 

The digitalization of modern-day CRM has an increased organizational dependence on data to craft productive and purposeful omnichannel customer journeys. The onus is no longer purely on where the customer is. Service strategies are now even more focused on where the customer will be, in his/her purchase journey with the organization. Clear milestones are being set for them to cross so that their engagement can be measured and improved upon.

 

Considering the explosion of communication channels, the power of interaction is in the hands of customers. They choose when, where and why a conversation should take place. Hence, it is of paramount importance that their needs are proactively met; and their relationship with the organization is intuitively strengthened. It is the only way that brand reputation can be positively managed, and differentiation can be achieved.

 

A recent study shows that “sales productivity increased by 26.4% upon adding social networking and mobile access to CRM application”.

 

As Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things (IoT) continue to make quantum leaps in experiential areas, the learning curve on leveraging Big Data and Analytics has been shortened. But, it has also opened up new avenues of virtual engagement. Furthermore, Machine Learning (ML) has kicked the door wide open for automation. With process automation taking over actions such as monitoring, scheduling and executing Next Best Actions, data is truly in the driver seat of customer engagement.

 

Here are some of the business benefits of future-proofing Customer Relationship Management with the power of data.

 

New Service / Solution / Product Differentiation

Using the data gathered from multiple channels, organizations gain a greater understanding of what their customers expect from them in the near future. Whether launching a new product line or offering a simple software upgrade, the real-time availability of customer data can go a long way to fine-tune new offerings.

 

Superior self-service

Across domains, customers are encouraged to use self-service features. Often, it is the first line of defense in managing brand reputations. Through data analysis, organizations get a first-hand view of the success rate of their self-service channels, and they can improve it further based on the collated feedback.

 

Higher degree of personalization

“Personalization” is replacing “proactive” as the new buzzword in CRM. The customer of today is very likely to turn disloyal if his/her individual demands are not met. Through data insights, customer service can go beyond the realm of merely resolving issues and troubleshooting, and it can drive personalized experiences.

A customer experience strategy without a CRM plan is like a thoroughbred racehorse without an equestrian turf. A CRM plan without the influence of data is akin to a jockey riding that horse without a saddle.

 

For organizations to gallop, along with their customers, towards the bright horizon of superior experiences, it is pertinent to adopt the latest practices in CRM.

 

Customers are moving ahead with the times.

 

Why should the relationships that organizations manage with them be any different?

 

 

This blog is authored by Mr. Praveen Rawal, Managing Director, Steelcase India and Southeast Asia.

 

Image result for Praveen Rawal, Managing Director, Steelcase India and Southeast Asia.

 

Designing to successfully ignite a universal creative culture

 

When one thinks of a place where creativity thrives, people usually first envision an art gallery or a film set. About a decade ago, the office and creativity had no common ground. Today, the trend toward more creative work is why organizations are making efforts to build a workplace that accelerates this fundamental shift. Seventy-two percent of people at work today believe their future success depends on their ability to be creative. Amidst the race in digitalization and new workplace demands, employees need the ‘power of place’ to let ideas incubate.


The world of work is fast evolving and we’re seeing a huge impact of spaces on employee behavior. Corporate India is rejecting dull, monotonous spaces that draw a sharp line between work and life. The new office needs to supercharge its people. Here are ways we can revitalize this creative shift.

 

Versatility in Spaces
The overriding nature of Indian workspaces is its diverse nature, diversity in behaviors, personalities, backgrounds that reflect different preferences and demands. A range of spaces, gives people enough choice and control which we’ve seen has a great impact on culture and performance.

 

However, one area of concern for Indian workers is the ability to move around their workplace easily throughout the day. People need to work alone, in pairs and in different size groups throughout a creative process, and they need a range of destinations that compliment focused individual work as well as collaborative efforts. A high-tech destination, a duo meeting space, a private room that allows relaxed postures, are unique spaces that are reinventing the wheel for corporate India.

 

The goal is to give people the freedom to work like they are working from home so they can creatively solve complex problems. The ‘future of work is creative’ and thoughtfully created spaces are the ultimate facilitators of innovation.

 

The ‘Startup Culture’
What is startup culture, as some might rightfully ask. The growing nature of a company, shouldn’t result in losing the entrepreneurial spirit. Companies that start off small, with all the passion and rigor and retain this through years is what we define as ‘startup culture’. The ability to Empower, Experiment and Encourage fuels a special kind of culture that has become the envy of established brands. 90% identify culture as foundation to the success of their companies. The major challenge in Indian workspaces is density which is a hurdle experienced by employees. So it’s especially important to ‘humanize the density’ and make the office somewhat of a sanctuary for employees. A casual, non-corporate environment, or what we’re calling “startup culture,” is a highly appreciate quality amongst employees in India. Organizations need to empower their people with trust and autonomy that will help them push boundaries. 71% strongly agree that being held accountable specifically helps them to innovate. Disregard for conventional ways of working and thinking builds newer paths to creativity and innovation.


Smart + Connected
The integration of Design + Technology is the biggest disrupter, and is changing the state of work by redefining what the traditional office means today. The entrance of new generation workforce has come with own set of demands. The synthesis of technology and workplace design is driving businesses to new heights and enabling workers to achieve higher level of productivity and efficiency. It is no secret that work today is both physically and cognitively demanding, and the environments should be designed to help people deal with the stress it causes. Control over key sources of distractions that impact performance such as noise, interruptions, lighting and temperature control, special types of electrical outlets makes the work experience much better. People are seeking intuitive, simple-to-use tools and smart desks that promote flexibility and also support the agile working trend.

 

The ability to be creative correlates with the environment that you are in. While creativity might entail the ‘big idea’ moment, it is a process that also involves having the ethic to focus and implement that idea. The way to support this process is to create conditions where ideas can flourish.

This blog is authored by Sameet Gupte, CEO, Servion Global Solutions. 

 

Technology is woven into the fabric of our lives. From the moment we wake until the time we hit the bed, it is an intricate part of how we experience life itself. We love technology because it helps in simplifying tasks – from accessing information to automating experience. However complex or run-of-the-mill an activity may otherwise be, it drastically reduces the amount of time we spend on them. In some sense, it enables us to do things that we may not be able to ourselves.

More importantly, technology has always thrived on our growing capacity to constantly seek improvements in experience; the way we consume data, how we interpret it, and the speed at which we perform actions based on our derivations. Expectedly, businesses all over the world have been innovating and capitalizing on this primal human urge for easier, faster and better solutions. In order to fine-tune or upgrade the experience they provide to their customers, businesses find themselves perennially jogging on a treadmill of innovation. Now more than ever, they look to break free from the limitations of legacy systems, and redefine experience design – from understanding what their customers want to how they are providing it.

 

 

Senior UX designer, Tom Wood, summarizes thusly:

 

“Experience Design is a method by which we can improve the quality of the outcome for the user while working within resource constraints. It’s gaining attention at the moment because it’s becoming more widely accepted that if we can improve outcomes for customers, we can improve outcomes for business”


However, it can be said that most experiences are subjective because human perception is an evolving process that is based on individualistic traits. Hence, designing a great experience does not always comprise a series of executable tasks. There are no clear-cut templates for businesses to follow. Experience design is a way of thinking. As much a philosophy as it is a science. 

 

So, how do business go about designing suitable experiences? Do they adopt a one-size-fits-all methodology? Or do they cast a large net of experiences so that they can cater to a wider group of customers looking to bite?

 

 

“Customer experience designers can define experiences that extend beyond the purchase of a product or service. A good purchase experience, or even user experience, doesn’t guarantee future business. To ensure feasibility of a business, customers must remain engaged, and this requires thinking across all stages of the relationship”

 

Industry Expert & Author, Patrick Newberry

 

 

The crux of Experience Design lies in identifying what we sell as value distributors and treating our customers as value ambassadors.  Customers are more than just users. The journeys they undertake, as consumers of your brand, go beyond the destination that either of you have in mind.  It is a framework for continuous value generation, acceptance and distribution because a great design implies a proactive approach to identifying and fixing gaps between what customers want, and how a business provides it to them.

 

Given the inundation of Big Data and Analytics into the CX ecosystem, there is enough information out there to leverage in order to create true value for customers. In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, being proactive is not a luxury. It is crucial towards the survival, not just success, of the brand. Artificial Intelligence too, is playing a key role in urging businesses to redefine Experience Design along with rising customer expectations. Advancements such as Smart Assistants, Augmented and Virtual Reality are automating experiences and reshaping how customers attain end satisfaction. These days, they want to be more empowered with the ability to craft their own experiences. And they expect brands to give them the necessary tools to achieve what they perceive to be a comfortable and satisfying service journey.

 

 

In fact, Gartner predicts:

 

“By 2020 a customer will manage 85% of the relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human”

 

 

Accenture says that:

 

“89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues to multiple representatives”

 

But, going back to Experience Design being a strategic guide rather than a structured rulebook, it does not mean that merely implementing effective self-service options or ensuring omni-channel consistency is a guarantee for profitability or even sustained customer acquisition. After all, a highly-attractive website, a super-responsive mobile app or some of the best trained agents that money can buy can get you far in the battle for customer experience. To win the whole shebang, though, businesses must take into account multiple factors that may affect the experience. Right from the pre-production blueprint stage to the post-purchase care stage, there are moving pieces that need to be influenced. Such changes should start reflecting in budgetary allocations, technology implementation, resource utilization and overall growth strategy.

 

After all, when the dust settles – all customers want are great experiences. Businesses succeed when they seek to constantly improve the experience without any prompt from the customer.

It is when they create competitive differentiation.

It is when they succeed.

This blog is authored by Suman Reddy Eadunuri, Managing Director & Country Head, Pegasystems

Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” Who knew that his words will hold true even 150 years later?

We are on the brink of the 4th Industrial Revolution, and one should accept the reality that for firms to stay relevant to the times, they will have to adapt and embrace. A firm can stay future proof only by appreciating that the ultimate on-boarding of technology is not just indispensable but a survival strategy. Technological advancement and digitization are not here to intimidate; they are here to stay. They are here to remind us that the only thing constant is “change”.

Reskilling- the only strategy

The impact of automation and AI on jobs is not new and neither is the need to ‘reskill’ workforce in the IT sector is passe. As the technology landscape transforms at an increasing pace each year, and with the advent of AI and automation there is a need to reinvent oneself. This is true for individuals as well as organisations. 

Historically, or at least since the Industrial Revolution, every single major change has resulted, in the immediate short-term scepticism over loss of business, livelihood and jobs. But, in the long run, each of these innovations created a generation of positive impact that was several times more than the initial negative effect. For instance, when computers first came in, everyone said they will take away jobs. While there were some job losses initially, today IT and related industries are some of the largest employers globally. The same applies to the transportation industry, which is one of the largest employment generating sectors in the world. In fact most largescale technology adoptions have usually resulted in an increased levels of opportunities and wider wealth distribution.

A Future-ready workforce

The impact of disruption due to innovation from a pure IT focus to digital transformation is comparable to the invention of the Ethernet 44 years ago. The far reaching impact of what the IT industry is today grappling with, on every accept of human endeavour, can only be studied, evaluated and understood in retrospect, couple of decades from now. However, contrary to popular belief, digitisation and automation too, like every other invention, are opportunities for humans to move on from repetitive and quantifiable work to more creative and non-linear activities. Humans created these machines and they are far superior in terms of cognitive intelligence, analytical abilities and creative thinking.

 

As far as the IT sector is concerned, companies cannot afford to ignore focusing on reskilling. It is the other way round. In fact, because every day you do not upskill, regardless of whether you are an employee or an organization, you are prone to regressing and if the same lack of momentum continues whereby the new skills are not on-boarded, there is big chance that you will be redundant to your organization. So reskilling/upskilling is not an option, it is a must-do for every individual and organisations

 

Automation and the workforce of the future are not far-off propositions. Companies have already begun implementation of “digital-labor” in the form of RPA, machine learning, or other AI, and as they do so they must simultaneously consider how these new models of human and digital labor will function by co-existing.

 

Most traditional tasks will become automated leading to creation and definition of new roles. Human workers will assume specific higher-value and will be enhanced by their digital counterparts.

 

 

Democratization of A2 (AI and Automation)

While AI has become somewhat synonymous with automation, it’s important not to lose sight of its strategic potential. We expect to see more and more companies using AI to augment strategic planning.

 

Questions regarding ethics, trust, and transparency will only continue to grow as AI becomes more widespread. Business leaders must begin addressing all facets of what we call Responsible AI.

 

There is huge potential for AI to augment human judgment. Businesses are increasingly deploying AI to gain better insights into customer needs and provide more personalized service, sales, and marketing. However not all AI models are built with the levels of transparency they may need to fully understand how AI makes its decisions – a trait that’s particularly critical in highly regulated industries. AI requires a transparency that would help companies mitigate potential risks and maintain regulatory compliance while providing differentiated experiences to their customers.  

 

Transparent AI is when the technology is required to explain its decisions and how it reached them. It can explain exactly how it's using data to make decisions or predictions. The transparency scores will help guide business users to build AI systems using the right models that meet their organization’s transparency requirements while still delivering exceptional customer experiences.

The India Perspective

 

So how do we, as individuals, organisations, industry and a nation prepare for this period of flux? First by acknowledging that we are heading for one. The fact that technology shift is at a tipping point and transition will not be incremental but quantum.

 

The IT industry is at the cusp of another tectonic shift that has the potential to transform literally every aspect of its business. It is critical that we examine this impending shift, understand its possible impact and prepare for it. On many fronts India has managed to keep pace with this revolution.

 

But I can confidently state today and with proof that India needs to unleash the shored up potential, the vast potential in its R&D. Today, it is not just an enabler but is using its potential of decision-making. It has the best brains, passion, hunger and means to excel. Small hiccups like IT layoffs cannot throw it off-guard. There can be minor inconveniences such as the layoff phase we witnessed in 2017, but what is more important to remember is that it is not just the largest market for AI but also the largest R&D repository to develop AI. So long as we as a nation do not lose sight of our strengths, we can and we will lead. 

 

    This blog is authored by Seeler Rebeiro, Senior director- Technology services, WNS Global Services. 

     

    A number of enterprises are attempting to transform their operations using a digital virtual workforce. One of the key steps on this journey is implementing RPA. To do so, a well-structured and staffed Robotics Centre of Excellence (RPA CoE) is critical. Some of the key considerations for the design and set up of a well-staffed and organized RPA CoE are:

     

    • Organization Model & Accountability

    Whilst the CoE is central to an industrialised Robotics capability, other areas of the business are key to a successful Robotics program. The key organizations & their accountabilities for a successful RPA program are

    1. Operations:
      1. Target ownership set through a budgetary process.
      2. Staffing to assist the RPA CoE in the assessments, design and testing of the automated processes.
      3. Re-organsation, change management or communications required for the realization of robotics benefits

     

    b. RPA CoE:

    1. Identify new opportunities for automation.
    2. Agile teams that that can be stood up quickly to deliver Robotics to the operations within agreed budgets
    3. Act as a single point of contact. All requests for Robotics goes through the same team, who have a proven delivery methodology.
    4. Creation of policies, standards, processes and template materials relating to Robotics within the business
    5. Management of change requests in BAU

     

    c. IT:

    1. Delivery and maintenance of the required Robotics infrastructure
    2. Security of IT Systems, data and Robots.
    3. Investigation and resolution of incidents on IT Infrastructure, system access when it is identified as an issue.

     

    d. Procurement:

      1. Engaging with suppliers to deliver the best value possible for the requirements supplied by the Operational leads, CoE and IT. These mainly include the Robotics licenses, the Robotics Infrastructure (VDIs, and Servers), and Robotics implementation costs (when provided by a 3rd party)

     

    • Principles governing RPA

    A few key principles must be adhered to whilst identifying opportunities for RPA.

    1. Where a process step does not add value, it must be eliminated before automation
    2. Where a core system can be altered to automate the process in a cost effective and timely manner, this is a preferred option to Robotics.
    3. Explicit permission from Client before automating a process that involves PII and confidential data. Avoid storing any client confidential data in the Robotics Database/Robotics Work queues. Robotics of processes will not be performed in such a way that results in an increased risk to integrity or security of systems or data
    4. If a process is currently outsourced to a third party provider, the process should remain outsourced and the CoE must deliver the robotics within the outsourced operation using the Delivery methodology for Robotics. The CoE must evaluate the capabilities of the 3rd party provider for RPA, and if found suitable, enroll them as a Robotics Implementation partner

     

    • Staffing of the CoE

    Regardless of whether the CoE is self-run, operated by a third-party, or a hybrid model, it must have the following critical roles. This is a must to keep the momentum and drive bot velocity

     

    1. CoE Sponsor: Executive sponsor accountable for the Robotics strategy.
    2. CoE Lead: Accountable for CoE activities (a senior stakeholder), engagement with Operational Leads, and overall CoE performance reporting.
    3. CoE Project Manager: Manages the delivery of Robotics projects in accordance with CoE Delivery Methodology to ensure benefits are delivered on time and in budget.
    4. CoE RPA Business Analysts: Responsible for opportunity identification, producing high-level and detailed analysis of benefit potential and requirements gathering.
    5. CoE RPA Architect: Responsible for detailed design, the infrastructure design, and the licensing needs.
    6. CoE Developers: Responsible for technical solution design and build, test prep and support and in-life support
    7. CoE Test Lead: Responsible for test execution and management of issue remediation.
    8. CoE Controller: Monitors, schedules and supports day to day operation (BAU) of automated processes

     

    Once the CoE is staffed and set up, with the right governance model, reporting and well defined guidelines, standards and templates, you should be on your way to an industrialized and institutionalized RPA Organization.

     

    Join us at NASSCOM - India Leadership Forum 2018, Feb 19 - 21, HICC Hyderabad, India  for more expert opinion and discussions. 

    This blog is authored by Rishad Premji is the Chief Strategy Officer & Member of the Board, Wipro Limited.

     

    The potential for new technologies to disrupt industries & business models are real today. Several examples across industries such as Financial services, Retail, Transportation and even traditional industries such as Manufacturing are testimony to this fact. The disruptive and bleeding edge list of technologies include Robotics, AI, AR/ VR/ Mixed Reality, Deep Learning, Natural Language Processing, IoT, Blockchain, Computer vision amongst others. While each is injecting unprecedented productivity gains & new revenue streams in businesses, it is the confluence of these technologies that is creating possibilities for firms to become nimble, unlock synergies, and tackle increasingly complex problems. Their convergence is thus changing old operating models and creating new dynamics in industries and economies.

     

    Businesses like Caterpillar are combining wearable technology with IoT, AR and VR so that complex industrial machinery can be operated and serviced on site with dramatic agility and efficiency[i]. Google and Levi’s have developed touch-sensitive clothing – using gesture recognition and AI -- that delivers interactivity[ii]. DHL has developed smart glasses that provide order picking instructions along with information on package location using AR, analytics, etc., that halve onboarding time and deliver a 15% productivity gain[iii]. Everyday, exciting new research and applications at the intersection of technologies are being explored and developed by start-ups, platform players and enterprises leading to solution possibilities to seemingly intractable problems.

     

    The winning recipe - Mindsets, Skills & Open innovation

    Translating the potential of the convergence will need a new model of engagement between enterprises, innovation networks, start-ups, academia and technology partners. All sides will need a fresh approach to business and technology risk to realize the value from investments in technology. A deeper level of engagement, a spirit of experimentation and a fresh approach to talent are critical ingredients to success.

     

    Amongst these, the most critical and long-term shift will be the talent strategy. Future talent will solve problems for discontinuous transformation using non-linear tools and techniques.  The new full stack talent will have mastered multiple disciplines like user experience design, DevOps, data sciences and AI. It will also be familiar with processes and characteristics specific to businesses and industries.

     

    This combination of capabilities will need a deliberate disruption to the current model of talent development, transformation and assimilation. Industry bodies will need to play an active role in skill building, and work actively upstream with universities, colleges and research organizations to define new curricula based on emerging needs.

     

    Technology providers must simultaneously explore new models through open innovation approaches that cross-fertilize ideas, data and talent. Equally urgent is the need for technology providers to become an integral part of the startup ecosystem by funding and nurturing innovation. Lastly, established providers must leverage the emerging gig economy to crowdsource niche talent for AI, IoT, blockchain, cybersecurity, computer vision, etc. and channel the talent into solving previously intractable problems.

     

    [i] https://www.iot-now.com/2016/06/11/48399-cat-shows-how-ptcs-augmented-and-virtual-reality-technology-impacts-on-industrial-iot/

    [ii] https://www.theverge.com/2017/9/25/16354712/google-project-jacquard-levis-commuter-trucker-jacket-price-release-date

    [iii] http://www.dhl.com/en/press/releases/releases_2017/all/logistics/dhl_supply_chain_makes_smart_glasses_new_standard_in_logistics.html

     

    Dr. Jeffrey L. Sampler’s research analyses the intersection between strategy and technology. His research interests include the strategic implications of new technology, and the management of information as a strategic resource.

     

    His current work focuses on strategic shock absorbers — a study of factors that allow business to stay grounded even when they encounter unexpected change. Interestingly, the foundation for the research is 15 case studies on Indian companies. He has special expertise in outsourcing, especially in India.

     

    He is an expert in helping businesses make plans for the future. His newest book is Bringing Strategy Back: How Strategic Shock Absorbers Make Planning Relevant in a World of Constant Change.

     

    • Professor of Management Practice at China Europe International Business School.
    • He was Fellow of Strategy and Technology at Said Business School and Fellow of Green Templeton College, University of Oxford.
    • He has also been Research Scientist in Centre for Information System Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) since 2001.
    • He has been featured in Newsweek, BBC Radio, CNBC, Economic Times, Financial Mail, and IT Web.
    • He has written two books on the economic transformation of Dubai, Sand to Silicon and Sand to Silicon — Going Global.
    • He has advised and been a board member of both FTSE 100 corporations and start-ups.
    • He has been an advisor to former president of Nokia for 5 years and advised 2 Heads of State

     

    Go on, post your question in the comments below. You can listen to him at the upcoming WCIT India 2018 I NASSCOM ILF 2018

    This blog is authored by Gooty Agraharam, Corporate VP- Technology Services, WNS Global Services. 

     

    Mark Twain had said, “Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.” This sets the context for my argument that Intelligent Automation (IA) must precede Artificial Intelligence (AI). IA prepares the ground for sustained benefits with AI, without which AI will not yield the expected returns, or in other words the “perfection” that we are seeking.

     

    Should IA come before AI is a conundrum that faces both our customers and organizations like ours -- how do you make automation intelligent before adding insights and intelligence into the process? Ideally this should come from a combination of wisdom and the experience of dealing with other customers and processes in similar and related domains. The processes that our clients run are unique to their business and therefore they expect solutions that cater to their specific needs. Today there are best practices that deal with specific scenarios and are being built into processes, systems and applications design to help accelerate their AI journey.

     

    An example of this is a leading new online retailer that wanted to set up customer service operations. The company needed to establish a quick service function and associated processes. However, given that it is a new retailer, it did not have any patterns or insights into customer behaviour and required to first acquire a significant amount of customer data. The company needed the automation of its operations and back office to be backed by customer intelligence. It needed to incorporate best practices already available in the industry into its processes and thereby build a continuum on which intelligent automation leads the way to data and analytics. With this approach, the retailer set up operations within three months as against a standard industry timeline of 12-18 months.

     

    A common mistake in AI is over-engineering or automating every process without the foundation of a business case on the transformation. Today we have a plethora of automation technologies and tools but they call for careful evaluation before implementation. Is there a commercial justification for removing the human element entirely? Not all businesses require end-to-end process automation. Businesses which tend to scale quickly will definitely require human interaction and support.

     

    The buzz around robotics process automation (RPA) is drawing the attention of most companies, and rightly so. The difference between RPA and the earlier tool-driven automation is the embedding of intelligence through a combination of machine learning, algorithms, patterns and analytics that together removes process redundancies and waste. There is a strong business case for RPA for organizations that are looking to scale their operations and drive value from their existing operation. However, considering RPA as a magic potion to replace human interactions and save costs is not a sensible business decision. The balance between intelligent humans and intelligent robots is critical to help optimize and drive value across the services organization.

     


    • On Coursera’s vision – how did it all happen?

    In 2011, Andrew Ng led the development of Stanford University’s main MOOC (Massive Open Online Courses) platform and also taught Machine Learning (online) to thousands of students - literally. Perhaps, the early moorings of the vision behind Coursera can be traced back to that period. He had a small team which consisted of a handful of students and they were deeply engaged in creating the early websites – six of them – after having painstakingly spent hundreds of hours interviewing business leaders, academicians and the likes. Right at the beginning, it was apparent that online course delivery was very different from regular classroom-based teaching so the mechanism had to be developed accordingly. The rigour paid off and the initial idea began to germinate – of offering scalable online education which would have a very wide universal appeal and deep impact.  

     

    • On early challenges of evangelizing the disruptive idea behind MOOCs.

    With time and experience, we have come to realize that teaching online is far more effective, and, it is scalable. Like any disruptive idea in its time, this too was not without initial resistance and stakeholders had to be convinced about its efficacy. It needed some doing to reduce friction by reaching out to the academic fraternity and convincing them about its potential.  

     

    • Creating a niche and staying ahead of competition.

    Currently, the platform offers more than 2000 courses. Very little (if anything at all) remains unexplored in the field of education. Right at the inception they were clear about a certain philosophy and adhered to it all along – put the student’s need over everything else! Moreover, the phenomenal success has brought in education partners from world over which has helped tremendously in creating a repository of knowledge / learning & best practices.

     

    • Artificial Intelligence – now & what the future portends.

    He likens it to electricity – the new electricity, if you will! And, its impact is no less revolutionary just as it was in the earlier century (with electricity). Today, the adoption of AI is seen across industries, albeit, some in more advanced stages than others. In reality, we are yet to even explore the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Its true potential can be leveraged only when billions of people use devices which are AI-enabled and experience a whole new level of functionality.

     

    Coursera on its part is focused on providing specialized courses in AI which will empower future talent when this technology proliferates to meet its 10x moment in history. Just as today, many leaders wish that they had crafted a digital strategy earlier to stay relevant, a similar recourse would be required of AI too; and, it’s nearer than we think.

    A massive shift in labour (talent) is foreseen. Over the next 10 years, it is estimated that 30% of jobs will be at high risk due to AI. Decidedly, there will be a mismatch marked by a scarcity of high-end talent with niche skills. Sure, technology will disrupt many jobs but equally, it will also result in jobs creation which will require higher application. In India, the numbers are most encouraging – those who acquired new skills which helped them open new doors and explore better opportunities. Impressive data points underscore the significance of online mode of delivery especially in a dynamic environment. Moreover, the accreditation criteria is stringent which adds tremendous value to individual careers.

     

    • Roll back in time and a chance to do something differently.

    Of course, it’s a hypothetical question. Andrew believes, he could have started a lot earlier – perhaps a decade back instead of 2011 – 12. In the early years, a substantial amount of time was invested in experimenting to arrive at the right pedagogy. This could have been achieved in a shorter time frame, he believes. Also, the introduction of shorter videos which proved to be most beneficial, could have been done earlier including the emphasis on quizzes aimed towards gaining expert knowledge.

     

    • Business pivots & leadership mantra.
    1. On-boarding academicians of international repute and inducting them as part of the board to leverage their foresight in strategic decision making.
    2. The rapid adoption of Coursera courseware by enterprises and governments as well.

    Mantra: Always have a “learner’s first” approach. World’s best education is not only imparted by world class universities but some of the top-notch companies (like Google) are doing an equally good job. The quality of pedagogy in these “institutions” are of a very high standard which has raised the bar quite incredibly. And of course, the vision of providing universal access to education worldwide.

     

    • The “WOW” factor he is expecting at WCIT-NILF next month.

    He would like to use this opportunity to learn more about India, its communities and explore ways in which he can provide support. He hopes to spend a lot of time with the Indian tech community and pick up new ideas in his chosen field especially AI. He expects the other speakers to be of very high standard and would like to spend a considerable amount of time just listening in as a participant and soaking it all in. 

    This blog is authored by Dr. Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman, 5F World | Global Talent Track I Skills Alpha | Kalzoom Advisors| Social Venture Partners India I Pune City Connect I NESConnect

     

    It was to be the greatest opportunity – for young folks looking for instant success and corporate executives wanting to flex their entrepreneurial muscles.  Start-Up India beckoned millions of wannabe Bezos and Jobs in 2015 and it is unfortunate that many of the first wave of companies that came up – in B2C and B2B commerce, retail, hospitality, healthcare, Fintech and EdTech did not quite set the cash registers ringing, for the companies or their investors!

     

    There could be many reasons for these early setbacks – immature idea validation, a herd mentality and inadequate funding runways are among the top choices! However, with the maturing of the digital economy and every medium and large corporation adopting digital solutions to compete for digitally savvy customers and supply chain partner, there is a new wave of opportunity emerging in the digital space for start-up and SME digital companies to zoom in 2018 and beyond.

     

    Mckinsey & Co, the global consulting leader had predicted that digital attackers, focused on digital solutions that challenged long held dogmas and beliefs would make the services of many incumbents irrelevant or outdated and in many client situations, particularly financial services and retail and increasingly manufacturing and healthcare, the role of start-up “attacker” solutions is increasing, skillfully integrated into the process fabric of the organisation by digital consulting firms that understand both the domain and the digital opportunity.

     

    A couple of examples of such attackers will make the opportunity clear. One major manufacturing company in Western India has already implemented start-up solutions to transform information gathered from devices, sensors and information systems from the shop floor and even after the capital equipment ids installed at the customer site and a platform which tracks the movement of the product through the demand chain of distributors and dealers through to the end customer. These solutions are putting predictive power in the hands of field service engineers and product marketers and enabling opportunity share to be maximized for the company and its products.

     

    In the HR space, for organisations across sectors like Manufacturing, Banking, Insurance , Hospitality and IT Services, digital start-ups are challenging larger HR product suites by relegating them to “Systems of Record” status while creating new platforms that enable systems of insight and engagement to be created and deployed. A skills start-up from the 5F World stable of digital solutions has found the perfect solution to the problem of motivating millions of millennials who are stuck in seemingly “dead-end” jobs through extensive use of artificial intelligence cognitive and adaptive learning methodologies. This is a platform that uses the best of engagement tools to provide a truly adaptive learning environment for the young learner who is engaged by a “bot” from the minute she gets on to the platform, which enables her to assess her own aspirations and goals, look at alternative learning and career paths and get thoroughly engaged on a journey of content discovery, opportunity exploration and learning throughout her tenure in the organisation.

     

    If one looks through the digital value chain, quite a few opportunity categories spring up for young entrepreneurial companies to present innovative solutions, access capital and work with Indian and global systems integrators as well as clients. Apart from the predictable SMAC stack, areas to be explored range from UX and UI, Mixed Reality, IoT and Industry 4.0, AI and Machine Learning, Digital Platforms and Cyber-Security. Successful start-ups in the digital world will need to have unique technological capabilities and also the ability to collaborate with artistic talent, behavioral scientists and business process experts. Success will call for reimagining the way clients will do business, recrafting the digital journeys of customers, supply and demand chain partners and employees and large corporations and rethinking the way talent is hired and deployed in the firm. The success stories of the future wave will be a different breed, but once the second wave takes off, expect it to reach tsunami proportions that will sweep the IT sector into a new sigmoid of growth and success!

     

                                                                

    This blog is authored by Keshav R. Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS and Member, NASSCOM Executive Council

     

    As digital technologies continue to sweep through our lives, there is growing realization among business leaders that their organizations must evolve to fit into the new environment.

     

    However, when I look around, I see very few organizations embracing the ‘digital way of engaging / thinking / doing things’ as a business… very few are ‘digital natives’ as they call it. Most others are still testing the waters of what it means to be digital.

     

    A business that conducts mere cosmetic changes in its business model without evolving its core finds itself in a similar unenviable position. The investments it has made with the expectation of joining the digital world have not brought in the desired results. Instead there is increased complexity now since the legacy systems and multiple management layers of the pre-digital days are not well-suited for today’s business environment.

     

    What makes a company a successful digital enterprise is its digital core. “A digital core is the outcome of a vision that its business leaders have for the company and a digital transformation strategy that ties in all the aspects of the business to realize that vision.”

    It cuts through complexity which can be like a millstone around the organization’s neck, slowing down any transformation effort. A digital core allows an organization to integrate its business processes, makes it possible for its business leaders to take decisions in real-time with the help of data-driven insights, engages customers throughout the customer journey, facilitates a culture change in the organization, and helps respond to market changes quickly and effectively.

    What does a digital core enable an organization to do that it would not be able to if it had taken a piecemeal approach to digitalization? Here are three key differentiators.

    1. Simplified, integrated processes: Digital transformation offers CIOs an opportunity to simplify the organization’s IT landscape with fewer applications, technologies, platforms and operating systems. Simplification is in fact the greatest attribute of the digital economy – cutting down layers, breaking through siloes and helping an organization move towards an integrated set of systems and processes to unlock true value.

    Without an integrated approach, the hundreds of processes running in the organization will operate independent of each other and not provide scope for innovation or real-time visibility for effective decision-making. Here’s an example from the insurance industry. By deploying robotics in the form of chatbots, an insurance company can significantly bring down costs and improve efficiency. But to truly unlock value that comes it needs to integrate digital communication with advanced data analytics to understand customer needs, and robotics technology for data processing with data from internet of things and sensors attached to vehicles and buildings to improve underwriting and predict behavioral trends.

     

    2. Business decisions based on data: Business critical data resides across the company’s ERP system, accounting systems, Sales Force reports, business operations, points of sale at merchant sites, social media sites, syndicated industry reports and more. Collecting, harmonizing and drawing insights from this data, and most importantly, making those insights available on time for business leaders is a daunting task. A digital core that provides a homogenized framework to manage these disparate data sources and enables real-time data analysis is critical to succeed in today’s digital economy.

     

    Customer centricity differentiates a digital enterprise and that is made possible because of its data-driven approach. Let’s take the example of the retail industry. An apparel company gets its digital footprint by launching a website to take customer orders online. But turning that into a sustainable revenue stream means using data from across channels to understand customer needs well, track requests, personalize the experience, manage inventory and enable smooth checkout. Companies are now using data to find innovative ways to blend the online and offline worlds, provide users a seamless experience, continuously engage and excite customers, and thereby cement their presence in the digital world.

     

    3. Connected ecosystem: One of the biggest advantages of the digital economy is its connectedness – no company operates in a silo and no market stays unaffected by developments in other parts of the world. This business-to-business and business-to-consumer ecosystem enables an organization to anticipate changes, stay agile, understand trends and take swift corrective action.

     

    A digital core enables us to extend the digital experience across the value chain. Let’s look at the automotive industry. An automobile company can now provide the buyer of a connected car a personalized driving experience complete with customized entertainment features and telematics to track engine performance and record incidents – thereby creating an ecosystem that brings together consumer electronics players and insurance providers alongside automotive companies. The company can utilize real-time data to optimize manufacturing and after-sales, and move to resource planning that meets actual demand as opposed to perceived demand.

     

    Listen to industry leaders from around the world at WCIT-Nilf2018Register now

    This blog is authored by Rekha M Menon, Chairman and Senior Managing Director, Accenture in India. 

     

    Today, we stand at a crucial juncture where disruptive technologies are transforming how we work and live, AI presents a game-changing opportunity. The technology has the power to boost economies – Accenture research shows AI could boost average profitability rates by 38% and lead to an economic increase of US$14 TN by 2035, globally. In India, it could add nearly one trillion to the economy in just that year. It has the potential to drive growth in at least three important ways: by optimizing processes with intelligent automation systems, by augmenting human labor and physical capital, and by propelling new innovations.

     

    It’s time for us to come together as business leaders, policy makers, industry bodies and agencies to unlock this massive opportunity. We are really poised to prepare for, and work toward a future with AI as the new factor of production. But to seize the tremendous potential of AI, we need to “reimagine” people’s roles to collaborate more with machines – to be recast as the workforce of the future.

     

    As AI-enabled intelligent machines begin to humanize work, how does work change for us as humans?

     

    • Intelligent machines become our colleagues: There will be a shift in attitude. While judgment is a distinctly human skill, intelligent machines can accelerate and support human learning and decision-making—assisting in data-driven simulations, scenarios and search and discovery activities.
    • Humans start focusing on judgment work: Some decisions require insight beyond what data can tell us. This is the sweet spot for human judgment—the application of experience and expertise to make critical business decisions and practices.
    • Return of the manager to do the “real” work—passing off routine tasks to AI: As the conventional role of the manager—coordinating and controlling other people’s work—wanes or even vanishes, managers will turn their attention to “real” work. They will become leading practitioners and not just administrators. They will also start focusing on creativity and innovation to solve complex business problems.
    • Digital collaboration across boundaries: The next-generation worker will need high social intelligence to collaborate effectively in teams and networks using digital technologies —teasing out and bringing together diverse perspectives, insights and experiences to support collective judgment, complex problem solving and ideation.
    • Humans start working like designers: While a worker’s creative abilities are vital, perhaps even more important is the ability to harness others’ creativity. Worker-designers master the craft of bringing together diverse ideas into integrated, workable and appealing solutions. Intelligent machines will enable and accelerate design like work processes, such as supporting problem representation, data and solution visualization, in addition to digital and physical prototyping.

     

    AI can amplify workers by eliminating repetitive tasks and liberating the workforce from manual and back-end processes. The possibilities? Limitless. With humans focusing on creative, innovative and decision-making pursuits—it’s possible that we create newer jobs. AI is really all-pervasive and can change the game for our future. The real question though, should be around readiness. Are we ready to be at the driver’s seat, edging AI to amplify us, and use it to our benefit?

     

    Listen to industry leaders from around the world at WCIT India 2018 I NASSCOM ILF 2018. Register now

    This blog is authored by Sameer Dhanrajani, Chief Strategy Officer, Fractal Analytics.

     

    For many of us, artificial intelligence is already part of our daily lives as we turn to Siri for our weather updates and have chatbots politely handle our customer complaints. But, what about AI in the workplace? Advent of AI has been nothing short of disruption at every front with industries not only actively promoting it, but also actively investing significant amounts in enterprise implementation.

     

    - “Forrester Research predicts a 300% increase in AI investment in 2017 from last year”

     

    The three primary ways that AI is being used by industries to disrupt their business are – insight generation (extracting deep intelligence from large quantities of raw data), customer engagement (personalisation of information & enhancing experience) and business acceleration (how companies use AI to expedite knowledge-based activities to improve efficiency and performance).

     

    Disruption would cover not only the scalable growth trajectories and increase in revenue, but also the displacement cost industries are facing due to this emerging technology. Following are the Productivity and Displacement impacts due to AI:

     

    Productivity Impact

    It is clear that industries that have been early in adopting various forms of automation are also expected to undergo the biggest change with AI, and the market is only increasing.

     

    - “IDC estimates that the AI market will surge from about $8 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020”

     

    Even though almost all industries have been significantly affected, some more than the other, the major industries disrupted in their productivity impact are as follow:

     

    Manufacturing: Manufacturing was one of the first industries to harness AI by using robots to assemble products and package them for shipment. New robotic developments will take things to the next level by being able to assemble more complicated items, such as electronics, cars, and even some homes. Although many artificial intelligence-driven production lines will still need human support and supervision, we are headed towards a largely robotic manufacturing industry.

     

    Healthcare: AI is arguably the single biggest disruptor for the healthcare industry., it’ll aid in the discovery of new drugs and treatments, provide personalized healthcare to every single patient and free up physicians' time by taking care of menial tasks. AI enabled models in early-warning systems will analyse sensor data in hazardous environments to predict the likelihood of accidents. There are also numerous robots in various stages of testing and approval for diagnosing disease. In some cases, such as with IBM's Watson, these machines have a higher accuracy rate for diagnoses than human doctors, as mentioned earlier.

     

    Transportation: The crux of AI research in transportation industry is going in autonomous driving systems, which will become a reality soon. Self-driving cars are insanely safe. Google's self-driving car drove 1.8 million miles and was involved in just thirteen accidents - all of which were caused by the other car. In case of manual driving as well, AI led Traffic optimization model can recommends a faster route by predicting delays or road obstructions.

     

    Customer Service: AI is more efficient than ever in customer service, due to developments in personalization & human interaction. Building chatbots are going mainstream which not only answer basic questions interactively, but harnesses natural language processing and machine learning to create reactionary, friendly robots that mimic human speech patterns to provide service that is quick and easy for consumers and much less expensive for companies. As per Gartner, AI bots will power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020. This may drive up to $33 trillion of annual economic growth.

     

    Finance: In spite of regulations and strict legislations, AI has managed to disrupt Finance sector and will continue to do so in a number of ways. Prominently, fraud mitigation is finding large AI adoption, by analysing deep human patterns and highlighting deviations in data observed. Robo-advisors are using predictive systems and market data to forecast stock trends and manage finances, often much quicker than their human counterparts. It is even finding its way into emerging new technologies such as digital currencies, and it can also automate much of the manual work that slows the financial industry down and makes employees less productive.

     

    Displacement Impact

    Gartner forecast that AI would eliminate about 1.8 million jobs by 2019.  But even though AI will eliminate more jobs than it creates through 2019, however, Gartner also believes that the number of jobs created due to AI in 2020 is sufficient to overcome the deficit (2.3 million jobs global) and become a positive ‘net job motivator’. Hence for now, companies will have to figure out the contingency for displacement impact.

     

    - “Automation threatens 69% of the jobs in India, while it’s 77% in China, according to a World Bank research.”

     

    Automation achieved by RPA and core AI has not only disrupted jobs in general but industries like BPO / BPM. traditional pyramid of labour with a large base of transactional full-time equivalents (FTEs) for transactional / repetitive jobs fast becoming history and this has an impact on the way talent will be looked at in the near future. BPOs and BPMs are being forced to evolve their nature of work by adopting High end KPO services and providing Automation-as-a-Service features as bonus.

     

    To Brace for AI Led Disruptions, Embrace AI Led Growth

    Organizations that deploy AI strategically enjoy advantages ranging from cost reductions and higher productivity to top-line benefits such as increasing revenue and profits, richer customer experiences, and working-capital optimization. Hence organizations need to implement the following strategic changes to enable AI led growth:

     

    Core AI Resource Assimilation using Funding or Acquisition: As per insights from Forbes and Cowen & Company, 81% of IT leaders are currently investing in or planning to invest in Artificial Intelligence (AI). The study found that 43% are evaluating and doing a Proof of Concept (POC) and 38% are already live and planning to invest more. The CIOs need to have a new mandate to integrate AI into IT technology stacks. The good news is that there are several options – acquire an AI company to gain access to new product and AI/ML Talent, invest as a limited partner in a few early stage AI focused VC firms to gain immediate access to early stage innovation, build an AI-focused division to optimize your internal processes using AI, or use outside development-for-hire shops (like Element.ai) to fill the gaps or get the ball rolling.

     

    Gain senior management support: As per research by Fortune Knowledge Group, though majority of leading AI companies (68%) strongly agree that their senior management understands the benefits AI offers, it is still cited that lack of senior management vision is one of the top two barriers to the adoption of AI. Regulatory uncertainty about AI, rough experiences with previous technological innovation, and a defensive posture to better protect shareholders, not stakeholders, may be contributing factors.  The Senior Management needs to be swiftly brought to realization that failing to invest in AI will adversely affect their bottom line and even cause them to go out of business in the coming years.

     

    Process Based Focus Rather than Function Based: One critical element differentiates AI success from AI failure: strategy. AI cannot be implemented piecemeal. It must be part of the organization’s overall business plan and culture, along with aligned resources, structures, and processes. How a company prepares its corporate culture for this transformation is vital to its long-term success. The challenge of AI isn’t just the automation of processes—it’s about the up-front process design and governance you put in to manage the automated enterprise. The ability to trace the reasoning path AI technologies use to make decisions is important. 

     

    Reskilling Teams & HR Redeployment: HR’s other role in an AI future will be to help make decisions about if and when to automate, whether to reskill or redeploy the human workforce, and the moral and ethical aspects of such decisions.  The question of job losses is a sensitive one, most often played up in news headlines. But AI also creates numerous job opportunities in new and different areas, often enabling employees to learn higher-level skills. As per Gartner, by 2019, more than 10% of IT hires in customer service will mostly write scripts for bot interactions. Given the potential of AI to complement human intelligence, it is vital for top-level executives to be educated about reskilling possibilities. It is in the best interest of companies to train workers who are being moved from jobs that are automated by AI to jobs in which their work is augmented by AI.

     

    The Dawn of System-of-Intelligence Apps & Platforms: Gartner predicts that by 2019, AI platform services will cannibalize revenues for 30% of market leading companies. An Intelligent App Stack will gain rapid adoption in enterprises as IT departments shift from system-of-record to system-of-intelligence apps, platforms, and priorities. The future of enterprise software is being defined by increasingly intelligent AI-led applications today, and this will accelerate in the future.

     

    Final Word

    AI is part of a much bigger process of re-engineering enterprises. That is the major difference between the sci-fi robots of yesteryear and today’s AI: the technologies of the latter are completely integrated into the fabric of business, allowing private and public-sector organizations to transform themselves and society in profound ways. 

    This blog has been authored by Ms. Debjani Ghosh, President-Designate, NASSCOM. 

     

    PWC published a very comprehensive AI analysis in June 2017 highlighting that the global GDP will be 14 per cent higher in 2030 as a result of AI.  The report estimated AI to drive GDP gains of $15.7 trillion with productivity and personalisation improvements, making it the biggest commercial opportunity in today's fast changing economy. Hence, it's absolutely not a surprise to see the race for AI leadership significantly heating up amongst the developed nations.

     

    China just announced its very ambitious plan to become a global AI leader by 2030 leveraging its technology and research prowess, and building a domestic industry worth around $150Billion.  According to the official statement, China is committed to taking the initiative to firmly grasp the next stage of AI development to create a new competitive advantage, open the development of new industries and improve the protection of national security.

     

    The writing on the wall is pretty clear for all to read…if AI is the future, China wants to be the one shaping the future.

     

    Again, not a surprise. As per the PWC report, the greatest economic gains from AI will be in China (26 per cent boost to GDP in 2030) and North America (14.5 per cent boost), equivalent to a total of $10.7 trillion and accounting for almost 70 per cent of the global economic impact.

     

    Another country that is making a strong and serious commitment to AI is Canada.  Infact, I found the Canada plan very well thought through across all the building blocks important for leadership from skill development to research and innovation to building strong connects between industry and academia to accelerate the commercialization of research.  I do believe there are some excellent learnings in it for India.

     

    That brings me to India and our progress laying down the plan to build India's leadership in AI. The race to AI development for India seems to be happening primarily in the start up ecosystem and in few of the institute labs. While there is some brilliant research and innovation in development, I do believe we need a much more serious commitment top down to make India a serious contender in AI, thereby making India a serious contender in shaping the future.  

     

    What's needed is a 360 AI national plan to help us leapfrog to the leadership position. And, we need it urgently as time is not on our side.  Can it be done?  Of-course it can.  But it will need very strong top-down commitment and a robust partnership between Government, Industry and Academia to make it happen.

     

    While there is a lot of expertise available to shape the in-depth plan, my high level recommendation to the Government would be to ensure the following must-do's:

     

    -    Join hands with industry and academia to drive relentless approach to talent and research development - make India the hub for the best AI design and development talent globally.  This will require a serious relook at current curriculum, pedagogy and learning processes from K12 to university and investment in building new capabilities. For example, Canada has set up a dedicated institute for AI, the Vector Institute, with strong Gov't and Industry support. The Vector Institute states that its goal is to be a world-leading centre for AI research; graduate the most machine-learning PhDs and masters students in deep learning and machine learning globally; and become the engine for an AI super cluster that drives the economy of Toronto, Ontario and Canada. As per press reports, the institute not only received around $100 million support from the government but is also partnering with 30+ companies to realize its vision.  

     

    -    Prioritize meaningful funding for research and innovation in AI across academia, start-ups and large companies to scale AI research and innovation 100X

     

    -    Build a very strong connect between industry and academia to ensure the innovation leaves the labs and has a real chance at commercialization and adoption.  All participants need to be accountable to drive commercialization and adoption as against discovering innovation.

     

    -    Focused investment to scale the AI focus and investment in startup India

     

    -    The Government must walk the talk by being an early adopter of AI across government functions

     

    -    Build a strong leadership tone and rally cry ala Digital India which can galvanize the country into action.

     

    That said, ownership cannot be just Government. Industry has to do its part too and urgently.  As a country, we have been spending far too much time discussing the impact of automation on jobs, instead of figuring out how we take charge to create new jobs and leverage the innovation in technology to accelerate India's economic growth and development.  We really need to stop the debate about the future of IT.  The FUTURE IS IT. Period.  We now need to figure out what role will India and Indian industries play in shaping that future.

     

    Every minute we lose has a huge cost of missed opportunity attached to it. Instead, what we should be singularly focused on figuring out how the current industry business model, skills and jobs will change, and what needs to be done proactively to prepare for it so that we are building new skillsets and jobs needed to establish India and Indian IT as a key player in AI.

     

    Whether we like it or not Artificial Intelligence will drive the most disruptive transformation in the history of mankind. Just as Electricity changed the world for ever, AI will do the same to create the future.  Tech and business leaders are rallying the 'AI first' mantra across industries and Jeff Bezos summed it up perfectly by saying that "AI is Renaissance to Technology, Business and Society".

     

    If AI is the future, India must have a role in shaping it.  We cannot wait for it to happen and then figure out how it applies to us. We must leverage the brain power we have in the country, to help us leapfrog and become leading contender for AI development and innovation.  

     

    I am a strong believer we have the leadership and the building blocks required for success.  The key question facing India is do we do it or not?

     

    This blog was originally posted here