Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

AI will play a central role in reimagining the digital enterprise

By Harichandan Arakali
Published: Jun 30, 2020

AI will play a central role in reimagining the digital enterprise
How can AI and related technologies be used to reshape the digital enterprise, and prepare them for tomorrow? A group of experts from different verticals — from manufacturing to financial services — discussed this in a Tweetathon organised by Forbes India in partnership with Microsoft India, on June 24.

Barriers against adoption of AI are low like never before, today, amid the Covid-19 Pandemic. Technology will play a central role in enabling the remote worker on the one hand and in consistently delivering high-quality services to the end-user on the other, the experts said.

“AI has become even more the need of the hour as insights drawn previously are potentially no longer valid and in fact, there isn’t an easy way to test for the same either,” said Rangarajan Vasudevan, founder and CEO of TheDataTeam, which helps companies grow their businesses using big data and data science. Part of the change has been forced literally overnight, for example, it’s no longer possible to talk to customers face to face, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Some companies are still figuring out how to react. For instance there is new interest in ‘contactless sales,’ though that's a misnomer. Others are waking up to removing friction. Another part of the change has been on for some time but is now accelerating. This includes the move to adopting digital technologies, the cloud, and use of AI-powered automation in business processes.

“AI plays a huge role in ensuring service or performance consistency; by being able to ‘learn’ what is working and ‘nudge’ the rest towards similar behaviour,” said Yamini Bhat, Co-founder at Vymo, which provides a personal assistant app for enterprise sales and services teams. “In the new world, teams are as far from each other as from their customers and ensuring this consistency becomes crucial.”

“Digital learning powered by the cloud will become more and more mainstream,” said Kuljit Chadha, co-founder at Disprz, which offers a SaaS-based mobile learning and engagement platform. AI will play an important role in delivering personalised learning at scale and also help in the creation of contextualised content.

At Mahindra group, Bhuwan Lodha, VP Digital (Group Strategy Office), had this to say: “In the last three months, many of our group businesses have resolved to adopt a ‘cloud-first’ strategy for all significant digital and technology initiatives. This is a major shift, and will stick.”

AI is going to play a large role in shaping the auto industry of tomorrow — It has significant applications across all functions: from acquiring and serving customers, to smart manufacturing and optimised supply chains. Using data for business advantage involves generating deep insights about markets, customers and so on, and simplifying life and processes for employees at all levels.

Nitin Agarwal, president and group CIO at financial services company Edelweiss said: “In the last three months, organisations at large have realised the importance of an infrastructure that can be accessed and run securely from anywhere without manned resources.”

“Circumstances in the world over the past few months have forced all of us to try things we’ve never done before. The next 12-18 months will be a critical defining period for many businesses, and AI will certainly be a strong catalyst,” said Rohini Srivathsa, national technology officer, Microsoft India.

Cloud and AI can bolster diverse functions ranging across process optimisation, cost efficiencies, safeguarding one’s customer base and mitigating risk, which are top-of-the-mind for today’s businesses.

Vasudevan adds: A useful way to think about AI is as “augmenting human intelligence,” be it in decision making where it suggests candidates, or in surfacing insights, where it unearths observations that are not obvious. Then it is upto the humans to use it wisely, given the potential for biases.

TheDataTeam uses AI to get to the data science workflows that are typically required to solve customer problems. They refer to it as Robotic Data Science, and it forms the core of the company’s platform Data science itself is getting automated.

Take MSME lending: the company’s AI cut short a three-day back-and-forth cycle into a one-hour digital appraisal by measuring business activity the way a credit officer would, allowing the bank to focus only on the more complex applications. The banking customer’s loan book grew 4x.

In insurance, leads coming from aggregators and online sources have gone up dramatically, Bhat at Vymo said. Assigning them to the right sales people and guiding them around engagement behaviours has driven up conversion by 3-4 times. This is instant RoI on digital marketing budgets.

In finance, while large parts of the industry has relied on physical documents and personal contact for selling, underwriting, customising the products, this has changed in the Covid-19 scenario, said Agarwal at Edelweiss. The industry is just leaving these old practices behind, implementing multiple use cases in the customer lifecycle journey.

He added: While cloud enables unmanned infrastructure, AI allows faceless intelligence, prediction and monitoring, both very relevant in current times. Customers continue to expect all services especially in financial services, which has continued to service its clients without a day of disruption. However, the channels of communication with customers have completely changed while there is continued expectation of the same level of service.

Bhat at Vymo responded: “We have been experiencing this first hand with our customers; making this shift so drastically and so quickly is not easy but it’s inspiring to see the ‘win’ stories across the country.” End-user adoption is a metric corporates rarely demand from enterprise app deployments. Make this front and center. Driving change in this remote-working world will be many times tougher. “It will be critical to demand for user-loved solutions versus HQ-wants tools.”

AI can help empower employees by increasing productivity, reducing time spent on repetitive tasks, and instead focus on tasks that are of higher value and require uniquely human skills, according to Srivathsa. AI can help optimise business processes, which can lead to efficiencies, reduce costs and generate new revenue.

A great example would be work done at Piramal Glass in partnership with Microsoft. They’ve used AI models for real-time monitoring and insights to detect product anomalies and defects, ultimately improving production efficiency and product quality.

Many organisations have already been working on concepts and testing digital platforms to help improve productivity through more efficient and secure collaboration. These efforts now need to be holistic and integrated to fundamentally build a core platform that would support the new ways of working, product development, talent and keep in tune with the changing competition landscape.

Chadha at Disprz added: 45 percent of talent developers spend half of their time in creating learning content. 1. AI can help you recommend current and future skills based on job descriptions and job demands. 2. AI can recommend the next learning intervention for you similar to how Netflix recommends content.

In the enterprise learning space, AI helps in defining a learner's complete learning journey by identifying new-age skills/future skills; identifying skill gaps; and creating hyper-personalised development plans for individuals.

Earlier everyone in a particular job role was undergoing similar training. Now, with AI, they are all undergoing training specific to their skill gaps. Therefore, “it delivers super personalised learning.” As a result every individual has a better chance of success.

Edelweiss has been using AI for customer-need prediction, customising its offerings as well as risk prediction across its insurance and credit businesses, said Agarwal. “Once you have the context, AI is being used in the entire customer lifecycle.”

Lodha at Mahindra offered three areas to consider to further the adoption of AI and related technologies in enterprises: 1. Accelerate — adoption barriers are low, and the appetite to re-look at traditional stuff is high. 2. Collaborate — IT, business and front-line teams can all meet virtually. 3. Protect — cybercrime threats are greater than ever, and 'remote-everything' creates more points of vulnerability.

Empowering employees to make choices about how they balance work and life in the digital-first workplace would be critical, said Microsoft India’s Srivathsa. “We will all need to be more empathetic and respect the need for down-time,” she said. “We are only at the onset of an evolutionary change that will bring about productivity increases as the digital future rapidly interleaves into the physical world.”

Article written by Hari

Disclaimer: The views, suggestions and opinions expressed here are the sole responsibility of the experts. No Forbes India journalist was involved in the writing and production of this article.

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