Forbes India Innovation Dialogues: Technology driving business above and beyond

A group of thought leaders, with ring-side seats to the changing trends, came together under the banner of Forbes India Innovation Dialogues, to share their views and compare notes

Published: May 3, 2019 06:01:07 PM IST
Updated: May 3, 2019 06:12:24 PM IST

g_115617_innovationdialogues_900x600_280x210.jpgThere have been rapid advancements in technology in every field. This has changed the way businesses function, right from the conception of strategies to their implementation and measurement of their efficacy and success. It has, in turn, required a change in the roles and mind-sets of CIOs, CTOs and CXOs, who have not just had to respond to changes in technology, but aim to stay ahead of the curve in this milieu.
A group of thought leaders who have ring-side seats to the changing trends, came together at the Forbes India Innovation Dialogues, held in partnership with cloud computing software company Nutanix. These leaders shared views and compared notes on how they drive these changes at their respectiveorganisations. They included Subramanyam Putrevu, CIO, Mindtree; Ravi Krishnaswamy, CTO, InMobi; Nikhil Bandi, senior VP & CIO, Vistaar Finance; Raja Ukil, senior VP, CIO and process transformation leader, Wipro; Jacob Peter Kidangath, VP and BU Head - IT and business solutions, Robert Bosch Engineering India; and Neville Vincent, Vice President – India, ASEAN and ANZ, Nutanix.

Raja Ukil commented on how the cycle of technology had reduced from perhaps a 100 years to 12 years currently. “We have been disrupted as an industry, and the nature of what we do has changed. Now, everything seems possible with technology. You can practically take a ‘use case’ driven approach and apply it to any kind of business requirement: Right from a business model change to business process re-imagination,” he said.

Another interesting point that he made was that experience does not play a major role anymore. “So, although we were exposed to computers in the ’90s, with those blue screens and green fonts, right now that experience is unimportant,” he said. He also highlighted the changes in the budget for technology investments. He explained how in the past, business cases were driven by numbers. But as paradigms have changed to more qualitative outcomes, without precedent, companies are willing to invest more liberally in technology. “It’s exciting to hear people say that for them to deliver specific capabilities to customers, they need to reimagine things and are willing to invest money in it,” he said.

Speaking as someone who has been on both sides of the table—the software service provider and now the CTO of a product company—Ravi Krishnaswamy said that if InMobi ran its own captive data centre, it would entail maintaining huge infrastructure teams. “We can actually take advantage of unit economies by participating in an elastic environment instead,” he said. “This saves us from actually building a captive server and pre-empts a capex heavy model. Paying costs per-unit of computing also arms us with the confidence to scale our activities quickly, without concerns about incurring huge capex.”

Jacob Peter Kidangath took the discussion in a different direction, explaining the emerging need for hybrid cloud strategies. “We have a lot of data on the cloud and systems that run on it. This positively impacts the business. Our approach is to connect all our products so that our data is shared; and all this is in the cloud. However, if we really want to positively enhance our own business around our products, we will need to have at least some part of the data with us.”
“For a hybrid cloud strategy, where we have our own cloud in addition to the big cloud, when it comes to streaming and elasticity of computing is relevant, there is no point in making our own cloud,” he added.

According to Subramanyam Putrevu, the rapid changes in technology all boiled down to software providers being able to challenge businesses with problem statements and offer solutions for them. “Today, everybody wants to learn, and learn everything. And that’s where AI and ML are becoming very imperative in the business context. They want to understand the end customer and then answer a problem contextually.”

He also observed that businesses now want to utilise data to arrive at better and fresher solutions. Sharing his own experiences, he said, “Previously, although we had systems in place that relied on data, we didn't have the ability to capture all the data elements and derive a concrete contextual solution for the business from it. Today, if a business has a problem, we have complete data that we can go back to and use it to find solutions.”

Nikhil Bandi said that with improved technology, expectations were changing too. With the strong competition that has emerged in the technology space, expectations are translating into businesses making demands on the tech industry. Giving an illustration, he said, “We offer business loans. So, one of our expectations may be that when a person gets up in the morning, Alexa should tell him that it looks like that he needs a business loan. Then, Alexa should point him in the direction of our company.”

He agreed that having expectations was one thing but converting them into a reality was a completely different ball game. It entailed getting your company or product to be ‘preferred’. This means having the right partners from the data bureau space. Then he moved on to discuss how fintech companies now function at two levels—at one level, they create a requirement and at another, they have to fulfil the requirement. The commonality in both is the use of technology to reach people in tier 2, 3 and 4 cities. As a result of the power of technology and its importance being acknowledged, he stated that businesses now look to the CIO to drive business and visibility as opposed to the previous role of supporting the business by building new systems, new technologies or new web and mobile apps.

Raja Ukil noted that the profile of the CIO has become more relevant now. “Where The actual transformation started around 2013. Today, I am an executive sponsor for many customers; I'm supposed to advise them on their strategy, indirectly shaping opportunities for growth. This is because businesses are on a digital transformation path and someone has to drive it.”

Neville Vincent observed how everyone wants to ride the disruption wave in their industries. As a result, technology providers are seen as innovation creators, and accordingly, the goals have changed. Jacob Peter Kidangath pointed out that CIOs have become critical stakeholders in growth and disruption as they are drive ARPU maximisation and other indicators, which help businesses stay ahead of the competition. Ravi Krishnaswamy and Nikhil Bandi also conferred that conversations have changed completely from being around projects, cost and competition to changing the business eco-system and partnering with clients.

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