Jio driving digital shifts

Jio driving digital shifts in the economy

by | Jul 20, 2020 | Deal, Technology, Telecom

Jio’s aggressive push to translate itself into a digital services behemoth can further redefine India’s already transforming economy.
Share to lead the transformation

For most of the companies, the past few months have been extremely challenging due to the unprecedented breakdown in economic activities, resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic. While enterprises are trying to deal with matters such as changing consumer behaviors, work-from-home setups, and psychological effects of the pandemic on their employees, with telcos like Jio driving digital shifts in the economy.

While this sudden outbreak has impacted many traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to the extent that they had to close their shops, for companies like Jio Platforms, it has accelerated growth, led by a new surge in opportunities.

A gold rush for Jio Platforms

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Jio Platforms, the telecoms and digital arm of the Indian multinational Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has raised over Rs 15.2 billion (Rs. 1,52,056 crore) by attracting investments in 13 companies.

From the likes of Facebook, Google, Qualcomm, and Intel to General Atlantic and Mubadala, leading tech- and private-equity giants seem to yearning to retain some stake in the world’s most treasured digital player of the moment.

This has not only helped company Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) to pare a literal mountain of debt, but also set it on a clear path of turning RJio into a digital products and services behemoth of a global scale.

RJio stands to leverage a plethora of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, cloud and edge computing, block chain, analytics, and augmented and mixed reality to develop solutions and services that could reshape the user experience for its growing base of customers.

On path to becoming a digital multinational

Amidst the global downturn and massive growth in internet consumption due to the pandemic-enforced work-from-home environment, the recent investments have given Jio a strategic leapfrog.

With most of the population expected to stay indoors even after the lockdown is gradually phased out, the market will need innovations and digital products that could meet customers need at their convenience. Jio Platforms has clearly realized this early on.

Its telecom unit, Jio Infocomm, has already surged past the competition by providing quality services at surprisingly low costs. Now, the company is strategically poised to enter new digital domains by leveraging partnerships.

In this context, the getting together of Reliance Jio (with around 400 million telecom subscribers) and Facebook (with around 300 million Indian users) is specifically important and will help Jio drive growth by potentially catering to a largely dispersed SMB sector of India. (See: Will FB–Jio deal create magic?).

Leveraging the potential of Facebook-owned WhatsApp messenger service, the company has already begun to bring local vendors, independent hawkers, and small ration stores to its Jio Mart platform, for delivering online groceries across 200 cities and towns in India. Its online delivery services are well-backed by Reliance Retail, which is country’s largest retailer in terms of revenue.

According to company sources, Jio has already prepared a roadmap to flesh out its e-commerce services beyond the groceries and is likely to offer a range of merchandise and solutions, competing directly with the likes of Amazon in future.

Mass market for niche consumer tech?

A very significant element of Jio’s recent intents is its focus to become a tech-solutions company.

Besides expanding its offerings as an e-commerce service provider, Jio is also looking at developing cutting-edge next-generation solutions to facilitate the surge in the use of video-based collaborative technologies. In its recently concluded AGM, RIL announced several new initiatives to accomplish its refreshed agenda.

By partnering with Google, for instance, Jio plans to increase the reach of digitization across the length and breadth of India, beyond the current 500+ million Internet users in the country. Jio has also entered into a collaboration with Google to develop an entry-level affordable smartphone with optimizations to the Android operating system and the Play Store.

Another interesting announcement that caught everyone’s attention was the company’s showcasing of a prototype virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality (MR) headset, called Jio Glass at its recent annual general meeting. While the company has refrained from sharing details around its market launch or pricing, it said that the device would work with over 25 applications and connect to the internet via a smartphone cable. Once available to the masses, Jio Glass can be a turning point for India’s video-conferencing market and give users more power to collaborate and connect virtually.

India’s education and health sector are likely to be the biggest gainers of the technology as it will enable schools and medical institutes showcase real time projections through various 3D models. Much will be dependent on the pricing of the product as both VR and MR products have so far remained restricted to niche markets.

A gear-making venture in the making

Reliance has also surprised the telecom gear makers by announcing the development of a made-in-India 5G solution to help global service providers roll out advanced 5G infrastructure. The solution is expected to be ready for field deployments next year.

This is a striking development as it will not only help Jio launch 5G services at a significantly lower cost but also endanger the existence of already pressured companies such as Huawei.

RIL hasn’t yet disclosed the roadmap or its vision to develop 5G solutions. However, 5G gear making may not be a cakewalk, considering the fact that players like Huawei are well-ahead in their tech journeys and Jio will need to do a lot of catching up.

At the same time, Reliance is also understood to be forging partnerships to develop other future technologies such as connected cars, drones, and smart homes.

There is no doubt that Reliance Jio is sitting on a unique hotbed of opportunities. The multiple technology partnerships that it has forged, along with its massive domestic telecom subscriber base, create a formidable combination that bodes well.

However, to prove its mettle globally and conquer new markets, the company will need to test different strategies, diversify its product mix, and move up the value chain.

Table: A quick glance at Jio Platforms investors

Investor Stake (%) Funding (in Rs crore)
     
Facebook 9.90 43,573.62
Google 7.7 33,737
Vista Equity 2.30 11,367
KKR 2.30 11,367
Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia 2.30 11,367
Silver Lake Partners 2.08 10,202.55
Mubadala 1.85 9,093.60
General Atlantic 1.34 6,598.38
Abu Dhabi Investment Authority 1.16 5,683.50
TPG 0.93 4,546.80
L Catterton 0.39 1,894.50
Intel Capital 0.39 1,894.50
Qualcomm 0.15 730
  32.79 152,055

 Source: RIL, BM Nxt

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Combating cyber threats in the new normal

Combating cyber threats in the new normal

The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted the information security priorities of enterprises drastically. With remote working becomes a new normal, IT and cybersecurity risks have grown manifold. The go-to-market needs of users have also transformed, and meeting client expectations in real time have become a challenge in the new environment. Combating cyber threats now needs a multi-pronged approach.

Despite stressed technology budgets, there has been a massive surge of optimism in the cloud and managed services solutions market due to organizations’ innate need to drive agility and scale. Businesses are continually looking at new-age solutions that could help their workforce deliver exceptional results even in the work-from-home environment.

Since millions of people are working remotely, there has been a deluge of new cyber and IT security threats that organizations are witnessing. According to a recent cyber threat report by SonicWall, a leading cyber security player, ransomware continues to be the most concerning threat to corporations and the preferred tool for cybercriminals, increasing a staggering 20% (121.4 million) globally in the first half of 2020. Moreover, 7% of phishing attacks capitalized on Covid-19 pandemic while there was 50% rise of IoT malware attacks. The report said it analyzed threat intelligence data gathered from 1.1 million sensors in over 215 countries and territories.

According to the Covid-19 Threats Report by McAfee Labs, the first quarter of 2020 saw significant increases in several threat categories. During this time, cybercriminals seem to have exploited the vulnerabilities caused by the pandemic and tried to make a substantial impact on the networks. The report states that the new mobile malware increased by 71%, primarily due to trozons, and total mobile malware grew by about 12% over the previous four quarters. Interestingly, new IoT malware saw a 50% increase.

This emerging threat landscape has compelled organizations to aggressively focus on disruptive technologies and solutions that could enable them to innovate confidently and provide consistent value to their clients without breaching trust.

Let’s look at how organizations can enhance their security architectures during these unprecedented times and reduce IT security risks.

Focus on threat lifecycle management

A continuous focus on the entire threat lifecycle management (TLM) provides much-needed assurance for tackling any unforeseen scenarios. Organizations need to evaluate the information assets that they need to protect continually, and then take advanced measures for detecting and mitigating cyber threats.

The depth and quality of threat intelligence softwares can help enterprises achieve the much-needed IT security resilency, even for employees who are on their home networks. Some of the major companies that are providing robust threat intelligence management solutions in the market are: IBM, Dell, Trend Micro, Symantec, Check Point, F-Secure, McAfee, and Juniper.

Upgraded tools and methodologies

As cloud deployments become more and more intricate, organizations should ensure to assimilate multiple ways of inventory classification and include them in overall asset management strategy. In the multi-cloud environment where organizations want the best of public and on-premise worlds, the list of cloud applications can change very quickly. Hence, enterprises should have the necessary tools and methodologies to know:

  • List of cloud inventory on their network
  • Why they exist
  • Are they still important?

Incident response automation

By employing security automation in cloud environments, organizations can control the damage at the right time. Automated incident response tools enhance the detection capabilities of vulnerabilities and threats. It accelerates the response time in the event of a security alarm and free up the time of security teams to focus on high-impact alerts. Some of the leading players in this segment are: FireEye, IBM, AT&T, Symantec, Verizon, and DXC Technology.

Browser isolation technology

Enterprises have been using sandboxing, a software management technique to isolate various enterprise applications from critical resources, as part of their efforts to strengthen security against new-age threats. However, in the current environment, information security practitioners consider web browsers as a chief target for cyber attacks and recommend to implement isolation technologies to physically isolate an employee’s web browser and related activities from the local machine and the network.

This model enables enterprises to track and identify the routine infiltration points on their networks and take remedial measures immediately.  Major vendors operating in this segment include Symantec, Cyberinc, and Web Gap.

There are also other tools available through which organizations can quickly isolate affected systems and analyze the breach methodology to prevent such instances in future.

Wipro hardens its LIVE Workspace suite with Intel vPro

Wipro hardens its LIVE Workspace suite with Intel vPro

Wipro Limited, a leading global information technology, consulting and business process services company, today announced that it will join forces with Intel to enable Wipro’s LIVE Workspace, Wipro’s digital workspace solution with the Intel vPro platform. This joint collaboration will help customers drive business continuity by enabling remote IT support and solutions, as they seek to keep employees productive amid social distancing boundaries and other remote-work limitations that have become the new normal.

Wipro integrated the Intel vPro platform into LIVE Workspace, a suite of digital workplace services to provide remote manageability of devices. This extends to users at home or in the office and provides enhanced protection and security against firmware-level attacks. The combined solution provides practical business continuity services to enable enterprises to rapidly design, deploy, and manage a true remote work experience. Intel recently introduced its 10th generation Intel Core vPro processors that are built for business to power next generation business computing needs. Wipro will leverage the Intel vPro platform which features Intel Active Management Technology (Intel AMT) and Intel Endpoint Management Assistant (Intel EMA). This will enable remote work and drive seamless productivity and collaboration while giving employees the flexibility to work from anywhere in a safe, more secure and reliable manner.

Satish Yadavalli, Vice President, Cloud and Infrastructure Services, Wipro Limited said, “The collaboration is a testament of our strength and our joint resolve to enhance the value we can create for our customers. We intend to bring together our strong complementary capabilities on remote working tools & platforms, desktop & application integration and managed services, to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic. Wipro is a leader in workplace management services and Intel in client computing solutions. Together, we can equip enterprises to enhance employee experiences and connectivity to help achieve strategic business outcomes.”

“Our partnership with Wipro has been strong and we applaud Wipro’s laser focus on driving customer value. The Intel vPro platform is built for business, and Wipro’s digital workspace solution is perfect for customers adapting to the new normal of remote workplace management. Together we are delivering on a vision for seamless productivity and collaboration, so people can contribute at the highest level regardless of where they are,” said Stephanie Hallford, Intel Vice President of the Client Computing Group and General Manager of Business Client Platforms.

Nokia’s CoE at IISc could be a 5G robotics catalyst

Nokia’s CoE at IISc could be a 5G robotics catalyst

Finnish multinational Nokia recently announced that it has collaborated with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), one of India’s foremost institutes and university for research and higher education in science and engineering, to set-up the Nokia Center of Excellence (CoE) for Networked Robotics. Nokia’s CoE at IISc has some far-reaching potentials in the areas of 5G and artificial intelligence (AI).

The CoE would primarily focus on 5G-connected drones in emergency management, agriculture, and industrial automation.

Nokia mentions that the new facility will leverage the competencies of Bell Labs—a Nokia-owned industrial research and scientific development entity—to facilitate research and solutions development in areas such as robot orchestration, robot network controller, and human-robot interaction.

“Emerging technologies such as the 5G have the potential to enable an entirely new array of use cases with a profound societal impact. With Nokia’s rich innovation heritage, we aim to engage with the bright and young minds at IISc to nurture and advance the latest technologies that can benefit communities. We are confident that it will lead to the development of ground-breaking use cases,” Sanjay Malik, Senior Vice President and Head of India Market, Nokia, said in a statement.

According to Nokia, the critical research use cases in this effort will include drones for remote management of agricultural orchards to promote water conservation and avoid human contact with pesticides, gathering situational information, and applications like anticipating crop fires. The research at Nokia’s CoE at IISc will also include the use of connected robots in industrial automation.

Drone technology strengthened by 5G

Drone-based use cases are particularly exciting for a vast country like India, which needs intelligent, safer, and budget-friendly solutions to monitor and manage remote locations for various purposes. A couple of years ago, Reliance Jio, now the country’s largest telecom operator, showcased a robust 5G-enabled drone that could be used in security surveillance and detect threats through real-time monitoring from the sky. Jio is believed to be working on several new technologies by harnessing the power of 5G to create a strong impact soon. Jio and Ericsson had jointly developed the prototype.

One of the significant potentials of 5G technology is that it reduces the latency rate to one millisecond. This is phenomenally better in comparison to 4G technology, which offers an average latency of about 50 milliseconds (latency is the time taken by the signal to travel from the device to a cell tower). Hence, in such a scenario, 5G-enabled drones will leverage high-speed internet connectivity and technologies like AI to realize their full potential in real-time. For instance, such drones will be useful in disaster rescue operations and locating casualties during catastrophes through instant live-streaming footages.

For enterprises too, the drone technology could be of great help as it would enable them to keep a tab on their remote warehouses and delivery of goods and services even to the most distant of places, without much of human intervention.

A part of bigger 5G gameplan

Globally, everyone is eagerly waiting for the rollout of 5G technology. While the Covid-19 outbreak may have pushed the 5G deployment plans a bit further, the technology today holds more importance than ever before.

The remote-working environment and social distancing measures are likely to continue for a longer period, even once the outbreak of the pandemic subsides. In such a scenario, 5G is expected to drive enterprise and socially relevant digital transformation efforts by supporting several new-age technologies such as the internet of things (IoT), robotic process automation (RPA), facial recognition (FR), and machine learning (ML), among others, for efficiency gains.

Nokia’s CoE at IISc may be seen as one of the many steps to intensify its 5G prospects in the country. The initiative is in line with the Indian government’s efforts to promote innovation, strengthen the domestic ecosystem around new-age technologies, and foster economic growth. By collaborating with IISc, Nokia also has the opportunity to demonstrate its technological competency and network capabilities to the government.

It is notable in this context that Nokia has recently signed a deal of Rs 7,636 crore with Airtel to help the telco lay the foundation for providing 5G connectivity. The company is exploring several partnership models to expand its horizons in India.

The made-in-India angle

India, which is aggressively focusing on modern-day innovations to enable advanced facilities and infrastructure, even in the remotest of its areas, is being seen as a massive investment destination by multinationals.

With local sentiments growing for domestically manufactured products and services, global multinationals will continue to take a collaborative route to produce Made in India products.

Moreover, as the second-largest telecom market in the world, India also offers massive potential for 5G gear makers such as Nokia, Samsung, and Huawei. These companies will likely explore other possible routes as well to meet India’s domestic manufacturing requirements.

The Jio ecosystem has begun to unfold

The Jio ecosystem has begun to unfold

 

Name of app

Area of service

AJio

Online shopping

JioBrowser

Web-browser

JioCloud

Cloud storage services

JioCinema

Video-on-demand

JioChat

Messaging service

JioGameslite

Online gaming

JioGate

Apartment security

JioHome

Mobile remote control for Jio Set-top box

JioHealthHub

Health and fitness

JioMart

Online grocery delivery

JioMeet

Video conferencing

JioMoney

Digital currency and payment services

JioNews

News and information

JioPOSLite

Jio recharge commission

JioSaavn

Music streaming

JioSecurity

Security

JioSwitch

File sharing

JioTV

Live streaming

With close to 400 million telecom subscribers and several partnerships with multiple global technology giants, Jio Platforms is sitting on a hotbed of opportunities to build a Jio ecosystem. From telecom to e-commerce and future 5G solutions, the company is ticking every box in its bid to become India’s digital behemoth.

Today, Jio Platforms operates more than a dozen mobile apps spanning different e-service categories. Launched barely three months ago, its Jio Mart has already shaken the retail solutions market, becoming the largest e-grocery in the country with close to 400,000 daily orders.

The secret to Jio’s success is undeniably the customer-centric model it has followed, along with the robust financial support from its parent company, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL).

Back to mobile telephony

When Jio launched its 4G telecom services in 2016, many industry observers were doubtful if Jio would be able to create a niche for itself in the hyper-competitive telecom market. For the first few months of the launch, Jio offered voice and mobile data services for free.

In the months leading up to the launch of Jio’s aggressively priced 4G services, Jio faced severe criticism for adversely impacting the rest of the telecom services industry. However, it is equally valid that without Jio’s incredible efforts, the dream of digital India wouldn’t have appeared as possible as it looks now.

Amidst all this hullaballoo, Jio’s deluge of freebies and ultra-affordable data plans enabled it to increase the mobile broadband subscriber base to several million. For the first time, many Indian consumers used the mobile internet and realized its potential benefits at a cost that was unthinkable before. The company’s mobile-first approach helped it gain a substantial footing in the market, and improved data adoption in India enormously.

Back then, no other operator was willing to drive data growth through aggressive price plans. The operators had continued to keep the mobile data prices at a level that was not attractive enough for mass adoption. One needs to remember that before the arrival of Jio, the 1GB data used to cost around Rs 200 for the user, which was way too expensive for the masses. Today, the same data costs an average of Rs 25 per GB, considering various mobile plans.

The price cuts resulted in enormous growth in the average consumption of mobile data, something India had been waiting for so long.

Once Jio built the much-needed user base, it went on to develop several Jio exclusive as well as open-market apps and platforms to drive the digital transformation around a developing Jio ecosystem. (See: Jio driving digital shifts in the economy).

That Jio’s growing dominance made it difficult for its competitors to survive and spurred a wave of consolidation in the telecom sector is another story.

Value of lessons learned

The telecom and allied businesses have always been close to the heart of RIL’s Chairman and MD, Mukesh Ambani. Time and again, he has proved that there is no match to his sharp acumen, ability to envisage, spot the future trends early on, and design an impeccable business strategy that is driven by Indian needs. By focussing on building new partnerships, Ambani is helping Jio take the next significant steps in the digital terrain.

One can’t forget the Monsoon Hungama offer in the year 2003, which created a mass frenzy and drove an unprecedented price war in the Indian telecom market. That, in turn, helped India to expand its local telecom service base.

To run a quick refresh, the Monsoon Hungama offer entitled a customer to get a mobile phone along with a 100-minute call time per month for an upfront payment of Rs 501 and a monthly payment of Rs 200 for three years. The offer lowered the entry bar and encouraged many first-time users to use mobile services. Later, however, due to reasons known to all, Mukesh exited the telecom business in 2005, and his Reliance Infocomm business went to Anil Ambani, his younger brother.

 With Jio, he is pursuing his futuristic vision again and swiftly turning Jio into the country’s super telecom and digital service provider, something which he could not do in his previous telecom outing.

By bringing various small and medium-term businesses to a Jio ecosystem, the company is tactically moving up the value chain by demonstrating profits for all those who are getting associated with Jio’s dream plan.

A Jio timeline

June 2010 Entered the telecom space by purchasing a 95% stake in Infotel Broadband Services Limited (IBSL), which had a 4G broadband spectrum in all 22 circles in India.
January 2013 Renamed Infotel Broadband Services to Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited (RJIL)
May 2016 Launched several multimedia apps on Google Play to offer along with its 4G services
September 2016 Initiated a price war by launching ultra-affordable 4G services throughout India
December 2016 Acquired 50 million telecom subscribers
February 2017 Crossed 100 million subscribers
August 2017

Launched a host of feature phones, marketed under the Jio brand

September 2019

Introduced a fiber to the home service, providing home broadband, television, and telephone services

November 2019 Formed a new digital services company, Jio Platforms. Made RJIL a wholly-owned subsidiary of Jio Platforms
March-June 2020 Raised Rs 1,52,056 crore from top tech investors including Facebook, Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and Silver Lake, among others
July 2020 Jio Platforms’ enterprise value estimated to be around US $70 billion; crossed 400-million subscribers mark

Jio Platform’s recent partnership with Facebook has been seen as an excellent idea for generating immense opportunities for the company and the Jio ecosystem. (See: Will FB–Jio deal create magic?).

Already, 13 other global technology behemoths and strategic investment firms, including Google, Intel Capital, Qualcomm, Silver Lake, Vista Equity Partners, General Atlantic, KKR, Mubadala, ADIA, TPG, L Catterton, and PIF have participated in the fund-raising exercise for Jio Platforms.

Jio is enabling many small and medium businesses to leverage its technology platforms to create a unique digital ecosystem in India. And its sizeable local footprint and business goodwill are helping it to create a fund-raising frenzy even during a pandemic-driven economic slowdown.

AI in banking now geared for a takeoff

AI in banking now geared for a takeoff

Digital disruption is impacting every industry and transforming the ways of working. The traditional models are slowly waning, and trailblazing technologies are emerging. In the age of cloud computing and internet applications, services like telegram and postcards are things of the past. Banking too has endured many changes over time while implementing several new technologies to facilitate faster transactions and on-the-move banking with just a few clicks. AI in banking is taking transformation to a new level.

The unprecedented Covid-19 scenario, which has compelled many to stay at home, has further pushed the banks to explore innovative banking solutions and create a differentiation strategy for the convenience of their customers. Artificial intelligence (AI) is one of the most powerful technologies that has been helping the banking sector to drive several of these new-age innovations.

Driven by the benefits of predictive analytics, voice recognition, and advance human learning capabilities, AI technology enables banks to provide a customized experience to their customers, strengthens compliance, and delivers a secure digital payment ecosystem across a plethora of channels. It helps manage an enormous amount of data at a rapid speed, and empowers them to comprehend detailed insights from it, providing a better understanding of their customers and behaviors.

Globally, tools such as conversational chatbots, virtual security assistants, fraud detection, and face recognition are being widely used to drive meaningful customer engagement. If we look at the Indian market scenario, banks are waking up to the benefits of AI tools for both back-office and customer interfacing functions.

Let’s look at the AI journeys of some of the leading banks.

HDFC Bank

In 2017, India’s leading private-sector bank deployed an AI-based conversational chatbot called Electronic Virtual Assistant (EVA). In less than three years of its deployment, EVA, designed by Bengaluru-based Senseforth AI Research has claimed to have helped HDFC respond to over 5 million customer queries with more than 85% accuracy. The tool uses natural language processing and is now also available on the Google Assistant platform. It provides the relevant answers to users by scanning thousands of HDFC website sources in just a few seconds.

Chatbots like EVA help fetch relevant information very easily without letting users navigate the entire website or getting into a painstaking effort of waiting on a call. In addition to EVA, the bank has also deployed several AI-enabled tools in risk management, credit scoring, employee engagement, and onboarding in the last few years. It uses OnChat, which works on Facebook, to help with all kind of bill-payments. HDFC is also testing various in-store robotic applications.

State Bank of India

Despite being a public-sector bank, SBI is known to be aggressive in terms of leveraging the latest technologies. The company’s banking dashboards are considered to be one of the best in the industry. In terms of AI-enabled solutions, the bank’s facial recognition solution, developed by Chapdex, the winning team from its first hackathon Code for Bank, helps it analyze and understand the feedback of its customers through their facial expressions. The solution is installed in the branch cameras and collects impressions of customers to identify if they are delighted from their bank visits or not.

The Fortune Global 500 bank has been also leveraging the benefits of SBI Intelligent Assistant (SIA), an AI-powered chat and voice assistant, to answer the customer queries promptly. Developed by Payjo, a startup based in Silicon Valley and Bengaluru, the solution has helped SBI reduce a considerable amount of operational costs since its launch in 2017. The solution interacts with customers to address queries and tasks related to everyday banking just like a bank representative.

The company has also recently entered into a pact with Microsoft to develop an AI-powered marketplace aimed at helping the banking, financial services, and insurance (BFSI) industry to connect people living with disabilities for upskilling and employment.

Axis Bank

Mumbai-based country’s third-largest bank, Axis Bank, has built two AI solutions that have made life easier for its customers. Its bot, ‘Simply Ask Axis Aha’ aims to bridge the gap between customers and the bank. Users can access the tool through Axis bank mobile app and use a conversational approach to transfer funds, pay bills, recharge, generate banking statements, or enquire about the latest Axis products and services. The bot acts as a conversational assistant to resolve queries of all kinds.

Very recently, Axis has deployed a voice-based conversational bot or automated voice assistant AXAA. The solution operates like a humanoid and claims to deliver far better results than a conventional interactive voice response (IVR) system. According to the company, the solution will assist customers to traverse through the IVR and address their queries and requests, without the need for any human intervention in most cases. Interestingly, the solution can converse in English, Hindi, and Hinglish, and has the potential to address about one lakh customer queries per day.

ICICI Bank

ICICI has been heavily focusing on AI-enabled robotic process automation (RPA) technology for process improvement. The RPA technology enables businesses to automate high-volume, tedious, and time-taking tasks that doesn’t require much human intervention. It has already deployed RPA technology on over 1,200 business processes such as customer onboarding, loan processing, and reconciliation, among others.

The bank also has and AI-powered Chatbot, iPal, that has recently been integrated with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The solution provides an array of retail banking information such as account details, account balance, transaction queries, and credit card details among others through a simple voice command.

Though still at a nascent stage, and mostly restricted to chatbots, Indian banks are now experimenting with several new AI ideas to transform the traditional banking experience. In the next few years, the role of AI is expected to be evolved significantly. A special focus will be on developing customized solutions for customers and designing software based on cognitive fraud analytics. Punjab National Bank (PNB), for instance, has already deployed AI for reconciliation of accounts and to strengthen its internal audit control mechanisms. A number of banks are likely to use AI to detect suspicious activity. Through real-time behavior profiling, distrustful activities of banking users will be immediately reported and blocked for fraud prevention.

AI is a must now to speed up digital transformation

AI is a must now to speed up digital transformation

The history of humankind has also been the history of human intelligence and its continuous evolution. Ironically, this has enabled us to amass so much knowledge and information that it has become humanly difficult for us to process it in real time. Artificial intelligence aka AI is a must now.

Moreover, as we acquire new knowledge, we also tend to lose what we had gained in the past. This is a weakness inherent to us humans, but the digital information systems that we developed help us overcome that shortcoming amazingly well.

Today, we can store and retrieve knowledge at will. More importantly, we can store it in one form and retrieve it in another form. Speech recognition AI technologies have matured to remarkable levels today. One would simply record a conversation and transcribe it within minutes in a perfectly legible text form. Similarly, chatbot technologies are rapidly redefining the customer interfaces for many an organization.

AI is the new game changer

Artificial intelligence driven solutions are now playing a critical role in processing knowledge and utilizing the learnings to augment human activities.

These AI solutions help us shorten our response times to a situation, so that we are able to make the most of an opportunity and deal with a threat in the best possible manner.

However, the AI deployments are still in early stages, though it is hoped that the Covid-19 pandemic will accelerate these deployments. Specifically, technologies like speech recognition, chatbots, and robotic process automation (RPA) have rapidly matured in the recent years and are now ready for large-scale adoption.

Imagine what would have happened if all cities and governments were armed with sophisticated AI tools when the Covid-19 cases surfaced or were in their early stages of spread. It is quite likely that authorities would have been able to contain the spread before it spiraled out of control.

That brings us to the theme of digital transformation, which could accelerate widescale deployment and usage of AI solutions by governments, businesses, and citizens alike.

Transformation and agility – two sides of the same coin

Transformation could be accelerated by being agile. If you are agile, then you can transform quickly. And if you’re committed to transformation then you will be eager to embrace agility.

Organizations that had already advanced on the path of digital transformation, are today better prepared to adapt and respond to the challenges. Expectedly, they will also be the ones to recover faster than others.

Other businesses too must undertake rapid transformation routes to emerge truly nimble and agile if they were to survive a long and slow macroeconomic recovery cycle. Such an approach would enable them to respond to market situations in dynamic and resilient ways, create value for themselves and their customers, and muster growth and profitability in a sustainable manner.

Moreover, businesses could also leverage IT to change the shape of recovery curve to an extent and create greater value for their stakeholders as well as customers.

AI is the soul of future digital transformation initiatives

AI could significantly accelerate innovation and transformation. It is time to open up new streams of AI conversations that will help realign the digital transformation agenda of businesses to the changed needs of a post-pandemic era.

AI case studies and use cases already exist that could be adapted and used by organizations and governments. Leading organizations in areas such as banking, financial services, retail, logistics, healthcare, automobiles, e-marketplaces, and cybersecurity are already at the forefront of AI adoption. In the near future, while they work to further perfect and mature their AI applications, other organizations will be keen to catch up.

One good way to accelerate AI adoption would be to watch the early movers and learn from their successes and failures.

For instance, Mastercard has been an early mover. It introduced Decision Intelligence, a comprehensive decision and fraud detection service, in November 2016. According to Mastercard, the solution uses artificial intelligence technology to help financial institutions increase the accuracy of real-time approvals of genuine transactions and reduce false declines.

Similarly, AT&T, the world’s largest telecommunications company, has also been an early deployer. In December 2016, AT&T rolled out its entertainment chatbot Atticus.

In April 2017, Vodafone UK launched its AI chatbot, TOBi, powered by IBM Watson and LivePerson. The telco described it as a virtual customer services’ agent that could handle a range of customer queries including device troubleshooting, usage, and order tracking, among others.

The Covid-19 scenario has made a profound impact on the way people collaborate and work. In this situation, AI and ML will be the key navigational technologies to deliver results, and hence, are expected to be embraced widely by organizations of all scales.

[If you would like to share a use case and recommend it in the larger interest of other organizations, please drop me a word at deepakk@bmnxt.com.]

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