In Focus

Rajesh Pathak, Country Manager

India and SAARC, Accedian

Network performance monitoring lets CIOs maximize network’s potential, cut risks.

The scope of digital transformation is not just confined to the use of new technologies. Instead, this transformation encompasses a whole new journey that requires enterprises to maximize the potential of new-age technologies by obtaining complete network visibility across on-premise and cloud environments.

With continuous monitoring and deeper insights into various applications’ performance, IT professionals can proactively identify any network anomalies before they impact business operations and adapt to their users’ unique needs.

In a recent interaction with Jatinder Singh of Better World, Rajesh Pathak, Country Manager for India and SAARC, Accedian, outlines the key challenges faced by enterprises in their digital transformation journey and the role of network and application performance management solutions in the post-pandemic reality

Pathak also shares the best practices that organizations can adopt to convert the new normal position into the winning position.

Better World: The disruption caused by COVID-19 has compelled enterprises to reimagine their overall tech implementation strategies to meet the changing consumer expectations and remain competitive. What are the key challenges that enterprises are facing given this changing landscape?

Rajesh Pathak: The rapidly increasing number of new remote users has posed significant challenges for businesses. They have had to adjust by building and rebuilding capacity while controlling their networks 24/7. The distributed workforce has exacerbated this by increasing the number of endpoints, requiring specific performance and security management.  (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)

Companies need to be adaptable and flexible when scaling their networks as their business needs evolve. In short, the ability to rapidly deploy and accurately monitor services for performance and security while also maintaining SLAs consistently has become much more complicated. This challenge can be solved through greater visibility and insight into network and application performance. This type of technology solves for needs to be prioritized – it should no longer be written off as a capacity issue but critical to business continuity and success.

Better World: What is the importance of performance analytics in enabling enterprises to respond to the post-pandemic world?

Rajesh Pathak: As businesses continue to navigate these unprecedented times, network performance analytics has become a critical tool to manage disruption. Network and application performance management (NAPM) and security are pivotal to any business looking to optimize their network to maintain business continuity. It also is an essential part of preparing the network for the post-pandemic reality, whether that’s seeing an uplift in traffic, identifying a behavioral anomaly that might refer to a security issue, or pinpointing the cause of degradation. Businesses will want their networks to be ready to support enterprises and end-users in the post-COVID world.

Enterprises should turn to solutions that incorporate intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to understand the customer experience better. These technologies can look at large amounts of data, analyze them in a fraction of a second that a human could, and identify patterns that help with network preparation and management. They’re a huge advantage in managing end-to-end services and can ensure enterprises remain competitive by offering guaranteed performance to their customers. (See: CIOs’ digital transformation focus accelerates recovery for IT firms)

Better World: With remote working environments likely to continue for a longer time, how can organizations securely accelerate their digital transformation initiatives?

Rajesh Pathak: Companies can continue on their path toward digital transformation. They need to do so safely. This means that every company should be adopting tools that help them become more cyber-resilient: the ability to prepare for, respond to, and recover from cyber-attacks. As we have seen this year, the distributed workforce has lent itself to more excellent opportunities for hackers, and it seems like every week, a new exploit or exposure is unearthed. A report from the fall of 2020 found that every endpoint connected to the Web faces 1.5 attacks per minute.

Rajesh Pathak, Country Manager, India and SAARC, Accedian 

Rajesh Pathak is a transformational leader who believes in big picture thinking for exceptional results with over two decades of solid experience in both enterprise and service provider domains. At Accedian, a performance analytics and end-user experience solutions company, Rajesh Pathak shoulders a massive responsibility of accelerating Accedian’s growth plans in India and SAARC.
Before joining Accedian, Rajesh Pathak held leadership roles at BT India, Agnity, Alcatel-Lucent, and Ciena. He is an avid risk-taker and firmly believes that consistent hard work leads to success.

Expertise

  • Leadership development, general management, and strategic leadership
  • Mentoring and coaching
  • Revenue growth, sales P&L
  • Partnership and channel alliances
  • Technical solution sales, business development
  • Practice development

Education

  • BE in Electronics and Telecommunications, Amravati University, 1992–96.

Many solutions need to be considered when it comes to cybersecurity, behavior-based intrusion detection. The tool utilizes network traffic analysis to view 100% of all transactions and identify behavioral anomalies raised to IT teams before affecting the end-user. Cyber-resiliency is about complete visibility across your network, which gives IT teams a greater understanding of patterns and trends in the traffic and sound insight into what might be out of the ordinary.

Better World: What are the key learnings that technology leaders can apply to unlock the true potential of their networks? How are you helping businesses in this direction?

Rajesh Pathak: Network and application performance monitoring (NAPM) gives control back to CIOs and allows them to understand and maximize their network’s potential while reducing risk. This is particularly important because networks are becoming more complex to manage, and CIOs oversee multiple environments, including cloud, private cloud, and legacy infrastructure. With NAPM, CIOs can monitor their network’s performance, identify outages that could cause bottlenecks, recognize potential security threats, pinpoint the root cause of issues in real-time, and resolve them quickly. This information will allow their workflows to be more efficient, customer experiences to be more seamless, and improved business outcomes.

Better World: Many of the AI-based implementations require cultural shifts to scale and collaborate. What are some of the best practices for businesses to adopt AI amid crisis?

Rajesh Pathak: Adopting new technology is only successful if you make sure your team is onboard the tools and is equipped with the proper knowledge to use them properly. This requires the development of a broad understanding of new tools through training and educational collateral. But it also requires a focus on creating a culture that supports this change. This is done through frequent company-wide communication, from the start of the process to the finish – have teams weigh in on new tech adoption, understanding the pain points that led to this and how the new tool can help with some of these challenges.

By bringing your people along with you, they’ll feel more invested in the technology from the start and will have a complete understanding of why it was adopted and how it can improve processes and work. Then, it’s about making sure they have the correct information to use it successfully, which eases the onboarding process and helps them see firsthand the value of tech from the moment they start using it.

Better World: What are your strategic focus areas for the Indian market this year?

Rajesh Pathak: India continues to be a growing market for us due to recent investments in tech infrastructure. It’s crucial to have this foundation to adopt the tools they need to stay agile and prioritize security. This past year, we saw a massive uptick in cyber breaches, making IT teams reconsider their tech stack as they navigated connecting distributed and remote end-users in a safe way.

In 2021, we look forward to continuing to bring expanded tools and services to the area, driven by technologies like cloud, AI, ML, and 5G. 5G, in particular, will prove significantly impactful, especially for enterprises looking to achieve rapid growth while working with the realities of distributed workforces. We believe that NAPM technology can fully transform how enterprises and end-users manage their workflows and will be a critical part of India’s role in the age of global business.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Salesforce appoints Sanket Atal to drive India growth

Salesforce appoints Sanket Atal to drive India growth

Salesforce Sanket Atal

Sanket Atal, Managing Director–India, Salesforce.

CRM major Salesforce has appointed Sanket Atal as its new Senior Vice President and Managing Director of India. Atal, 53, is coming from financial software firm Intuit India and has earlier held leadership positions at Oracle and CA Technologies.

Salesforce said that Sanket would be instrumental in driving the next phase of growth for the company and focus on operational execution and achieving a breakthrough customer experience. Sanket will assume his new role from today, March 15, 2021, and report to Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO, and chairperson, Salesforce India.

The CRM giant is banking big on the new opportunities emerging by enterprises’ and small and medium businesses’ growing focus around customer-centric digital transformation.

Strong focus on the Indian market

The pandemic has paved the way for new ways of working, and enterprises are exploring the role of digital to catalyze the global recovery. In a bid to accelerate digital transformation, enterprises are rapidly turning to CRM providers such as Salesforce to deliver intelligent and connected user experiences across every touch point of their operations.

Over the last few years, Salesforce has been investing significantly in developing partner ecosystems, technology up-gradation, and talent expansion in India to support its growing customer base. For Salesforce, India has become a critical market strategically as it grew its workforce in the country to 4000 employees spreading across Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and New Delhi. “India is a strategic growth market for Salesforce and a world-class innovation and talent hub. Sanket’s appointment demonstrates our commitment and continued investment in India,” said Arundhati Bhattacharya, CEO, and Chairperson, Salesforce India, in a statement.

Its Hyderabad center provides global support to enterprises and the largest for the company in India. Salesforce is also adding new end-to-end capabilities and resources in its Hyderabad-based Center of Excellence (CoE) as part of its expansion plans. Last year, the US Cloud service provider also appointed Arundhati Bhattacharya to head its India operations. Arundhati is a former SBI Chairperson and was the first woman to lead the country’s most prominent public sector bank (SBI).

Apart from Oracle and SAP, Salesforce competes in the Indian market with Zoho and Freshworks. It has local clients such as redBus, Franklin Templeton, Snapdeal, and CEAT.

Adding flexibility in its solutions

Salesforce is adding new capabilities to bring much-needed flexibility for businesses that are accelerating their digital transformation goals. For instance, it has recently launched a unique solution, Hyperforce, in India. The new architecture will enable CRM major’s customers to run all existing Salesforce solutions in the public cloud and select where their data is hosted.

The platform’s key features are: higher compute capacity, ease of cloud resources deployment into the public cloud, minimize implementation time from months to weeks, and backward compatibility.

In India, Salesforce’s Sanket Atal’s responsibilities will also encompass spearheading new revenue channels such as growth from collaboration solutions that have become essential in ensuring business continuity and providing an exceptional experience for a growing distributed workforce. Notably, to compete closely with the likes of Microsoft’s Teams, Salesforce has also acquired workplace chatting app Slack in a massive $27.7 billion cash and stock deal a few months back. (See: Salesforce buys Slack to expand its cloud footprint)

Apple strengthens India focus by enhancing local production

Apple strengthens India focus by enhancing local production

American multinational technology firm Apple has strengthened its India focus by announcing its 2020 flagship smartphone, iPhone 12, in India. “We are proud to be starting the production of the iPhone 12 in India for our local customers,” Apple said in a statement.

The move, which is a part of Apple’s larger strategy to strengthen its focus in India, will equip the company to cut the government import duties and pass-on the cost-benefit to the end consumers. Through its partners such as Foxconn and Wistron, Apple has already assembled several previous smartphone editions such as iPhone 11 and XR in India.

The move is also crucial for India in light of the growing trade war scenario between the US and China. Over the last two years, many American telecom companies have cut down their output in China and exploring countries like India, the Philippines, and Malaysia for manufacturing opportunities. (See: Will Apple bite India’s manufacturing bait?)

Strategic measures in India

The market share of Apple in India smartphone market share may still be less than 5%. However, it is steadily building focus in India through several tactical measures. The premium smartphone maker has successfully partnered with online majors such as Flipkart and Amazon to sell its previously launched iPhone editions, wearable, and accessories at a heavy discount in India.

Apple is also focusing on accelerating its reach through refurbished smartphones, a segment growing at a pace of well over 10% in India. The company’s refurbished phones in India are also highly sought after due to their low cost, helping many first-time buyers testing Apple’s capabilities without shelling out the exorbitant price.

Additionally, it has collaborated with several banks and financial institutions to offer its premium products at attractive price-points or through cashback offers. Another strategic decision that the company took last year was unveiling its exclusive online store in India. It has started offering nearly the entire line-up of its products and range of services in the country. India has become one of the 38 countries where Apple has launched its online store (See: Apple India debuts online store, eyes more market share).

These measures have helped Apple shipped a record 1.5 million+ iPhone units in India in the quarter that ended in December 2020. Despite that, Apple knows that they have only taken baby steps in the world’s second-largest smartphone market. “If you take India as an example, we doubled our growth last quarter compared to the year-ago quarter. But our absolute level of business, there is still quite low relative to the size of the opportunity,” said Timothy Donald Cook, Apple CEO in 2020.

Apple is also bolstering its online store capabilities by launching a few physical outlets in India, building more trust in its products and services locally.

Emerging markets a focus area

Overcoming the stalled growth due to the pandemic triggered an anxious economic environment. Apple has surprised many soothsayers by achieving a quarterly revenue of $91.8 bn in Dec 2020, a 9 percent increase from the quarter a year ago.

While developed markets like the US, Singapore, UK, France, among others, continue to be the flagbearers of much of this revenue, in terms of growth, there has been a massive upsurge in sales for Apple smartphones in emerging economies such as Brazil, China, India, Thailand, and Turkey.

While Apply may have overlooked India for a long due to its price-conscious structure, it has now understood strengthening focus in emerging economies to lift its market share and prepare for new growth opportunities.

The efforts of Apple to strengthen its focus in India are especially crucial for the company since most of its developed markets are now saturated. And on the contrary, India’s mushrooming digital economy and tech-savvy young generation offer tremendous opportunity for the innovative company Apple to sell its products and premium services albeit with a practical price-point.

 

Reinventing enterprise decision-making with AI

Reinventing enterprise decision-making with AI

The last few years have seen substantial interest in artificial intelligence (AI) and automation technologies because of their massive potential to reinvent decision making, catalyze innovation, and unlock new opportunities.

The ambiguity caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further made it clear that organizations with robust data and insights are uniquely positioned to predict market behavior and navigate the disruptions with speed. For many organizations, AI has become a business necessity rather than an option. (See: How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021?)

According to a report by consulting major PwC, sectors that have faced the most disruption in the last year due to COVID-19 have embraced AI more definitively. According to the report, travel and hospitality (89%) have taken the lead in AI implementation, followed by TMT (86%), financial services (82%), and healthcare and pharma (73%).

Ushering into an AI-focused era

The fast-evolving digital-first environment has helped businesses and individuals generate tonnes of data. According to the industry estimates driven by the increasingly digitized culture, the world’s data could grow up to 180 zettabytes in the next five years. That’s gigantic! However, without any meaningful insights, this data is dumb and has no real value. Technologies like AI can turn these tonnes of data into a treasured trove and help enterprises tackle complex problems and reinvent decision-making processes.

Several companies have taken concrete steps to deploy AI-based frameworks in their organizational ecosystems. With robust analytical and algorithm capabilities, businesses are better equipped to identify market trends, discover anomalies, and focus on continuous improvement. With AI, enterprises can estimate a consumer’s historic purchase value, the specific challenges a user faces, and their preferences for a product or service.

Specific tasks hold mammoth value; however, accomplishing these tasks also requires heavy resources. In addition to providing valuable insights for better decision-making, AI-driven tools allow business leaders to automate critical processes and free-up the time of their resources, and utilize them more effectively.

Helping organizations manage disruptions

As we dwell in the future, the meaningful insights extracted by AI will empower many enterprises to make efficient and quick decisions, stay competitive and provide an exceptional customer experience.

For instance, Vodafone is one of the first telecom operators to implement AI in its entire business value-chain. Since 2016, Telco has been working meticulously to build a strong team of data analysts to leverage AI algorithms for obtaining relevant insights and data sets to deliver better network quality and effectively run their business.

In 2019, the UK-headquartered telco expanded the AI-scope. It launched an AI framework to deploy AI across its business ethically and safeguard its customers from inadvertent consequences of using ML techniques. With over 400 million customers worldwide, Vodafone’s AI-focus helps it take adequate measures and build strategies to understand its customers better and deliver superior network services. Ai-capabilities enable the telco to predict system failures/downtime proactively and provide quality insights on areas where it focuses more on network capabilities. Its AI-based TOB-i chatbot handles customer queries and ensures faster resolutions.

Across the world, the public sector and government bodies have also started to leverage AI’s potential. In 2021, these efforts are likely to gain further traction. Governments worldwide have been testing and deploying AI-based analytical solutions to track fraudulence in tax reporting, managing disasters, and monitoring borders. The insights offered by AI help governments predict possible threats and enable them to make the right decisions to secure their borders.

Another area where the potential of AI has been widely tested is Oil and Gas exploration. Last year, the scientists and experts of Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology (WIHG) discovered a new AI technique to examine seismic wave data that could help government explore hydrocarbons such as oil and natural gas speedily and efficiently.

These are some of the examples where AI is helping reinvent enterprise decision-making and optimizing operations. The accelerated adoption of AI is likely to pick more pace in 2021 as businesses across all sectors would continue to focus on predicting the concerns and making informed decisions.

At Better World, we’ve covered AI and its impact on various industries and sectors. The links to some of the most insightful coverage around AI are shared below. We hope you’ll find it interesting.

Mahendra K Upadhyay, CIO, BARC

Mahendra K Upadhyay, CIO, BARC

In Focus

Mahendra Upadhyay, CIO

Broadcast Audience Research Council

We are skilled at using AI for analyzing troves of data efficiently

BARC India is a statistical and measurement science company which is ‘Of the Industry, By the Industry and For the Industry’.

The company is registered with the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) as a self-regulated, not-for-profit Joint Industry Body that provides the most authentic audience estimates of What India Watches, to Broadcasters, Advertisers and Advertising Agencies. The Big Data driven insights generated by BARC India, is built upon a robust and future-ready technology backbone which powers efficient media spends and content decisions in a highly dynamic and growing broadcasting sector.

Commencing operations in 2015, today BARC India manages the world’s largest and most diverse TV measurement system covering approximately187000 individuals in 44,000 households, in 513 districts covering over 600 towns and 1300 villages, across India.

Jatinder Singh of Better World recently interacted with Mahendra K Upadhyay, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Broadcast Audience Research Council (BARC) India to get in-depth understanding of how BARC has leveraged technologies such as AI, machine learning (ML) and robotics to analyze, predict and process various metrics for driving effective business and customer experience. Excerpts of the interview:

Better World: How have you leveraged the latest technologies and innovations to strengthen credibility, transparency and instill confidence in all stakeholders in the TRP measurement system?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: Our data serves as the trusted “currency” for the Indian broadcast industry. Through this “currency,” broadcasters and agencies make several vital decisions relating to programming, strategy, and audience targeting. Providing the data in usable forms in an unfailing and timely fashion, week on week is highly dependent on technology.

Collecting data from over 44,000 household television meters and 15,000+ individuals’ digital meters daily while integrating with massive databases and alternative data sources requires the data to be stored safely, scalably, efficiently, accessible, and cost-effectively. The kind of data BARC India collects, compiles, and provides insights for is a brilliant example of the 5Vs of big data – Volume, Velocity, Variety, Veracity, and Value. BARC India processes ten petabytes of data annually, larger than the Aadhar Card database’s data size and the US Census Bureau.

With this large and variable data, extensive use of the latest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies is required to minimize human intervention and extract and represent the information accurately as per the prescribed methodology.

We have set a strict standard for releasing our clients’ data, doing so diligently every Thursday at 11 am. Performance, improvements, quality, and consistency are few parameters we experience and implement each passing day – without a firm Information and technology framework, this would not be possible.

Besides, we have deployed and enriched Lambda (λ) architecture that utilizes cloud services (Native & Custom) and on-premises data center capacities. An in-house created Enterprise Data Lake (EDL) helps end-to-end Data Validation Processes (DVP), fully automated, removing any human intervention. In addition to this, the application framework learns system patterns to help us identify areas for improvement.

Better World: Can you please elaborate more on AI and ML technologies to strengthen business resiliency levels and navigate the disruptions?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: At BARC India, rather than serving as a replacement for human intelligence and ingenuity, we use AI as a supporting tool. We are skilled at processing and analyzing troves of data efficiently to generate the insights needed by our clients.  This way, we use AI to help get the best-required output and streamline the decision-making process.

BARC India has eliminated human intervention end-to-end in the data validation journey. All admin access on the system and the data is via Identity and Access Management and activity recording.

We prefer networks rather than hierarchies. BARC India has created cross-technology groups to share knowledge. To ensure that our systems/networks and applications are robust and mitigate process lapses, we regularly undertake third-party audits.

To generate authentic and accurate data of ‘What India Watches™’ is a responsibility we take with the highest sense of commitment and integrity. Also, we are implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to do the daily repetitive operational jobs, not only in the Tech stream, but we are experimenting with it across the organization.

Better World: How do you prevent data tampering in your business?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: To generate authentic and accurate data of ‘What India Watches™’ is a responsibility we take with the highest sense of commitment and integrity.

Mahendra K Upadhyay, CIO, BARC India

Mahendra Upadhyay is a senior management professional in digital, data and technology space; presently working with BARC India as Chief Information Officer. Mahendra comes with 20 years of rich experience in telecom, banking, retail, media, and advertising industries with expertise in the entire data/digital value chain, i.e., ingestion-insights-analytics-interventions-auto AI and digital transformation.

Mahendra Upadhyay has previously worked with multinationals such as Mindshare, Ericsson, SAS Institute, among others.

Expertise

  • Digital transformation and automation
  • Digital marketing, marketing automation and measurement
  • Consumer Insights, interventions and advance analytics
  • Big data analytics, business intelligence (AI/ML)
  • Data/process management, security and governance
  • Large scale program management

Education

  • Executive Management, Business Administration and Management, General, Harvard business publishing, 2018
  • MBA, Business Management, Institute of Technology and Management, 2011
  • MCA, Rajiv Gandhi Prodyogiki Vishwavidyalaya, 2001

To ensure that we have deployed enterprise-level security architecture with robust perimeter and access control measures with the entire data path, from source to delivery, being end-to-end encrypted and monitored while maintaining vigilance through privilege identity management.

To ensure that endpoint security controls are in place, we’ve implemented Mobile Device Management (MDM) on the devices used/accessed by employees and the field force for data collection.

Over a Virtual Private Network (VPN), a single sign-in option for all corporate applications (on-premises, SaaS, IaaS) and Privilege Identity Management (PIM) based access methods ensure we have control over the actions being taken at every logging.  Further to this, we have network/user-level access controls for information to ensure it never crosses the BARC boundaries.

We have multi-layer firewalls and encryption methods; most importantly, we ensure that our data resides within India for effective law enforcement. Excellence is continuous. We do audits/checks of our IT systems and general control policies periodically to ensure we have updated protocols in place to resolve digital/cybersecurity-related challenges effectively.

Better World: How have you navigated the transition to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: BARC India drafted a comprehensive work-from-home (WFH) framework for its internal and external users by focusing on its key pillars: Communication, Collaboration, and Checks (security, integrity, and authority).

Secure processes and information flow are keys for success, so ‘Checks’ are critical to ensure their integrity. We have implemented two additional security layers and encryption protocols to ensure information is secure and applications function smoothly in the new normal environment of WFH.

Better World: What, according to you, are the key technology trends that will likely have the most significant impact on the enterprise ecosystem in the post-COVID environment?

Mahendra K Upadhyay: The FOUR key trends I see are:

  1. ‘Security Frameworks’ for securing information, application, networks, and end-users.
  2. ‘Robotic Process Automation’ for 100% uptime and optimum process utilization.
  3. Data-driven use cases and auto-discovery/treatments using advanced AI.
  4. Edge computing.

Finally, while technology and innovations can help, it’s ultimately human intelligence that makes the outcome business-friendly. This requires continuous investment, not only in tech but also in PEOPLE.

Nasscom, Microsoft join hands to promote AI innovations in India

Nasscom, Microsoft join hands to promote AI innovations in India

To promote AI-led innovation in the country, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has unveiled a new program, AI Gamechangers, in partnership with Microsoft. The program has been launched to recognize impactful and scalable AI-based innovation in the country.

According to the official release, NASSCOM and Microsoft will work jointly to develop and promote the AI Gamechangers program to spearhead AI’s adoption across all sectors.  As part of the program, NASSCOM will recognize the country’s top AI innovators at its Xperience AI Summit, one of India’s largest AI Summits.

The program will enable organizations, academia, and NGOs to demonstrate their AI-based products and solutions to give further fillip to AI-innovation in the country.

A selected panel of jury will evaluate the program entries on problem selection, solution innovation, and impact parameters. Participants can submit their entries between 4 March 2021 to 16 April 2021 here.

Boost to homegrown AI innovation

The role of AI innovations has grown across all industries in recent years. Most businesses rely heavily on the Cloud, having an opportunity to collect tons of structured and unstructured data. By leveraging this data, AI can make processes more intelligent and enable enterprises to perform increasingly complex tasks effortlessly.

“The past decades have seen a dramatic growth of innovation and talent in India. While the country continues to leap forward to become the global innovation hub, we expect AI to unlock $500 Bn of value to India’s GDP by 2025. Through this program, we aim to spotlight some of the leading AI-based innovations in the country, not only to recognize their efforts but to motivate the larger ecosystem to leverage this opportunity to help India become a global powerhouse in AI-led innovation,” said Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM in an official release announcing AI Gamechangers launch. (See: Enterprises in India leading AI adoption globally)

The actionable intelligence provided by deep learning algorithms and metrics helps businesses and governments navigate the uncertainties, make more informed decisions and even anticipate customer preferences accurately. AI innovations have disrupted industries of all sectors – be it retail, manufacturing, IT, banking, or healthcare. (See: AI tools can drive significant efficiencies in oil and gas, AI in banking now geared for a takeoff and How artificial intelligence is transforming the Indian retail sector)

For instance, in healthcare, AI innovations have been leveraged to address patient’s queries, find prevention and early detection solutions to various human diseases, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recently deployed interactive AI-based chatbots to respond to the detailed queries of frontline staff and data operators of testing and diagnostic labs on COVID-19.  Many leading Indian medical practitioners are using AI to detect early signs of lethal diseases such as Cancer.

Requires collaborative approach

Today, there are several use-case studies where AI-based solutions have been leveraged to solve challenges such as water crisis, food shortage, flood relief, pest control. There are many more in the experimenting phase and are expected to make an impact in the future. With the inevitable launch of 5G, enterprises are expected to utilize AI-based innovations to make their processes more intelligent, launching voice-based solutions for real-time customer support and bettering their market behavior. (See: India gears up for AI leap in post-Covid-19 era)

“Cloud-led data and AI innovation offer a huge canvas for India to be the tech engine of the world and drive homegrown innovation. Data and AI are driving transformation at scale across industries and offer an incredible opportunity to transform public infrastructure and solve some of the most critical issues facing the country today,” said Anant Maheshwari, President – Microsoft India.

However, the homegrown innovations around AI can be accomplished only through a robust collaborative approach and all stakeholders’ participation. AI-innovations still need considerable research and efforts to mitigate challenges such as data quality, inexperienced staff, and limited prototypes locally.

Efforts like AI Gamechangers need to be supported with more funding opportunities from the central and state governments to promote and expand the local AI-related advancements.

How HR leaders used tech to beat the Covid blues

How HR leaders used tech to beat the Covid blues

The COVID-19 outbreak has turned the world upside down. Many people equated the situation with the great depression of 1929 when food was scarce, income went down, and millions of jobs were lost! From remote working with contingent staffing and transforming themselves digitally, organizations had to test and deploy new operating models to motivate their employees, remain operational and meet the expectations of their customers. HR tech came to the rescue for many and enterprises that accelerated digital transformation initiatives were better prepared to tackle the challenges. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?).

The COVID-19 pandemic taught us new learnings and highlighted the significance of social interaction and humanity within almost every aspect of our lives.

Top HR and tech leaders, educationists, and talent stalwarts recently came together in a virtual-reality-based conference titled Lessons Learnt from Crisis to Design the Future’ to deliberate on the challenges posed by the pandemic and discuss leadership innovations that can ensure a more robust roadmap for the future. 

Vinay Ranjan, CCL

Vinay Ranjan, Director (Personnel), Central Coalfield Limited (CCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.

“The pandemic has once again demonstrated the importance of adaption to survive. There will be a lot of changes during and after the pandemic. How you react to the situation will enable the best way to capitalize from the new realities”

Rohit Thakur, Paytm

Rohit Thakur, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, Paytm.

“At an organizational level, we had started our preparations after hearing about the COVID-19 situation in the other parts of the world. We keenly followed government advisories and ensured we are taking proactive measures to safeguard the health and well-being of our people.”

Guramrita Oberoi, Just Be

Guramrita Oberoi, Founder, Just Be

Last year, buying behaviors of corporate L&D functions shifted dramatically. We realized Social distancing is making L&D leaders search for alternatives and rethink how they can develop and train people and create and strengthen organizational capabilities and culture when we simply cannot get together in person. We started to realize engaging a virtual audience is quite different from presenting in-person. And not only did we need to adapt and upscale ourselves, but we also needed to find a way to fill the gap in immersive experiential engagements online.”

Better World was the exclusive research and media partner for this virtual HR tech conclave.

The VR-based conference was organized by More Than HR Global (MTHR), a Mumbai-based pan-India Knowledge Community in association with Beyond Reality Events (BRE), a VR initiative of Just Be, an integrated people solutions provider. BRE’s core team comprises Guramrita Oberoi (Founder), Kanishk Malick (Co-Founder), and Kartik Sachdev (Advisor).

The discussion panel at the event included: Anil Dhanker, senior HR management professional;  Dr. Aquil Basrai, Independent HR Consultant and Former President of National HRD Network; Bhavesh Chandaria, Group Africa Head, Training, and Development, SAFAL;  Debi Prasad, CEO at Potential Infinity, a People Consulting & Research firm; Gyan Nagpal, Dean of AIA Leadership Center (ALC); Rohit Thakur, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, Paytm; Sukumaran Mariappan, Vice President – Global Transformation & People Analytics, Trimble Inc; Tanaya Mishra, Head of Human Resources, Essar Projects Limited; Sunita Rao, Independent Senior Talent Leader; Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore and Vinay Ranjan, Director (Personnel), Central Coalfield Limited (CCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.

New challenges in uncertain times

One of the most extensive tests that many HR and tech leaders faced during the outbreak was a lack of experience in dealing with such an unprecedented crisis. While leaders who were able to reinvent themselves through transformative strategies navigated their organizations through the disruption, others who failed to design a solid action plan could barely endure the crisis.

During the session, the panelists touched upon the numerous facets of how COVID-19 and unprecedented lockdowns impacted HR and related techs and processes. Intelligent enterprises took the route of digital transformation and emphasized making decisions that serve their people’s and businesses’ long-term interests while sidelining short-term lucrative steps.

Accelerating digital transformation helped many enterprises navigate the uncharted waters of COVID-19. “While the pandemic was quite dramatic and shocking, technology and variety of media enabled us to collaborate and kept our social capital alive with the people that mattered – professionally or personally. The pandemic compelled us to pause, contemplate, and appreciate the little things we often take for granted.” Gyan Nagpal, Dean of AIA Leadership Center (ALC).

In the social distancing age, technology is playing a crucial role in connecting and engaging people. The event itself was hosted on an innovative VR based platform, bridging the digital and physical worlds.

Echoing similar sentiments, Sukumaran Mariappan, Vice President – Global Transformation & People Analytics, Trimble Inc, said, “We often accuse technology as a reason to separate us and make us less social, but during the outbreak, technology brought us together. It even enabled us to learn something new and collaborate effectively in the times of crisis.”

At a personal level, the crises posed an unprecedented challenge for individuals. Many participants shared that the months of uncertainty and fear amplified the importance of the human connect’ aspect like never before. Companies like Paytm started preparing for the crisis timely after keeping a closer tab on international developments.

“At an organizational level, we had started our preparations after hearing about the COVID-19 situation in the other parts of the world. We keenly followed government advisories and ensured we are taking proactive measures to safeguard our people’s health and well-being. Nevertheless, we learned many new things while coping up with the pandemic. Following protocols as they were announced, then 100% of employees working from home consistently and trying to do that, engaging them, reducing panic, motivating them was a completely new challenge,” said Rohit Thakur, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, Paytm.

A winning strategy

The panelists at the event discussed the importance of adaptability to survive in a crisis. While adaptability was a crucial attribute even before the pandemic, Covid-19 made it a must-have skillset to survive. Within the months of the pandemic, we adjusted to living our lives very differently. Those organizations who adapted well (using HR tech) during the crisis not only survived but also made a substantial leap.

“Coal comes under essential services and is important for the energy security of India. So, for us, lockdown had never implemented. Like several other companies in our sector, we were poorly prepared to tackle sudden technological changes, such as moving from physical to virtual meetings. Nevertheless, our people exhibited great resilience and adjusted to the new normal very fast. The leadership at Coal India also set strong examples and took actions that reflect wider care and empathy,” said Vinay Ranjan, Director (Personnel), Central Coalfield Limited (CCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited.

Not surprisingly, the emphatic and caring policies of CCL did wonders for its production capabilities as its workforce responded to the pandemic bravely.

Gyan Nagpal, ALC

Gyan Nagpal, Dean of AIA Leadership Center (ALC).

“The pandemic compelled us to pause, contemplate, and appreciate the little things we often take for granted.”

Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan

Prof. Vasanthi Srinivasan, Professor, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

“We all must remember it’s the collaboration, whether, in terms of vaccines or humanity coming together, that has made it possible for us to where we are today. We all need to think about making a better world by leveraging our capabilities and using technology wisely. We need to ensure such crisis doesn’t happen again or be better managed.”

Bhavesh Chandaria

Bhavesh Chandaria, Group Africa Head, Training, and Development, SAFAL.

“We need to be ready for the future uncertainty by taking a break from things that we take for granted.”

About MTHR Global

Mumbai-based MTHR Global (More Than HR Global), a leading Knowledge Community Pan India since 2002, is a not-for-profit body that continues to bring the best in Learning and Networking! MTHR Global is a community that grew to over 15000 members within ten years across India and in a few other countries across the world.

About Beyond Reality Events

BR Events is a virtual reality offering by Just Be. Under BRE, the company provides immersive and interactive experiences for its clients — from layout to branding, bringing the real world into 3D.

During the COVID-19, the coal stock at its thermal power plant rose to the highest ever inventory of about 46 days compared to the average supply of 20-22 days, demonstrating exceptional results for companies who made their employees feel heard and included the COVID-19 crisis.

The session panelists also delved deeper into the hard-earned lessons for the future from the current crisis. The senior HR and tech leaders shared the importance of acting fast, cross-training employees, and eliminating overdependencies.

“I think we need to detox from overdependence. The new crisis response cannot be designed from the viewpoint of COVID. It could be an internet or electricity outage. We need to be ready for the future uncertainty by taking a break from things that we take for granted,” said Bhavesh Chandaria, Group Africa Head, Training, and Development, SAFAL.

“For instance, many countries keep a car-free day in a month. Why can’t we plan things and embed such things into our design, say an electricity and internet free half-day a month? This is essential so that our today’s generation does not assume and completely dependent upon such things. We need to learn to live without the obvious,” Chandaria explicated.

Final thoughts

The industry experts also outlined the importance of collaboration and using technological innovations wisely to create a better and sustainable future. At various levels, everyone emphasized the importance of empathy toward those who surround us, developing hyper skills, exploring multiple ways to approach a particular challenge at an individual and organizational level.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *