WhatsApp Privacy Survey

Better World User Survey on WhatsApp Privacy Policy

by | Jan 29, 2021 | Policy, Privacy

Better World User Survey on WhatsApp's new privacy policy finds that 72% are open to switching to another viable messaging platform.
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Users vent out displeasure, want government to crack whip

WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report

Survey and analysis by Deepak Kumar

There is a thin line that divides respect for privacy and intrusion of privacy. In the age of the digital, this line becomes wavy and fuzzy as well. For big internet companies, the user data that resides behind the line is a gold mine. The more they get of it, the richer they get.

The recent WhatsApp privacy policy changes are just about that. By gaining a right to use and share WhatsApp’s select user data with partners, Facebook aspires to gain an unsurmountable edge in the digital advertising world. It goes without saying that WhatsApp data can help reap rich ad dividends for parent company Facebook. Users are not pleased. In respose to the one-week-long Better World survey concluded recently, a majority of them (67%) want the government to step in some way, as discussed ahead in this report. Notably, these include Business WhatsApp users as well. In fact, by the time of writing this report, various leading media portals had reported that government had written to WhatsApp and asked the company to roll back the proposed privacy-policy changes.

It all started when WhatsApp started sending out notifications to its users to the effect that it had updated its privacy policy and the users could either accept the new policy or quit using WhatsApp by 8 February 2021. Meanwhile, while this report was underway, the deadline was extended by more than three months. Users now have to accept the new privacy policy by 15 May.

WhatsApp’s privacy-policy change and the aftermath

Users’ retort has indeed been quick, sharp, and massive. They poured out their disapprovals in words as well as in actions. Millions of users posted and tweeted their angst against the move and even signed up on alternative messaging apps such as Signal and Telegram. Tesla Founder Elon Musk’s two-word tweet, “Use Signal,” helped drive a switch from WhatsApp, particularly given his following of 41.5 million on Twitter.

The rush to leave WhatsApp was so high that servers of Signal were not able to take the load of new signups. At one point, Signal sent out a tweet, “Verification codes are currently delayed across several providers because so many new people are trying to join Signal right now…Hang in there.”

On 11 January 2021, Facebook’s shares declined 4.01% on a day when Nasdaq slipped just 1.55%. On 12 January, it further declined 2.24% on a day when Nasdaq rose 0.77%. On 14 January, it happened to be at the lowest in more than six months.

Better World ran a quick user survey, where 37% users said they considered the move a serious breach of their privacy, while 45% said they it was not good but they could live with it. Only around 18% said the change didn’t bother them at all. However, some of these 18% users were already using other messaging apps along with WhatsApp.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph1

What’s the big deal about privacy in the age of social media?

In the age of social media, many of us have become comfortable sharing our thoughts and views on Facebook. In fact, many people don’t mind sharing sensitive personal information such as location and travel plans not just with friends but also with public at large.

However, when it comes to WhatsApp, the behavior often changes. Many of the users’ chats are peer-to-peer in nature and may not be meant for public viewing or consumption. The same would apply to the other activities they perform on WhatsApp, whether today or in future. These would include the financial and transactional activities performed on the WhatsApp platform.

In a digital living environment, if a Facebook wall may be considered comprising areas of the lobby and the living room, WhatsApp will certainly be akin to the bedroom and beyond.

No wonder, the recent changes in WhatsApp’s privacy policy have created a din that Facebook could not see coming.

In the wake of the user backlash, WhatsApp had to get into a defensive mode, sending out clarifications and explanations. However, a damage had been done by then. In a first reaction, 17% users responded to the Better World survey said they were quitting/had quit WhatsApp for good, while 45% said they would accept the change but start exploring other or additional options. Interestingly, 12% said they were already using another social messaging app. However, a good 26% said they would accept the changes and keep using WhatsApp as before.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph2

The myth that users are unaware and don’t care for privacy is broken

Often, as an extension to the assumption that transparency is the hallmark of a digital age, it is argued that privacy is hardly a thing that users care about. The user backlash against WhatsApp’s privacy assumptions easily breaks that myth. It also reminds one of the “Free Basics” event a few years ago. Users had then considered it an attempt to compromise ‘net neutrality,’ and Facebook had to roll the offer back.

The promptness of users in defending their privacy and other rights can easily be evidenced by these two examples. The events also show that users are well aware of the repercussions of any policy change or a new offering in the internet world. This is echoed by this survey results, with 80% users stating they were aware that WhatsApp was changing its privacy policy, and would be sharing a range of user data with Facebook and Instagram platforms with effect from 8 February 2021 (now 15 May 2021). The remaining 20% users said they were not aware of such changes. It is likely that some of these users were yet to receive the notifications regarding policy change when they took this survey.

Further, around 47% of users said they understood the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy for users reasonably well and another 18% said they understood it fully well. By contrast only 29% said they didn’t understand it well enough while another 6% said they didn’t understand it at all. Overall, this implies a high incidence of awareness around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy.

Notably, while the messages will remains end-to-end encrypted, the new policy means sharing a host of user-related information with Facebook and other third-party platforms. These include information about a user’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and receipt of a Facebook or WhatsApp account. Additionally, conversations associated with business accounts will now be shared with Facebook.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph3

The damage-control measures may be too little too late; more is needed

WhatsApp has issued a number of clarifications and explanations pertaining to the change. Those clarifications, however, have been far from satisfactory. Its parent company Facebook says the new policy changes are directed only at Business WhatsApp accounts and not the individual accounts. Also, it says only certain ad-related information will be shared with Facebook and other group companies.

However, on the actual Privacy Policy page, some of the statements may sound alarming to users. It states in one place, “We work with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies to help us operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services,” and adds, “When we share information with third-party service providers and other Facebook Companies in this capacity, we require them to use your information on our behalf in accordance with our instructions and terms.”

What if third-party service providers don’t follow the “instructions and terms,” as had happened when in 2018 Cambridge Analytica was found to have harvested data of 87 million users from Facebook in 2016 under the guise of a survey app? In September 2018, again, hackers were able to exploit an API vulnerability to gain access to data of around 50 million users. In September 2019, data of 419 million Facebook users, including names and phone numbers, was exposed online, said Techcrunch. Three months later, data of 267 million Facebook users was reported by Comparitech as being in the wild. In March 2020, Comparitech revised the number to 309 million after finding data of another 42 million residing on another server had been compromised as well.

Given Facebook’s not-so-stellar record in protecting user data from being exploited by threat actors, it may be concerning for users to let some of their WhatsApp data be mined by Facebook and other third-party service providers.

WhatsApp, on its Privacy Policy page, further adds, “When you or others use third-party services or other Facebook Company Products that are integrated with our Services, those third-party services may receive information about what you or others share with them.” “Please note that when you use third-party services or other Facebook Company Products, their own terms and privacy policies will govern your use of those services and products.”

WhatsApp is not clear what this amounts to when used in conjunction with the previous two statements. Does this mean that if WhatsApp users share certain information with Facebook or other third-party services integrated with WhatsApp, the privacy policies of those services take over and WhatsApp’s privacy policy loses jurisdiction?

It will help if WhatsApp addresses such concerns and questions in its Privacy Policy document.

Pavan DuggalPavan Duggal, Indian cyber law expert

“I’m surprised that WhatsApp has done this even though India is their largest market. Effectively this means that WhatsApp, apart from sharing personal data, also discloses your transaction-associated information, which means including your credit card number, your debit card number, and your bank details. At the same time, they will share the IP address of users. It’s a very perilous situation, especially in a country that lacks a strong legal ecosystem around cyber laws and data security. Such policy changes can upsurge the probabilities of misusing users’ data by anti-social elements.  I strongly believe that people should count on more secure platforms such as Signal and Telegram for their messaging needs now.”

Rajesh Agarwal, Head IT, Aamor Inox

“People are moving to Signal and Telegram, but they are also coming back to WhatsApp. I’ve been using Signal for some time, along with WhatsApp, and found it is not as mature as WhatsApp is. There are many missing aspects in Signal, like, the personal reply feature. I found even the deletion of chat a cumbersome process in Signal. I understand the privacy concerns, but that’s there across the app ecosystem, and here WhatsApp is at least telling users what it is sharing and what’s not. Most of the users are testing Telegram and Signal while keeping WhatsApp as a primary communication tool. It will be exciting to see if this behaviour fluctuates and WhatsApp could address some of the privacy concerns that users may have”

Shashwat DCShashwat DC, Communications & Engagement (Research) at Azim Premji University

“While WhatsApp may try to dispel all fears about privacy expounding that its messaging platform is end-to-end encrypted, in reality, Facebook seems to trying to seize a lot of personal data to earn from its advertising business. To avoid such instances and provide users much-needed control over their data, India needs to implement its data protection law just like Europe’s stringent GDPR at the earliest. The world’s largest democracy, with a burgeoning IT sector, cannot risk the privacy of its citizens.”

There is a need for stakeholders to establish certain minimum privacy-policy norms

The right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental right emerging primarily from Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Article 21 pertains to protection of life and personal liberty, and states, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.” In August 2017, Government of India had set up a committee under the chairmanship of retired Justice BN Srikrishna to submit a report on data protection. The committee submitted its report in July 2018.

In its opening note, the report recognized that “the protection of personal data holds the key to empowerment, progress, and innovation.”

The Committee had noted that “any regime that is serious about safeguarding personal data of the individual must aspire to the common public good of both a free and fair digital economy.” “Freedom refers to enhancing the autonomy of the individuals with regard to their personal data in deciding its processing which would lead to an ease of flow of personal data,” it added.

Justice Srikrishna Committee had emphasized that processing (collection, recording, analysis, disclosure, etc.) of personal data should be done only for “clear, specific and lawful” purposes. Also, only that data which is necessary for such processing is to be collected from anyone.

Based on the recommendations of the committee, amounting to a draft Personal Data Protection bill prepared in 2018, a revised Personal Data Protection Bill was approved and placed in December 2019. A joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) chaired by Meenakashi Lekhi and comprising 20 members from Lok Sabha and 10 members from Rajya Sabha was constituted to submit its report. The JPC had conducted more than 55 sittings in 2020. Oral evidences were heard by the JPC from various state as well as non-state actors including Amazon, Google, Facebook, Jio Platforms, Paytm, and Twitter, among others. The final report of the JPC is awaited.

 Despite the fact that right to privacy has been recognized as a fundamental constitutional right, experts have been of the opinion that a law on data protection should be dynamic and not statutory in nature. This is more so because as digital economy becomes more and more prevalent and mainstream, data itself becomes dynamic in nature.

Coming to data protection, it is important to first distinguish between stationary data and moving data. While it can be reasonably guaranteed to foolproof privacy and security of stationary data, it can get very hard to ensure privacy of moving data.

The velocity of a moving data can be lightning fast in today’s digital environments. So once a private data gets into a public domain, even the slightest lapse or gap at the end of a data custodian could be disastrous. The hacks and misuses listed out earlier in this report are a testimony to this assertion.

It is therefore critical that, as we progress further into the digital economy, we ought to remove all regulatory fuzziness and laxity on the privacy front. A majority of respondents to the Better World survey subscribe to this view, with 24% noting that the government should ask WhatsApp to roll back the changes and another 43% stating that there needs to be a more holistic regulation in place. However, 33% of the users said that it would be better to let users be the best judge, though less than 22% of these users said they were fully aware of the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy as users. Of the remaining 78%, slightly more than 26% said as users they didn’t understand the implications of WhatsApp’s new privacy policy at all or well enough, though more than 54% of these users said they reasonably understood the implications if not fully well.

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph4

The choice of alternative reinforces that privacy is the key concern

Signal, which is considered to be the most privacy-oriented messaging app (see Table), was the first choice of those users who said they will look for WhatsApp alternatives. In this case, respondents had the option of selecting one or more apps, including WhatsApp. Telegram, which is considered second-most privacy-friendly app, had the second highest user preference.

While 34% of the users voted for Telegram as a WhatsApp alternative (and in some cases, as a replacement), a good 24% voted for Signal also. A fair percentage of respondents (15%) said they were sticking with WhatsApp even though they were using or considering to use apps other than WhatsApp as well.

The immediate user response, as evidenced from the survey, has been quite aggressive. While 18% of respondents said they had already quit WhatsApp as the only app, another 25% said they planned to do so within a week’s time and yet another 29% said they planned to quit in a month’s time. However, 28% said they had no plans to quit WhatsApp.

FeaturesWhatsAppTelegramSignal
Subscribers (Global)2 billion400 million20 million
Cross platformYesYesYes
Video and voice callYesYesYes
End-to-end encryption Personal messages and calls are end-to-end encrypted.Only for secret chatAll features are end-to-end encrypted
Type of softwareClosed-source privacyOpen-source privacyOpen-source privacy
Information collectionUser’s location, IP address, mobile operator, timezone, phone number, and details of a Facebook or WhatsApp account.Device data, IP addresses for moderation, phone number and the User IDOnly phone number for registration
Group chatsUp to 256 membersUp to 200,000 members1,000 members
File sharing capabilityVideos with 16MB limit in size and regular files up to 100MB2 GB100 MB
Folder managementChats can be stored through emailChats can be moved in to foldersNo such feature exists with Signal
Disappearing messages featureEnables self-destruction of a message after 7 daysEnabled through self-destruct timerEnable self-destruction after 5 seconds to 7 days once a user read the message
Data backupYes, online and offline backup on google driveYes, on Telegram’s cloudNo, stored on its own cloud platform
Group chat securityE2ENoE2E
Cross platformYesYesYes
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph5
WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph6

Analyst’s Views

Better World is of the view that while the responses to this survey do reflect users’ displeasure with the new privacy policy, the actual actions taken by them will likely be different in many cases. Particularly, those users who are considering to quit WhatsApp in a month’s time, are more likely to have second thoughts and may stay put. It is also likely that some of the users who have already quit may come back after some time.

The key reason for such reconsiderations would be the huge user base that WhatsApp currently enjoys. While WhatsApp had a colossal global base of 2 billion subscribers, Telegram has a much smaller base of 400 million and Signal has a miniscule base of 20 million by comparison. Even if a few million WhatsApp users move to other platforms, it will not be fruitful if a significant percentage of their contacts also move to those very platforms. If that doesn’t happen, users could feel compelled to come back to WhatsApp for their daily messaging needs.

Notably, when considering alternative apps, 26% said they were sticking with WhatsApp. Further, when asked to provide a timeline for quitting, 28% said they had no plans to quit. It is quite possible that when it comes to actually quitting the platform, a much higher number of users will reconsider.

A consolidated view of respondents’ profiles

WhatsApp privacy policy-Graph7

About the Analyst and the Survey Methodology

Deepak KumarDeepak Kumar

Deepak is an ICT industry analyst with more than 25 years of experience in researching and analyzing multiple domains. His focus areas are strategic business and marketing advisory, sales enablement, and public speaking.  He has published reports, whitepapers, case studies, and blogs in areas of cloud, mobility, social media, and analytics.

He is Founder and Chief Research Officer at BM Nxt and Better World. He has earlier worked with IDC, Reuters, Voice&Data, and Dataquest in leadership roles spanning research, advisory, and editorial functions. 

About the report

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey Report was prepared by analyzing results of a primary research and supplementing it with data and insights collected from secondary research.  

The Better World WhatsApp Privacy Policy Survey was conducted via an online form that was circulated among more 1,000 respondents.  A total of 565 valid responses were collected during the period 9 January to 25 January 2021.  Better World also spoke to multiple respondents for qualitative insights. The surveys were led by Jatinder Singh, Director, Research and Insights, Better World, and independent market researcher Deepti Arora.  

Acknowledgements

I take this opportunity to sincerely thank all the survey respondents for taking time out and providing their inputs, without which this report would not have been completed in a timely manner. 

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Wipro ropes in Subha Tatavarti as its new CTO

Wipro ropes in Subha Tatavarti as its new CTO

Subha Tatavarti CTO

Subha Tatavarti, CTO, Wipro

Indian IT services Major Wipro has appointed Subha Tatavarti as its chief technology officer (CTO).  Subha Tatavarti’s career spans over two decades across domains such as enterprise infrastructure, security, data science, and edge platforms. She lives in the Bay Area in San Francisco, the USA, and has earlier led technology initiatives for online payments processor firm PayPal and retail giant Walmart.

In her decade-long stint at PayPal between 2010 and 2020, Subha led product, cloud and platforms, and data and analytics divisions. At Paypal, her portfolio of products included machine learning, artificial intelligence, and data ALM. Besides, she has also worked at CliMetrics, Inc. (as cofounder and director), Abbott Laboratories, Fannie Mae, and BearingPoint.

KR Sanjiv, the former CTO of Wipro, was superannuated on 31 Dec 2020.

Part of the organization’s structural revamp

In her new role at Wipro, Subha Tatavarti will be leading service transformation, robotics, Silicon Valley Innovation Center (SVIC), Technovation Center, open innovation, and applied research.

Subha Tatavarti’s appointment at Wipro is a part of the tech major’s recent structural revamp, implemented in January this year. As part of the structural reshuffle, Thierry Delaporte, the newly appointed Wipro CEO, announced the streamline of its business units, service lines, and geographies to fast-track the company’s growth amidst tough competition with other IT services majors – TCS, Infosys, and HCL.

Wipro had also recently announced several other leadership appointments, including Pierre Bruno as the CEO of Europe, Tomoaki Takeuchi as managing director for Japan, and Stephanie Trautman as the Chief Growth Officer.

Looking for new growth areas

Even though Wipro is behind in its revenue growth as compared to its peers TCS and Infosys, the company is expected to make a strong comeback in the next two to three years due to its strategic investments to strengthen remote working capacities and IT infrastructure modernization in 2020.

With over 190000 strong employee base across six continents, Wipro acquired several firms in 2020 in customer experience solutions, IT solutions, system design, and cloud domains. (See: With Encore buy, Wipro eyes DX edge in fintech and Wipro to acquire Capco).

Wipro posted a 20.8 percent YoY rise in net profit at Rs 2,966.70 crore for the Q3 (December 2020) quarter compared with Rs 2,455.80 crore in the same quarter in 2019.

For other C-Track movements, click here.

Rajesh Pathak, Country Manager, India & SAARC, Accedian

Rajesh Pathak, Country Manager, India & SAARC, Accedian

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.

At least 2022 until pre-COVID normal returns: Study

At least 2022 until pre-COVID normal returns: Study

The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic across the globe has put a big question mark on returning to pre-COVID normalcy this year. According to a recent survey by KPMG, despite improved confidence, most of the enterprises are apprehensive if the business would return to normal until 2022. (See: How is digital transformation shaping the new future?)

According to the findings revealed by the 2021 KPMG CEO Outlook Pulse Survey, 45% of the top executives expect that the pre-COVID normalcy would return sometime in 2022 instead of the 31 % who expected the transformation to happen sometime later this year.

This report is a stark contrast to the earlier sign in late 2020 that things would be back to normal for businesses by late 2021. Early last year, the sudden emergence of COVID-19 cases impacted the business continuity of several enterprises drastically. It paved the way for distributed, remote working culture and transformed businesses’ go-to-market action plans across the globe.

The Pulse survey findings are based on the responses received from 500 global CEOs (of companies that have annual revenue over US$500M) in February and March this year. The CEOs from the world’s leading companies across 11 key markets (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the USA) were asked to provide their 3-year outlook on the economic and business landscape, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Employee safety and vaccination top priority

For most CEOs, the pace of vaccination distribution is among the top factors that will influence their decision to resume physical offices and return to pre-COVID normalcy. About 55% of CEOs shared that they were anxious about the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to their employees. Not surprisingly, 90% of the leaders are contemplating asking their workforce to resume offices only after they are vaccinated.

One-third (34 percent) of global executives are concerned about distortion of facts on COVID-19 vaccine safety and the influence of this misinformation on the employees deciding not to administer the vaccine. Twenty-one percent of organizations will ask clients and guests who were visiting their facilities if they have been vaccinated, and 26 percent planning to significantly reduce global travel until the pandemic situation placates.

For half of the CEOs, increasing awareness around workforce stress and societal issues remains a high priority. They plan to increase their HR resources to help manage employee wellbeing and mental health.

The digital transformation continues to be a focus area

The acceleration of digital transformation continues to be a top boardroom agenda for CXOs with a deep focus on deploying strong collaboration channels. 74% of business leaders in the survey report that their organization’s digitization efforts have been accelerated significantly, up from 50% in August 2020.

Understandably, for most business honchos, new digital business models, developing seamless customer delivery models and revenue streams remain a key focus. Across organizations, the understanding of the growing threat landscape has also increased. Most CEOs, according to the survey, are planning to increase their investments in beefing up the cybersecurity capabilities that could enable them to innovate confidently and provide consistent value to their clients. (See: Combating cyber threats in the new normal).

Vinod Bhatt joins Vistara as its new CIO

Vinod Bhatt joins Vistara as its new CIO

Vinod Bhat Vistara CIO

Vinod Bhat, CIO, Vistara.

Tata SIA Vistara has appointed Vinod Bhat as the new Chief Information Officer (CIO).  Vistara is a joint collaboration venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines.

Bhatt has joined Vistara after working with Tata’s IT Services company TCS for around three decades, where he was Global Business Head – Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG): UK, Ireland & Europe & Delivery Center Head.

In his new role at Vistara, Vinod Bhatt will be responsible for leveraging digital technologies and enabling advancements in the IT infrastructure. He will be closely working with business, partners, and other stakeholders of Vistara for driving operational excellence at the full-service airline. Bhatt will report to Vistara’s CEO, Leslie Thng.

A long association with Tata

Vinod Bhatt started his career in 1993 with TCS as a program manager and team lead and managed various IT leadership roles at the IT major. He replaced Ravinder Pal Singh, who quit TCS in January this year.

At TCS, Vinod Bhatt managed complete P&L for UK and Europe, including Unit strategy, business growth, delivery, customer interactions at the CXO level, driving business benefits for our customers, Managing Margins, and other operational parameters. During the last 17 years at TCS, Bhatt worked at CXO level clients and helped them realize business benefits.

Academically, Bhatt finished his Masters’s in Engineering from the University of Hyderabad. Vinod Bhatt is also a Certified Quality Analyst (CQA) from the Quality Assurance Institute, US.

About Tata SIA Airlines

Tata SIA is a joint venture of Tata Sons Private Limited and Singapore Airlines Limited (SIA). Incorporated on November 5, 2013, Tata Sons holds a 51% stake in the partnership, and Singapore Airlines owns 49% stake. The company is registered as TATA SIA Airlines Limited.

The carrier has a five-member Board, comprising its Chairman, Mr. Bhaskar Bhat, Ex-MD of Titan Company Ltd, Directors-on-Board, Mr. Lee Lik Hsin, Executive VP (Commercial) Singapore Airlines and independent Directors Mr. Som Mittal, former President & Chairman Nasscom, Ms. Sangeeta Pendurkar, CEO, Pantaloons (Aditya Birla Group) and Mr. S. Padmanabhan, Executive Chairman – Tata Business Excellence Group & Group Chief Ethics Officer, Tata Sons.

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Fueling DX through data protection modernization

Fueling DX through data protection modernization

In the age of hyper-competition and elevated uncertainty, digital transformation (DX) has become a top boardroom agenda for organizations. However, amidst this rush of transformation and adaptation, a wide array of challenges have also sprung up. One of the significant constraints impacting the digital transformation initiatives is growing data loss incidents witnessed by organizations. This calls for immediate measures around data protection modernization.

According to a recent Data Protection Report 2021 by backup and disaster recovery firm Veeam, most data backups are susceptible to failure. This puts many businesses at severe risk of data loss and cyber attacks as they plan their digital transformation journey.

The dispersed workforce environment has shifted everything on the cloud. The traditional workplace models have thrown out of the gear and pushed businesses to modernize their data protection strategies and move their workloads from data centers to the cloud. The failure to revive their data backup efforts can jeopardize their growth prospects and significantly affect their goodwill.

The Veeam report asserts that more than half (58%) of backup recoveries fail, and about 14% of the data are not even backed up in organizational ecosystems. Based on the inputs gathered from 3000 IT decision-makers in global enterprises, the report says that IT leaders are examining ways to immediately solve their critical data protection needs. (See: Technology trends for businesses in 2020)

Exposed digital deficiencies of unprepared organizations

The DX strategy aims to enhance the organizational ecosystem where data play a crucial role in delivering an exceptional user experience and outsmart the competition. And if the information itself is susceptible to attacks or lacks good recovery tools, enterprise DX initiatives are doomed for failure.

Due to the abrupt external pressure and sudden changes required to maintain business continuity, many CIOs and enterprises didn’t get enough opportunities to plan their digital transformations seamlessly. According to the Veeam report, 91 percent of the survey respondents mentioned an unprecedented increase in cloud services used during the pandemic.

The inadequate data protection modernization efforts posed significant pressure on IT systems, and IT heads that are already laden with a rapidly evolving IT landscape comprising a mix of traditional on-premise infrastructure.

“In response to the COVID-19, we have seen organizations accelerating DX initiatives by years and months to remain in business. However, the way data is managed and protected continues to undermine them. Businesses are being held back by legacy IT and outdated data protection capabilities, as well as the time and money invested in responding to the most urgent challenges posed by COVID-19. Until these inadequacies are addressed, the genuine transformation will continue to evade organizations,” says Danny Allan, Chief Technology Officer and Senior Vice President of Product Strategy at Veeam.

Best way forward

In their bid to data protection modernization, many organizations are increasingly looking at integrating data protection as a service (DPaaS) to minimize their dependency on in-house infrastructure and resources. The backup solutions are moving from on-premise to the cloud.

As part of modernizing data backup strategy, it is a good practice for enterprises with distributed workforce across locations to move their data backups to cloud ecosystems.

Solutions such as Backup-as-a-service are also becoming an appealing alternative since they allow organizations to invest only as per their need, ensure data availability for different time spans as per their need, and remove the dependency on the on-premise resources.

The key to successful AI implementations

The key to successful AI implementations

Most enterprises today are swiftly exploring the potential of artificial intelligence (AI). Companies operating on archaic models have started to lose customers in the digital age and cannot accelerate their go-to-market strategies. However, according to various industry estimates, about 80% to 85% of AI implementations hit a dead end despite this growing understanding. The secret to successful AI implementations is a comprehensive approach that encompasses the integration of people, processes, and technology.

One of the primary reasons for this high failure rate is businesses’ inability to shortlist the primary growth objectives they wish to achieve. With the enterprise business landscape is becoming complex at an incredible pace, the time for organizations to be on edge for AI is over. No longer can they focus on deploying AI-related tools without building a solid business orientation.

Look for the unique business needs

The growing focus on digital and changing patterns of consumer preferences has compelled businesses to take a deep dive in long-term strategical technology deployment decisions.

Through successful AI-enabled implementations, firms can predict customer behaviors, analyze process anomalies, predict market uncertainties, optimize supply chains, and better manage employee and customer expectations.

Before embarking on the AI journey, enterprises should evaluate the business impact that AI can bring. Today, the advantages of AI have been leveraged for diverse tasks and processes. However, not all operations are fit for an AI use case. There’s no one size fit all methodology for AI-based applications, and the use cases where you intend to build AI must be clearly defined and prioritized.

“IT leaders must adopt a well-thought-out plan for AI adoption. Conversations must be struck with several business leaders (finance, customer success management, business operations, product development, and other management) to identify the relevant business goals tied to the IT domains. This approach will ultimately lead to the selection and prioritization of appropriate use cases,” said Greesh Jairath, Global IT Head at ITC Infotech.

Involve people in your strategy

More than technology, successful AI implementations need full support from the people within an organization. Most of the problems arise due to half-baked AI orientation strategies with the internal staff.

One needs to understand that transformation through AI doesn’t work on its own to solve a problem. You need people to understand and supervise at some level to deploy and analyze the predictive analytical solutions. To ensure that the processes are automated seamlessly, strong executive leadership is also essential. The more informed and engaged is the people inside the organizations, the better are the chances of successful AI adoption within an enterprise.

If you’ve just focused on deploying AI tools and not making any efforts to improve the organization’s cultural impact, the chances of AI failures will be on a higher side. (See: Five key steps to a successful RPA implementation)

Lack of in-house talent

Another challenge that technology leaders face is the acute shortage of qualified in-house talent who can manage end-to-end AI projects and tools. An effective AI model involves a lot of raw data that needs to be arranged systematically and processed for meaningful insights.

By consuming enormous data, the AI-based deep learning algorithms interpret and make decisions for a specific process. However, if you do not have the right people to analyze what data to be fed and understand why specific data is essential for an operation, your entire effort can go in vain.

Besides, CIOs have a tremendous challenge in fine-tuning their internal operations and reducing costs in light of growing ambiguity and uncertainty. In this context, investing significantly in training and building an internal talent pool may not be wise, especially when competitors are ready to poach skilled resources. (See: How will AI impact enterprise ecosystems in 2021?)

Many technology firms such as Google and Microsoft are offering drag and drop no-code AI solutions to tackle this issue. These ready-to-deploy frameworks can help companies develop world-class predictive modeling capabilities without investing immensely to build coding skills internally. These modules can help businesses design and scale AI-based processes and workflows at a large scale.

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