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.
Better World logo

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. 

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

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.

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.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.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