Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud earns it Red Hat award

by | May 25, 2020 | Technology, Telecom

The telco’s universal cloud deployment over an 18-month long period has helped it handle vagaries of data traffic like a breeze.
Share to lead the transformation

An old proverb is that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. In the challenging times of Covid-19, it applies well to the telecom sector at large and Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL) in particular. The latest feather in VIL’s cap happens to be the ‘Innovator of the Year’ title. It’s a well-earned accolade that has its roots in Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud deployment announced on 21 October 2019 in a Red Hat release. (The actual work is understood to have started much earlier.)

Vodafone Idea Limited claimed the top honors at the Red Hat Summit 2020, for orchestrating the vision of a single, universal cloud into reality. The telco now owns the largest cloud deployment of its kind in India, linking its IT, network, and third-party applications using open source infrastructure.

The initiative

This cloud initiative, which VIL had kickstarted around 18 months ago, had started bearing fruits even before the pandemic had hit the scene. It had helped VIL transform its network infrastructure by a great measure and made it highly scalable and agile. The pandemic merely tested its limits.

When it did, VIL’s network seems to have responded quite impressively. Not only was it able to accommodate a multifold rise in traffic but also managed to handle the overnight shift in demographic patterns.

It is a known fact that after the pandemic-induced lockdowns, a majority of enterprises rushed to enable their employees to work from home. This amounted to near-zero traffic demand originating from the business clusters while a massive surge in demand happened from residential areas.

Moreover, as communication and entertainment became the lifeline for netizens during lockdowns, VIL’s network experienced a year’s worth of traffic growth within a week of lockdown. With the cloudifaction carried out over the past several months, the telco was able to scale up elegantly enough.

Not surprisingly, the company’s stock rose 86% between 1 April and 20 May, from Rs 3.04 to Rs 5.65 a share. On the day of writing this analysis, the stock traded had last traded at Rs 5.53 a share on the BSE.

The build-up

Vishant Vora

Vishant Vora: Driving cloud transformation

Vodafone Idea says it took on the challenge of transforming its network to make it future ready and building a ‘Universal Network Cloud’ that is workload agnostic from core to edge. The cloud enables Vodafone Idea to better serve its more than 300 million subscribers by simplifying and transforming its IT and telecom network operations. The new platform is deployed across many distributed Vodafone Idea cloud microsites across India, as well as its central IT operations.

Vodafone Idea’s universal cloud initiative was to rapidly transform the 100-plus data centers of the erstwhile Vodafone and Idea entities, through a shared software platform. The Red Hat OpenStack Platform was used to design efficient ‘pods,’ which could be geographically distributed and taken closer to the end- users, helping to reduce latency and enable an optimal user experience.

Better World sees these ‘pods’ as akin to microservices that leverage containerization techniques and could be orchestrated using the open-source Kubernetes container-management system.

Recognition a shot in the arm?

Vodafone Idea considers the Red Hat award to be a recognition of its early adoption of emerging technologies for enterprise and retail customers. The cloud deployment has helped the telco in reducing latency in carrying multiple workloads and optimizing costs.

VIL is now also gung-ho about its future potential, especially with regard to next-generation services like internet of things (IoT) and blockchain.

Vishant Vora, Chief Technology Officer, Vodafone Idea said, “A distributed universal cloud centrally orchestrated is an ambitious project for us, representing a vision for the telco future where “pods” could be geographically distributed across the country. Our vision is to build a universal cloud that will not only carry the traditional telco workloads but also carry IT and enterprise offerings for our customers. This will also position VIL very well for the nextGen services like IoT, Blockchain etc. These capabilities need to be accommodated with a versatile and scalable platform offering flexibility and control as an organization. We are extremely proud of receiving this prestigious award.”

Chris Wright, senior vice president and chief technology officer, Red Hat, noted, “We want to extend congratulations to Vodafone Idea Limited for receiving the 2020 Red Hat Innovator of the Year award. Vodafone Idea’s journey in building a Universal Cloud, hosting both Network and IT workloads, based on open standards, is truly impressive. By adopting Red Hat OpenStack Platform, Vodafone Idea Limited and its customers can more quickly adapt to changing market conditions. We are proud to be working with Vodafone Idea Limited on this shared vision and we look forward to continuing our work with them as they look to build out additional offerings on this flexible platform.”

As part of Red Hat Innovation Awards each year, a panel of industry expert judges select the top five winning projects from a pool of global nominations. These five projects are selected based on the set of criteria for outstanding and innovative usage of Red Hat solutions. From the five winners, the Red Hat Innovator of the Year is selected by the community through online voting.

MORE FROM BETTER WORLD

Technology trends for businesses in 2020

Technology trends for businesses in 2020

In the times of COVID-19, when enterprise leaders are facing tremendous pressure to keep their businesses agile and profitable, the dependency on technology trends for business to overcome some of the challenges have increased.

Amidst the strong emphasis on social-distancing to contain the crisis, work-from-home is the new usual, resulting in rising business complexities. From school, yoga classes to grocery shopping, employee onboarding, medical consultation, and client interactions, everything is being conducted virtually. This is not just unprecedented, but also a unique experience for each one of us since not many were ready for such a sudden and abrupt shift.

These new habits, primarily enforced by the pandemic, have created significant losses to the economy and forced old businesses to modernize quickly. There is already a shift in services, and organizations are reinventing their operating models. Efforts are being made to leverage the potential of new-age technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), digitization, collaboration tools, and risk management to drive growth and innovation.

In light of the above, let’s look at some of the top technological trends that are expected to redefine the IT of the Future.

Digital transformation in business

COVID-19 pandemic has turned into a decisive catalyst for digital transformation. Technology leaders are now reasonably convinced about fast-tracking their digital transformation efforts to navigate the current crisis and stay profitable. Traditional brick-and-mortar businesses also realize the importance of creating a robust virtual presence to beat the odds. The enterprises have no option but to accelerate their digital transformation efforts to adjust to the new normal. 

Enterprise technology leaders firmly believe that the current crisis has given a growing sense of belief and visibility to organizations on the best ways to tackle any future disruptions. (See: Chandresh Dedhia, Head of Information Technology, Ascent Health)

One of the biggest challenges that many enterprises are still facing is to drive the mindset shift of their employees. The next six to twelve months will witness a strong effort from enterprises of all scales to adopt technology advancements, change their organizational structures, and inculcate new dynamics of virtual behaviors within their larger teams. Learning resources and tools which can help in upskilling and reskilling will be in demand.

Updating business continuity plans

Covid-19 is proving to be the litmus test for many organizations to stay resilient and operate without any disruption. The disruption caused by the pandemic was a nightmare for many enterprises as they were not well-equipped to manage an upheaval of such magnitude. In the months ahead, organizations will be seen implementing and integrating new and advanced technologies in their Business Continuity Plans (BCP). Modernization of applications and tools to check employee health, emergency response, and data backup functionalities will be strengthened and restructured. 

The focus will be on deploying technology solutions that not only drive remote working but also help reduce operating expenses and increase business resiliency.

Application of AI in business

There is a growing organizational interest to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) technology to accelerate growth, innovate, and disrupt the market. The next couple of years will see enterprising testing and deploying several AI-capabilities to predict human behavior and fortify their market share. 

A recent study commissioned by global consulting major EY and trade association body Nasscom says that 60% of Indian executive leaders believe that AI will disrupt their businesses within three years. (See: Enterprises jump on the AI bandwagon but seat belts are few and Covid-19 lessons for accelerating AI usage).

Once the offices resume their physical centers, tech-leaders will strongly rely upon AI-based intelligent data processing and contactless technologies to ensure their employee maintain social distancing.

Implementing Chatbots to address customer grievances will be accelerated. The banking sector, for instance, has already taken aggressive steps to deploy innovative AI-based chatbots and tools to provide 24*7 customer support to their customers. (See: ICICI Prudential extends coverage of conversational AI Ligo and AI in banking now geared for a takeoff)

AI will specifically drive colossal traction for the industries which operate in the retail and supply chain. Since a majority of the consumers will continue to shop online for an indefinite time, AI-driven technologies will enable businesses to identify consumer purchasing patterns, launch new products, and provide an exceptional experience to their customers.

Stay tuned at Better World for the second part of the enterprise technology trends series, which will focus on technologies such as Cloud Computing, Blockchain, and Cyber Security.

 

 

 

 

Vodafone Idea Ltd: Could rebranding change the future?

Vodafone Idea Ltd: Could rebranding change the future?

Vodafone Idea Limited (VIL), one of the leading Indian telecom operators, has recently re-branded its identity as ‘Vi’ (read as We) as part of its consolidation efforts to integrate the two brands: Vodafone and Idea formally. Vodafone’s Indian arm and Idea Cellular had amalgamated their operations in August 2018 to survive in the highly competitive Indian telecommunication market. 

However, despite the merger, the consolidated Vodafone idea ltd entity was still carrying the burden of two separate identities from the customer service and sales operations viewpoint. Also, there was a little awareness amongst consumers about their alliance.

“As the integration of the two businesses is now complete, it’s time for a fresh start. That’s why we believe that now is the perfect time to launch Vi, one company that combines the strengths of Vodafone India and Idea. Vi’s focus will be to deliver to citizens and businesses in India a superior network experience, better customer service, and leading products and services.” said Nick Read, CEO of Vodafone Group PLC in a company statement.

The re-branding exercise is an attempt to strengthen brand positioning and lessen the company’s operational expenditure of upholding two distinct brands. The development has come on the heels of Vi’s decision to raise Rs. 25,000 crores through share sales and other tactical means to clear the aggregated gross revenue (AGR) dues. Earlier this month, the Telco received much-needed respite after the Supreme Court, India’s apex law body, provided Vodafone an extended time frame of 10 years to pay the AGR dues it owes to the Indian government.

Indian telecom’s changing equations

India’s telecom sector had over a dozen companies operating until a decade back. However, Jio’s entry and its untenable pricing pushed several money-losing carriers to exit the business or get amalgamated. Since the arrival of Jio, the erstwhile telecom behemoths Bharti Airtel and Vodafone are also struggling to retain their customers.

RJio currently commands 33.47% of the wireless market share, Airtel 28.31%, and Vi 27.57%, according to the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI).

It is worthwhile to note that Vodafone idea ltd (now Vi) had lost 6.3 million subscribers in March, while 1.2 million customers departed from the Bharti Airtel network. In the same period, Reliance Jio, on the other hand, added 4.68 million subscribers.

Interestingly, Vodafone and Idea together had over 400 million customers when their merger was announced. The combined subscriber base of VIL had shrunk to around 300 million by April 2020. On the other hand, RJio is now the biggest Indian Telco with close to 400 million subscribers.

Attempt to regain market share

The industry onlookers believe that Vi’s revamp initiative is aimed at invigorating the brand that resonates with the style quotient of both young and enterprise customers. After the arrival of Reliance Jio, both Vi and Bharti Airtel have been trailing in subscriber market share and trying several branding tactics to fortify their position.

While the current rebranding exercise may generate user interest in the short-term, Idea Vodafone (Vi) will need substantial efforts to regain its market share. The telecom space is getting evolved with the two significant players RJio and Bharti Airtel, competing from neck to neck. While Bharti Airtel may as well have lost considerable subscribers, the company has strong foundations to recover from the onslaught of Jio. 

Jio is sitting on a hotbed of opportunities to build a Jio ecosystem and has already raised Rs 1,52,056 crore from top tech investors earlier this year. (See: The Jio ecosystem has begun to unfold). Vodafone Idea, too, needs to entice massive equity infusion to unload the severe financial challenges it has been facing and change its dwindling fortunes.

Vodafone Idea or Vi said that it would continue to invest in 4G wireless technology to strengthen network coverage and capacity, a statement that it should firmly adhere to hold back its customers.

With the 5G era at doorsteps, technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will get rapid enterprise deployments. And as such, it will be network superiority that will make the difference. 

 

 

Sunit Vakharia, Chief Technology Officer, U GRO Capital

Sunit Vakharia, Chief Technology Officer, U GRO Capital

In Focus

Sunit Vakharia

Chief Technology Officer
U GRO Capital

The critical goals of implementing technology are innovation, secure operations, and ease of business.

There is an adage that every adversity brings a unique opportunity. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated that there is a degree
of truth to it.

There is no doubt that the implication of COVID-19 has put tremendous stress on organizational budgets, focus areas, and operating policies. However, as the scale of this unparalleled event unfolds, many organizations are also developing new business models and strengthening their virtual capabilities to create fresh revenue streams.

In a recent interaction with Better World, Sunit Vakharia, Chief Technology Officer, U GRO Capital, shared insights around the current mindset of technology leaders and the importance of technology-led solutions to navigate the current crisis. (U GRO Capital is a highly specialized, technology-driven lending organization that focuses on providing customized, sustainable solutions to small and medium businesses.)

Excerpts from the interview:

Better World: How has COVID-19 impacted your business? How have you leveraged technology to achieve business resiliency?

Sunit Vakharia: While the unpredicted COVID-19 epidemic has threatened our sense of normalcy, it has also pushed people to innovate and reimagine the conventional business models.

At U GRO Capital, we’ve utilized the current situation as an opportunity to scale our business digitally. U GRO Capital provides loans to small and medium-sized companies. We extensively focus on technology and analytics as enablers to onboard our customers and disburse money as and when required by them.

Technology has played a pivotal role in expanding our operations and customer base during the COVID-19. Even before the spread of the pandemic, we were equipped to deal with a fully remote working situation. We’ve been using remote collaboration tools such as Skype for Business, and Microsoft Teams, among others, since the commencement of our operations in 2018. All U GRO employees can work from anywhere, and there is no location constraint for anyone, helping them stay connected and manage client expectations. Similar engagements have been done with our vendor partners. All our technology developments and meetings with partners happen in an agile way over online platforms, and I am happy to share that significant efficiency has been observed in this new operating world.

We continue to build and deploy digital platforms. All aspects of sourcing new customers, servicing, and collecting documents are being done digitally. This has been the basis of our philosophy. We rolled out the digital KYC verification and digital document collection process during the days of the pandemic-induced national lockdown when our executives could not visit customers. These digital processes are clear differentiators for us.

Through our platform, we ensured that the entire communication and verification process runs through our video solutions. From the photograph of the factories to geo locations, customer coordinates, survey inputs, and the related verification, all procedures can be completed through this platform. This solution has helped us onboard our customers digitally and curtailed our visits to customer premises. We use statistical predictive models to assist, understand, and underwrite our customers better. Through AI-driven models, we assess our customers’ business requirements and offer the best product for their long-term growth. We have incorporated machine learning and analytics capabilities in our assessment solutions to drive exceptional customer experience.

Nevertheless, there are a few requirements that cannot be completed digitally, for instance, submission of post-dated cheques or specific covenant necessities. Still, I am sure, over time, we will devise solutions for that as well.

Better World: How have IT spending priorities changed due to COVID-19?

Sunit Vakharia: U GRO Capital’s management provides tremendous support and encouragement to foster innovation and to build scalable yet secure platforms. COVID-19 has pushed enterprises to leverage tech and to find new ways to empower their stakeholders. They are focusing on more unique capabilities to facilitate remote working.

In the current scenario, technology leaders will continue to evaluate infrastructure, applications, and security for supporting their employees, partners, and customers. Many technology spending priorities are being rationalized from the perspective of the new normal. Focus on digital transformation has been amplified, and enterprises are swiftly turning to automation and analytics to make smarter decisions. At U GRO, our focus will continue to be on innovation, and we are working towards developing new business lines and automating end-to-end supply chain processes. We are also planning to introduce a unique secured loan product very shortly. We’re building platforms in such a way that makes sure our core platforms remain constant while our ecosystem gets evolved incessantly.

Sunit Vakharia

Chief Technology Officer at U GRO Capital

Sunit is a senior strategic executive with over 19 years of rich experience in technology implementation. He has an exceptional understanding of the financial ecosystem, analytics, and data-based insights.

Sunit is a constant learner and has essayed various roles on the strategic IT leadership and execution fronts, notably in solving business problems through technology delivery, program management, business transformation, and client relationship management.

Before U GRO Capital, he had worked for global multinationals such as HSBC, Merill Lynch, SAS, Accenture, and ICICI Bank.

Top skills

  • Strategic Leadership
  • People Management
  • Process Improvement

Honors/Awards

  • Most Valuable Business Partner
  • HSBC Technology Winner
  • HSBC Technology Runner Up

Education

  • Strategic Thinking and Leadership, University of Pennsylvania – The Wharton School Leadership Management Training
  • Bachelor of Engineering, Instrumentation, University of Mumbai

We use multiple digital channels to facilitate customer interaction, and this will continue to be a focus area for us.

Better World: Where are you on your cloud journey? In case of multiple clouds, does orchestration pose a challenge?

Sunit Vakharia: We are a cloud-native architected organization. We have zero presence on physical infrastructure, an approach that will remain applicable in future. We do not feel the need to build a private cloud for our business. We operate on a self-service model, and hence do not need any physical infrastructure. The SaaS model works best for us. However, we may explore the possibility of using a hyper cloud approach for some of the use cases. This is largely because, at times, a specific cloud becomes expensive for certain use cases.

At this moment, we do not need to orchestrate multiple clouds, as we are using a single public cloud provider. In the near future, if a need arises, plenty of orchestration tools are available in the market.

Better World: As a technology leader, how critical is it to balance the short-term revenue requirements against long-term technology implementations?

Sunit Vakharia: There is a strong understanding of what needs to be prioritized. The current COVID-19 situation is undoubtedly complicated. It requires leaders of all departments, and not just technology, to make a thorough evaluation of all investment decisions because ultimately, you’ve to run business.

The critical goals of implementing any new technology are innovation, secure operations, and ease of business. Their importance can vary for different organizations, depending on their nature and scale of business. Many young enterprises make the mistake of implementing a technology solution because someone else is doing that, which is wrong and misleading. All technology implementation decisions should be finalized after getting answers to these questions: Is it making sense for my organization? Will it help my customers and the business we operate? Will it help in driving our future aspirations and the business goals we intend to achieve in the next quarter?

For instance, at U GRO Capital, we did not make investments in Blockchain technologies, which is exciting, yet some time away from the overall ecosystem maturity. So, we will not look at such pieces now and can explore them at a later stage when it makes real-life business sense for us. But what we want to do is to enable our customers and the sales team to work efficiently, keeping in mind the social distancing measures; and limit the physical visit and interaction during the collection of documents or at the time of money disbursement.

U GRO Capital’s customers are small enterprises, and we do understand that they need handholding. So we need to implement solutions that are relevant and more comfortable for our customers to understand and use.

Better World: You mention security as a key focus area for enterprises. Can you share some of the initiatives taken by U GRO Capital to enhance your information security architecture?

Sunit Vakharia: We’ve invested in the Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) platform. It is a cloud-based endpoint protection platform, which is designed to overcome the confines of legacy security solutions. The platform protects entire traffic from malware attacks, ransomware attacks, and other potential threats coming through either the web or emails, as those are already predicted. We are also implementing industry-leading Enterprise Threat Protector DNS for controlling what can be accessed on our networks. Besides, a Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solution from Microsoft has been deployed. That means all the emails that typically come to us are getting monitored, thus ensuring that our teams do not get spam emails.  It also helps us detect and block sensitive data transmission.

We are also working to implement a privileged/password access management (PAM) solution, which means anyone who wants to access our infrastructure, our database, or the applications need to request access. The request will come for approval to our information security team, which will review it and open up the entrance to the network border. PAM solutions ensure that there is no illegal access through the internet. Through PAM, all network access, control, monitor, and infrastructure can be audited. This enables us to see the tasks or actions done by a specific individual.

Information security is a continually evolving area, and we will continue to invest in solutions to strengthen our IT security defense on an ongoing basis.

Enterprises jump on the AI bandwagon but seat belts are few

Enterprises jump on the AI bandwagon but seat belts are few

Artificial intelligence (AI) is swiftly moving to the mainstream and emerging as a powerful engine for many organizations, prompting them to jump on the AI bandwagon to accelerate growth, innovate, and disrupt the market. The Indian government and industry bodies are extensively focusing on building an AI ecosystem that could help the country to develop and implement cutting-edge solutions (See: New CII forum formed to help build an AI ecosystem)

However, according to a recent study, Indian enterprises need to beef up their risk-management capabilities to leverage AI’s potential and dodge threats that may emerge after scaling up AI deployments.

The study titled, Can enterprise intelligence be created artificially?, commissioned by global consulting major EY and trade association body Nasscom, says that 60% of Indian executive leaders believe that AI will disrupt their businesses within three years. Yet, only 25% of enterprises have deployed AI solutions. Over 500 top CXOs across India participated in this survey and shared their AI adoption journey highlights along with the critical challenges faced by their companies.

The findings of the EY-Nasscom survey also disclosed that the majority of the enterprises are still battling out governance and risk management concerns for mass AI adoption. According to the EY-Nasscom survey, 74% of the respondents said that they had established a formal strategy or obtained C-suite sponsorship to initiate or scale up their AI programs. However, despite riding the AI bandwagon, a whopping 88% of the respondents stated that their risk management frameworks required improvements to address AI-specific concerns in areas such as ethics, accountability, and explainability.

After a couple of years of rigorous prototype testing and its applicability in the modern-day technology ecosystem, Indian enterprises are now finally waking up to the potential of AI and plan aggressive deployments. There is a broader understanding that AI adoption will help enterprises strengthen their cost-optimization efforts, operational efficiency, customer experience, and revenue growth. The time is now to move away from the development aspect to model validation.

A good governance structure is missing

AI tools are largely statistical models. They can be customized and come in wide ranging forms. Such models have their benefits and challenges.

One of the critical advantages that AI offers is its incredible competence to simplify the decision-making process. The integrated analytics and data science act as a catalyst for transformation, enabling enterprises to review in-depth insights and make precise decisions. It empowers leaders to transition time-consuming, complex, and repetitive tasks to AI-driven tools, thus assigning more meaningful responsibilities to them while freeing up the resources.

It is a well-known fact that various AI tools, such as robotic process automation (RPA)  and natural language processing (NLP), need diverse technology combinations to demystify their true potential.

Like every technology, AI deployment needs strategic planning and strongly interconnected governance models to make it a success in any ecosystem. Some of the core risks allied with AI include algorithm-related bias, legal compliance, concealed cyber attacks, programmatic errors, and overdependence on the technology. AI systems handle vital and sensitive organizational data, and hence, these risks, if not appropriately managed, can cause ambiguous and misleading results, leading to massive loss of corporate reputation and revenue.

“AI needs to be understandable, auditable, and grounded on reliable data. Integrated governance is needed to promote the reliability of data gathering, storage, and its usage, with adequate safeguards built-in through a robust risk management framework. Almost half of the surveyed enterprises state that their data strategy, specifically as it relates to harmonizing data from disparate datasets and strengthening data security, has significant scope for improvement to ensure AI-program success,” the EY-Nasscom study adds.

Some of the other elements that may influence the AI-success in any organization include the availability of accurate data, the digitization level of an enterprise, and the maturity of the partner network.

Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM

 “As industry witnesses a rapid advancement in new technologies, Artificial Intelligence increasingly becoming an imperative for businesses across industries. Implementing AI will not only catalyze the innovation to stay competitive but also generate long-term value for enterprises. The NASSCOM – EY survey is ready reckoner that AI adoption is a critical competitive lever. It enables business leaders to infuse technology at speed.” 

Vijay Bhaskaran, Partner – Technology Consulting, EY

“AI has immense capability to unlock exponential value for businesses and navigate the complexities of the ever-evolving digital economy. However, enterprises too need to equip themselves with the right AI platform that can help them rapidly adopt and scale AI solutions, resulting in faster, smarter and future-ready businesses. It is our constant endeavour to help organizations transform by automating intelligently with our unique propositions in artificial intelligence (AI) consulting.”

Nitin Bhatt, Partner & Technology Sector Leader, EY India

“AI holds tremendous potential in helping companies innovate, enhance competitiveness and generate significant long-term value. AI adopters have already achieved remarkable success in transforming their business models, operational processes and stakeholder experiences. As business leaders continue to push the frontiers of technology and the future success of AI will be driven only by our inspiration and imagination.”

ICICI Prudential extends coverage of conversational AI Ligo

ICICI Prudential extends coverage of conversational AI Ligo

Private-sector insurer ICICI Prudential Life has extended the availability of its conversational artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ‘Ligo’ on Google Assistant to address customer queries. Its customers will need to activate Google Assistant on their Android smartphones and speak out their policy number or registered phone number to get various details about their policy.

“It is as simple as asking Google for directions or traffic. In this ever-evolving digital world where speed, efficiency, and convenience are continually being enhanced, there has been rapid adoption of AI-powered voice assistants by individuals owing to personalized and immediate experiences being provided,” said ICICI in a statement.

ICICI Prudential introduced conversational AI-based Ligo chatbot on its website and mobile app in 2018. ICICI claims to have addressed around two million queries through this chatbot with 91% accuracy.

“At ICICI Prudential Life, all our innovations hinge around customer-centricity. Sometime back, we embarked on our hyper-personalization journey built on the pillars of 3 Vs. – Video, Voice, and Vernacular. Catering to the evolving needs of our customers, we have enabled our customer service voice bot LiGo on ‘Google Assistant,’ making it accessible on all platforms and devices it is available on,” said NS Kannan, Managing Director and CEO, ICICI Prudential Life Insurance in the statement.

In a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) era, it has become critical for banking and insurance companies to create a differentiated strategy for the convenience of their customers. Tools such as conversational AI Ligo are a technological means to help the sector drive several of these new-age innovations. (See: AI in banking now geared for a takeoff )

Leveraging technology to drive exceptional experience

Since its debut in 2001, ICICI Prudential has been taking major steps to leverage the potential of new-age technologies to further provide a more personalized experience to its customers. On many occasions, the company has indicated its inclination to invest aggressively in digital platforms to deliver superior experience and improve its customer base.

In its performance update for FY2020, ICICI Prudential has mentioned focusing extensively on modern-day technologies in the current fiscal to improve service offerings. It also plans to significantly reduce conventional channels with end-to-end digital solutions for its business activities.

ICICI Prudential was one of the first life insurers to get WhatsApp business verified account, which helped it drive 1.39 million transactions until April 2020. The company has also reportedly been toying up with the idea of using Blockchain technology for quick and error-free claim settlement. It is putting extensive focus on analytics, automation, and machine learning-based technologies to deliver uninterrupted services, including claims, during the COVID-19.

“ICICI Prudential has introduced a bouquet of digital enablers to address every requirement of a customer during the policy lifecycle – from onboarding to servicing the needs of the customers. For instance, customers can use the company’s digital enablers to transact online and each of the digital enablers, i.e. WhatsApp, the Company website, mobile app and Chatbot LiGo are almost equivalent to a virtual branch,” the company says.

Promoted by the ICICI Bank Limited and Prudential Corporation Holdings, ICICI Prudential has consistently been a leading player in the Indian life insurance sector. Its Assets Under Management (AUM) as on 30 June 2020 stood at ₹ 1,700.06 billion.

New CII forum formed to help build an AI ecosystem

New CII forum formed to help build an AI ecosystem

Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has launched a new forum on artificial intelligence (AI) to help India develop a much-needed AI ecosystem to drive new opportunities and growth.

The CII AI Forum will focus on developing a robust AI ecosystem in India by developing awareness at scale and strengthening capabilities by skilling/reskilling the workforce for the future, CII said. The sectors prioritized for this year are banking and financial services industries (BFSI), retail, social (healthcare), and manufacturing (automotive).

The forum further aims at collaborating with the Indian government, to help shape conducive policies and a regulatory regime, encourage partnerships in research and development, and facilitate AI-based solution pilots in the priority sectors.

CII said that the forum would be chaired by Sandip Patel, Managing Director, IBM India/South Asia

“As the economy moves into the recovery and revival phase, the transformational potential of responsible AI-driven solutions can be used to fuel India’s growth story in a big way. CII AI Forum will look at initiatives to spur local innovations. This will make AI adoption a reality and further the national agenda of Digital India and Make in India for India and the world. More importantly, the forum will work on policies to embed trust and transparency into AI applications and processes, a critical step in realizing the true promise of the technology for business, society, and the world,” said Sandip Patel in a press statement.

India’s focus on AI has been steadily growing, and the government think tank is consistently working to leverage technology for the country’s economic growth. As part of its efforts, India has recently launched a National Artificial Intelligence Portal (http://www.ai.gov.in) to promote and showcase the local AI-related advancements.

This portal is a one-stop digital platform for AI-related developments in India, featuring resources such as articles, startups, investment funds in AI, resources, companies, and educational institutions related to AI in India.

The website has been developed by the National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom) in consultation with the National e-Governance Division of the Ministry of Electronics and Communications Technology (MeitY). (See: India gears up for AI leap in post-Covid-19 era)

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