How will new business models change the way firms look at customer needs and services? What is the role of big data in the context of policy making in India? How are artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and deep learning redefining the nature and functioning of practically every industry?
The purpose of the Workshop on Digital Transformation was to bring together interdisciplinary leaders from industry, government and academia to push our understanding of the future of technology services, including but not limited to technology-enabled service innovations, newer forms of organisation of service delivery and human capital management.
Jayesh Ranjan, IAS, Secretary, Industries & Commerce, IT & EC Departments, Govt. of Telangana, delivered the keynote address where he touched upon key government initiatives such as blockchain, women entrepreneurs running internet cafes and drone technologies for women safety. He commented, “Unless we convince everyone we need digital measures, it will not be fruitful. There is tremendous potential, but we need to choose what to pursue. Most solutions have key public-private partnerships that help make it work.”
This comment set the tone for the panel discussion on “Technologies to Solve Challenging Problems.” The panellists showcased efforts from the government as well as industry on to digitise services, especially by increasing citizen friendly services and digital inclusion through public awareness systems and data personalization. Professor Deepa Mani (Associate Professor & Executive Director, SRITNE, ISB) set the tone for the discussion by bringing up the requirement of complementary services and the challenges faced when technologies address citizen issues. N. Balasubramanyam, (IPS, CEO, e-Pragati Authority & Transport Commissioner, Government of Andhra Pradesh) pointed out the need for upskilling staff to transform businesses and to avoid just overlaying technology on existing services. Both Amitabh Shukla (Director, Digital Transformation, Cognizant Technology Solutions) and Nitin Bhate (Chief Marketing Officer, GE Global) mentioned that while big data was available, it was critical to analyse and draw insights from it. The fourth panellist, Amit Sharma, (Microsoft India), gave examples of specific uses of big data analyses that Microsoft had initiated in partnership with other firms. He also discussed the expansion of better-quality education and health services through e-kiosks. All panellists emphasised the need for analysis and understanding of the large volumes of data generated.
On a related note, featured presentations by Rakesh Ranjan (Advisor, NITI Aayog), J A Chowdary (Special Chief Secretary & IT Advisor to the Chief Minister, Government of Andhra Pradesh) and Milind Sohoni (Associate Professor & Deputy Dean, ISB) touched upon evidence-based policy making. Mr. Rakesh in his address pointed out to “the need for reducing the information inequality gaps between different government departments for a complete digital transformation of the Indian society”. This was acknowledged by Mr. Chowdary who highlighted the work by the Government of Andhra Pradesh and its efforts in eradicating information asymmetry. The theme was further explored by Professor Sohoni, who presented findings from his ongoing research on the education crisis in India and Teach for India’s attempt at bringing together highly motivated individuals to bridge the gap between education in rural areas and urban resources.
Panellists representing the financial, power, consumer and internet services sectors discussed various issues underlying their respective businesses in the context of “Emerging Technologies: New Business & Service Models.” Moderator Professor Anand Nandkumar (Associate Professor & Academic Director for Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, ISB) opened the panel discussion with a few words on business model innovations and the various instances of their application in disparate fields. Addressing business model innovations, Arun Rajappa (Group Product Manager, Microsoft Kaizala, Microsoft) articulated on how the start-up Kaizala came into existence in Microsoft Garage, which promotes entrepreneurship within the Microsoft Business framework. Pointing out the importance of large corporations giving the luxury of doing research to individuals, both Gunjan Kumar (Director, Wealth Business, Barclays) and Bhartendu Sinha (Managing Director, Autogrid) stressed that allowing individual entrepreneurial pursuits in large corporations was an important business model innovation. According to them, it depended on the head of the firm and his/her vision for the management practises that encouraged ramping up of entrepreneurial ventures spun out from the firm. Mr. Ravi Kumar Rayavaram (CEO, ITC Limited) spoke on the importance of understanding customers, using information to shape business models and encouraging the development of ideas within the firm to address specific customer requirements. What followed was a lively deliberation of how geography, level of formal education and size of a firm did not matter for encouraging innovation.
In his featured presentation on the theme of “Artificial Intelligence (AI) & Implications for Businesses,” Professor Vasudeva Verma (Dean, Research & Development, IIIT Hyderabad) gave a basic primer on the differences between machine learning and deep learning. The presentation also provided a glimpse into social computing and its application in media and healthcare. He urged participants to rethink what machine learning could achieve and how it could be put to practical use.
Following this, the featured presentation “Returns to Digital Innovations: A Group-Based Trajectory Approach” by Professor Anandhi Bharadwaj (Endowed Chair Professor, Goizueta Business School, Emory University) argued that while these were still early stages of another major technological shift or disruption, rooted in AI and analytics and enabled by underlying infrastructure technologies, there was an ongoing search for value from these investments. If history was any guide, there will be huge mistakes and some spectacular failures as well: “As each wave of innovation builds on the previous one, we’re seeing a wave of astonishing breakthroughs, like robots that do factory work or cars that drive themselves or computers that can beat Jeopardy contestants and chess grandmasters.” Professor Bharadwaj called for firms to understand that artificial intelligence requires numerous complementary innovations—including new products, services, workflow processes, and even business models.
Professor Sumanta Singha of ISB set the tone for the concluding panel discussion on “The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Businesses.” The panel acknowledged that recently there was a lot more excitement about AI and its implications for business. However, Swastik Bihani (Head of Products & GM, India at PayPal) and Ram Kiran Dhulipala (Head – Digital Agriculture and Youth, ICRISAT) pointed out that adaption of AI for customer needs must be addressed clearly. Manish Jain (Partner and Head – Digital Strategy, Innovation and Fintech, KPMG) cautioned that one must be clear between AI and automation as they are not interchangeable terms. The concluding panel discussion brought out the need to understand the true power of AI and machine learning in financial markets and the agricultural sector in order to create an ecosystem that can transform India into a digital economy that promotes innovation.