Leading with digital

Experts now use the word ‘Phygital’ to stress that firms will need a digital and physical presence to reach out to consumers


The digital experience is much more than a website or an app. Photo: iStock
The digital experience is much more than a website or an app. Photo: iStock

Digital transformation was once again the theme of the EmTech India conference that Mint organized this month in association with MIT Technology Review, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). EmTech India is designed to be a platform where technology, business and culture converge. The broad topics covered in the second edition of the conference included digital life, machine learning, deep learning, computer vision and a suite of other artificial intelligence (AI) technologies coupled with virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, robotics, 3D printing, smart cities and connected health.

In the book Leading Digital, George Westerman, a research scientist with the MIT Sloan School of Management, and his co-authors argue that the next imminent phase of digital technology adoption—driven by the convergence of mobility, analytics, social media, cloud computing and embedded devices—will make everything that’s happened so far look like a prelude. The problem, however, is that the word digital is very broad and can be interpreted and even misinterpreted to mean different things.

The digital experience is much more than a website or an app. It is all about enriching customer experience, which is easier said than done. It would mean going online for companies with a huge offline presence. For digital-first companies, it may imply setting up an offline presence too, or collaborating with companies in the physical world. It’s in this context that experts now use the word “Phygital” to emphasize that companies will require both a digital and physical presence to reach out to consumers.

The Uber or Airbnb apps won’t work with virtual taxis or apartments unlike Linden Labs’ Second Life that had created a virtual ecosystem. And as experts in our Tech Report point out, there is a lot of confusion around other technologies too such as AI and robotic process automation. The fact, though, is that these technologies have ended up both disrupting and transforming the lives of individuals, the business models of companies and the policies of governments around the world.

Last, but not the least, the lineup of global and local speakers at this year’s event also clearly demonstrated that the digital drive has to come from the top, failing which the push will neither be scalable nor sustainable. We, at Mint, understand this well, given the digital disruption that has happened in the media.

Mint took the cue a couple of years ago and accelerated its digital drive with success. It’s our sincere hope that you will be able to do so too by drawing enriching lessons from the articles in this edition that have been written by digital experts.

Leslie D’Monte is Mint’s National Technology Editor

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