Technology-led business disruption, today, is not an exception but a rule. Transformative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) tools, blockchain, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and 3D printing, increased hyper-connectivity through the Internet of Things (IoT), and smarter decision making through big data analytics are altering the world as we know it. In this backdrop, Mint recently organized a select roundtable around the theme ‘Driving digital innovation with velocity and scale’.

During the discussion, moderated by Leslie D’Monte, national technology editor of Mint, the chief digital officers (CDOs), chief information officers (CIOs) and other information technology (IT) decision makers discussed the digital imperatives in their organizations. Here are edited excerpts of what they said:

Anup Purohit, senior president and CIO, Yes Bank Ltd

Anup Purohit.
Anup Purohit.

For the banking sector, it is already written on the wall: ‘You better change digitally or else face the Kodak moment.’ Our CEO (Rana Kapoor) recently said we will build a parallel digital bank. Certain segments of our customers still want to go to a physical, bricks-and-mortar bank. An area we want to work upon is how to get an online digital identity for every Indian—not just for Yes Bank but everyone in the country.

Deb Deep Sengupta, president and managing director, SAP India

Deb Deep Sengupta.
Deb Deep Sengupta.

As companies go about improving various aspects of their business, their bottom lines and top lines, the social impact also has to be taken into the consideration because you cannot have a successful business in a failing society. Providing digital literacy and intuitiveness to India’s young population is a thought worth dwelling upon for most businesses.

Jaspreet Bindra, senior vice-president (digital transformation), Mahindra Group

Jaspreet Bindra.
Jaspreet Bindra.

There are largely three things we focus on at the group level: customer experience; business models and how they are different from traditional ones; and finally, people. The technologies we talk about—such as AI, blockchain, machine learning, AR/VR—are basically tools to make those things happen. Digital transformation is really about how you make money by offering the same product or service to a set of customers but with a much better customer experience.

Joydeep Dutta, executive director and group CTO, Central Depository Services (India) Ltd

Joydeep Dutta.
Joydeep Dutta.

We are working on digitizing insurance products and also on digitally storing student records. Another digital project is eKYC (electronic Know Your Customer). Our firm is one of the five eKYC service providers—all of which inter-operate with each other. So if you have done an eKYC with any one of these five service providers, it is shared with the other four. That is an example of multiple entities co-existing and collaborating and giving a uniform experience to the customer.

Meheriar Patel, CTO, Essar Retail—the Mobile Store, and CIO, AGC Networks Ltd

Meheriar Patel.
Meheriar Patel.

We operate 1,500 mobile stores and have redefined our omni-channel journey in terms of how many stores we really need today. One of our digital projects is about faster delivery, wherein we said that we would deliver a mobile phone in two hours flat—our whole business model had to be worked upon to achieve that. Today digital delivery constitutes 30% of our business. Even for in-store sales, we have developed mobile platforms that look at how to help our customers buy better.

Mukesh Kripalani, chief (business process transformation and IT), Marico Ltd

Mukesh Kripalani.
Mukesh Kripalani.

There were essentially three parameters on which we decided to filter out anything in tech. First, it has to impact growth; second, it should help us innovate on core operations, including consumer connect; and third, it should help us improve efficiency or productivity. All these parameters form a triad which can impact shareholder value. We also came up with a digital framework for our business and followed it for various initiatives.

Murari Sridharan, CTO, BankBazaar.com

Murari Sridharan.
Murari Sridharan.

In our business, everything can be digital, including customers’ credit score check, eKYC and even e-signatures. The primary innovation we are driving is to work with all our partners to buy into the paperless vision—something we call ‘straight-through processing’. And while we are a company that was born into the digital world, even within our processes there are many ‘digital silos’ that need to be inter-connected.

Nitin Chugh, country head (digital banking), HDFC Bank Ltd

Nitin Chugh.
Nitin Chugh.

Our recent digital initiatives include converting customer interfaces and the products behind them into digital... and launching a digital command centre for listening to and engaging with our customers in real time. Now 80% of our transactions are digital compared to half of this four years ago. But how do you make sense of all that data? You cannot keep putting armies of people to keep analysing it—that is why the application of AI is becoming very critical for customer insights.

Pratap Gharge, executive vice-president and CIO, Bajaj Electricals Ltd

Pratap Gharge.
Pratap Gharge.

We were inward-focused, but around nine months back we started a consumer-centric project. Now, we have some idea about our consumers, including the repeat buyers; earlier, we had only distributor sales data. We have also developed mobile apps for our retailers and other channels to capture end-consumer data. We wanted to approach digital transformation by bringing all the stakeholders on the same page. As part of our digital journey, we identified certain priorities and capturing consumer data was one of them.

Rajesh Batra, vice-president and CIO, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital

Rajesh Batra.
Rajesh Batra.

The conventional model of hospitals—in which patients frequently visit the hospital for getting themselves checked, collecting diagnostic reports and getting these confirmed by doctors—is going to die. In the two hospitals where I work, the picture we have envisioned is that we will have only seriously ill patients coming to the hospital—and we are working on that vision. We are also evolving the customer experience for a digital world, besides experimenting with IoT in the home care model.

Rajiv Rai, CDO, Edelweiss Financial Services Ltd

Rajiv Rai.
Rajiv Rai.

We work through intermediaries such as agents, brokers, direct sales agents and others not on our rolls. They generate a lot of paper and have their own ways of operating, which creates a lot of duplication, inaccuracies and manual work. So one of the focus areas is to go from analogue to digital, and we are doing things like educating them, and enabling them to get inputs on mobile phones and tablets. We are trying to get all the relevant information into the organization within 30 seconds rather than the three-five days it usually takes.

Sandeep Goenka, co-founder and chief operating officer, Zebpay (Zeb IT Service Pvt. Ltd)

Sandeep Goenka.
Sandeep Goenka.

While it is important to use digital to improve your current business model and customer experience, it is also important to have long-term vision of what could really disrupt you. I think bitcoin sort of represents that for financial institutions. Another thing is that the word blockchain is often misused: at best it is used to mean a shared database. I just want to make one point: it is not the blockchain that powers crypto-currencies but it is the crypto-currencies that power the blockchain.

Sauvik Banerjjee, vice-president (digital initiatives), Tata Industries, and CTO, TataCLiQ

Sauvik Banerjjee.
Sauvik Banerjjee.

At Tata CLiQ, the original idea was to connect stores to various brands, but we soon realized that India is becoming far more aspirational, as the data showed that tier 1, 2 and 3 cities have more aspirational wallet sizes than earlier thought but the brands were not accessible to them. This required challenging our business model because a new operating model started to come in. A new state of ‘ship-from-store’ has evolved over the last six months or so.

Scott Russell, president, SAP Asia Pacific Japan

Scott Russell.
Scott Russell.

One approach to undertaking the digital journey for a firm is the top-down approach ...this is rare but incredibly transformative: it is holistic and takes the entire firm on a rapid journey of change. The best example is of Under Armour—which went from being a company that just sold shirts and shoes to being a digital partner. The other approach to digital transformation is the bottom-up, step-change approach. You can also be somewhere in between the two approaches.

Tina Singh, CDO, Mahindra and Mahindra Financial Services Ltd

Tina Singh.
Tina Singh.

On the retail side, we have been trying to digitize the entire value chain but while data is at the heart of everything in finance, in rural areas where most of our customers are, there is hardly any data. But one thing I’m happy about is blockchain. In supplier financing and invoice discounting, we have successfully done a proof of concept by getting the auto firm (Mahindra in our case), the suppliers and ourselves as the financiers on a blockchain network. This has made the process easy.

Vijay Sethi, CIO and head (CSR), Hero MotoCorp Ltd

Vijay Sethi.
Vijay Sethi.

Our digital journey started with a few thought processes: to enhance customer experience, automotive being one of the most complex industries from a supply chain perspective; and to control cost, which is a major component. And the third thing was, ‘How do we really enhance speed-to-market?’ We identified 3D printing as a priority area—for virtual and real prototyping, and reducing the time and cost. Another thing we did was to digitally simulate the entire shop floor.

Vikas Banga, associate director, Boston Consulting Group India

Vikas Banga.
Vikas Banga.

At BCG, we look at four key levers of digital transformation. First is to start from the customer and create a transformational digital customer experience. Next, digitize your core business processes. Third, think about re-inventing so that you can disrupt your business before somebody else does. And finally, to achieve all of these, build some digital capabilities in-house or build an ecosystem of partners in areas like big data analytics and IoT.

Zarina Lam Stanford, head (marketing), Asia-Pacific Japan region, SAP

Zarina Lam Stanford
Zarina Lam Stanford

There has never been a more exciting time to be in marketing because, in digital, you can almost know everything a person is going to do in advance. That is the power of data today. But it also circles back to the importance of customer experience. In the marketing world, one of the small things we do is advertising and half of the advertising in the world is now done based on algorithms.

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