The latest episode of ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, a virtual panel discussion powered by SAP and Livemint, looks at the increased focus on digitization post the pandemic and how this change is here to stay.
The Covid-19 pandemic came as a major roadblock for scores of organisations whose businesses came to a grinding halt during the lockdown and are now slowly limping their way back to pre-Covid levels. But the one thing that has been common across industries is the increased focus on digitization to help make up for the lost time and increase efficiencies to improve productivity.
Over the last few months, business leaders have been in a fix trying to deliver revenue targets even as they try to maintain the highest levels of safety and ensure the good health of their employees. While the challenges have been unprecedented, the only saving grace has been technology and the process of digitization has been a key to finding a method to this madness.
Episode 5 of titled ‘Hit Refresh: Business Resilience in a post-Covid World’, a virtual panel discussion powered by SAP and Livemint, looks at how businesses across barriers of industry are overcoming the challenges they faced post the lockdown using digital tools to build resilience and maintain business continuity. Industry experts also discussed what the future looks like for these organisations.
For a consumer interface point of view, digital became a mainstay during the pandemic and the focus was on targeting new media like OTT platforms that were everyone’s go-to. “Earlier we were spending 2-3 percent of our budget on marketing on digital media, while the rest was traditional media, but now we have doubled it," said Pradeep Cholayil, Chairman and Managing Director, Cholayil Private Limited.
“During the pandemic, we focused more on social media as that was the best way to reach out to people. We didn’t limit ourselves to Facebook and Instagram but also bet upon Amazon as ecommerce was becoming very popular in pandemic times. Another area that we looked at was OTT platforms which people were viewing more with cinemas shut," he added.
Even for internal processes like demand forecasting, inventory management, digitization had a major role to play across functions. Take, for instance, the case of ALPLA India Private Limited, whose plants are digitized since several years but due to the pandemic, the maintenance and repairs also happening remotely.
“About 95 per cent of our work happens in plants and a lot of our equipment comes from the world over. Earlier, we had a mindset that if there is a problem then someone needs to come over to fix it. But, now we have a situation that an engineer from Switzerland can fix a problem in a plant in Hyderabad. Also, connectivity between people is important and we have ensured the best technology at the homes of our staff to enable this," said Vagish Dixit, Managing Director and Partner, ALPLA India Private Limited.
Even in medical sciences, which is traditionally about doctor-to-patient contact and diagnosis, an area which has seen a real boom is telemedicine and technology has played the part of a major driver in this space.
“Almost overnight, we introduced a teleconsultation process where the patients could directly reach out to doctors. We immediately had to put into place a scheduling system for appointments to space out visits from patients at our centres," said Thulasiraj Ravilla, Executive Director, LAICO – Aravind Eye Care System, Madhurai.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) and algorithms can automate a lot of mundane tasks and give more accurate results that what a human can. AI is being used for a number of medical processes too – like checking for retina deterioration in patients with a history of diabetes. In healthcare the margin of error is almost zero.
Aravind Eye Care System runs about 100 locations within Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry and Andhra Pradesh. “The rules and best practices around dealing with Covid was rapidly evolving on top of which we had government regulations which had to be respected as well. This had to be spread across our network. This is one area where digital tools like video conferencing became incredibly useful and these can be leveraged going forward as well," Ravilla further said.
Even the country’s defence services like the Army, Navy and Air Force are going digital in areas like electronic warfare. “We found so many things that could be done without physical intervention and through digital means, software being the core of that control system. Areas of electronic warfare like jamming systems, surveillance and communication networks in the Army, Navy and Air Force are converted into semi-digital forms which can be maintained and upgraded without physically going there," said Col HS Shankar, MD, Alpha Design Tech Private Limited, which pioneers R&D in Defence Electronics.
While some of the changes initiated are going to go back, a lot of what is happening is here to stay. Going digital is no longer something that is good to do, but is fast becoming a necessity in this new world order that is emerging.
“What we have learnt is that digital tools are mainly adopted to make an organisation’s processes more efficient and effective. This is applicable to every organisation regardless of the industry and to each and every department within that organisation. First, the organisation must identify the areas of improvement or goals and then a relevant digital tool is selected to aid the process of achieving that goal in a quick and efficient manner," said Vinod Pallakil, South Regional Director Sales, SAP India.
The aim is to use technology as a backbone for the business to guard against shocks like this in the future and use digitization build resilience within the business and its practices. Digitization not only offers business continuity but also gives that organization a competitive advantage in the market.
Digitization was always a necessity for every organization. The pandemic has catapulted it to number one on the priority list for many. “We lost 2-3 months of time, our priority is how to meet our target and if possible exceed it," said Shankar.
In the future, the idea is to offer better products and services to the end customer by using technology as a driver. So, whether it is the Cholayil brand using tech in the background to introduce and market new ayurvedic products like face wash and hand wash or Aravind Eye Care’s aim to offer better care to patients at more affordable rates, digital platforms are being deployed to improve business processes and fuel change.