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NEW DELHI: Cigarettes-to-hotels conglomerate ITC Ltd on Sunday said it has set up an internal ‘Young Digital Innovators Lab’ to crowdsource digital strategies and identify emerging technologies.

The company, which sells Sunfeast biscuits and Aashirvaad flour, is also forming a digital council comprising senior managers that will work on “high impact digital interventions", as covid prompts firms to step up digital transformation.

To be sure, ITC has been speeding up its digital initiatives across various functions for some years.

"Substantial investments have been made in the creation of a digital eco-system to drive smart manufacturing, product quality, traceability and supply chain agility, amongst others," the company said in a statement. Artificial Intelligence, big data, IoT and machine learning are being used across ITC’s supply chain and distribution ecosystem.

Changes brought about by the covid-19 pandemic have accelerated the need for greater digital transformation across companies. As a result, ITC is scaling up its digital interventions across businesses and value-chains, the company said in its statement.

Chairman, Sanjiv Puri, had recently announced setting up of a ‘Young Digital Innovators Lab’ comprising digital natives from across ITC’s businesses to crowdsource transformative digital strategies. This team will be free to set their agenda and seek necessary resources, will access ITC’s digital assets, evaluate digital initiatives, identify best-in-class digital technologies and spot opportunities across value-chains, ITC said in its statement. The team will also benchmark ITC’s initiatives against industry-best digital assets and platforms.

Puri is also leading the formation of a dedicated digital council.

“In order to provide even greater trust to ITC’s digital agenda, Puri has also announced to ITC employees the formation of a dedicated digital council of senior ITC managers—the ‘DigiNext’, which will ideate and sponsor high impact digital interventions and harness the synergies of cross-fertilization of ideas," it said. DigiNext, along with ITC’s businesses will in turn reach out to the Young Digital Innovators Lab for crowdsourcing ideas and provide valuable inputs on contemporary practices in the digital arena, it added in its statement.

The pandemic has reinforced the efficacy of digitalisation that was already moving at high velocity, it said. As digitalisation becomes more pervasive, ITC said, it is expected to become a source of significant disruption, creating new profit pools and revenue streams, and offering newer ways of interacting with consumers.

For year ended March 2020, ITC’s revenue from operations stood at Rs46,807.34 crore. Its range of fast-moving consumer goods spanning soaps to packaged spices reach 140 million households in India.

The push comes at a time when hyper-local services and e-commerce are helping drive revenues for consumer goods companies.

Rival Hindustan Unilever Ltd, the country’s top FMCG company, had also announced setting up of a digital council in 2019. The company had then announced the creation of a full-fledged, end-to-end digital transformation programme for its business, in anticipation of India’s younger, more mobile-savvy population shaping consumption behaviour going forward.

ITC said it has leveraged e-commerce as a distribution channel in the aftermath of the pandemic. The segment has grown by over 100% since the beginning of the pandemic. The company ramped up e-commerce capabilities—including its in-house Several other business-to-business initiatives are being ramped up.

“Other digital initiatives by the company included a B2B online ordering system for retailers—the ‘Unnati’ App to address the surge in demand during the pandemic, agri business division’s smart sourcing solution ‘Project Astra’ that leverages advanced technologies for procurement, ‘Zen Desk’ omni-channel platform for customer care, deployment of chatbots, etc," it added.

The company has also been using cloud-technology, social-media engagement tools and analytics platform to drive contextual communication and product development for its portfolio of goods.

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