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M&M group chief financial officer, deputy managing director Anish Shah. (MINT_PRINT)
M&M group chief financial officer, deputy managing director Anish Shah. (MINT_PRINT)

Solving humanity’s biggest needs is real frontier for AI, says Anish Shah

  • AI must help solve problems in health, agriculture, education, smart mobility and others to enrich lives and protect them, says M&M group CFO

Solving key problems humanity faces across healthcare, education, agriculture, smart mobility is the real frontier for fast-developing technologies around artificial intelligence (AI), said Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd (M&M) deputy managing director and group chief financial officer Anish Shah.

Speaking on the adoption of AI and digital technologies at the 93rd annual convention of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci), Shah said, “AI is widely used for recommendation engines, voice assistance, targeted advertisements and even political campaigns; but the real frontier for AI is human-centric opportunities: to help solve humanity’s biggest needs—health, agriculture, education, smart mobility, among other areas, to enrich lives and to protect them."

Referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of making India a $5 trillion economy by 2025 while ensuring sustainable and inclusive development, Shah said implementing it will require "key ingredients such as doubling of farm incomes, taking a quantum jump in manufacturing productivity, ensuring robust improvement in logistics infrastructure, financial inclusion, real time marketplaces and services like healthcare and more".

Listing how M&M, the maker of tractor and utility vehicles, is deploying AI, Shah said, “Today, we are working with farmers to help them spot pest problems early. We help them identify the disease, hot-spot locations so that they can target spraying pesticides, thereby reducing (pesticide) consumption, which also makes for healthier crops."

"We can help identify the exact amount of fertilizer required for every sq. m, predict harvest readiness, and a number of other actions around farm productivity," Shah said.

Last June, M&M had invested $4.3 million for a 11.25% stake in Switzerland-based agri technology firm Gamaya SA, which provides access to advanced capabilities in hyperspectral imagery analytics, AI and machine learning to help update farmers on the status of their fields and crops.

Speaking on the deployment of AI in manufacturing at Mahindra, Shah said: “We are leveraging AI to simulate advanced testing environments and predict results for hot and load tests for our engines. Our automated paint shops leverage AI to reduce rework and save significant costs."

“From precision farming and manufacturing to AI-based credit underwriting, road network optimization and a variety of other solutions, AI can really drive a significant impact not just at the micro level but across a broad range of industries," he said.

The senior M&M executive, however, added that there are significant challenges deterring the fast-paced deployment of AI.

“The biggest challenges we see is the resistance to change; sometimes it’s the fear of losing jobs and, sometimes, it is the inability to comprehend the bigger picture, and that is not only at the company-level but also often as we collaborate with partners," Shah said, adding that limited talent building and misuse of private data are other constraints.

He suggested public-private partnership, cross industry cooperation, local-level skill building, agile regulatory framework and creation of a common platform for sharing data, tools, solutions, among others across companies, academia and research institutes, governments, entrepreneurs would ensure the required quantum leap to meet India’s ambitions.

Earlier in the day, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said while exponential adoption of AI technologies will bring a vast change, public and private institutions in developing economies must work in tandem to move rapidly to not only recover from the pandemic but catch up with growth over the next 10 years.

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