Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on the 13th edition of TechSparks 2022 said that the coming decade will be a ‘Techade‘, and technology is going to drive us. Undoubtedly, in the last few years technology has redefined the way companies do business. From internal operations to the external output of the activities, from minute processes to major activities, multiple aspects of businesses today heavily rely on technology.
To discuss some of the technologies businesses have been relying upon to scale their growth, a panel discussion was held on ‘Which frontier tech will define the next 10 years?’ at TechSparks 2022 featuring Manasvi Sharma, Vice President, Omni-channel platforms, Lowe’s India; Sax Krishna, Chief Growth Officer, 3i Infotech; and Swarup Bose, Founder and CEO of.
Here are some of the key highlights from the discussion:
Tech adoption at its prime
The panel discussion kicked off with an understanding of how technology is currently being employed to ensure business growth. Manasvi explained how Lowe’s, which is the world’s largest home improvement retailer, is deploying technology to enhance the customer experience in their stores.
“Home improvement is a high experience, high involvement category so technology has almost unlimited uses. It’s important to us that customers have a seamless experience in our stores. In terms of business, we are a fairly large company with revenues close to $100 billion so we have a significantly large supply chain. And modernising that supply chain in terms of efficiency, and giving the customer what they want is of utmost importance to us,” said Manasvi.
When it comes to adapting to newer technologies, Sax of 3i Infotech believed one of the major hindrances could be a mindset that’s averse to change. But India has an edge over there. “As Indians, our ability to be able to leapfrog and adopt technologies is generally high because we have the good fortune of being the software developers for the world. But most importantly our mindset is such that we are open to change,” he explained.
He further went on to enumerate the various sectors where technology is being adapted at a fast pace. At a more global level, healthcare is seeing massive technological advancements.
“Outside India, several health tech companies are using technology to deal with proactive health, what I call population management. Universities and academicians spend a lot of research time in defining how population management should be done,” he said. When it comes to India, Sax opined that the BFSI sector, primarily fintech, is leading the way in technology adoption followed by consumer facing businesses.
Another area where Sax saw immense potential in technological advancements in India is the micro, small and medium business (MSME) sector. “MSME in India is very huge and this is where I think the biggest disruption and the highest scale of a technology revolution is going to happen because their needs are no different than the big enterprises. The scale may be smaller, but the needs are no different,” he said.
However, he expounded that businesses that are service providers of technology need to change their outlook when they approach MSMEs because they are slightly more risk-averse than the bigger corporations.
Role of COVID-19 in technological innovation
A factor that has played a massive role in technological advancements is COVID-19. The pandemic forced many businesses to leave behind their traditional ways and adapt to newer technologies to sustain their businesses.
Many like Swarup of Celcius saw it as an opportunity to bring about innovation in traditional businesses like cold supply chains. Swarup has been working in the cold supply chain business for the last 18 years and when the pandemic hit, he and his co-founders identified a very crucial gap in the market.
“In India, we spend about 14 percent of our GDP on our supply chain, which is twice the average of the world. And when it comes to the cold supply chain, the numbers are even higher with the wastage also being higher. We are looking at $1.3 trillion worth of wastage every year in perishables and 40 percent of that is because we lack a proper supply chain. So when COVID hit us and vaccines started getting manufactured, we came up with the solution to digitise the entire network, which would make it more accessible to the vaccine manufacturers, the hospitals, the different State Heads, and the government. Everyone could access the supply chain much better. And that’s where Celcius was born,” Swarup apprised.
Swarup also shed light on the massive tons of wastage that happens in India due to the lack of technology in cold supply chain management. At Celcius, he explained how they used IoT devices to help cold storage owners monitor their assets live, 24*7. This enables owners to track down at what point of the journey exactly wastage of the product takes place, making them better equipped to then reduce the waste being generated.
Talking about the Internet of Things (IoT), Sax remarked that it’s a ‘yet to be discovered child prodigy’. “It’s easy to put an IoT device- it’s a sensor after all and it costs very little money. But the real existence of IoT is when you can take that data that is generated from the device and make an application or a use case out of it,” he said.
He also listed out a few industries like refineries, healthcare, and agriculture and how IoT devices can bring out great innovation and aid people in making smarter business decisions.
Technology that will define the future
The last leg of the panel discussion dissected the overarching theme of the conversation- technology that’ll define the next 10 years. Manasvi said that it won’t be the technology as much, but the applications we make out of the technology that’ll define the way businesses grow in the coming years.
“We all understand that there is data and IoT devices emitting data all the time. There’s also intelligence that can be built off it. But what applications you can build around it is what will be the defining factor,” he said.
He backed up his statement by talking about how IoT-enabled devices in Lowe’s stores are tackling issues like pilferage and monitoring supply chain management.
Sax interestingly pointed out that it won’t be one technology but the orchestration of many technologies that will define the next decade of businesses. He said going ahead, leaders must be able to anticipate what will impact their business and for that, they need to interconnect the key performance indicators of all employees ground up.
“That will involve technologies like cognitive, AI, and big data analytics. It will involve the ability to predict what possible failures or successes could take place. So all technologies are involved in this, which is why I see this orchestration of tools and tech stacks,” he remarked.
And finally, Swarup summed up the entire discussion by listing out the three main technologies his company would be focusing on – Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Blockchain.