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Don't Let AI Overthink For You: Arundhati Bhattacharya, Chairperson & CEO, Salesforce India From hiring to new investments – with an eye on further expansion – the chairperson shares her outlook for the tech behemoth in India

By Shrabona Ghosh

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It's been four years and the new role has not hung heavy on this chairperson's hands. Why? "I don't have a background in the IT sector and I learned something from my colleagues on a daily basis. A lot of stuff that I didn't know is done very differently in an MNC. There has been a lot of learning in every step and it has been an interesting ride so far," said Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson & CEO, Salesforce India.

Almost two years after Arundhati Bhattacharya had left her post as the chairperson of India's largest public sector bank – State Bank of India – she decided to give a new opportunity a chance. And the rest is history. In FY2024, Salesforece globally recorded a revenue of $34.9 billion up by 11 per cent year-on-year (YoY); In this growth trajectory India has a role to play. When Bhattacharya joined Salesforce India, they were a team of 2,500 and today the team stands at 11,000-plus, "This is not a small investment, we are rapidly growing here," the CEO said.

With an eye on further expansion, the chairperson shares her outlook for the tech behemoth in India.

The adoption of new age tech

Salesforce brought Einstein in 2014. Salesforce Einstein refers to an integrated set of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies developed for the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform. Built into the Salesforce Platform, Einstein uses machine learning and large language models to personalize customer interactions and make employees more productive. In combination with data and CRM, teams can accelerate time to value, predict outcomes and automatically generate content within the flow of work. It's the generative AI built for CRM.

"Salesforce has been doing this for almost 10 years. We started with our predictive generative AI tool in 2014 when we brought in Einstein. We are in the second wave of AI and there would be a third and a fourth wave to go. AI needs to be adopted and be part of the arsenal of our daily operations, this way we can serve customers better. As part of AI, we are investing in security and Innovation," Bhattacharya explained.

For the chairperson, AI is not going to get it all – at least not in the very near future – it is more like an assistant that does the grunge work for you. "Don't let AI overthink for you," she quipped.

From sales, service, marketing, commerce analytics to integration; Salesforce solutions are into all these domains. With AI the same data can be optimized in a better way. However, AI comes with associated risks; explaining the importance of security and risk management processes, she added, "We keep investing in security as we believe it is a constant struggle staying ahead of the bad actors. Known threats can be dealt with but unknown threats can be hazardous!"

Well, with the force with which AI is making ways into daily lives, the Salesforce leaders are surprised at the whizz. Salesforce co-founder Parker Harris, recently said, "I have anxiety about the speed at which AI is going, I've never seen anything like it, I feel like we've gotta go faster. We can't hold back, we can't worry. And yet, we have to worry, because our customers trust us to help them in the best way possible." Harris was speaking to the media at Salesforce's World Tour event in New York City.

A double-edged sword: Should you worry?

According to the findings of a recent KPMG survey, Indian employees are more wary of losing their jobs to AI than their counterparts in the US, UK and Germany. As many as 68 per cent believe that AI will replace jobs in their work areas.

Recently, Indian IT sectors have faced a decrease in headcounts. When asked about whether AI is to be blamed for job loss, she said, "It's more macroeconomics and over hiring. I really don't think AI has had that kind of an impact yet. In fact, there is more hiring in terms of innovation led projects than earlier. This is more macroeconomy given the fact that inflation is up, interest rates are up, people have become more cautious about spending. Obviously, when interest rates are up consumption comes down. If consumption comes down and demand is low, companies become cautious about investment and do not increase manpower."

AI is a way to augment and automate processes rather than just removing humans from every process. A PwC report said AI could contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, more than the current output of China and India combined. Of this, $6.6 trillion will come from increased productivity and $9.1 trillion from consumption side effects.

On expansion, investments & hiring plans in India

Salesforce India has strengthened its presence with a 35 per cent year-on-year growth in new businesses across industries as per the latest earning call in FY24 results. As per its expansion plans, the company is planning to set up a unit to focus on the public sector in India in the next few months.

"We have just set up a vertical for the public sector and it needs a lot of special preparations because we have to understand the requirements of the sector. We need to have elements suitable for software-as -a- service (SAAS) and Cloud offerings. We are preparing to bring in the best services."

From enterprises to small and medium (SMB) businesses, the company's solutions cater to both industries. "Earlier, we had industry verticalization for very large accounts which we called the enterprise segment. Now, we have verticalized the SMB segment as per industry standards."

The company has different verticals for auto, manufacturing, health and Life Sciences, travel, tourism and media, giving specialized solutions to respective industries "There is more focused attention on the solutions needed for a particular industry and its pain points. It's important to speak industry language; for sectors that do not need very specialized solutions, we have the generalized platform.

In the four years since she joined, the global company has invested in the Indian market. "Today, we have 11,000 plus employees and that's not a small amount of investment. In order to support hiring and expansion plans, there will be some investment in commercial real estate. We have intermediate plans to expand our offices, not immediately but in the near future."

Bhattacharya is responsible for an amazing team that has grown from strength-to-strength. She is driving innovation from India in a time where every company is a technology company.

Shrabona Ghosh

Correspondent

A journalist with a cosmopolitan mindset. I lead a project called 'Corporate Innovations' wherein I cover corporates across verticals and try to tell stories on innovations. Apart from this, I write industry pieces on FMCGs, auto, aviation, 5G and defense. 
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