"Digital is The Only Torch to See Through The Haze Created by Covid-19"

C P Gurnani, MD and CEO, Tech Mahindra tells Entrepreneur India why technology will become the ultimate glue on the way we live and operate
"Digital is The Only Torch to See Through The Haze Created by Covid-19"
Image credit: Tech Mahindra

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“Covid-19 is like a forest fire that created a thick haze of ambiguities, obscured our vision or clarity for the future, and I believe digital was the only torch available to see through this haze,” said C P Gurnani, MD and CEO, Tech Mahindra, while delivering a keynote address at IDEA-Digital Enabler Awards & E! Live organised by Entrepreneur India.

After the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown restrictions across the world, digital took the centre stage to become the one thing that literally kept everything and everyone going.

But, at the same time, the pandemic also exposed the real digital divide, said Gurnani. 

“Digital divide for both the parties—those who could consume digital and those who could provide digital—was laid bare.” The former is a strictly social issue, he explained. “For instance, my wife runs an NGO and for her to provide education to students was difficult despite the teachers and the students being ready as one mobile phone or other such gadget was being shared by the family. So, how do you get the student to allocate his or her time to come on that digital medium?”

As from a company point of view, only digitally-enabled companies have been able to tide through these difficult times despite all the restrictions, said Gurnani.

“What we need to do differently is try and bridge the digital gap. This applies both for the companies which have not invested in digital so far and need to prioritize it and from a national, social agenda, how do we get the have-nots to get the same level of digital exposure that the middle and urban middle class have already got,” he added.

Product has to match the needs of digital nationalism. “Consider national laws and policies to build your products around that”

Early large adopters will be telecom, media and entertainment and retail sector because their digital consumption is high.

"Along with driving digitization, Covid-19 has also exposed the real digital divide"

Speaking on small and medium businesses adopting technology migration, Gurnani laid out three aspects 5G for connectivity, digitilisation of an enterprise and how to use the data to help you continuously decide whether for growth or whether you need it for creating your supply chain specific to your market.

Government’s Push Towards Digital

Gurnani said the government of India has been pro-active in taking steps towards digital acceleration. That said, there are areas that need more attention from the government.

Foremost, bridging the digital divide should be a priority. “The divide will exist until we are able to give a device in the hands of every consumer and if possible, at subsidised prices. Alternatively, we should try to drive localized development which makes sure that the devise is available at an affordable cost in the hands of the consumer,” he said.

Second, Gurnani said policy intervention to support small-scale and medium-scale enterprises is a need. “This can be done in the form of providing taxation benefit, giving them ready-to-use apps or helping them accelerate their digital training as until these sectors don’t become mainstream, we haven’t really connected Bharat to India.”

Work-from-home and Cybersecurity

“Remote working is the silver lining of opportunity that has become a reality amidst the dark clouds of Covid-19,” said Gurnani.

For him, work from home means workflow has to be designed in a way that it is secure and can be executed from home. Most organizations across sectors have been able to achieve this in the last eight months.

“I’m very proud how in particular the health and the education sectors have adopted work from home. Remote counseling, medicine, diagnostics is just commendable,” he said.

That said, the government departments are not yet ready for work-from-home setup. “Even now, work in government departments is file driven. It can be solved through blockchain but the real problem is that the government has never tried to re-imagine the workflow,” said Gurnani.

Work from anywhere is a definite answer to the future of work, he added.

However, shift to remote working has also exposed businesses to greater cyber risk. This is turn means that companies need to adopt new security measures to minimize cybersecurity risks. “Enterprises need to create an environment through remote management that ensures remote working is secure,” said Gurnani. “Companies need to continue to upgrade virtual workplace technologies and take into account that this is a long runway and prepare for it accordingly.”

Apart from this, on the enterprise level, since digital adoption has increased dramatically, it’s important to ensure that the data generated is secure.

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