Companies Need To Go 'Phygital': Arundhati Bhattacharya

The chairperson and CEO of Salesforce India believes that given a huge chunk of population is still to adopt technology, a hybrid solution involving online and offline solutions is needed

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The pandemic has been quite a disaster for each and every sector, but there are some positive transformations as well. In terms of digital transformation of companies, what would have been done in three to four years is being done in a period of few months. It is impossible for us to survive in the coming 20 years if we don’t have a strong technical backbone.

The problem of not having a strong technical backbone is true for a country like India where, due to the population and their income standards, it is difficult to deliver through the traditional brick-and-mortar or the traditional physical store and consumer method.

Speaking at Entrepreneur India’s Tech and Innovation Summit 2021, Arundhati Bhattacharya, chairperson and CEO, Salesforce India, explained that in traditional brick-and-mortar route, there is one problem that is not enough audit trails on the one hand and on the other hand, if services are moved online it is kind of easy and more personalized and gives us audit trials and lower cost unlike the traditional brick-and-mortar route.

As businesses move online, audiences gets personal space with more personalized services and can be provided things which simply cannot be done physically as it is something one can do for smaller number of customers.

As much of the Indian population rest in the lower strata of the pyramid and this is what make it certainly necessary to have strong digitization and technology as these are the things that enables equality in the society, she said.

As and when society gets bifurcated because of the haves and have nots, and positions dividing it and the gap becomes wider, it ultimately leads society towards more issues.

She explained this with an example of the education sector. The type of education one gets in rural areas and compared with the urban area, there is a huge difference between both of them but now because of technical advancements and digitization, the same kind of education can be imparted in both rural and urban areas. And, for this to be delivered, one has to have strong infrastructural support, Internet connection with laptops and tablets, etc., in the hands of each and every student.

“Although what has happened in the pandemic is terrible but if you look on the brighter side, we were benefited from it.”

Adopting the change

This can be better understood through the example of COWIN app that how willingly people are accepting this application, that how people can get their appointment at one place, they can get their QR code scanned and it provides certifications as well, said Bhattacharya, adding “change has come, be it for youngsters or older people.”

Now, companies are using technologies such as drone to monitor their services. Refineries or oil companies are using 3D techniques to monitor their machines and if any technical difficulties or a malfunction happens, it directly sends signals to the control room so that the issue can be rectified within time.

Even in the amidst of the pandemic a whole new world has been discovered, things went remote; but the things which have been done in this period of time couldn’t have happened two to three years back, she added.

“Imagine, what more could be done for the rural people and people living in backward area if only they have access to technological devices such as cellphones and laptops with a communication network.”

Future of enterprise tech

According to the former banker, a huge amount of change on account of artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, use of quantum computing and blockchain is underway.

“All these things are going to make a huge difference in the things and ways we do it now.”

Enterprises are now learning that neither can they go totally digital nor go totally physical, and there should be a midway between them or a sort of hybrid model.

In India, there are two types of people: one is totally tech savvy and other quite new to using technology, and a large number of people fall in the latter half. So, companies cannot totally go digital. They have to be ‘phygital’ wherein there is culmination of both the things, she added.

The companies need to ‘own’ the customers, they need to have many channels on the supply side, the dealership side and as well as on the customer side.

Companies have to go through a metamorphosis and they have to prove it to the people that they are as good as digitally that they were physically.

They need to understand that they cannot close down the shops and neither have to go digital completely as well because at any point of time they would have a larger number of people who need physical stores.

Tech talent crunch

Salesforce is working with national skill development missions as well as with a few academic institutions. NASSCOM is working on skill development programmes wherein Salesforce is partnering. Most of the tech companies have their own tech platform which enables skilling in a more dignified manner and many of them are free for people to use, she said.

However, she believes the tech talent crunch is real and needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. Just as China is the manufacturing hub, India could have been hub for technology solutions given the number of engineers this country produces each year. And out of this, quite a large number of engineers could be skilled in the right kind of technology that is required for digitization effort to go forward, she said.

She pointed out, “It is six times cheaper to reskill a worker rather than going through the lateral hiring process,” adding that within companies, there is a lot of skilling effort going into keeping the workforce up to date.

Planning the transformation

Bhattacharya cited a McKinsey study which says that about 80 per cent of the companies have started digital transformation but only 3 per cent had finished it. Which underscores the fact that how difficult it is to do the right thing unless you have the right methodology.

Apart from companies adopting digital transformation, they need to understand how digitally matured they are.

“You need to understand how digitally matured your company is and moreover, the companies need to set their goals realistically and after that companies get to their goals; but not in one leap rather in pieces to see what needs to be delivered at which state and then go through transformation but in orderly manner.”

She believes once companies will go through the first difficult step, it will be an easy process for them at the later stages.

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