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Digitizing Operations Is The Only Way To Survive

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Puneesh Lamba, CTO, Shahi Exports

Puneesh boasts of close to a 30-years long career during which he has worked with companies that include CK Birla Group, BILT, Punj Lloyd, GE Capital, TATA Consultancy Services and Escorts.

Globally, leaders are aiming to enhance organizational performance through the use of digital technologies. These have become core of every organization's strategy these days, and the boards realize that leveraging right technology to solve right problems can definitely give them edge over competition, and labor intensive companies can transform themselves into tech driven companies. The wave of leveraging emerging tech before the pandemic gave the world some wonderful new companies in media, shared resource usage, gaming, education and technology itself, and these companies disrupted the existing business models making even some large companies go out of business. Then the pandemic happened, and the world will never be same now. People who were shy to use digital technologies or even online meetings had to do that mandatorily, and now, a large number of those shy people also cannot imagine going to old ways.

Pandemic has fast tracked the digital revolution in each and every company across the globe and people are happier to use virtual process than physical, working from anywhere rather than office, online meetings in place of physical meetings and more. Every one noticed that anything that moved from table to table, actually moves at a snail's pace compared to anything that moves from system to system or software to software, and this opened the doors for usage of more and more automation using artificial intelligence and machine learning for making automated decisions, augmented or virtual reality to provide xperience as good as seeing the real thing & collaborating around it, internet of things technology to calculate& improve productivity at shop floors and moving the technology right to the edge of network.

Emerging technology usage not only helps an organization to rediscover its mojo, but also contributes in a big way to improve the environment, making the business/industry sustainable. In fact, efforts in my current company has taken a metamorphic shift in the last one year, and going digital has become the mantra to focus on largely three objectives viz. improvement in growth, productivity and experience. I am sure you would have noticed that while growth and productivity largely is the focus of every organization in the world, experience is something that is extremely important. It means providing

excellent experience to our customers, employees and other stakeholders. At the same time, ensuring that all our efforts are keeping in mind that we give back to mother earth as well as create an ecosystem that helps the industry to remain sustainable.

Few of my favorite initiatives are those which reduce travel of employees as well as our customers and where it is easier to convert physical activities to virtual. These help us save not only time and money, but also contribute in reducing carbon footprint due to less usage of fossil fuel. These initiatives range from virtual tours of our factories by customers using augmented reality based solutions to leveraging blockchain based fiber to retail, traceability to ensure ethical sourcing practices. Reduction in data entry or its automation will immensely help every organization, as it directly impacts the size of value adding manpower and people can spend more time in those areas that bring real value to the organization rather than just entering and reentering data.

RRP is another mantra that is taking front stage these days, where we should plan to automate those processes first that are repetitive, rule based & predictable and at the same time, start converting other processes into RRP by eliminating exceptions and process deviations. This has started giving wonderful results in achieving much better productivity overall. It is seen that if we start automating a broken process, then it will not only fail after some time, but also discourage us to pick other processes for automation. So, processing re engineering or transformation has significant importance.

Experimentation is another area which is fast becoming the way technology works in the industry these days. The digital initiatives should get divided into foundational, desirable and disruptive categories, and while foundational & desirable categories have initiatives that have been tried by others also in world, disruptive initiatives are the ones where the lead should be taken by CIOs to solve problems in a newer and more efficient manner that has not been imagined/attempted so far. This category requires a lot of experimentation, and in addition of working with traditional partners, it is important to start working extensively with disruptive startups and academia as well as mining the huge pile of ideas of employees. Some of the experiments that I have been doing recently revolve around automatic guided vehicles, computer vision based productivity improvement and automatic measurement solutions, converting 2D images into 3D models with real time collaboration, AI based identification of fabric composition, fabric inspection recording automation, NLG based training videos translation in vernacular languages, RFID based productivity improvement and more. There are many more, and it is important that we are not afraid to experiment and fail.

With more & more devices, web applications and mobile apps getting connected to the network, it becomes imperative to ensure that there is no hindrance in business continuity, and external threat actors are kept away from trying to steal data or damage network or compute infrastructure. Future belongs to data science and analytics. Currently, a lot of decisions in forward looking organizations are based on data. Data is the new oil, and leveraging its value will definitely give extremely valuable actionable insights and have potential to impact future business models, and that will be real transformation.

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