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BW Businessworld

Does India Need A Chief Technology Officer?

The Government can use technology not just for its own purposes but can help in deploying the same across the agriculture sector

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If we don’t align together, human beings are going to fight each other, because each technological revolution makes the world unbalanced”: Jack Ma

Businesses have already been transformed significantly over the last two decades with the advent of internet and the advancement of technology in each domain of business. 

From Mass Production to Mass Customisation

Events of the magnitude of the two World Wars and the current Covid pandemic lead to a massive spurt in adoption of technology. If there were any debates or doubts about the necessity of digital transformation to business growth, the coronavirus has cleared them. We are going through one such change where the entire society is moving towards accelerated adoption of technology. 

Basically, we are entering a phase of accelerated change. We are moving from mass production to mass customisation. 

In the past, entire civilisations have perished due to rapid change of circumstances that the civilisation could not adapt to. Companies should brace to go through such a situation for a few years. Global economy was already weakened and in the post-Covid time, the economy appears to be highly fragmented with the pre-Covid nationalistic sentiments becoming sharper and global supply chains being completely disrupted. 

As in most challenges, one has to first address the immediate short-term challenge of restarting business and the cycle of revenue inflow and managing expenses. There will be numerous challenges in restarting, and not just incorporating social distancing as a way of life and of doing business. Issues such as increased work-from-home (WFH), associated data security issues, associated HR challenges, costs, contractual obligations with clients that get violated with WFH, not being able to do certain work that is unsuitable from being done from home. 

Managing finances and working capital would be one of the biggest challenges. And then comes the issue of managing medium term expected shocks such as a second phase of the pandemic or mutated pandemic or other pandemic, global conflict — both kinetic conflict and non-kinetic in form of protectionist steps as well as active economic warfare, increased cyberattacks, attacks on critical infrastructure including banking. 

We would also have the challenge of significantly changed consumer preferences, higher preference for digital delivery of services, etc. and hence need to rearchitect product offering, portfolio and delivery mechanisms.

Digital Transformation is Imperative

The most important lesson from Covid-19 and realisation by the businesses today is that the accelerated digital transformation is imperative, and businesses will not have the luxury of making a slow transition. We see the race to create a Covid vaccine within a year, which was previously unheard of. New technologies are being adopted to accelerate vaccine development that would otherwise take decades. 

The new wave of technology adoption is also making businesses far more efficient in how it reaches out to customers, how it manages its supply chains, how it manages its internal processes and how it manages innovation. It is leading to reduction in manpower, travel and is eliminating redundant processes. In fact, we have seen some businesses pivoting from offline to online like education and learning and development (L&D). 

While many businesses suffered, the retail online businesses continued to thrive, which is a live example of the changing consumer behaviour need and how companies can respond to the same. Video communication and social media platforms are the order of the day and will continue to be so.

 The startup community is quite large and it is bringing innovative and out-of-box solutions to current day problems. Basically, this would completely transform how we work, live and interact with each other. This will improve productivity and probably give better work-life balance to people. Some business practices such as remote work, tele-medicines were found attractive, but there was slow adoption as we know anything that requires a behaviour change takes long time to get adopted. However, due to suddenness of this pandemic, people are left with no choice but to adopt the technology.   

What we also look forward to is the government participating in this revolution. The moot question is – does the country need a Chief Technology Officer (CTO)? The government can use technology not just for its own purposes but can help in deploying the same across the agriculture sector. 

One fact that this outbreak has established is that businesses are getting into no touch or low touch future. It will be a future, where artificial intelligence (AI) will play a critical role in improving the impact and productivity.  

It will be a future in which most aspects of our lives as consumers, entrepreneurs, service providers will be trackable, traceable and data-monitored by the next generation technology. It will be a future of virtual reality and augmented reality. The faster companies align their activities to the new technology, they will be better positioned to not only survive but thrive. 

The question to reflect on right now is whether as the consumer need and behaviour changed, did we change? 

‘Technology has to be invented or adopted’: Jared Diamond.

This article was first published in the print issue of (10 July - 25 July) BW Businessworld. Click Here to Subscribe to BW Businessworld magazine.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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agriculture sector Atmanirbhar Bharat

Richard Rekhy

The author is CEO, KPMG India

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