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Every Industry Will Transform: Som Satsangi, Managing Director, HPE India

In a conversation with BW Businessworld, Som Satsangi, Managing Director, HPE India, states that technology was never a bigger change agent than it is now. Excerpts:

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Mr Satsangi, you have reminded that as the pace of technology accelerates due to the ongoing crisis, every sector will transform. What are some of your early observations on this? 

I am sure there is not a single conversation that happens on present-day changes in which work from home (WFH) is not mentioned. But the truth is that the remote workplace has brought in a paradigm shift of sorts, and we can be rest assured it is already embedded in company DNAs now. We are fast moving to a blended structure where anywhere between 20-60 per cent of a company's workforce will operate remotely. There are obvious implications of this on costs in real estate and even in the fact that if some employees need not move to tier one or tier two towns and work from their hometowns, there would be implications on remuneration and staffing costs but imagine the big talent pool this opens up for a company. This shift will also bring in collaboration and networking. 

However, the big question here is whether India is ready a 100 per cent to ensure last-mile connectivity. This is one area though, where organisations such as HPE can play a role by converting fibers and laid infrastructure into hubs and centres to make this happen.

WFH is right now prevalent across sectors. Are there any other changes you are seeing that will further impact a company's way of working?

While everything has been impacted, there are somewhere the change is evident and permanent. Manufacturing is one example, where social distancing will become a norm. This would mean more of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), robotics, processes for remote monitoring and the likes coming into play. We already have several CEOs who engaging with companies like ours, looking for this level of transformation.

In terms of sectors, I see the banking transforming in a big way too. We always had digital banking but the complete portfolio was not available. Now, this has changed to allow for a complete contactless experience. Similarly, healthcare has undergone a big transformation globally with remote features, allowing diagnostics to recommendations becoming a reality. 

One big area, which I believe transforms India as a country is agritech. Many organisations, entrepreneurs and new tech companies are working intensely on this and we are seeing significant work happening. Every industry is going to be transformed, which in turn opens up doors for many professional and advisory services. 

It is interesting you speak about how India as an economy is poised for transformation on the back of technology. Many even argue that the unprecedented Rs 115,693.95 crore investment in Reliance Jio is testament to the optimism in the Indian tech story. Do you agree?

I completely agree. We have a young population that is willing to learn and do things differently. In the last two years, we have seen nearly 35,000 startups coming in, and in the next two years, another 50,000 are expected. Most of these are tech-based. They are getting into differentiated products. They are the change agents. India's work on digital-first is mind-boggling -- more than 50 different applications are there in tech in agri alone. The India technology story will shine.

Being part of industry bodies such as NASSCOM, we are working on how to bring in new tech education to contribute towards India becoming a tech hub. The transformation has begun and we will see many more tech innovations.

But in all these things, you must not forget the human element. How you are going to be engaging the workforce? Especially as the likes of WFH picks up, there is more challenges on companies to invest in employee engagement, their mental wellbeing and ensuring social bonding despite the boundaries. This is again going to be something where people have to begin thinking differently. Many large organisations, in fact, are already thinking on how to ensure employee morale in this new way of work.

Lastly, I must ask you about technology becoming more operating expenditure (OpEx) driven then capital expenditure (CapEx). Is this shift happening now? 

This discussion has indeed been on for a long time. But in uncertain times, the mandate for all CEOs is to reserve cash. In this scenario, and combined with the fact that previously there was still a way of interacting and buying technology that was more conventional, there is a shift of technology becoming more OpEx driven. Earlier large companies were struggling to take full benefit of cloud due to data gravity, security, vulnerability and regulatory compliance. But the solution has come in hybrid business models, and in as-a-service models.    

'One big area, which I believe transforms India as a country is agritech. Many organisations, entrepreneurs and new tech companies are working intensely on this and we are seeing significant work happening'

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