THE YEAR 2017 has been somewhat of a twilight zone for digital in India. Amidst persistent efforts towards digital, we have seen hits and misses across segments, but it’s been a watershed year in many ways. This year we saw widespread technology infrastructure deployments that will form the foundation for concrete value being delivered through digital in the next year. We also saw several efforts from multiple stakeholder groups collaborating to make India truly digitally inclusive. All of these efforts lead me to believe that could perhaps see the beginnings of a new digital India in 2018.
India is the world’s second largest online market with 460 million internet users and more than 1 billion mobile subscribers. But internet penetration is still south of 20% of our overall population. While on one hand, we have seen automation and digitalisation touching all industry segments, we have also seen the emergence of new technology led vocations and sectors that we didn’t see in the past decades. Growing forward, we will continue to see technology drive a value-driven innovation environment that will impact our people and our industries like never before.
Human-like brand engagements
Customer experience will move from templatised responses to automated yet “human-like” engagements. I read recently that over 2.4 billion brand-related conversations happen online every day. In one significant trend, consumers are undergoing digital saturation amidst the social media and marketing barrage. As many as 83% of consumer respondents in a recent survey felt that brands didn’t handle their emotions well across different touchpoints. They expect brands to understand them and they expect human experience with meaningful conversations. I believe, enterprises will increasingly deploy chatbots powered by NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to understand their needs and engage in right context. We will also see convergence of digital and physical, where enterprises will be able to create a more holistic human experience for their customers through deployment of a combinations of technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and artificial intelligence (AI). As a whole, consumers will enjoy a better customer experience with more focused effort from brands.
Move beyond automation
Industry will better connect their resources and deliver value through digital. Enterprises have struggled with the lack of necessary ecosystem or infrastructure in their pursuance of digital goals. The focus will move from technological automation and digitalisation to a more value-driven approach to their customers and stakeholders. Some dramatic impacts will be on banking, healthcare and manufacturing. Banking will adopt a more innovative, open and transparent business model, such as peer-to-peer lending with blockchain, or wallet-free payment models powered by biometrics. In healthcare, real-time life tracking coupled with IoT and AI will improve speed and efficacy of treatments. In manufacturing, where we already see robotics and IoT catching on mainstream, operations will get further boost from improved network infrastructure and automation. Enterprises, at large, will find themselves better equipped to connect their assets, people and processes in order to deliver value through digital.
Governance will evolve
By leveraging digital for a connected ecosystem and citizen-centric services, governance will evolve. As we move into 2018, most of the foundational and infrastructural initiatives pertaining to Digital India would have come to fruition. Aadhaar, along with GST and IndiaStack, will potentially form the key underlying connect across ecosystems and will start paying a major role in making digital reflect in citizen-services as well as overall governance. Smart cities will also gather momentum as government and public sectors adopt more futuristic technologies to connect devices and infrastructure supported by big data analytics. Beyond government and public sector led initiatives, we will see a more connected environment in community driven initiatives, leading up to efficient execution underpinned by technology.
Value-driven business models among start-ups
Digital will fuel more innovative value-driven business models among start-ups. Last, but not the least, India has been witnessing a rush of innovation across segments, primarily driven by increased availability and affordability of underlying resources driven by technology. We’re fast moving beyond e-commerce towards innovative and value driven business models in industries such as biotech, home appliances, medical devices, logistics and entertainment —fuelled by digital technologies such as machine learning, robotics, blockchain, AI, IoT, and big data analytics. In case of GIFT city, an innovative smart city in the works, 90% of technologies powering the project have been sourced from Indian companies, many of them start-ups. We will see more promising start-ups coming up with digitally driven products and services in 2018.
As we move forward, these trends will lead to a more interconnected ecosystem that will translate to enhanced value delivery. It’s critical that we as a people are ready to embrace this. Speed will be of essence and we can derive the full potential of this transformation only if we collaborate together and build communities where the physical and the digital converge. Where digital inclusion is an essential element of our collective vocabulary, and technology is at the front and center of our transformative journey.