Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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As Rajgopal, CEO of Nxtgen, that provides IT infrastructure services and has clients like BookMyShow, is certain that the office is going to look significantly different in the post Covid-19 world. Some of his customers are already talking to him about running their entire operations virtually. They want to give up office spaces and put robust IT systems in place so that employees can access all applications from home and security is not an issue. In a city like Mumbai, many companies end up spending as much or more on rent than they do on employee salaries. In a time like this when survival has become key, remote work is one path that firms can take to cut costs and most probably even increase productivity.

[box type=”info” align=”” class=”” width=””]Stanford Professor, Nicholas Bloom’s research had indicated that work from home led to a performance increase of 13% and lower attrition and even recent studies by corporates are finding similar results. A software development company, Metova, has reported that 50% of its employees say they get more work done from home than the office. But for companies to be certain for this, they will have to use tools that can accurately measure employee productivity.[/box]

Kronos, which provides HRMS solutions to firms says it has its work cut out for it. In addition to advising its clients on how to operate within the guidelines post the lockdown – bringing in the right percentage of employees for all functions, it is getting more inquiries everyday on managing employee productivity in WFH scenarios.

“Work from home solutions have been a client demand for a long time. Earlier, they were one of the many client requirements but now it’s a firm’s top priority. But that’s not everybody’s reality. For Kronos, manufacturing, retail, healthcare sectors are big clients and for most of them work from home is not a possibility. While saying, you can bring in 10-30% employees in a staggered manner is simple, execution is extremely difficult. We have to ensure that they are from different teams and are operating in a way that social distancing norms can also be followed,” says Sumeet Doshi, Sr. Director and Country Manager, Kronos India.

While it is still too early to predict macro trends, it is natural that healthcare and productivity applications will find many takers going ahead. Rakuten India which is the R&D centre for the global firm says that it is already working on some of these and may look at a broader market for them beyond internal consumption. While the India office has not been impacted by the crisis and in fact still continues to hire; globally the firm that has a play in e-commerce, media, fintech and communications and will focus its energies on businesses that are growing while withdrawing slightly from segments like travel which have been impacted. Two of the company’s biggest India projects currently revolve around healthcare and voice applications of AI -the demand for both of which will be high in the post-Covid-19 era.

[box type=”success” align=”” class=”” width=””]Companies across the board are accelerating digital transformation. Automation and AI are becoming the focus, as efficiency becomes key. “What we are trying to do with AI, is to simplify processes. If a task is happening repetitively, we’re trying to make applications that can make sense of the pattern. We’re also trying to provide more integration of services to customers so that more can be achieved from the same data set. For example, we have surveillance cameras and are able to provide video analytics based on that. But firms are still not using that data to mark attendance. We have the ability to correlate information from multiple channels and slowly customers will start taking advantage of that,” says AS Rajgopal.[/box]

For Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), which has large government clients, is involved in 35 smart city projects and runs 60% of the country’s core banking applications, the focus on AI is higher than ever before.

“What we’re seeing is the next level of integration. In some Indian cities, we already have systems to make sensors and traffic signal cameras provide input data to applications that can control pollution management. Algorithms can manage when garbage needs to be picked up. And for all the work set to happen on smart cities, we expect the projects to go on as planned except for the delay caused by the lockdown and operational issues due to that,” says Som Satsangi, MD, HPE India.

 

HPE committed $500 mn in July 2019 as an investment into the India market and is continuing to progress with its plans. The firm is making huge efforts to build AI and ML capabilities currently employing over 3500 individuals in their R&D team in the country. Going forward the firm believes that large firms will adopt more as-a-Service models leveraging both distributed, on-premise models as well as public cloud, to enable business continuity while ensuring flexibility in capacity provision and financial payment.

One of the biggest challenges that lie ahead is that of bandwidth and the telecom industry will have to solve that with the application of data analytics, AI and ML. “What we need at a time like this is to quickly mobilize resources and the government is listening. Things have also become much faster after Niti Aayog came in. There is a good policy framework in place,” says Som Satsangi.

At Tech Mahindra, the focus remains  on leveraging next generation digital technologies like 5G, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain.Today, more than 40 per cent of our revenue comes from digital technology and services. These are focused on a combination of digital strategy, automation, improving customer experiences, technology-driven business model innovation and growth-focused technology systems,” says  CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra.

While the current crisis has disrupted all its businesses, it sees key investments in supply chain track and trace, digital matching engines, IoT and robotics on the shopfloor coming into play now. The firm is seeing these create a huge demand for the company’s communications infrastructure and believes that Covid-`19 may accelerate the adoption of 5G.

While the fundamentals of business will remain the same, businesses across the board will have to adjust to a new normal. Even as the lockdown eases, employees are going to be reluctant to travel. Work from home applications, cloud solutions, e-commerce, network security, and AI applications are bound to increase in popularity and nimble IT firms can capitalize on this growth.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Times – ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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