Is digital the answer to economic progress post this pandemic?

How to make businesses pandemic proof? This is a big question keeping business leaders from across industries on their toes. The COVID-19 crisis has caught everyone off-guard and has presented an unprecedented challenge- to sustain business continuity while following social distancing norms. However, the existence of a plethora of advanced technologies proves to be a blessing in disguise. Businesses that were perplexed initially have quickly started to find that going digital could be the solution to various unanticipated challenges that the situation poses today.

While the consumer adoption of digital services has been on the rise in India, on the enterprise end, the pace has not been optimal. A recent report by International Federation of Robotics, showed that annual installation of industrial robotics in India was 4800 in 2018, while total robotic installation in Asia Australia region was 2,83,000. Out of this 283000, 154000 was done by China. Overall digital transformation investments in India have been slower than expected even though most companies realize that going digital gives them a competitive advantage.

So, why is digital adoption for businesses in India yet to take off? “One big reason is the cost of ownership”, said Dattatri Salagame, MD, Robert Bosch Engineering and Business Solutions.  He added, “In the beginning, nobody is 100 % sure of the outcomes and the benefits derived from digital initiatives. While in the long term, digital clearly emerges as a strategic imperative, but the immediate ROI is very fuzzy. Leaders should not take decisions based only on cost of ownership and instead go for approaches like SAAS for streamlining their IT infrastructure, applications and enterprise solutions like SAP.”

Mobility is one of the major sectors which has been significantly impacted by the recent events. It is also one of the sectors which could benefit greatly from automation. The automobile industry is already seeing structural changes and innovation in this arena.

Bosch has been a leading player in this domain. “We are currently working on various global projects which are very critical for the future of mobility. Like the ‘connected batteries’ project with Exide is a breakthrough in this domain.  The quantum of engineering work we do for our clients worldwide has not come down, which is good sign for India as an engineering destination.  Some of our digital programs in India have been impacted because of travel restrictions but as we move towards discovering safer ways to travel, those are going to be back on track.  We are already witnessing a fundamental shift in the way people accept digital as a part of their lives”, says Dattatri.

Digital technologies have a profound impact as not just the way businesses reach out to their customers has changed but also the way different products and services are consumed. These changes are altering the world so drastically that organisations which do not go through digital transformation will almost cease to be existent pretty soon.

As more and more consumers embrace digitization, the nation prepares itself for new, better, smarter solutions in the public utilities domain.  Bosch has been known to lead engineering projects with a societal impact. One such project is of smart metering for the energy sector. “I think we are privileged to be working with EESL on the smart meters project. While this is an early stage for us, looking at the size of opportunity which is approximately 250 million meters around the country, the power of such a digital transformation is immense. We are really excited to be part of this project.”

What’s interesting to note is that we aren’t simply witnessing new trends come out of thin air owing to the pandemic. We are in fact seeing the acceleration of some budding trends which had already started taking roots pre-Covid19. In healthcare as well, we have seen a rising need for digitization. Apollo Group, a leading healthcare player has been a pioneer in digitizing healthcare, promoting teleconsulting and telemedicine over the last two decades. And today, the entire healthcare industry is reliant heavily on teleconsulting.

The trend towards digitization has grown a pair of new wings. The question now for businesses is, ‘Will they be able to keep pace?’

In India, digital adoption has seen one of the fastest growth rates and businesses need to take note of it. Digital transformation is about digitizing all business processes to improve efficiency, productivity and sustainability. It contributes to both revenues and profitability while helping the business stay agile for the long term. Businesses that will sail are the ones which will leverage technology to cater to ever-changing customer requirements, nurture a broad ecosystem of partners and focus on relentless innovation, as they remold and digitally transform themselves for a better tomorrow.

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

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