Reinventing Human Experience and Technology in the Post-Pandemic World

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Mr S Bhanu Kumar, Founder Director, ARRA Associates, spoke about how organisations like MMA and Meesho adapted to the pandemic through the process of using the online mode, learning and moving on. It was technology that enabled Business As Usual situation, he said and added that even people who dreaded technology, started adapting to it. According to him, the lessons learned during the pandemic experience are:

  • Protect the workforce
  • Stay connected and look beyond daily needs
  • Automate, automate, automate
  • Reskill/upskill through online learning
  • Enable remote work through conferencing tools
  • Drive productivity at a distance
  • Manage risks to ensure business continuity

He remarked that there have been positive disruptions because of technology. There is now focus on mental health and increased diversity. Housewives are now able to work and they are no longer bound by the four walls.

Mr Bhanu Kumar pointed out that organisations now see a need for speed in digital. “Working remotely is a big enabler. Also, collaboration has started improving,” he remarked. Explaining that technology capability has now become a strategic differentiator, he drew reference to a recent McKinsey Digital report that says, “Companies with better overall technology capabilities, talent, leadership and resources are seeing better economic outcomes.”

Mr Thameem, ICT Solution Specialist, Datalogics India Pvt Ltd., spoke about the role of technology in industry and education. He said that employees do their best when they have access to the best tools and therefore stressed that we must make use of the today’s tech tools like IOT, Cloud, Big Data/ Analytics, ML, AR, Business, Social media and Security.

He explained how Augmented Reality apps can enable education in an immersive way. When coming out with tech tools for business, we must ensure that they are easy to deploy, manage and support; they must have cloud storage, enable mobility, have long battery life and provide out of the box set up for users and best user experience. He summed up saying that the tools must have creativity + simplicity + humanity.

Technology paving the way for growth
Mr Sridhar Narayanan, Founder, Grand Alliance for Management Excellence (GAME) spoke about how technology has become part of our life, even without our realizing it. Imagination, he said, is more important than knowledge in making use of technology for various applications. He pointed out that today, 94% of students are engaged with technology in the form of smart phone, blue tooth and other smart tools. He focussed on how the future scenario would be, when 5G technology will drive the growth by superior connectivity and download speed. He listed out that 5G will benefit businesses by efficient energy consumption, in remote health care and in space travel and communication.

There will be many innovations in healthcare, application of brain computer interface and digital telepathy, he said. According to Prof Sridhar, though there are many benefits of IOT, improved customer experience is the greatest benefit. “Customer astonishment is the next big thing, surpassing customer satisfaction and customer delight,” he predicted.

He advised that employees should be jack of all trades but specialize at least in one area. He quoted Paul Rand who said that ‘Design is the silent ambassador of your brand,’ and said that towards this, technology will help in a big way. He explained the role of technology in Fintech and also cautioned against the risks in fintech. “We have both the angel and devil in hand,” he put it tersely.

He listed out India’s strengths as youth power, presence of global Indian leaders, IT power, Indian tradition power, a start-up nation and make-in-india and made-in –india initiatives.

Mr Prashant Srivastava, CEO & Managing Partner, W.E.-Matter touched upon in his speech, the micro-elements of technology and explained the relevance of people experience in technology applications. He quoted the findings from a survey done in July 2020 that revealed:

  • Engagement dropped by 10% triggering uncertainty about business
  • Leaders had the highest impact on engagement triggering the need for quality decision making.
  • Women had a challenge with workspace at home
  • Physical, emotional and social well-being became more important
  • There has been an increase in emotional health issues.

On the positive side, Technology has helped in attracting and retaining talent, improving productivity, enabling innovation and collaboration, career management and well-being, he said.

Technology facilitated underprivileged families’ digitised access to continuous education
Dr P Ravi, Former Regional Director, NIOS and Dean, DAV Group, explained how technology has helped the underprivileged, contrary to the opinion that technology has alienated them. Technology, he said, is playing a key role in dividing the gap between the rich and the poor. He added: “There has been a massive investment in affordable IT infrastructure and connectivity, a surge in the use of technology in day-to-day activities and more so in education. Self-learning and availability of digital educational content has improved many folds. Big data will help in getting feedback and customising courses in a suitable format.”

He listed out many online educational portals /media as some of the welcome initiatives. They are: Swayam, DIKSHA, E-PG Pathshala, Swayam Prabha (32 DTH channels for educational content), NDLI (National Digital Library of India), E-Shodhsindhu (digital library), NPTEL and Virtual Labs.

Mr Kannan Ganesan, CEO, Smartail, focussed on AI solutions for the educational sector. He explained how both the underprivileged families and underprivileged schools face challenges from technology. He also spoke on how the gaps can be closed by technology and constant efforts.

The families, he said, suffered from lack of internet / connectivity issues, lack of gadgets, the environment and gaps in parental understanding and support. On the other hand, the underprivileged schools faced shortage in quantity and quality of teachers, poor infrastructure, difficulty in adoption to new trends and lack of standardisation in teaching, evaluation, etc.

Some of the digital transformation tools used in education are Learning Management System (LMS), Live Meeting Solutions, VR, AR and Rule-based Chat bots. While digital transformation helps humans to learn technology, AI as a technology is learning about humans, he said. He also said that many AI implementations fail because users are not trained to interpret data.

According to Mr Kannan, AI will be used in education for automation of grading, personalised learning and generation of smart content. They have a tool available to grade even handwritten exam papers, he said, hinting at the vast landscape for application of AI in education.

Technology Transformation of Business Post-Pandemic
Mr Vignesh Raja, Strategic Consultant and mentor, pointed out that in digital penetration, India is the second largest after China and that the penetration is more in rural than urban. India has now more net users in rural than urban, he said. He also remarked that the average time spent online in India has increased from 4.9 hrs a day before lockdown to 5.2 hrs a day after lockdown.

He observed that:

  • Customer journey now includes both physical and digital touchpoints.
  • Despite Covid-19, startups draw funding (Eg: meesho, dealshare, unacademy, etc)
  • B2C brands which were non-existent before Covid, are now prominent, making a splash in the market.

He explained the steps in business analytics process as:

  • Identifying business problem
  • Identifying data sources
  • Selecting the data
  • Cleaning the data
  • Transforming the data
  • Analysing the data,
  • Interpreting, evaluating and deploying the model

He quoted Kabeer Biswas, founder of Dunzo, who said that ‘automation does not mean complete elimination of human workforce. Instead, it will help with faster processing and result in higher volumes of orders every day compared to what humans can do.’ Mr Vignesh Raja concluded that technology is not just an enabler but a strategic advantage and a survival skill too, for businesses.

Mr Viswanathan, Global Lead-Education and Skilling (CSR) – CTS, spoke about:

  • How technology enables companies to serve its customers better
  • How businesses can run in a sustainable manner through technology
  • How one can personalise usage of technology in CSR activities

He narrated how a visually impaired teacher in Maharashtra who could not learn English for 40 years, could learn English in one month, through an online skill building session organised by CTS Outreach. He also explained how during the pandemic, they developed an app called, ‘Assist,’ that helped elderly people living in a county in UK to connect to a CTS volunteer on a one-to-one basis and get their needs fulfilled during the lockdown period. He said that while we are able to replace in-person experiences with carefully crafted digital experiences, the solutions should always be designed with human experience at the centre.

Mr Thameem, ICT Solution Specialist, Datalogics India Pvt Ltd; Mr Sridhar Narayanan, Founder, Grand Alliance for Management Excellence (GAME); Mr Prashant Srivastava, CEO & Managing Partner, W.E. – Matter; Dr P Ravi, Former Regional Director, NIOS & Dean, D.A.V. Group; Mr Kannan Ganesan, Chief Technology Officer, Smartail; Mr Vignesh Raja, Strategic Consultant, Advisor, Mentor; Mr Viswanathan, Global Lead Education & Skilling (CSR), CTS