Past Events

Interactive Panel Discussion on Digital Transformation– 13 January 2017

On 13th January AmCham Eeastern Region organized a panel discussion on digital transformation at the Hyatt Regency Kolkata. Ms. Amada Kidwai, Regional Director – Eastern Region, AmCham introduced the panelists. Mr. K.P. Sengupta, Chairman AmCham ER, gave the welcome address. Mr. Amit Malik, AmCham Executive Committee (EC) member gave the key note address and moderated the session. Mr. Joydeep Datta Gupta, AmCham EC member gave the concluding remarks and vote of thanks. The panelist were Dr. Prithwis Mukerjee, Ph. D Program Director of the Business Analytics Program at the Praxis Business School, Kolkata, Mr. VV Rajasekhar, Chief Information Officer ITC, Mr. Arindam Guha, Partner, Deloitte. Mr. Jonathan Ward, Principal Commercial Officer, Department of Commerce, U.S. Consulate, Kolkata, was a special invitee.

Mr. K.P. Sengupta, in his welcome remarks, said that being a chartered accountant by profession he had spent his life with digits rather than digitization. He said today when we send messages on WhatsApp or speak on Skype and post photos on Facebook, it is digitization at work. He said he was informed that between 1930 and 1950 some breakthrough innovations in mathematics and allied sciences had set the stage for digitization, as we know it today. In India, the Aadhar card and the move towards “less cash society” has opened a huge potential for digitization. He said that the days are not far when the real and virtual worlds will blend seamlessly and we will be able to speak on skype with the holographic presence of the person we are speaking with.

The keynote address was given by Mr. Amit Malik. He said that the future is here and the future is digital. The future is already disrupting the present and anything and everything today is digital. From the clothes we wear to the shoes and even a tennis racquet today comes with a sensor. Digitization is fundamentally transforming businesses in every industry. Digital advances are often causing new creative product and service opportunities and more efficient ways of doing business, the likes of which have never been seen before.

But what really is digital transformation? There are numerous definitions but ideally digital transformation is about outcomes and should essentially lead to the following:

Building personalized and new customer experiences
Transforming existing process through innovative business models
Empowering workforce for innovation

It is imperative for organizations to embrace the digital journey or get disrupted. To achieve this transformation:

Lead from the top down: To capture the full return on investment in digital transformation, organizational changes must be driven by the executive leadership team and board.
Create the workforce of the future: Critical foundational elements of digital business transformation, including analytics and security, will require a next-generation workforce that is digitally savvy, creative, and accustomed to constant change.
Merge business processes and technology: By knocking down silos and bringing together IT and OT, organizations can drive real-time agility and deliver new levels of business and operational opportunities
Ideate and innovate fast: Agile IT, automated business processes, enhanced collaboration and decision-making, real-time insight — all of these factors combine to create fast innovation
Cultivate the partner ecosystem: In the hyper connected world no single organization will thrive by itself. Organizations will need to rethink their partner ecosystems as they seek unique value that will create new disruption.

Digital transformation is not a luxury; it is a necessity. With its rapid evolution, the next wave of the internet is changing everything. All organizations must evolve and innovate at that same blistering pace. That is, if they want to survive and thrive in an environment of near-constant change and disruption — as they capture the abundant opportunities available to the fast movers of the digital economy.

Dr. Prithwas Mukherjee, spoke about digital transformation in terms of e-commerce, e-wallets or even robots. He said the internet of things could be a little dated, if not actually naive! What awaits is a tidal wave, a veritable tsunami, of artificial intelligence — forged on the anvil of machine learning algorithms and then polished by training on terrabytes, actually zetta and yottabytes, of digital data – this he said will propel society through a technological singularity where biological intelligence will become secondary to the non-biological, or digital variety. This will result in situations that mankind has never encountered before, for example, where there is enough money in the economy but no need for employees because all jobs can be done better and cheaper by robots. The first outlines of such a society are already emerging — as facts from fiction — in a few countries where social security systems are morphing into a new avatar called universal basic income.

Mr. Arindam Guha said that India has taken significant strides in digital transformation in the recent past. Currently, over 900 million Indians have an Aadhar based digital identification number and the mobile phone penetration in the country is over 75%. The government has also taken up a number of initiatives like providing broadband connectivity to over 2 lakh panchayats in the country, online delivery of key public services etc., under its flagship Digital India program. He said however, significant ground still needs to be covered as far as digital transformation is concerned. India was ranked 138th out of 175 countries in the 2016 International Telecommunications Unit (ITU) ranking. The number of internet subscribers in China is double that of India as is the percentage of households owing a computer – internet bandwidth costs are also significantly lower. Out of the top 20 internet companies in the world, only a couple are from India, with the maximum number being from the U.S., followed by China and Japan. All this despite having an information technology (IT) services sector which is significantly larger than each of these countries.

Mr. VV Rajasekhar Chief Information Officer ITC, covered the corporate aspect of digitization and its impact on industry. Mr. Jonathan Ward Principal Commercial Officer, Department of Commerce, U.S. Consulate Kolkata updated members on the new U.S. Department of Commerce digital trade initiative.

The concluding remarks, and vote of thanks was given by Mr. Joydeep Datta Gupta. In his remarks, he said that from ancient times, mankind has kept inventing technology that leads to efficiency. Typically, there have been waves of automation followed by waves of addressing the consequent human displacement. Digital is no different. As robotics continue to develop, human beings will continue to re-focus on more intellectual activity and on different industries such as entertainment. He pointed out that the present wave of digital has led to a far greater focus on customer insights and customer engagement. For Digital India to succeed, policy and skill development would be critical.