‘AI Cannot Replace 1-On-1 Human Interaction In Customer Service Industry’: Dr Kiran Marri, Chief Scientist At CSS Corp – Analytics India Magazine

Global customer experience and technology consultancy services company CSS Corp helps brands reimagine customer engagements. It helps clients manage over 1.2 billion interactions and, in the process, provides technologies, tools and solutions to enhance customer engagements. Its area of focus includes shifting from reactive to pre-emptive modes and helping companies adopt the right strategies to bring in efficiencies and delivery models optimisation.

Global customer experience and technology consultancy services company CSS Corp helps brands reimagine customer engagements. It helps clients manage over 1.2 billion interactions and, in the process, provides technologies, tools and solutions to enhance customer engagements. Its area of focus includes shifting from reactive to pre-emptive modes and helping companies adopt the right strategies to bring in efficiencies and delivery models optimisation.

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Recently, Analytics India Magazine got into a conversation with Dr Kiran Marri, Chief Scientist and Vice President of Digital Engineering at CSS Corp, to understand how CSS Corp is leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Kiran is an industry consultant, educator, and researcher with over 18 years of experience in software and systems. An alumnus of IIT Madras (BE, MS and PhD), Kiran’s current role at CSS Corp includes developing innovative solutions, creating sustainable business models for growth, and launching new services in the digital, engineering and testing practices. He is currently researching to apply ML techniques and optimisation algorithms to solve complex engineering and software problems, build solutions for early validation strategies, and develop UX tools for global clients.

Edited excerpts from the interaction:

AIM: What are CSS Corp’s core tech products?
Dr Kiran: We have reimagined customer engagements and have enabled over a billion customer service and support transactions in over 25 languages across 19 global locations. We help clients succeed through intelligent automation-led outcomes and customer-centric solutions & services with the help of two AI-driven platforms:

CSS EDISON: AI-led cloud-based CX transformation platform.
CSS CONTELLI: AIOps platform; it takes an outcome-based approach and leverages cognitive RPA, AI, automation, augmented reality, and advanced analytics for IT support and services.
COEUS: provides real-time insights into agent performance and helps improve overall efficiency and productivity. Last year, COEUS analysed over 10 million transactions, resulting in a 50 per cent improvement in service levels across accounts and increasing employee productivity levels by 25 per cent.
These platforms cut across the front and back offices of any enterprise to drive meaningful business outcomes.

AIM: What tech tools do you use?
Dr Kiran: Our tools vary depending on the services. We use a broad mix of proprietary home-grown tools as well as industry-standard tech tools.

AIM: How are you leveraging AI and ML technologies?
Dr Kiran: CSS Corp proposes a set of solution elements that are flexible and extensible – supported by optimum service delivery model and usage of next-generation tools, methodologies, and framework. Our framework for AI/ML projects across domains is based on five fundamental tenets:

Design right talent sourcing strategy for the program
Define a CoE model that will provide utmost operational flexibility and tight alignment to business goals while achieving the benefits of consolidation and standardisation
Enable Service Transformation that consists of tools, accelerators, new practices, and solution components, and part of ‘managed services’ delivery model, driven by SLA framework
Implement an execution framework based on CSS Corp offerings that will enable rapid and de-risked transition, process standardisation and fosters innovation
Implement Program Management and Governance guided by KPIs, metrics, and stakeholder specific dashboard
AIM: Provide us some real-life use cases.
Dr Kiran: Here are some use cases:

One of our US-based OEMs faced difficulty detecting the quality of images (video streaming) in UCAAS products. We improved their quality benchmarking using our AI/ML and computer vision solutions.
A Europe-based CPF company had challenges in detecting faulty image uploads and automating the process flow. With our cutting-edge solutions that leverage AI/ML, computer vision, and customer algorithms, we enhanced their user experience and quality.


Are you ready for the future workplace?

The definition of ‘work’ has changed and will continue to change as pandemic-driven trends evolve. Here are the top trends driving organisations’ strategies for the coming months.

he combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the off-site working it necessitated, the ‘Great Resignation’ it spurred, and the ongoing digitisation process, has greatly modified the way ‘work’ is defined. Many organisations now have to scramble to implement wide-ranging changes to stay relevant.

We acquaint you with the top trends that indicate what organisations need to do in this situation of rapid flux.

Finding the tricky balance between physical and remote working models will be key

Employers are experimenting with new work models like hybrid work, gig work, and part-time work, with the hybrid model emerging as the work model of the future. The transition to hybrid work is already underway, and is certain to become a permanent feature for organisations who find that a flexible work culture will enhance employee productivity, satisfaction, and work-life balance.

“Hybrid-working culture is and will be the future for those businesses who want to reach a state of normalcy in this new normal. Additionally, as these changes take centre stage, employers will need to further understand that the new way of working will have its fair set of challenges. To help employees make a smooth transition, employers will need to take on a more empathetic leadership approach, put greater focus on health, wellness, recognition, and overall work-life balance of their employees. Taking on more employee-friendly initiatives will be an effective way to ensure the success of a hybrid-working model,” says Birlasoft Chief Delivery Officer Shreeranganath Kulkarni.

Fluid workforce the norm for the future?

The fluid workplace of the future places limited importance on location/geography, and employers will explore various work models to stay competitive.

“New work models like gig working (use of contractual workers and freelancers), hybrid working, and part-time working are in the exploratory stage while outsourcing jobs to agencies/partnering with companies emerge as a norm. However, employers may still construe freelancers as unemployed, and hence a full-time worker is apprehensive about making this transition,” says the Randstad – Future of Work Report.

Flexibility wins

Mercer|Mettl CEO Siddhartha Gupta says the era of ‘9 to 5’, ‘Monday to Friday’ is coming to an end.

The year 2022 will be the year of digital nomadism where employees will have the freedom to customise their work and career experiences with their well-being at the centre of it.

“In addition, we will see an increase in the implementation of a ‘Listening Culture’ .i.e. the formation of workplaces guidelines and policies based on employee feedback.  Fluid hierarchy and organisational structures will also come into play with an emphasis on transparency and accountability. And lastly, re-conceptualising of productivity will take place. This will be done because the modern workforce is digital and distributed across the world. Furthermore, the notion that productivity equates to the number of hours is outdated,” he adds.

Upskilling on the radar

Since the advent of the pandemic, uncertainty has been constant. The result? Agility and upskilling have taken centre stage.

“As digital transformation plays a role in organisations’ efforts to recover and be more resilient, and hybrid multicloud, security, automation, and artificial intelligence become even more important, professionals have felt compelled to learn a host of new technical and soft skills. Hence, upskilling continues to be paramount as we navigate the health crisis and companies continue to prioritise skill-based hiring and skill-building to not just make the most of their digital transformation efforts, but also drive greater value for their clients,” says Nutanix People Business Partner Head India Ramya Menon.

Lendingkart CTO Giridhar Yasa adds that upskilling yourself on the job is very important. “Externship is an emerging trend in this context. Doing an externship is a great way to get paid while learning on the job. It also helps upskill and become ready for an even better opportunity. There are many good companies that enable externship for young professionals. We, at Lendingkart, value candidates who have shown an attitude towards constant learning,” he says.

Which technical skills will really matter?

In the pandemic’s wake, every business has transformed into a technology business and companies have been embracing digitalisation to stay relevant and operate sustainably. Analysts predict that direct investments in digital transformation initiatives will continue to see strong growth and form 55 per cent of all investments in information and communications technology by the end of 2024.

Even though the business focus varies across industries, the technical skills they require to fulfil their digital goals are generally similar across the board.

“These include artificial intelligence (AI), IoT, AR/VR, RPA, mobile engineering and machine learning – skills that are largely in demand because they touch upon multiple aspects of building a successful business in the digital era. In light of this sudden need for talent, organisations are looking to build global teams through Global Capability Centres (GCCs). India is already synonymous with GCCs and will continue to lead as a preferred GCC destination, thanks to an abundance of talent, Tier-I & Tier-II city infrastructure, government support and a thriving startup ecosystem,” says ANSR’s Head of HR Operations and Talent Management Sukumar Payala.

Virtual working appeals but human connect will never lose its sheen

Virtual working has espoused the virtues of flexibility, which were hitherto not so appreciated, and hence would find greater acceptance in futuristic workplaces. Birlasoft Chief People Officer Arun Dinakar Rao, however, feels that humans are social animals and barring a few, who may not have this primary driver, most of us would look to satisfy these needs.

“Human connections have a huge upside to productivity as we have seen in team productivity levels when people dynamically collaborate – the best outcomes have come when people whiteboard their thoughts in a closed room with a unified dream. On the other extreme, haven’t we observed the yearning for a human shoulder to cry on when we find ourselves in a hole or with our backs to the walls, and digital modes unable to assist us in these situations? Hence, I believe that leveraging technology or otherwise, people would continue to look for human connections at workplaces,” says Rao.

The much needed soft skills

Multiple reports state that over 50 per cent of IT employees need significant reskilling and upskilling – not just in technical capabilities, but also in interpersonal and soft skills.

“Besides, skills such as creativity, critical thinking, intellectual curiosity, innovation mindset, empathy, and decision-making, will be most in-demand by the organisation. A hybrid work model makes it important for employees to be digitally savvy, emotionally strong and possess social skills. Having a continuous learning mindset, flexibility to perform in challenging circumstances, and willingness to adapt to situations when things don’t go as planned define the modern emerging hybrid workforce,” says Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, Senior Vice President, Head of HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp

As per Umar Ali Shaikh, the CEO of Atos India Pvt Ltd and Head of Growing Markets – Country Cluster India, Head of India National Business, adaptability bundled with perseverance will be the most desirable attribute at the forefront of the way employees and employers both need to be aligned.

But he notes that adaptability is “a hard trait to comprehend, as it involves many aspects in the preview of soft skills that professionals would need going forward”.

Diversity and inclusion at work, mental well-being the primary focus

Employers need to think about D&I initiatives in the new normal, along with how mental well-being discussions can be normalised, and by clubbing these aspects with others to devise what it takes to become an employer of choice for the next generation of employees.

As per the Randstad report, the post-COVID workplace will see more conversations around mental health and higher acceptance of its impact on work and productivity of the employee, and require support mechanisms at work, building skills like empathy and compassion, and providing personal space to employees as ways for employers to prioritise mental well-being.

“Employees are the backbone for a successful business, and we want to ensure that our employees get the necessary benefits, the flexibility of choice, a true alignment of their aspirations with and what they do, psychological safety, and well-being at their workplace,” says InMobi Group CHRO Sahil Mathur.


CSS Corp wins 2021 BIG Innovation Award

CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company, today announced that it has been named a winner in the 2021 BIG Innovation Awards in the best products category by the Business Intelligence Group (BIG) for their homegrown platform, Contelli.

CSS Corp’s Contelli enables enterprises to unlock the full potential of their IT infrastructure with a business-first transformation approach, powered by cutting-edge cognitive technology. It is a one-of-its-kind advanced AIOps platform that harmonizes, automates, and modernizes every aspect of infrastructure operation.

It drives self-provisioning and self-healing infrastructure, on-demand capacity management, algorithmic operations, proactive security threat prevention, predictive analytics through advanced pattern matching, and cost analysis and optimization. Contelli is incredibly flexible to modern enterprises’ needs as it can work in multi-cloud, on-premise, hybrid, and multi-technology ecosystems.

The platform is highly modular to be tailored to suit any client environment. The solution has proven to be a key driver for operational excellence, process efficiency, and resource optimization for CSS Corp’s customers.

“Being recognised by the Business Intelligence Group reinforces our deep expertise in effectively manging enterprise and IT operations ecosystems. Our solutions are built with a focus to drive business outcomes for our customers and transform their challenges into opportunities. This recognition is a testimony to our constant effort in delivering winning results for our clients. Our focus on improving customer engagement has helped us innovate and adapt to changing industry trends and seamlessly meet customer needs through our technology-driven solutions,” said Manish Tandon, Chief Executive Officer, CSS Corp.

“Not only innovation allows organisations to stay relevant in the market, but also helps humanity to progress by making our lives more productive, healthy and comfortable. We are thrilled to be honouring CSS Corp, as they are one of the organizations leading this charge and helping humanity progress,” said Maria Jimenez, chief operating officer of the Business Intelligence Group.

Organizations from across the globe submitted their recent innovations for consideration in the BIG Innovation Awards. Nominations were then judged by a select group of business leaders and executives who volunteer their time and expertise to score submissions.

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What lessons did HR leaders learn from the pandemic?

On the occasion of International Human Resources Day, we spoke to many HR leaders about their learnings from the pandemic in the last 1.5 years. Here are some insights from the leading HR professionals of India Inc.

What is the one lesson you learnt as an HR leader in the last 1.5 years, since the pandemic struck?


Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head – HR (Global) and Corporate Quality, CSS Corp

“The primary thing that the HR function witnessed and learned is the liberation from the mindset that work can be accomplished when we are co-located (or physically in the office). Physical needs (Meeting rooms, logistics, time conflicts) have melted away with a positive acceptance of collaborative tools (Zoom, Teams, GoToMeeting, and many more). Also, the onslaught of the variants and waves have made even the most brave-hearted to be mentally fragile. An immense amount of support and efforts have to be made for positivity to flow continuously like oxygen.”


Akash Sangole, Head of Human Resource and General Administration, Panasonic Life Solutions India Pvt. Ltd.

“The pandemic has taught us many lessons. As organizations rallied to respond to the crisis, the biggest challenge for the HR function was how to keep the workforce safe, motivated & engaged. As an HR function, we could manage the situation by being authentic, empathetic, and resilient. The major takeaway for me was to be agile/quick and being resilient in every approach.”


Annoora Singh, Head – HR, Training and Admin, Organic India

“COVID-19 pandemic presented an unrivaled situation all over the world and there is no individual or organization that was not impacted in some or the other way. Employees who had never worked remotely found themselves working from home for the first time and this has urged HR function to re-think their strategy and plans.With WFH, the role of HR has become more critical than ever before as they now are essentially the bridge between the leadership teams and employees till the grass-roots level and ensure that all employees continue to work towards a common goal and move in the same direction.”


Arun Dinakar Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft

“If there is one lesson I have learned in these 18 months, it is that “We should never forget our basics”. It has proven that empathy and care go a long way in dealing with challenges than what they were credited for. It has proven that adversity brings out the true character/resilience among people and that necessity is truly the mother of innovation. The pandemic has forced organizations to adopt and accelerate their digital journeys, dynamically altering the way organizations look at their technology roadmap and has shown a new way of building and engaging with ‘work-from-anywhere teams.”


Ashish Mittal, Head of People Function, Aviva India

“We witnessed a dramatic shift in the work culture and recognized early that we didn’t have all the answers. We realized that “learning as we go” was the best strategy of all. The one lesson that I have learned as a leader is to create a work culture that is humanitarian in approach. As leaders of a people-centric organization, we have built a strong foundation with empathy, humility, and strong bonds with our people.”


Bernard Martyris, Global Chief of Human Resources, VFS Global

“Forming deep and meaningful human connections with employees has become even more critical to companies and business leaders in these turbulent times. For me, the COVID-19 pandemic required working closely with remotely connected teams to ensure agility and address the 360-degree requirements of employees and equip them to work through such a crisis via an enhanced focus on Learning and Development. It was also imperative to care for mental and physical well-being through meaningful and empathetic two-way communication.”


Jayashubha K, Chief People Officer, TVS Credit Services Limited

“The pandemic has been a learning curve that has taught me to be adaptive and flexible in order to survive and succeed in this COVID era. As an HR leader for a large organization, the pandemic pushed us to break through all stereotypes. It encouraged us to move from traditional to remote working style, broaden our network, learn and relearn and find new ways to reconnect with people around us.”


Pavitra Singh, CHRO, PepsiCo India

“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us many valuable lessons and my biggest one has been to lead with compassion. I realized that softer skills of empathy, compassion, and resilience are key differentiators in these challenging times. We, as leaders, need to be the torchbearers of hope and lead with our hearts. We have to be more personal in our approach and find ways to connect in the new normal as there are no face-to-face interactions currently. Leaders should also ensure high-quality interactions and bring energy to every meeting.”


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CSS Corp is looking at IPO in late 2023 for its standalone business: CEO

Company’s CEO says firm is working with business process management (BPM) company Startek on opportunities where they can add value

Customer experience and technology services provider CSS Corp’s chief executive officer (CEO) Sunil Mittal said the company is looking at an initial public offering (IPO) in late 2023 for its standalone business.

Mittal also said the firm is working with business process management (BPM) company Startek on opportunities where they can add value, but has had no conversations with regard to increasing the minority stake of Startek in CSS.

Whenever a private equity deal happens, there is a fund that gets created. There are multiple investors in that fund. The Startek Investment Fund is an indirect investment into that fund that is managed by Capital Square Partners. From a Startek perspective, I don’t have conversations with them on these aspects. We work at arm’s length distance, (unless there’s an opportunity). The way forward is for us to be independent, continue with the momentum and create value for our investors through an IPO,” he said.

He said the firm plans to go public as a standalone business in late 2023.

Startek’s chief financial officer (CFO) Vikash Sureka had told Business Standard that it expects to increase its minority stake in CSS Corp to give it access to a larger market.

Startek announced a strategic investment worth $30 million in CSS Corp in March. The investment was made in a limited partnership managed by Startek’s majority shareholder, Capital Square Partners.

Mittal, who took over as CEO in May, said CSS is also looking at expanding to new geographies and eyeing acquisitions in areas such as healthcare.

“We have plans to take in 3,000 people and we have already hired 1,800 net positions this year,” said Mittal.

The Texas-headquartered company crossed the 10,000 employee-mark in August, and 6,000 of these employees are based in India.

“Last (financial) year, we grew by 25 per cent, and this year also we will grow more than 25 per cent. Based on the trajectory we’re seeing, we should be able to maintain that momentum for the next few years as well,” Mittal added.

The firm has presence in the US, Costa Rica, Manila, India, Colombia, and will expand to Romania from next month.

Around 80-85 per cent of CSS’ business comes from the technology and telecom sector, while 5-8 per cent is from retail consumer packaged goods. It plans to up its focus on retail consumer-packaged goods and healthcare through acquisitions.


IT sector, prepare for the 3rd year of disruption: 2022 is coming

If you are thinking, what new things we can expect in the upcoming 2022, we need to trace back to the source of such hits and trials — the pandemic. Experts say the “new world order” we are all going to see in 2022 will not only be driven by what we learnt from the previous year, but it will be an amalgamation of both the years 2020 and 2021.

Several in the Information Technology (IT) sector proved that it’s a general practitioner of all experiments. You name it, firing in bulk, it’s IT. Hiring in thousands, it’s IT. Announcing permanent work from home (WFH), its tech sector, among others.

And if you are thinking, what new things we can expect in the upcoming 2022, we need to trace back to the source of such hits and trials — the pandemic. Experts say the “new world order” we are all going to see in 2022 will not only be driven by what we learnt from the previous year, but it will be an amalgamation of both the years 2020 and 2021.

What can we have in hiring trends?

The IT sector saw a drastic change in its talent management strategy – from mass layoffs in 2020 to mass recruitment in 2021. As per Monster Employment Index data, compared to June 2021, July 2021 witnessed an overall monthly growth of 4 per cent in hiring. While, overall job postings have also improved by 8 per cent year-on-year.

According to the report, the IT – Hardware, Software industry witnessed the highest growth year-on-year with 39 per cent increase in the hiring of professionals, with a notable growth in metropolitan cities.

To tackle the surge in the demand for resources, companies are investing in fresher hiring, and also upskilling existing talent, feels Shyam Verma, Global HR Head at JK Tech. “Multiple reports talk about a 12 per cent surge in the HR market in the next 6 years,” he said.

Verma said there was an expedited demand in 2021 for specific capabilities and skill sets across the IT job market, due to the massive digitalization wave that was felt globally. “Adapting to the digitised trends was not difficult for the IT Industry. But HR operations also had to be made effective and agile, to meet the high demand and unique skill set,” he added.

Thendral Rajendran, Vice President and Regional Head – Talent Acquisition, CSS Corp, is of a different view. She believes the market is employee-driven now and attracting top-notch talent, increasing their knowledge and skills, retaining them becomes a key factor for any organisation which strives for growth.

In October 2021, CSS Corp announced it is looking to hire 3,000-odd employees this financial year, out of which approximately 60 per cent will be for its India footprint. A majority of the hiring is to be focused on engineers. The company is also looking to hire non-engineering graduates.

“We are no different as we continue to put in our efforts to sustain our 25-30 per cent YOY growth. With new engines of growth emerging, we will definitely look to sustain hiring for some time,” Rajendran said.



Barranquilla, gateway for an Indian multinational to Colombia

The company CSS Corp, dedicated to the service sector, opens its second headquarters in Latin America in the Atlantic capital. They will work with local talent

The capital of the Atlantic will be the gateway to the Colombian market for the multinational of Indian origin CSS Corp, dedicated to the service sector, in what represents the vote of confidence of this business segment for the city.

“The range of local talent, the booming local economy, the compatibility of the language and the investments of the local government in developing bilingual skills make Barranquilla the ideal destination for us in South America”, explained to EL HERALDO , Jayagopi Andhoor, vice president of CSS Corp .

Andhoor added that “the location and the high levels of connectivity and infrastructure” make the city a “favorable place” for real-time global collaboration.

The headquarters in Barranquilla will be the second presence of this firm in Latin America, after its headquarters in Costa Rica, which was installed in 2013.

Plans in Barranquilla

The firm’s office in the city will start operations the first week of May, according to Andhoor’s advance, and the selection of personnel is already underway.

At the moment, 50 new jobs are planned for the opening date, but they clarify that the goal is to reach the end of 2021 with more than 100 collaborators.

The company will also run a long-term talent training program.

“In order to perfect the existing skills in Barranquilla, we will develop a program together with universities and training centers, and train them with the qualities required for the customer support industry , ” said the senior executive.

The Universidad del Norte, the Universidad del Atlántico, the Fundación Santo Domingo and the Sena are part of the institutions with which the training program is being prepared.

Investment destination

Ana María Badel, executive director of ProBarranquilla, pointed out that the arrival of this multinational “confirms the investor’s confidence in the technology sector.”

“Having human talent trained every day makes the territory an export platform for nearshore (United States) and offshore (Spain) services,” added Badel.

According to data from the promotion agency, in 2020 and so far in 2021 five multinationals from the service sector have settled in the city.

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#InternationalHRDay: Top lessons to learn from Tech HRs

Top lessons of the HRs of the IT industry that is trying to help the employees amid the second wave of the pandemic.

Pandemic has been very difficult on the employees and even more on the Human Resources that are giving their best. However, the tech industry faced a lot of impact amid the pandemic. But how the HRs have managed to help the IT professionals?

Here are the views of some top market leaders on how they survived COVID-19 and learnt from it.

Arun Dinakar Rao, Chief People Officer, Birlasoft said, “The pandemic has forced organizations to adopt and accelerate their digital journeys, dynamically altering the way organizations look at their technology roadmap and has shown a new way of building and engaging with ‘work-from-anywhere teams.”

“HR professionals were quickly able to get a sense of employees’ worries and concerns while also considering the various business impacts. HR professionals have led the way to keep employees and their workplaces safe and healthy. Thank you HR Professionals for all you do and for helping us create better workplaces!” – SJ Raj, Senior Vice President, HR Operations, Newgen Software

“The onslaught of the variants and waves have made even the most brave-hearted to be mentally fragile. An immense amount of support and efforts have to be made for positivity to flow continuously like oxygen. While HR traditionally plays this role, the enormity of the task is relatively high. But, as they say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP, Head – HR (Global) and Corporate Quality, CSS Corp


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Workplace Wellness: Physical, mental, social and financial

The Covid-19 pandemic has taught a lesson or two to both employers and employees on the importance, attention, and focus needed to be given to the overall wellness of people at workplaces, where they spend a major portion of their working lives.

The pandemic has disrupted the way the world lived and worked. It has caused a lot of mental, physical, and emotional stress to everyone.

Adapting to a new working culture has also added extra fatigue to the lives of employees. It has been over a year into the pandemic and HR leaders across the world have taken different initiatives to maintain the wellbeing of their employees.

The pandemic has really brought employee wellbeing onto the centre stage. Companies realize that employees are their valuable assets, and in difficult times like the pandemic, companies have to make extra efforts to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their employees.

Employee wellbeing is often misunderstood to be only confined to physical wellbeing, whereas it is a wide term that encompasses an employee’s physical, mental, psychological, social, and financial wellbeing.

Moderating a panel discussion at the Phoenix CXO Virtual Summit 2021, organized by ETHRWorld on September 30, Yuvraj Srivastava, Group CHRO, MakeMyTrip, said, “There is more consciousness about health and wellbeing in the minds of the employer as well as the employees, because of the pandemic. It has now struck everyone that they have to be far more careful about their health and wellbeing.”

Why should organizations invest in employee wellbeing?

“People are critical, as they are the key to the success and survival of the business and from there stems the need of investing in wellness,” said Anjali Rao, HR Leader and Senior Director, Intel India.

Employee wellbeing is extremely important for Employer Value Proposition and from the standpoint of the business because employees are the building blocks of a company. Organizations work hard to acquire the people with very niche technical skills and these are the skills that are built after investing a lot of time and effort. Employee wellbeing thus becomes very important for retaining the talent and building it further by investing in it.

“Employees’ health, psychological and emotional wellbeing is no longer a question of whether or not, it’s about how now,” said Chitresh Sharma, Co-founder and CEO, Refyne.

Employee wellbeing is very important for any organization and it is not a new concept. It has been there for a long time, but it is critical to get it right otherwise it is of no use for both the employer and the employee. The need is to come up with a programme that is relevant to the needs of the employees at that point in time and constantly evolving to keep up with the changes.

Mental and emotional wellbeing of employees

Talking about the increased interest and awareness about employee wellbeing, Namrata Gill, VP – Corporate HR, Dr Reddy’s, pointed out that earlier employees took wellness programmes as something that was thrust upon them by the management, but ever since the pandemic hit, there has been a positive shift in the attitude of the employees towards these programmes.

HR leaders believe that there is a need for a well-rounded and holistic approach to designing employee wellbeing programmes. Satyanarayanan Visvanathan, SVP and Head – HR (Global) and Head of Corporate Quality, CSS Corp, said, “The answer when we try to define workforce wellbeing is lifestyle wellbeing.” He further stated that every organization believes in a set of values, and the core values within an organization should be, respect for individuals because no one is going to stay for long if they are not respected.

Talking about emotional wellbeing, Visvanathan further said, “Instead of just putting money in their pocket, we also need to put an arm around them.” He suggested that having the resources to come out of a situation really helps the employees but knowing that their organization is there with them in their tough times gives them a sense of both financial and emotional security. “Personal support and providing solace to people that we as an organization are there for them has a huge impact on the morale of an individual and also overall wellbeing,” he added.

Financial wellbeing of the employees

The financial wellbeing of an employee is extremely important and probably is the area where the least innovation is done to date. Chitresh Sharma, Co-founder and CEO, Refyne, pointed out that a major chunk of a person’s time is spent in education and another major chunk in the organization they work for, but no one actually makes an effort to teach them how to manage their personal finances.

Sharma further suggested that organizations need to take a step towards helping their employees in maintaining their personal finances by redesigning the payroll models, for example commencing the salaries on a more regular basis, say weekly or biweekly. He also suggested that this change has to be brought through automated technology because finances are very individualistic in nature.

Adding to this, Vishwanathan said, “We need to ensure that financial complexities are not running in the minds of our people. Giving people a salary is also not enough. We also need to help them learn the art of creating wealth.”

Commenting on Sharma’s suggestion to commence salaries on a more regular basis like weekly or biweekly, Vishwanathan said water needs to be judged before jumping in.

Namrata Gill and Anjali also echoed Vishwanathan and said that Indians culturally operate in a way where we clear all our bills in the beginning of the month, so, for a change like this the entire ecosystem has to be changed and this process would take time although this could be a reality in the future.


Ethical AI in 2022: Why It’s Time to Confront Biases

Ethical AI can no longer be an afterthought for the enterprise; it must be built into the fabric of AI, believe experts.

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) begins to play a much larger role in our daily lives, streamlining our work, resolving customer issues, talking to us as companion bots, driving autonomous cars, and helping employees make more informed and faster decisions, ethical AI can no longer an afterthought for the enterprise; it must be built into the fabric of AI.

“AI ethics” refers to the organizational constructs that reaffirms commitment to corporate values, policies, codes of ethics, and guiding principles in the age of AI. These constructs set guidelines and governance for AI throughout the organization, from research and design, to build and train, to change and operate,” says Prashanth Kaddi, Partner, Deloitte India.

Issues around ethical AI have garnered more attention over the past several years with tech giants from Facebook to Google to Microsoft and IBM have already established and published principles to demonstrate to stakeholders — customers, employees, and investors — that they understand the importance of ethical or responsible AI.

The pandemic has further proved that businesses are betting big on AI, with analyst firms forecasting AI investments to grow from $27.23 billion in 2019 to $266.92 billion by 2027. And as investments increase, the need to give the technology a “moral compass” has become more urgent.

However, there is growing evidence that AI based applications can lead to increased discrimination based on gender, class, caste, ethnicity, religion and other identity forming characteristics. As Prof. Amit Prakash, Associate Professor and Coordinator at IIIT-Bangalore observes, “This can come through an inadequate attention to the processes associated with collection of digital data used to train the AI models as well as through algorithmic biases, which get introduced when design teams are not sensitive to, or even aware of, the diversity in the implementation context.”

Ethical AI trends

Talking about the ethical AI trends in the market, in 2022, Rahul Joshi, CTO, CSS Corp notes that there will be a high demand for responsible AI solutions in the market. Responsible AI solutions offer a range of capabilities that help companies turn AI principles such as fairness and transparency into consistent practices.

“If we look at the industry today, most tech or non-tech organizations generate consumer benefits and business value by leveraging 70% to 80% AI-led operations and creating AI-infused products and applications,” says Joshi, adding that while AI can be a helpful tool to increase productivity and reduce the need for people to perform repetitive tasks, it can also give rise to a host of significant unintended (or maliciously intended) consequences for individuals, organizations, and society.

He believes, there are many cases where the algorithms cause problems by replicating the (often unconscious) biases of the developers/programmers who built them. So, it’s crucial to ensure that comprehensive datasets are used. Most organizations have bias bounties in place, and this trend will run rampant in the coming years.

“To ensure that no company is marred with data or AI ethics enrage that can impact its reputation and revenue, it’s imperative to build an ethical & responsible AI,” says Joshi.



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