AI Deployment 2019: Preparation and Precautions

We live in very exciting times. The AI debate is intensifying. There is a constant commentary on it from some of the finest brains of our times. Some are for it with gusto and some asking for caution. One thing is certain that advances in AI have accelerated in recent times like no other technology has done in the past few decades. Artificial Intelligence is pushing the envelope on what machines are capable of doing in all facets of life. It is very clear that AI will become much more pervasive and intertwined in our day to day life. It will change the way we live in fundamental ways.

AI is the ultimate frontier in technology. Organizations are investing significantly in AI and it will continue to happen with AI becoming more of an edge than an enabler for businesses. However, we often see organizations struggle to effectively leverage and implement AI capabilities to drive customer experience, efficiency and productivity improvements. It is about finding the right business case, algorithms and reimagining operations with AI.

AI-driven algorithms are evolving towards a state where AI powered services offer a personalized experience when communicating with humans. These AI-driven algorithms have the potential to constantly learn from a customer’s interactions and build on their ever-growing knowledge base. For instance, today in the customer support industry, AI powered chatbots understand the customer’s intent and respond to their queries in real time. Incredibly, they remember facts, learn from previous conversations, and can access online information by integrating with enterprise systems. Their ability to troubleshoot, answer complex questions, and engage in interactive dialogue makes them a third-generation customer engagement solution.

There are various AI powered solutions in the market today to manage the customer support ecosystem. However, it would be premature to state that all these solutions are effectively solving customer problems. Different solutions are in different stages of evolution and maturity. So, it is extremely important to adopt a pragmatic and portfolio-based approach towards adoption and execution.


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CSS Corp launches third delivery center in BGC

Information technology services and tech support solutions firm CSS Corp. launched its third delivery center in Bonifacio Global City (BGC), which is expected to increase its annual revenue by $10 million. In a statement on Tuesday, CSS Corp. said the new office in Asia Century Center (ACC) will employ 500 new talents that will further drive the company’s workforce growth. “The recent growth that the company has experienced is only a testament that there are more opportunities for us in the region and it strengthened our plans to expand in the country in the coming years,” said Arvind Appavu, country head of CSS Corp. Philippines. The new office will provide services to various industries such as high-tech verticals, internet service providers, original equipment manufacturers, and telecommunications companies based in America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Australia. The company also provided the new office space a 50-seater training facility, an outdoor area for relaxation, an arcade game room, and a meditation room. “The amenities we have included in our state-of-the-art office facility will not only ensure the productivity of our employees but will also provide them an environment where they can constantly hone their skills, boost their careers and maintain their mental, physical and emotional well-being,” Appavu said.

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De-jargonising the CFO lingo in 2021

We spoke with several CFOs and found out the following jargons to be commonly used by many of them…We all know what EBITDA stands for, but do we know what EBITDAC means? Let’s find out.

We have brought the top three words and meanings that CFOs taught us in 2020:

1: EBITDAC: Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization, Covid
(Sundar Sampath, Executive Vice President & Global CFO, CSS Corp)

2: Circle of influence and concern: Helps us focus on what one can do instead of what one can’t do

(Sandeep Bhatia, Group CFO, Lendingkart Technologies)

3: VAS – Value Accretion for Stakeholders

(Gopal Balachandran, CFO & Chief Risk Officer, ICCI Lombard)

4: Insight – Smart data provides intelligent insights. For data to be smart, it must evolve through its various stages; Descriptive stage, Diagnostic stage, Predictive stage and Prescriptive stage.

(Sameer Kamath, ED & Group CFO, Avendus Capital)

5: Time value of money (in financial services business): One rupee in hand today may be better than 10 in an unknown future period

(Sandeep Bhatia, Group CFO, Lendingkart Technologies)

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HR voices: Analytics, AI and social will transform employee experience in 2019

The relationship between human resources (HR) and IT should focus on creating efficient processes for employees, say HR heads in India. 

While there have been fears of automation impacting traditional jobs, emerging technologies are also paving way for new job roles. In the fast-changing world of technology, it is not just the employees who need to be prepared.

The companies also need to learn and adapt to innovation so they can find and hire the most deserving candidates for any given job. To achieve this, the human resources department will need to work along with the IT team to develop strategies that leverage newer technologies.

Innovation to optimize HR processes

HR heads say the relationship between HR and IT should focus on creating efficient processes for employees. While HR processes may struggle to stay on top of technology, with collaboration and support from IT, HR can overcome those challenges. The collaboration will help develop best practices around technology for the entire organization.

“The HR function of businesses should leverage technological, analytical and intuitive tools to become more efficient in spotting and hiring the right resources. Innovative tools will continue to help employees in their up-skilling or reskilling initiatives in 2019,” mentions Visweswara Rao, senior vice president and chief HR officer, CSS Corp.

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Conversational AI: The digital retail wonder to transform customer experiences and ensure sales spikes

Retail organizations should consider Conversational AI solutions to listen to their customers and ingest voice data to distill it into actionable insights. 

AI is being looked at as a game changer which can beget better customer interactions across various channels, devices, and touch points. To humanize these interactions, brands are making contextual investments to drive human-like conversations, also known as Conversational AI. This juxtaposition of AI & human consciousness is leading to conversational interfaces similar to the ones used in Alexa, Google Home, and Siri. These AI powered devices are disrupting several industries, especially the retail space and are being increasingly used by consumers to research product information, deals, and compare competitor products. The technology helps customers interact with shopping websites and apps while providing a new capability for retailers to drive brand awareness. These step changes indicate that Conversational AI is soon becoming the new normal in retail and will play a critical role in influencing the customer along the purchasing journey.

Transforming shopping experiences through AI
Retail organizations should consider Conversational AI solutions to listen to their customers and ingest voice data to distill it into actionable insights. Retailers can induce artificially intelligent conversations and allow leads to interact with brands through apps and receive instant responses without any agent interactions. This capability can deliver not just template responses, it can now offer contextual human-like responses, and can learn over time. This has huge business consequences since it can impact the customer acquisition processes.

Here is how conversational AI is impacting every stage of customer buying cycle and changing customer experience expectations-

Awareness: Showcase products based on customer voice queries; optimize customer product search efforts by displaying products which match their unique interests and needs, analyze voice search trends and tendencies to know customer preferences and display products they want.

Consideration: AI-powered apps can provide recommendations more accurately and in real-time, it can take them to an FAQ page with customized information. Chatbots can handle more than a million conversations with the customer in a day and can suggest various products based on their past purchase history, likes, and needs.

Conversion: Bots can also boost conversions by automating up-selling and cross-selling processes. They can start a conversation with the user based on their profile and interactions, while offering value-added products and services which might interest them. Amazon generates 35% of its revenue from its AI enabled recommendation engine.

Customer care: The predictive analytics feature in conversational AI helps in forecasting product demands; this is used in customer care where user behaviors can be predicted to deliver proactive customer support through quick and relevant interactions.

Brand Advocacy: Conversational AI can strengthen brand connections with customers by giving redeemable offers which are personalized and by integrating allied services enabling varied opportunities to interact with the customer. These services can be movie booking or food delivery feature in messenger or gaming apps, the idea is to enhance the overall customer experience by blending utilities for effective brand recall. The overall experience through conversational AI plays a larger role in influencing a customer’s buying process and it has the potential to transform customers to evangelists leading to increased brand resonance.

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CSS Corp wins gold at the 10th Annual Best in Biz Awards

CSS Corp, a new-age IT services and technology support company today announced that it has been named as a gold winner in the ‘Most Resilient Company of the Year 2020′ category in the 10th Annual Best in Biz Awards.

Right at the onset of the pandemic, CSS Corp’s proprietary and award-winning resilience framework enabled the seamless roll-out of a 100 per cent productive Work-From-Home (WFH) model across its 18 global delivery locations. Being among the early movers in the industry to follow a WFH model from March, the company embraced the new normal with resilience, agility, and determination, thus rendering utmost support and efficient service with zero-disruption to its clients.

The three-phased resilience framework of prepare, stabilize, and thrive created a cohesive and structured blueprint for the organization which enforced guidelines, ensured employees with adequate support and resources, as well as assured clients with timely support, communication, and engagement. CSS Corp was among the few companies in the industry to roll out annual compensation hikes, as scheduled in April 2020.

The company also implemented their five-pronged strategy called the CHEER framework, which stands for- Communication with Employees, Highlighting Accomplishments, Energizing teams, Engagement with Employees, Recognition of achievements for employee well-being. It spreads positivity and recognizes employees for their consistent efforts during these unprecedented times.

“When the world was facing an unforeseen pandemic, we made sure to create a consistent and vibrant culture across the organization that encourages and comforts our employees and provides seamless and constant communication. We are proud to be recipients of this award as it reflects how CSS Corp ensured zero impact to its clients and employees through tremendous resilience. A lot of credit is due to our 8,000 plus employees across the globe who showed immense passion and unstinting commitment during this phase to keep our flag flying high,” said Manish Tandon, Chief Executive Officer, CSS Corp, commenting on the recognition.

“Corporate resiliency has never been more important than in 2020 and the winning entries in the 10th annual Best in Biz Awards have impressive accomplishments in this area,” said Mark Huffman, Consumer Affairs, having judged six of the last 10 Best in Biz Awards competitions.

2020 marked the 10th annual Best in Biz Awards and – with a continuing global pandemic – was also a year like no other in the program’s 10-year history. Despite the global challenges, the 10th annual program saw a particularly strong field of entries from public and private companies of all sizes and spanning all geographic regions and the judges were impressed with the year’s winners’ agility and adaptability that allowed their businesses to thrive, their willingness to always go the extra mile to help their customers in these unusual times.

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Outlook 2020: Quantum computing and AI to be among top tech trends this year

The last decade saw an unprecedented adoption of digital transformation initiatives. Technologies such as cloud, mobility, analytics, automation, AI (artificial intelligence) and the likes enabled enterprises to reimagine everything from customer experience to business growth. These technologies came, they reigned and they transformed. Every facet of enterprise strategy bears the sweeping impact of these technologies and their transformative touch. Digital innovation is reaching new heights and ushering in digital maturity and adoption at scale.

Technology is taking huge strides in the areas of hardware, software/services and human experiences. These developments are inter-related and their intersection compounds their impact on transformation. Here are the top trends set to make a mark in 2020:

Quantum computing, 5G and autonomous things top the list of advancements in hardware

  • Quantum computing: With the competition for quantum supremacy becoming intense, 2020 should see advances in quantum computing where it begins contributing to the real life by powering complex AI  applications.

AI and quantum computing will emerge as two sides of the same coin. For instance, a quantum computer could help enterprises that process voluminous transactions at super speed to develop virtual assistants that have high contextual awareness and almost human-like sensitivity towards customers.

  • 5G: Although 5G has gained significant momentum, and some operators have begun offering high-speed services in dense urban locations in some countries, challenges persist. When it comes to the scale of deployment, operators can deploy 5G at a larger scale, but with low band. A combination of 5G+4G (non-standalone deployment) facilitates optimal coverage without compromising on the data demands of customers. Moreover, most devices in the market are ill-prepared to support 5G yet. In 2020 and the years ahead, manufacturing companies will catch up to build devices that support 5G.
  • Autonomous things: AI, ML (machine learning) and deep learning are equipping robots, drones and autonomous vehicles to act and control their environment. Gartner stated that the leaders of enterprise architecture and technology innovation are gearing up to take advantage of the opportunities presented by autonomous things. Amazon’s package delivery through drones and automated warehouses are prime examples. The year 2020 will see the introduction of many more autonomous devices to empower humans.

In the software/services area, expect hyper-automation, digital workforce and AI-based security to mature

  • Hyper-automation: Hyper-automation goes beyond desktop automation to integrate systems and automate core business processes to amplify the organisation as a whole. It involves everyone in the organisation to be part of the transformation journey. With RPA (robotic process automation) at the core, hyper-automation will leverage people, processes and tools such as AI, analytics and deep-process mining to scale up automation capabilities and unlock unforeseen efficiencies.
  • Digital workforce: With the power of RPA, AI and ML, digital workers have incredible potential to augment the human workforce.

Digital workers can analyse like humans, and execute with the speed and accuracy of robots. A digital worker can automate the entire process without any supervision. As digital workers become mainstream in 2020, it will usher in a new future of work.

  • AI-based cybersecurity: With the growing number of interconnected systems, the threat of cybersecurity looms large. AI-based attacks have increased significantly and enterprises are turning towards highly-sophisticated AI cybersecurity (offensive AI) to counter the advanced attacks in the modern threat environment.

A focus on amplifying experiences for both customers and employees will drive conversational commerce, ambient experience and citizen access

  • Conversational commerce: This offers a convenient and smart way for customers and businesses to interact. Conversational commerce is possible through AI-powered chatbots coupled with cognitive intelligence to deliver an augmented and personalised customer experience. Enterprises can shorten the time it takes to satisfy customer needs, right from the first greeting to the final payment, and redefine customer experiences through conversational commerce.
  • Ambient experience: Enterprises are swiftly moving towards offering ambient experiences across omnichannel. The rise of AR (augmented reality), VR (virtual reality) and MR (mixed reality), along with a cohesive integration of knowledgebase and CRMs have made ambient experiences a high possibility — especially in environments with high customer interactions. AR, VR and MR have emerged as compelling options to provide premium customer experience by harnessing the power of AI to merge the virtual and real-world seamlessly in real time.
  • Citizen access: Building reusable applications through low-code or no-code platforms, or drag-and-drop interfaces is the new norm.  The industry will witness rapid democratisation of technology, which will allow people to access technical expertise easily and create technical solutions without any extensive training on the necessary skills, eg: citizen data scientists and citizen programmers. Organisations would rely on AI-driven development and automated testing so that all employees can contribute to it.

Technological advancements across hardware, software/services and experiences, and their controlled collision are pushing the envelope of innovation with every passing year. These technologies are high in value, maturity, or both, and together they are redefining the way organisations operate and create value in the ecosystem.

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Budget 2021: IT experts seek clarity on SEZ tax benefits, call for increased digital momentum, & more

Unquestionably 2020 has been an unprecedented year and industry leaders hope that the upcoming budget will address the challenges faced by businesses and propel the economy towards faster recovery and growth.

IT experts opine digital technology and connectivity continue to be the cornerstone of India’s growth and leadership. Since the pandemic accelerated the shift to digital, they say there is a need to maintain this growth momentum, as it will have a cascading effect on creating efficient businesses, new jobs and all-round development.

Lower interest rate regime

According to CP Gurnani, MD & CEO, Tech Mahindra, R&D spending must be increased to accelerate digital transformation and jumpstart education with a focus on next-gen technologies, skilling, reskilling and upskilling programmes to nurture young talent pool, subsequently accelerating a journey towards an ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (Self-reliant India).

“We also hope to see focused initiatives to boost consumer sentiment, accelerate infrastructure development, move towards a lower interest rate regime and increase investments in key areas including healthcare and education,” he said.

ALSO READ | What IT industry expects from Budget 2021: Higher Innovation Quotient, push for infra building, and more

From an IT perspective, Gurnani expects the government to create a fund for product companies along with extended SEZ (Special Economic Zone) benefits in the new normal of remote working, besides nurturing an ecosystem for deep tech startups in areas including blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality.

“India is on the path of a higher growth trajectory and the vision of a $5 trillion economy can be achieved with a focus on economic growth and development,” added Gurnani.

Sundararajan Sampath, EVP & Chief Financial Officer at CSS Corp, suggests that the upcoming tax regime must ensure that there should be 100 per cent clarity on the continued availability of SEZ tax benefits to all existing and new SEZ units even if they continue to operate on a WFH basis.

Furthermore, he said, “We hope all expenses to ensure WFH would be allowed as business expenditure. There should be no ambiguity on the allowability of such expenses.”

He further said, “With the recent Karnataka High Court verdict in M/S Biocon Ltd Vs Commissioner of IT, we hope the Employee Stock Option cost (Fair Market Value less strike price amortized over the vesting period of stock options) will be allowed as business expenditure.”

“We also urge the centre to bring back the 80G deduction for CSR expenditure for companies opting for the new tax regime,” added Sampath.

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