"Innovative technology is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution," says Vinod Kumar – MD, Tata Communications
Digital transformation is no longer a choice for most companies, as the emergence of new technologies continues to disrupt established business processes. Vinod Kumar – MD, Tata Communications, shares insights on what this rapid digitization means for businesses worldwide.
By: HT Brand Studio
New digital technologies are fundamentally changing the ways in which companies approach and operate their businesses, with digitization bringing about opportunities as well as challenges for enterprises. As more and more businesses make their ways towards digital transformation, there's no doubt that such massive overhaul of processes and mindsets will need an equally robust network support and innovative communication solutions. HT Brand Studio spoke to Vinod Kumar – Managing Director and Tata Communications Limited Group CEO – to understand how Tata Communications is equipping itself to deliver a whole range of world-class solutions that ensure a super-fast, hybrid, and secure operating environment for all customers and partners.
What are some key trends and technologies driving the industry today?
The world as we know it is changing at a rapid pace. The implications and risks associated with the fourth industrial revolution and innovative technology are being recognised and dealt with in real time—be it working together to strengthen the global economic recovery or fostering bonds to mitigate security risks to the world economy.
While we are seeing the global economy bounce back, a lot still depends on policies that will reform market capitalism at the core. Enterprises across both developed economies and emerging markets are working to address the risks and opportunities presented by the accelerated pace of technology. Digitization seems to be all pervasive and digital transformation almost ubiquitous, which makes our operating environment extremely dynamic and also highly competitive.
Robotics, genetic engineering, automation, Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, sensors, machine learning are all converging into our daily lives at the speed of light. Policy-makers, regulatory bodies and enterprises all agree that the new socio-economic order needs new rules of engagement. Innovative technology is at the heart of the fourth industrial revolution and we are well poised to be able to work across organisations and enable them to surf this wave.
What is the future of IT, according to you, and what kind of skills would make the current and upcoming workforce stay relevant?
In a world that's constantly in flux, it is critical that we keep ourselves relevant and ready, by continuously acquiring new skills and capabilities, both through structured and unstructured learning. The way we do business and deliver services to clients is changing. In recent years, technological advancement has sparked disruption across multiple industries. Businesses must be quick to innovate if they want to keep up with the fast-paced new order, but no organisation can reach its full potential unless its leaders invest in a culture in which innovation can flourish.
The mainstream availability of artificial intelligence, cloud computing, internet of things and advanced robotics are turning the tables on every industry from banking to retail, and from manufacturing to logistics. But what matters more than the technology itself are the new business models and the revamped value creation formulae that the technology enables. These are more complicated, connecting dots across industries and platforms to reshape how the world makes money and shares ideas.
One big change we will all be facing soon is the ubiquity and pervasiveness of AI and machine learning. This will have an enormous, disruptive impact in nearly all aspects of work; indeed, many are experiencing this disruption already. While the prospect of change on this scale can be daunting, it can also be an opportunity to change oneself for the better. In your work, you could look to embrace automation, and in doing so expand the judgement based, human interaction-dependent and creative components of your job. Look at how these technologies can augment rather than replace your intelligence. It is estimated that 35-40% of work that is done in most industries can be automated. And if it can be automated, the Darwinian nature of business means it almost certainly will be automated, and sooner than we think. Change is unavoidable, so why not try and gain a head-start and develop the parts of your job that makes you – a human – indispensable?
What is the business strategy driving Tata Communications?
When it comes to business, culture is king; it's the driver of how we do business, how we recruit, the flexibility we offer, and the services we provide. We live in an age where customer needs are constantly evolving and increasingly demanding. Businesses with the right cultures in place will be the ones that rise up to meet them. They will bring together people who live and breathe what they do and create an environment where everyone can develop themselves and have the opportunity to innovate.
We operate the world's largest wholly owned, and one of the most advanced, subsea fibre cable networks. We provide differentiated network, collaboration and cloud infrastructure services to service providers and to large enterprise customers, in both established and emerging markets. Today, over 28% of the world's internet routes travel over our network, making us the fifth largest global Internet backbone service provider. Tata Communications' customers can access 99.7% of the world's GDP using our network and services. We connect 4 out of 5 global mobile subscribers. This global reach, combined with our strong pan-India presence allows us to be a market leader in many of the services we offer.
Our strategy is to build leading-edge solutions to enable borderless growth, help our customers manage business risk, enable an enhanced customer experience, and improve productivity and efficiency. Advancing the reach and scalability of our extensive infrastructure, deploying hybrid public-private solutions, leveraging partner infrastructure wherever possible, and supporting a mobile-first services model, all underpinned by an unparalleled customer and user experience, would be at the core of all our go-to-market strategies.
Looking ahead, what would be your focus areas for FY18?
The world around us is disrupting at an incredible pace, and technology is at the core of this disruption, both creating new opportunities and intensifying risks. Industry experts agree that genuine collaboration across various stakeholders of society – consumers, organisations, governments - is paramount for enabling an agile and cohesive response to this disruption.
This year, we are celebrating our 15th anniversary of being a successful public private partnership. Over time, we have transformed from being a public sector undertaking to a communications partner for carriers and enterprises globally. However, we understand that to maintain our leadership position we need to continuously evaluate our operating model and ensure that we have the right talent mix to maintain profitability through this changing socio-economic environment. The business mix is changing and we need to stay agile to respond to the dynamic needs of our customers and partners.
While we drive our traditional and growth services in the data portfolio, we have initiated work and investment on three key transformational programs around which we will galvanise the whole organisation. We continue to focus on building on our digital strengths with strategic investments in systems and processes. This would improve longer-term productivity, enrich the customer experience, and allow decision-making based on deep business and market insights. Additionally, we are invested in creating new services in the Internet of Things (IoT), security, and mobility space. Transformational projects such as these require re-skilling of our team, inducting new and next-generation skills, and investing in systems and tools, all of which are critical to secure and improve our prospects to ensure that we continue to be ahead of the curve irrespective of whether we are competing with established competition or challenger start-ups.
How is Tata Communications equipping its employees for the future?
The future of work is an oft-repeated and debated phrase these days across enterprises, especially as we hurtle into a new dimension that will have automation, machine learning, and artificial intelligence embedded into the coding. The logical conclusion to all the disruption we see today is that the world will need to find a new balance between skills, people, analytics, and automation for a better tomorrow.
Talent strategy will continue to be challenging as we see the impact of the fourth industrial revolution unfold. At Tata Communications, we initiated work on re-skilling our employees a couple of years ago and we continue to make progress through our Skills Transformation Initiative, which enables them to enhance or build the required future skills as the pace of technological changes continues to accelerate. We deploy innovative training and build profiles of future job requirements to help our employees pivot their skills from hardware to software, from legacy wireline to mobile and the digital economy, and from data recorders to data analysts and scientists.
We also have our flagship innovation programme called "Shape the Future" that encourages employees to bring forward innovative product / business ideas and if selected, the organisation supports them by providing the necessary wherewithal and training to bring it to fruition and even incubate it as a new business. We've already seen the incubator create some fantastic opportunities, including NetFoundry, a business that reinvents networking for the hyper connected era. It embodies the transformational change that we endeavour to deliver for our business, and for our clients' business.
A testament to our singular focus on employee growth is some of the recent industry recognitions and accolades we've received based on employee feedback. We have been chosen as one of the top 20 companies to work for in India by LinkedIn, and were recognised as Best Employer by Aon Hewitt in both India and Hong Kong.