June 25--Adopting digital strategies for business gains is the next big challenge for Indian companies, said Paul Gosling , senior managing director (strategy) for Asia-Pacific, and Sanjay Dawar , managing director for India at Accenture Management Consulting in an interview. It's a huge opportunity and no company can afford to miss it, they said. Edited excerpts --
Are Indian companies seriously embracing digital strategies?
Dawar: There clearly is a focus on digital. The reasons in India are slightly different. If you look at demography, India has a very large young population. And you look at the way the young population has taken to mobility and this entire digital phenomenon. The consumer today is digitally enabled, so the companies will not have a choice but to interact with their young customers in a digital manner.
Gosling: The good news is, more and more companies are seeing the digital challenge and opportunity as a CEO (chief executive officer) item, rather than a CIO (chief information officer) or CTO (chief technology officer) item. I think that is an important shift, because it demonstrates that those companies get it that digital is not just about technology. And it will be the CEOs who are bold enough to see the transformative effect on their existing business and who see the opportunities beyond their existing businesses that will really reap the opportunities. I think India is one of the locations where the CEOs or the promoters are seen as the ones who are supposed to drive this.
Have public sector units (PSUs) been slow in embracing this?
Dawar: You can't just say that PSUs are going to be slower compared with private companies. One of the leading banks in India has engaged us to deliver a digital branch. When you digitalize your branch, you are making your branch interface consistent with the other device interfaces that you are providing. It could be a mobile phone, it could be a tablet, it could be over the Internet. The consumer doesn't necessarily need to go to the branch, the digital branch for that particular consumer could become sitting at home on a device. Generally, I would imagine that business-to-consumer (B2C) business would adopt digital faster than a business-to-business (B2B) model because the consumers will force it. But I don't think there will be a choice; even a B2B company ultimately serves the consumer.
Which are the industries that would be the early adaptors?
Gosling: All industries are going to be affected. As you move to other more traditional industries that are building power plants, transmission and distribution networks, those businesses and assets have completely changed with smart meters and smart grids on the transmission and distribution side. You can optimize and manage power plants with digital technology. And you can manage consumption patterns too. So, when you see that there are more mobile phones than bank accounts, you start to see the opportunity for what really is the way to get the accounts up is not going out and setting up another bricks-and-mortar branch.
Dawar: Look at other B2B companies like GE, which is doing a lot of remote diagnostics today. Things like turbine engines and healthcare. Putting sensors on a turbine engine and providing inputs to your customers about potential failures much before it even becomes a reality. It's an example of Big Data analytics. So, B2B is also adopting digital in a big way and we shouldn't assume that it is only going to be B2C companies.
What are the hurdles in going digital?
Dawar: The first thing is education. We need to have a common definition of what is digital. Often, what happens is that it is confused with technology -- its social, mobility, analytics, cloud -- but digital is more than the technology itself. Technology only enables it. It's the business model that makes it possible.
The second thing is that it needs to start at the top. Gone are the days where you had business strategy influencing what your IT requirement was and then leveraging IT to enable the business. Today, digital has an influence on