INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH MS. SHWETA SRIVASTAVA,
CTO – Paul Merchants
The term digital transformation has different connotations for different enterprises. What is your view of digital transformation? Do you believe that the term ‘digital’ itself has evolved in the past few years, and if so how?
Digital Transformation is clearly the adoption of technology which can directly or indirectly impact the top-line as well as bottom-line of the enterprise. Enterprises have started seeing the value of adopting technology & tools for managing their sales, marketing, operations, customer service etc. Technology supports organizations to ensure quality delivery in a timely fashion and enhanced customer experience. Internally as well, it helps in automating mundane tasks which in turn increases the accuracy, productivity and employee satisfaction. Digital has broken the shackles of geographical boundaries.
Yes, we have closely witnessed the evolution of the word “Digital”. Initially, it was simply conversion of physical data and records into the digital medium so as to store and process the data automatically. Digitalization was the initial focus when any organization used to plan for automation. As the times progressed and the world underwent the technological revolution, we experienced the ways in which technology was used to exploit the potential of digital platforms and data for influencing important business decisions. In current times, it is the digital medium which recommends the businesses on the most suited strategies and roadmaps. Use of AI/ML, Analytics, Cloud, Mobility, IoT, RPA, Robotics etc. have transformed the way businesses decisions were conventionally taken. Now systems predict and prescribe the business processes, policies and outcomes.
How have enterprises leveraged digital for business performance?
It is interesting to see how different industry verticals have aligned their businesses with ever-changing technologies. Healthcare sector is the biggest example of how technology has enabled the caregivers to deliver quality patient care. Manufacturing has demonstrated some of the most amazing use-cases which have clear statistics on how the production has increased multi-fold since the automation tools, IoT, Robotics have been deployed in production units. Not to forget, the financial sector. The pace at which technology has penetrated the BFSI segment is commendable. Banking has completely transformed from traditional models of time-bound physical touch points to anytime banking from your handheld devices. Digital Payments industry has seen a complete 180-degree change.
Coming from a financial background, every day I witness a new wave. Regulators have become aware of the technology trends and are now building the ecosystem exploiting the strength of technology. Open Banking, Aggregation Platform, OCEN, PCR are some of the latest breakthroughs in the industry.
Biggest example in the current times is the COVID situation where every big or small enterprise has explored and utilized digital technology in order to survive. Education sector has extensively utilized online collaboration platforms to impart education. Companies have ensured operations through digital mediums.
What are some good practices to build an agile and effective digital strategy?
Customers these days have become extremely demanding and have no loyalty. The requirements of customers change rapidly, and they are well aware of the latest trends. There is no way that you can afford not to keep up with the market trends. Hence it has become important to be agile and deliver faster. However equally important is to keep improvising at a constant pace. One must keep evolving and enhancing their deliverables which can only be possible these days by automating the production and delivery.
It is very important to have a cohesive digital strategy which can support your vision of reaching end customers across platforms in a more effective manner. To define an effective digital strategy, it is very important to know your brand and product. Identify the target population. Define clear cut goals with quantifiable KPIs and outcomes. Create a roadmap with milestones and realistic timelines. Content is the most crucial element of the digital strategy. A well designed and thought through content after detailed research can only help to achieve the targeted goals.
It is also important to keep reviewing the results and significant changes in the fly should be done in the entire strategy to keep aligning the plan with the identified KPIs.
There are several examples of lots of digital transformation initiatives failing. Is there any ‘rule book’ or equivalent that when followed increases the chances of success?
For any initiative to succeed, the most important step is planning, and the second-most important step is the review. A well-laid-out plan with clearly identified goals and measurable KPIs helps to keep you aligned with the project outcomes. It is extremely important to do research. Be it a new product launch or improvement in existing product or service, it is imperative for the businesses to spend a significant amount of time and effort to brainstorm and perform research to establish realistic expectations from the intended transformation. The decision of adopting a technology should never be driven by the fact that competitors are utilizing it. Decision should be driven by the cost benefit analysis.
Also, if the time and effort estimation is not done correctly, the whole purpose of the initiative may fail. Technology changes at such a fast pace that while you are working on one technology, if go-to-market timeline is not appropriately planned, the same may get obsolete. Hence the basic framework should always be powerful, robust and scalable.
One more important factor that ascertains the success of any digital initiative is the organization’s vision and management’s alignment. Unless the transformation is driven in a top-down approach, the objective can never be met.
Could you please detail a few key digital initiatives that you led at Paul Merchants and what kind of business impact these have delivered?
At Paul Merchants, we have always been very receptive to the changing technology trends and have always embraced new technologies. We migrated all out critical business applications on cloud in a secure environment with multi-factor authentication in place for ensuring impeccable Identity Access Management. As we are a regulated entity, we are always under the close supervision of regulators like RBI, SEBI etc. and have to comply to defined security standards. A special emphasis is always on Data privacy & protection and we understand our responsibility as a financial organization to secure PII of the customers. Appropriate measures are in place to safeguard the same.
We have adopted Mobility for nearly all our business verticals and have multiple mobile apps to reach out to our target customers for availing different services offered under Paul Merchants group company. Be it Forex, Travel, Loan, Insurance, Money transfer, VISA service etc., our customers can always connect with us through the Mobile Apps.
As a 20-year-old organization, we have a legacy of data which has built over a period of time. We are utilizing Analytics for churning that data and build multiple data models in order to pull out meaningful insights which can be further utilized for taking important business decisions.
We are also making good use of AI/ML based technology specially for Lending business. The system, based on AI/ML, processes the information shared by the customer and extract data points which can become the base of credit assessment. We are also going to implement AI based Chatbots which will act as an extension for our Sales, Marketing & Customer Service teams and would help in improvising the customer experience.
At the core of all the technology tools, lie the need for Security. Lately cyber threats & attacks have seen tremendous growth which makes it critical to deploy multiple layers of security. EDR, AV, DLP, Email Security, Firewall etc. are some of the tools which help to achieve it.
As the head of technology, my continuous effort is to identify avenues through which I can bring in automation in order to support the business teams in their customer service & delivery functions.