Rajesh Kumar R., VP, Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), Mindtree

The information technology-enabled services (ITeS) and business process management (BPM) in organisations have got significantly digitalised over the past few years. There has been an increased uptake of technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), blockchain, machine learning (ML) and cloud, which are rapidly transforming business operations. While Covid-19 has disrupted business models in the industry, the adoption of new generation solutions is helping drive operational efficiency and customer service even in times of a nationwide lockdown. Rajesh Kumar R., VP, Automation and Head of Global Delivery (Retail, CPG and Manufacturing), Mindtree, shares his views on the information and communications technology (ICT) adoption and the way forward… 

How has the technology landscape within the IT/ITeS and BPO/BPM segments evolved over time?

Effective operations are a core component of the ITeS industry. IT is also becoming imperative for the industry to continuously innovate and provide value addition to customers over and above the core commitments in their services. Collaboration is the key to accomplishing the core business objectives in operations and innovation, especially when teams are spread across the globe. At Mindtree, we have always been focused on improving the team collaboration. The drive now is to bring them together on a common platform and provide them with an environment that is richer and easier to use. For example, we have always used phone bridges, screen sharing software, videoconferencing and file sharing solutions in a disjointed manner. Now at an organisational level we have rolled out “Microsoft Teams”, which brings all these components together on a single platform along with new-age methods of communications such as chats, instant messages and video calls. The older methods of communication such as phone bridges are becoming redundant, with all these available on mobile devices. The powerful combination of IoT, ML and cloud has played a larger role in creating transformative technology solutions and bringing disruptive advancements across industries.

What are some of the ICT solutions deployed by your organisation?

Mindtree was born digital. Since its inception, we have focused on digitalising enterprises starting from the era of enabling e-commerce in the early 2000s to the present when we bring smart solutions powered by AI and available over cloud. We have a business unit that focuses on enterprise reimagination to bring in digital transformation for enterprises.

While our focus is to help enterprises to digitise we are equally focused on digitising our own organisation and its operations – we call it “Digital Inside”. There are numerous areas which we focus on, such as driving our core finance and people-related operations with RPA, enabling self-served digital visitor management powered by computer vision, chatbots powering employee queries, monitoring our generators with IoT technologies, and so on. Automation being a core focus area for our company, we publish the bot count in our organisation along with Mindtree Minds (our employees) in our quarterly reports.

How are you coping with the ongoing Covid-19 crisis? What kind of ICT solutions are you using to ensure business continuity?

We are taking several measures by actively engaging with our employees and sharing health advisories from time to time. The situation is being closely monitored and health facilities for Mindtree Minds and their families have been set up. An enterprise risk management team has been assembled to manage our response and implement any changes required to our workforce structure on a real-time basis. Similarly, we have stopped international travel/transit from all geographies and enabled a 24×7 medical helpline for Mindtree Minds and their families, much ahead of the countrywide lockdown, which is currently in effect.

We have been very proactive in providing Mindtree Minds with the flexibility of working from different/remote locations. This has been our strategy for a long time and not something that has been newly introduced. In order to ensure that time is optimally utilised and productivity is maintained, we are also encouraging Mindtree Minds to use the time available to enhance their skills through our digital platform, Yorbit.

Some of the steps that we have taken to ensure that the quality of our services to customers is not affected are the creation of a remote delivery structure wherein we have adjusted our delivery model to ensure Mindtree Minds continue to be productive even while working virtually. While a few companies face challenges with employees working from home because of inadequate infrastructure, Mindtree successfully managed to achieve a seamless and collaborative work environment as most of the employees are given laptops instead of desktops. Collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams are also being used extensively by Mindtree Minds across the world to collaborate for different aspects like IP creations or even customer engagement. We have “daily stand up” meetings happening over videoconference, using the Microsoft Teams platform at all levels in the organisation during the lockdown.

How are the new-age technologies such as AI, IoT and cloud transforming the sector? What is your company’s roadmap regarding their deployment?

While we have always been more focused on “digitisation”, there are multiple areas in which we leverage AI technologies to power our chatbots – called MACI – Mindtree’s Advanced Conversational Intelligence, which is trained continuously to answer queries of our employees and carry out frequently used tasks such as applying for leaves, approving travel and other expenses, and so on. We are even considering moving to a chat-based interface altogether for our tech support due to our confidence in the expertise that we have in AI technologies. IoT is used to keep a watch on critical parameters of the equipment such as generators. The training facility named “Kalinga” that we have at Bhubaneswar is completely IoT enabled and all the technologies are developed in-house with our centre of excellence teams.

We are very strong in computer vision technologies, with numerous solutions around people detection and object detection and we use these technologies for automated visitor management. Blockchain is another domain in which we have put in a focused effort to develop expertise and capability. We are providing this technology to some of our customers, for example, for supply chain management solutions. This is an area that will evolve in the coming years, where we will see public ledger-based blockchain solution will be applicable.

What are some of the key challenges that are faced by your organisation and the sector at large while deploying ICT solutions? How can these be addressed?

As we digitise our world more, it brings with it the threat of being “hacked” as cyber risk is a side effect of the digitisation drive. Hence, there is a huge focus on cybersecurity, and technologies for the same are also rapidly evolving. For every digitisation drive that is happening, security assessment becomes an integral part of the drive. We have separate units in our organisation, primarily focused on cybersecurity, to mitigate any kind of risks. We are also focused on the future where the current security solutions will be superseded by something such as quantum cryptography, which is far more complex to break into. Of course, these technologies are just beginning to emerge but they are evolving rapidly, while we are always invested in preparing for the future and will continue to do so.