Shahabuddin Sheikh,
Chief Technology Officer,

The year 2020 was no ordinary one for the enterprise segment. Covid-19 completely altered the way organisations conducted business operations. The pandemic led to a dramatic uptick in the use of digital technologies across enterprise segments and accelerated the shift towards automation. Going forward, technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT) and big data will see higher rates of adoption as enterprises adjust to the new normal.  Shahabuddin Sheikh, Chief Technology Officer, ALTBalaji, discuss the key technology trends and challenges in embracing digitalisation, and the way forward….

What were some of the key information and communications technology (ICT) trends that shaped the enterprise segment during 2020?

Being a subscription video-on-demand platform, for us, the year 2020 has undoubtedly accelerated the convergence of emerging technologies. As a streaming service, we are embracing different technologies to improve our operational efficiency. The major technological trends that we saw in 2020 as an over-the-top (OTT) platform were AI, multi-cloud, IoT, content localisation and communication platforms as-a-service (CPaaS). AI is the most significant technological shift that has shaken up the broadcasting, and media and entertainment industries. The OTT industry is witnessing a switch in terms of how users are consuming and interconnecting with content. Good content will always be one of the critical criteria for driving business. It will be necessary for service providers to gain complete cognisance of content and consumers, and generate the perfect viewer journey by offering personalised experience. At ALTBalaji, we thoughtfully installed data saver mode to help consumers save their internet data and enjoy their favourite content even in a low bandwidth. To provide an uninterrupted experience for content viewing, OTT providers need to adopt technology in all subscriber life cycle phases and it starts with content searching/discovery. The application of AI and ML helps personalise the search experience by recognising the customer psyche and offering the right content at the right time.

What has been the impact of Covid-19 on the digitalisation journey of enterprises? Which are the key technologies among cloud, AI, IoT and AR/VR that have seen higher adoption amidst the pandemic?

While there were only two OTT platforms in 2012, approximately 40 venues were there to cater to the Indian audience. About 49 per cent of the country’s adolescents spend two to three hours watching content online as per NASSCOM insights. First, with this consumption rate, it is evident that the content pipeline will perish in no time with an audience hungry for more content. To keep up with the growing demand for more content, OTT platforms would be looking at larger-scale investments to create content suited to the Indian context. At the same time, production houses with expertise in consumer preference are venturing from linear TV into OTT. We are already seeing changes in our mindsets and behaviour towards technology. We are witnessing a tremendous widening of the digital divide. In the current situation, firms/organisations that are a part of the digital world are in the most advantageous position as customers are willing to pay for internet services. And those organisations that do not transform digitally will be paralysed. ALTBalaji is working around a 2.0 version of home-grown solutions. We will have our optimised recommendation engine, based on which our platform will be trained on user data and behavioural patterns. This system will help upgrade and enhance consumer experience to the next level.

How did your organisation leverage new-age technologies to respond to challenges posed by the Covid-19 crisis?

This crisis has undoubtedly made us all ascend towards digital transformation and is continuously opening our eyes to possibilities that technological solutions can bring about, enabling us to enhance, support, sustain and grow our businesses. Digital content streaming and entertainment sectors are well positioned to unlock the opportunities offered by technology. The OTT industry’s most frequent challenge is buffering. ALTBalaji has solved this puzzle with the help of its dedicated internal team by providing a No-Buffering OTT app that provides an uninterrupted viewing experience for our subscribers. Speaking about new-age technology, 5G is sure to bring in mobile edge computing technology that empowers the delivery of enchanting live content experiences. ML and AI will increasingly penetrate the media industry, as the analytical sector develops innovative solutions to make data input actionable. To say the least, OTT platforms have helped keep sanity intact in these difficult times by being a vital source of entertainment.

What are some of the key risks and challenges in transitioning to new-age technologies?

Talking about challenges and risks, as an organisation functioning in the media and entertainment sector, we have seen that customer behaviour and interactions have changed significantly. They are continuously shifting, but the uptick in the use of digital services will stay. Data hindrance has been creating bottlenecks and bandwidth choke points have necessitated better solutions such as dynamic adaptive screening. Such a solution requires more fibre capacity, especially in media-dark areas, which further comes with the demand for more energy. Therefore, to continue delivering the best experience to the ever-increasing subscribers, OTT platforms need to address these challenges continually. Hence, we believe in the saying, “amid chaos lies an opportunity”.

Going forward, what will be some of the key digital trends that enterprises would embrace as the new normal unfolds?

Enterprises are becoming more tech-savvy than ever. Software vendors worldwide consider the Indian market as one of the most lucrative and highly potential markets. The most effective and essential technology for us (the median industry) will be AI and VR. The new normal has put new pressures on organisations as there is, and will be, an increasing need for networks that are capable of supporting hybrid architectures – be it cloud, on-premises, or edge computing. As a result, more organisations are seeking intelligent and intent-based networks that offer integrated security such as SD-WAN for the WAN with SASE and Zero Trust security or virtual networks for multi-cloud to deal with the increased cybersecurity threat of their new perimeter-less ecosystem. Apart from that, innovative pricing techniques are something that every platform needs to look into.