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AWS Cloud is a Key Partner in Digitally Enabling Ashirvad Pipes to Simplify Water Management for Customers: Sankar K, CIO, Ashirvad Pipes

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Ashirvad Pipes is now embarking on adopting big data analytics on the AWS cloud, as a key enabler that is expected to be a significant competitive advantage for the commercial organization, says Sankar K, CIO, Ashirvad Pipes in an interview.

The pandemic compressed the digital transformation journeys of many enterprises. What were the key strategic pillars on which you built your digital strategy over the last two years?

In the last two years, the focus at Ashirvad has been to digitally enable all areas of business, both internally on the operations side, and externally in our customer and partner ecosystem. We have four pillars around which our efforts are centered – digital for customers and partners, supporting internal efficiency, supporting new business development, and big data.

Our business model involves working with a wide network of distributors, dealers, and also on-field skilled plumbers. One of the digital initiatives we rolled out was Sparsh 2.0 for our distributors and channel partners. Sparsh 2.0 is a distribution management system that serves as a common platform for primary order management, secondary billing, schemes, returns, credit management, inventory management, and more. It offers transparency and ease of working with Ashirvad, making ordering, claims, and inventory management smoother and simpler.

Ashirvad Experts Club is another; it is an influencer engagement program run primarily through a mobile app, for plumbers that was piloted in January 2021 and scaled up in August 2021. It has been rolled out in 39 cities across 9 states in its first phase. In November 2021, it reached a milestone of 2000+ influencers, who enrolled through the Ashirvad Experts Club mobile application. As on date, more than 45,500 plumbers have been enrolled on this mobile platform.

Perhaps our greatest success has been the sustained adoption of digital ways of working. We have deployed digital processes across HR, communications, finance, supply chain, production, and sales.

Our Employee Digital Engagement platform,an AI Chatbot DilSe was invaluable in helping us remain connected with and provide the necessary support to employees through the Covid months. The Dil Se platform is also extended to report, record, and resolve near-miss incidents under the Health and Safety initiative at Ashirvad. Users can use Dil Se to report any near-miss incidents with pictorial evidence in the form of photographs through a mobile interface, WhatsApp, etc.

An important digital project we undertook was tail spend outsourcing to the enable team to focus on high-value purchases. Tail spend was a 5% spend that accounted for 82% of the transactions. With this project, Ashirvad SCM has reduced the number of vendors, POs, saved time and resources on non-value-added services, and enabled real-time tracking of orders.

What are the big disruptions that we can expect in the Indian water management industry over the next decade? What will this landscape look like?

As a precious and life-sustaining earth resource, water is a primary concern for every industry, city, and community. A NITI Aayog report shows that while India had enough drinking water for everyone in 1947, we have seen a 75% decline since then. Overdrawing of groundwater with inadequate rainwater harvesting, and insufficient wastewater treatment are leading to water shortage and contamination of water sources.

There is a growing awareness of the need to act responsibly toward making our water systems sustainable. There are schemes from the Centre such as Amrit Sarovar, which envisage creating water bodies in each district. However, water is a State subject, so it is important for industry and State governments to work together to address this issue.

The focus rightly is on preserving water through rainwater harvesting and water catchments. There will also be the need to measure and monitor water consumption, which many industries and building complexes are already doing. The most important is the need to protect and provide clean drinking water to citizens across the country. We already see various projects from government and industry on all these fronts. We see the application of new technologies playing a role in this conservation effort – underground smart storage tanks, water quality management, water metering, blockchain for water, and smart and portable sewage treatment plants. We will also see developments on the product side, towards products that are sustainable and better for health such as lead-free, phthalate free, etc. There will also be the usage of more recyclates, products benefiting the health of the user.

Water is the next oil. India needs innovative solutions pertaining to source water purification, smart distribution, and storage provisions. Tell us more about how you are supporting the government’s Jal Jeevan Mission?

Clean drinking water challenges are universal in nature and the best ideas can come from anywhere and this needs to be encouraged so that no idea is left unexplored. In line with the Jal Jeevan Misson, Ashirvad is working in partnership with the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, and The Nudge Institute to accelerate progress towards achieving ‘Clean Drinking Water for All’.

‘The/Nudge Prize – Ashirvad Water Challenge’ is a call to startups, social entrepreneurs, and innovators working on developing a solution with the potential to make clean drinking accessible to every Indian household. The prize will provide funds and expertise to develop disruptive solutions in water management including clean water access, storage etc. This initiative involves the entire ecosystem of academia and researchers, institutes, investors and incubators on the topic of water sustainability.

Ashirvad has funded this 27-month initiative to support enterprising startups working on solutions that address population-scale challenges in water. Ashirvad will also provide advisory support, granting access to subject matter experts, and help innovators to bring their solutions to market. Among the judges for this are Yugal Kishore Joshi, Director, Jal Jeevan Mission, Vedika Bhandarkar, COO, Water.org, VK Madhavan CEO, WaterAid India, and Prof Asit K. Biswas, Renowned Water Expert. We are expecting interesting and impactful solutions to emerge from The/ Nudge Prize – Ashirvad Water Challenge program.

On the product side, Ashirvad has a long history of innovation, focusing on the unique applications of water management products and the specific environments they function in. For example, agricultural pipes need to be resilient in a variety of tough terrains, water management in industrial systems may require resistance to heat, etc. Our Research & Development Centre in Bangalore focuses on new technologies that are geared towards environmental sustainability and water conservation, based on consumer insights and market requirements. We have experts who are looking into areas like design engineering, material engineering, process engineering, computational analysis, predictive engineering, testing and validation, digital technology, and artificial intelligence.

Our range of products includes water management infrastructure for fresh water and wastewater solutions right from the source to usage and to disposal. Freshwater supplies include OPVC and HDPE with jointing technologies such as electrofusion and for last-mile MDPE and CPVC along with compression fittings. For storage, we provide modular tanks and for sewage, we offer DWC pipes, sewage treatment plants, portable STPs/ Hollowcore, solid core pipes, and others. We recently launched a range of bathroom and kitchen fittings for households, so now we have complete tank-to-tap solutions which are sustainable.

What did cloud technology enable you to do that you couldn’t do before?

Ashirvad is one of the early adopters of the cloud. Our ERP and several other business-critical applications are hosted on the cloud. AWS has been a preferred cloud hosting service for our SAP. In addition to this, AWS forms a key component of hosting when it comes to Sparsh 2.0 and other critical solutions used by Ashirvad.  With the focus on digital enablement, we have recently initiated a move to adopt a Big Data Lake solution. With this approach, we have been able to focus on our core and use cloud and cloud services through partners to achieve the desired results.

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