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AI is the biggest proponent of cloud and impacts the way solutions can be adopted and scaled: Nikunj Jain, CIO & Digital Leader, P&G India

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Express Computer had the privilege of interviewing Nikunj Jain, CIO & Digital Leader, P&G India, to delve into the company’s recent digital and technological initiatives and their significant impacts. P&G, known for its relentless pursuit of innovation, has infused the spirit of a startup into its global operations, redefining traditional paradigms across various facets of its business. With a strong conviction that technology is a pivotal enabler in serving consumers, customers, employees, and society better, P&G has embarked on a transformative journey harnessing the power of emerging technologies. From leveraging AI and ML to personalise consumer experiences and optimise operations to rolling out in-house Generative AI models like ‘chatPG’ to enhance employee productivity and collaboration, P&G stands at the forefront of digital innovation in the consumer goods sector. In this exclusive interview, Nikunj Jain provides insights into P&G’s strategic utilisation of emerging technologies, its commitment to data security and privacy, encountered technological challenges, and the ongoing pursuit of continuous improvement in its digital transformation journey.

Can you share, as per the trends,  some of the recent important digital or technology initiatives that your company has undertaken and their impact? Also, how is P&G strategically utilising emerging technologies to innovate within the consumer goods sector?

At P&G, if there is one thing we know, it’s that there’s always a smarter, more efficient, simply better way of doing things. What happens when you infuse a global corporation with the spirit of a startup? It unlocks a world of new ways to reinvent every aspect of the business. We have always seen technology as a key enabler in serving consumers, customers, employees, and society better, with our superior portfolio of everyday products.

Almost 100 percent of our brands are impacted by technology in some way or the other. Over five billion of our consumers worldwide feel the effects of our innovative tech-enabled solutions. Be it mining for consumer insights and customising our media outreach to reach the consumers where they are, enhancing our GoToMarket operations to create value for our partners, driving digital transformation within the organisation for better productivity, and expanding availability and service at stores using the power of AI and ML, technology is truly powering our engines.

We are determined to serve consumers and Customers with the right portfolio. For that we developed an in-house data science engine powered with artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced machine learning (ML) models, which enables our salesforce on the ground with a customised set of P&G product offerings, based on the demonstrated preferences and needs of the consumers in the vicinity of these stores. This helps consumers get access to their preferred products at a store near them, while helping the stores optimise inventory.

We recently rolled out an in-house generative AI model called ‘chatPG’, to benefit its workforce globally through over 35 use cases. This strategic deployment marks a milestone in P&G’s journey, enhancing how employees collaborate, innovate, and drive value across diverse business functions.

The tool was launched post a successful beta version, with well-defined use cases where the generative AI model is complemented with internal data, which in turn empowers employees to enhance overall efficiency and productivity by leveraging chatPG’s capabilities. This includes access to diverse information and knowledge, training and onboarding, problem solving and troubleshooting, task automation, collaboration and communication, and continuous learning. chatPG helps employees save valuable time and effort, thereby enabling them to focus on strategic initiatives and high-value tasks. The company conducts a mandatory training session on the subject to all employees prior to providing them with access to the tool.

The tool aims to empower our employees by providing quick access to information, streamlining processes, and fostering collaboration. The workforce is already reaping the early benefits the tool has to offer, and more new employees are being on boarded onto the tool every day. We believe that when the chemistry between human skills and machine capabilities is facilitated, AI becomes a game-changer, paving way for a more efficient and connected workforce. chatPG is one example of our commitment to harnessing technology for the benefit of our workforce, through our comprehensive digital transformation strategy, fuelling constructive disruption and generating value for all stakeholders.

At P&G, we are committed to create a culture of constant learning with reverse mentoring. We believe that learning is a continuous process, be it for our technicians at our manufacturing sites or senior leaders of the organisation. To continuously upskill our organisation, one of the practices we have incorporated is reverse mentoring.

We have been leveraging reverse mentoring to enable experienced leaders to broaden their understanding of newer skills, or get a more practical experience, learning from the younger leaders at the company. At P&G India, we have embraced this new way of learning on-the-go, with an objective of fuelling constructive disruptions and innovations across the organisation. We identify the latest technological trends or those that our leaders seek to learn that could enable them to better understand our consumers, like Generative AI, Internet of Things, cybersecurity, voice search, etc. We then identify young leaders who have the passion and experience in such domains and assign them as mentors who interact with the leaders in a series of one-on-one sessions.  Along with explaining how a particular technology works, they also encourage leaders in practising through examples and demos.

This is proving to be a win-win model. The leaders acquire deeper understanding and a foresight into the future of technological trends and its relativity with growing business. They are proactively seeking reverse mentorship opportunities. The younger employees take away valuable ideas for potential applications, and an increased sense of confidence in their abilities and skills.

How do you plan to integrate AI, particularly Generative AI, strategically into the organisation’s IT roadmap, and what challenges do you foresee in this implementation? 

P&G has a rich history related to AI. This reflects in the launch of chatPG as well, where we are leveraging the advanced technology to empower employees to enhance overall efficiency and productivity. chatPG is equipped with strong intellectual property safeguards, to ensure information from prompts remains secured. This is in line with the company’s endeavour to equip its workforce with advanced tools that help them simplify complex tasks, enhance communication, and drive data-driven decision-making. Today, employees are leveraging this new introduction in many ways, including data driven insights and business intelligence, marketing, innovation and strategic planning, and simplification and communication among others.

Similarly, the company is also leveraging advanced analytics and AI/ML based algorithms across its operations to elevate and enhance overall efficiency.

For example, the company’s baby care brand – Pampers is leveraging technology to produce smarter, faster and with more precision than ever before. We are leveraging the power of AI and ML to predict any potential downtime in operations with high-fidelity simulation data. This is enabling us in reducing manufacturing downtime, minimising scrap, and lowering maintenance expenses by automatically detecting and resolving the biggest causes of line stops and rework. Overall, this is helping us improve productivity.

Given the growing dependence on data-driven technologies and the implications of the Digital Personal Data Protection (DPDP) Act, 2023, could you please provide details on the measures you have taken to safeguard data security and privacy in your digital initiatives?

At P&G, we serve nearly five billion people around the world, and have one of the strongest portfolios of trusted, quality and leadership brands. As we serve the world’s consumers, we are committed to doing what is right and being a good corporate citizen. The company takes reasonable and appropriate measures to protect all personal data, in line with applicable laws. The culture of doing the right thing is manifested in taking the responsibility of data privacy very seriously.

In the context of your digital transformation journey, have you encountered or are you currently experiencing any technological challenges? Also, do you have identified areas for improvement in terms of technology, and if so, what measures are being considered for enhancement?

As cliche as it may sound, change is the only constant in the dynamic times we live in. Agility and resilience are the two key factors that enable us to stay ahead, look around the corners, and drive transformation that serves the consumer while building business. We believe that the best way to manage disruption is to lead it—in a way that creates value. Success in our highly competitive industry also requires agility that comes with a mindset of constructive disruption—a willingness to change, adapt and create new trends and technologies that will shape our industry for the future.

At the same time, transformation is not a 100-metre sprint; it is a marathon that thrives on the involvement of the larger community of stakeholders. A transformation requires the entire strength of an organisation to walk together at all stages. At P&G, we are on our journey of driving digital transformation across multiple touchpoints involving multiple organisational stakeholders. We proactively continue to look for room for improvement, and act upon it, to eventually serve all our stakeholders better.

For instance, manufacturing sites consume significant energy spanning different resources for daily operations. We are tracking, optimising, and making energy consumption all the more efficient by deploying wireless sensors, a cutting-edge IoT technology to continuously collect valuable energy consumption data, which is then centralised and transmitted to the central system. This interconnected system ensures real-time data from our factories and enables us to track our consumption patterns, benchmark against industry standards and enable efficient energy usage. With these powerful tools, we can monitor and optimise energy consumption like never before.

We have strengthened our digital infrastructure with cloud. AI is the biggest proponent of cloud and impacts the way solutions can be adopted and scaled. P&G’s global proprietary AI factory platform is enabling us to build faster and scalable machine learning models in a more efficient manner, which is acting as a catalyst in our overall operations leading to higher efficiency and productivity.

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