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In all our IT initiatives, we ensure that the customer is at the centre: Rajesh Uppal, CIO, Maruti Suzuki

In an exclusive interview with Express Computer, Rajesh Uppal, Executive Director – IT, CIO and CHRO, Maruti Suzuki, speaks about his organisation's customer centric IT strategy

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What are recent digital initiatives at Maruti Suzuki?
The automotive industry is at a critical point in its journey, where the long term growth is going to be tremendous, with astonishing numbers in the next 10 years. Therefore, to manage that growth and deliver the increasing demands, IT has to support the transformation to move forward.

We are aggressively enhancing the customer experience and are working at dealerships to provide them a digital experience – online and offline. Being the head of HR and an IT professional, I am focusing on the HR processes and technology innovation. We are managing the entire employee life-cycle on a digital platform, from hiring to employee self-service and performance management.

In order to be a forward-looking organisation, we are evaluating ways to transform our enterprise applications and make the infrastructure agile and open enough to conduct various interactions with multiple stakeholders. For knowledge management, we are identifying ways to manage the unstructured data and big data, which will deliver the sense out of that data.

Digital twin as a technology has a lot of potential for the auto industry. Any plans on those lines?
Definitely; especially in the area of customer experience and engagement, we are looking big at Digital Twin technology. The customer works with us online, and when he walks into our showroom, we know who he is and what vehicles he is looking at. We offer the experience as per his expectations. In all our IT initiatives, we ensure that the customer is at the centre and we build our IT strategy around it.

Emerging technology is a big space and there are many technologies which have their respective maturity levels. Please highlight some PoCs that you are working on and which PoC is closest to go on to the production?
Robotic Automation Process (RPA) is a mature technology to work on. It is beyond the PoC stage and has started to add value to the business. We started IoT sometime ago, which is also maturing and is giving results in the shop floors’ efficiency and provides proactive management and visibility.
In big data and ML, we are currently at the PoC stage.

A large amount of data has started to pour in through various sources, and data can be consumed really well in our various organisational functions. Under AI, we have basic bots and are becoming commoditised. But we are getting a deeper sense from our big data. We have a lot of PoCs under AI and we see promising results. We are also leveraging virtual reality in various areas.

Please describe how are you leveraging RPA?
Standalone technology was taken up jointly with Suzuki and Maruti team together. Further, we had use cases from Japan and India, and POCs were initiated. The first POC was in finance, where a lot of documentation is now digitally managed, and the results were phenomenal.

We have identified around 40 areas where RPA can be implemented, and gradually getting them on the platform. Since the infrastructure is laid down, now it’s just the matter of driving value in these areas. RPA is a tool to drive the efficiency and all the while collar will be using RPA, initially its only been used in the areas where a lot of transactions are happening.

I view Robotics Process Automation as an immersive technology used by everyone in the organisation. RPA will soon become an office tool for everybody.

On the hardcore technology side, from an IT infrastructure perspective, any IT referral cycles coming up?
In my view, IT hardware is very commoditised, new areas and plants are coming up are all back-end job. But a lot of applications are moving from on-premise to cloud area, so we do not have the infrastructure issues. For me, the cloud initially was cost saving, to handle these changes but now these cost-saving areas are becoming the area where you can quickly adopt new technologies.

What business outcome have you seen from these initiatives?
These are all business projects, rather than the IT initiatives and digital has been at its core driving the business results. The objective is to take the business to the next levels, which converts into the bottom line.

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