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CIOs see cloud computing as the bedrock of digital transformation

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In a power packed ‘AWS CXO’ panel that saw participation of Sourabh Chatterjee, President and Head – IT, Bajaj Allianz General Insurance Co, Balkrishna Singhania, EVP and Head – Digital, HDFC Life and Manish Verma, CTO, SonyLiv agreed on a common view that cloud computing is the most important technology for their digital transformations during the past five years.

The session was chaired by Puneet Chandok, President – Commercial Business, Amazon Internet Services Private Limited, AWS India and South Asia.

In his opening remark Chatterjee of Bajaj Allianz said, “At Bajaj Allianz we decided to move our core policy admin platform to a public cloud, and this is easier said than done, because we needed top-down commitment and other approvals, and we were fortunate to have that. So for us, agility and future-readiness was the primary driver of digital transformation. From a pure tech standpoint, besides the infra and provisioning, more importantly, we had clearly defined the business outcomes for each of the areas of transformation. I think the thing that worked for us and we’re just still working on, is a variable cost model, and the Covid pandemic times proved that fixed infra and high capex is not needed.”

Sharing SonyLiv’s story of digital transformation, Verma said, “We started our transformation journey sometime in December last year, and we put an aggressive target for ourselves to relaunch our application with the revised product and content positioning in the next four-five months. So you can imagine what it takes to launch 20 different applications across 20 different platforms. And we also had content in different types – GEC audience content is more organic, as compared to sports and live sports content with cricket and football, where we see spikes in traffic, and having a reliable tech backend and cloud infrastructure hence becomes important. To address these different types of traffic pattern and consumer behaviour, we had to use a reliable tech platform and ensure we were able to offer a seamless consumer experience across 20 different platforms. Since we launched, we have seen a 5x increase in subscription traffic and a 70-80 per cent increase in the traffic for content consumption.”

Highlighting the cloud journey of HDFC Life, Balkrishna Singhania stated, “We setup a separate team that focused on developing applications solely on the cloud. At some part earlier this year, as a part of our migration of our infrastructure. We did a ‘lift and shift’ of our core applications from on premise machines to the cloud, with the whole idea that if we wanted to be cloud-native and digital-native, we couldn’t afford to build patch-up systems where some part of it is on the cloud, and some cloud system is talking to on premise machines for data, and so on. Insurance is more B2B2C business than a B2C business. Enabling our partners was important – having our API installed in our partners’ systems, to enable them to query our systems for a particular customer, could become seamless with the cloud.”

The CIOs also shared their challenges and experiences during the pandemic. Responding to the big business focus area that tech and cloud will enable or drive in 2021, Chatterjee shared, “For us, it’s very clear the data and analytics piece, and all the modeling that we are doing around fraud, retention propensity, the entire claims experience, I think, across the value chain, anything that is data and insights. And I will be careful in using the term ‘analytics’, because in a lot of areas we use analysis and we incorrectly call it analytics, but the idea is, cloud will enable the entire data and insights as a capability within the organisation. This is something big for us and will be driven by the cloud.”

For SonyLiv, the focus is on harnessing the use of data. “We as an organisation, are digital and are using data in each and every decision that we make, whether it is on the infrastructure side, content programming, content production, churn analysis, retention – everywhere. I think it is all about data and democratisation of the data. We are working big time on introducing some of the prediction models, machine learning models, which can help us to retain users. So, I think data is going to play a critical role. The other area which I feel we as a business, is on the OTT side. As we have seen that especially cricket in India, each match is a new benchmark,” Verma highlighted.

Lastly, Singhania of HDFC Life mentioned, “Focus on making our applications intelligent is the next big thing, so data and analytics definitely comes there. And as a company where you have multiple touch points with customers, being able to take all the pieces of information and what customers need, where they need it, how they need it, and being able to give them in a nice and intelligent fashion, is the key according to me. When you add to technology a recommendation engine, propensity models, etc., you can make the systems intelligent. Making a lot of our systems intelligent is the key for us.”

Sharing some of the best practices for the Indian counterparts of BFSI sector, Chandok highlighted, “AWS work globally, and we’re the world’s largest and most broadly adopted cloud platform, including in financial services. And globally, we’ve got Capital One, Intuit, HSBC, Barclays – many large organizations building and scaling upon the cloud. And there’s a real network effect to this. And that’s the beauty of a cloud platform like AWS, where some of the largest organisations, not just enterprises, but even startups, small and medium businesses, government organizations are building on it and everything they build, you are able to democratize that and bring that to all your customers. The best practices very quickly get democratized, and we learn from each other. “

He also reiterated that, “India is leading from the front on this right. And you can see this in this conversation, two of the largest insurance in the country, are thinking big and bold and moving fast onto the cloud and leveraging it. And not just in financial services, virtually every vertical business segment today is being reinvented by the cloud, due to its cost effective, functionalities.”


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