Embracing technological advancements and shaping the future of automotive industry: Suresh Komirishetty, CIO, Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd
In an exclusive interaction with Express Computer, Suresh Komirishetty, CIO, Mercedes-Benz India Pvt. Ltd shares his views on the challenges in the automotive industry, some digital initiatives that his organisation implemented and the role of artificial intelligence in his company.
- What are the key challenges in the automotive industry and the role of IT in managing them
Most industries are facing several challenges including the supply chain crisis and faster change of technologies. But talking specifically about the automotive industry’s with respect to cars which is undergoing significant and continuous change. For example; the industry not only requires investments for ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) but also requires significant investment in the Electric Vehicles (EV) and Hybrid Engine. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on autonomous driving systems and connected cars, necessitating a focused investment in these areas.
On another front, it is crucial to concentrate on emerging technologies like digital twin, metaverse and more. These technologies will serve as differentiators, especially considering that the new generation of employees will not adhere to traditional operational practices. Being fully prepared for the future economy and adapting production cycles accordingly is of utmost importance.
Furthermore, customers’ expectations are significantly increasing, both in terms of desired car features and their overall buying experience. From an IT transformation perspective, investing in robust data center infrastructure and platforms is essential.
In this context, one of the most pressing issues faced by organisations today is determining where to allocate their resources. How an organisation decides to spend and prioritize its funds and efforts will directly impact its future market positioning and ability to outperform competitors. These challenges are common within the automotive industry.
In the current landscape, characterised by rapid technological changes and a high level of uncertainty, the industry finds itself in a storming environment. To remain relevant and thrive in these transforming periods, organisations must adopt changes at an accelerated pace.
- What are some of the digital initiatives taken and what have been the impact?
The digital initiatives undertaken by our organisation have had a significant impact across various areas. We have categorised our IT efforts into three verticals:
- Enterprise IT: This encompasses traditional IT systems focused on supporting employees, enterprise operations, production, and sales activities.
- Customer IT: Our customer-centric IT strategy revolves around how and where we connect and interact with our esteemed customers. The main focus is on empowering our employees to deliver the best customer experience.
- Car IT: This pertains to the technology embedded within our vehicles, enhancing the driving experience, emissions control, infotainment, safety, and more.
Now, let’s delve into some of the specific initiatives we have implemented:
– One noteworthy initiative was the transformation of our business model in the area of customer and enterprise IT. We shifted from the conventional dealership model to the retail of the future – direct to customer. This significant change in our approach has revolutionized our business operations, showcasing the transformative power of technology.
– We have also embraced online sales as a key dimension of our strategy. By offering car purchases through our online platform, we cater to customers who prefer the convenience of digital transactions. Our focus remains on providing a seamless experience, regardless of whether customers choose to buy offline or online. For instance, a customer can test drive a vehicle at our retail store and then complete the purchase online.
– In the realm of car IT, we are heavily investing in the connected car ecosystem. The majority of our new models are equipped with connected car capabilities. Additionally, we are placing significant emphasis on electric cars, recognising their importance as the future of the industry. We are introducing subscription-based models where customers can choose and purchase specific product features online for a designated period and such features are deployed over the air (OTA)
– Autonomous driving features are continuously advancing in sophistication. Our vehicles are equipped with features like Active Brake Assist, a crucial component for intelligent driving.
– A remarkable development that we are working currently is our in-house operating system, MB.OS (Mercedes Benz Operating System). When introduced, this will be transformational event in the auto-industry. Such an exclusive OS will enable leverage AI, Cloud and IoT potential fully. In the future, the car will not just be about its hardware or the product but more about the combination of software and hardware which makes the unique proposition of the car; and those together make quite a difference in terms of the experience and luxury elements.
These digital initiatives have brought about substantial improvements, allowing us to adapt to changing customer preferences, drive innovation, and stay ahead in the industry.
- Can you articulate the role of AI for your company? Would you like to comment on some of the initiatives taken?
For us, Artificial Intelligence is about making our products, processes and customer interactions intelligent.
We are already in a digitised world, a lot of digitisation or digital interactions platforms have been established already. Now, by leveraging AI capabilities, we can provide convenience to our customers, offering them the best alternative actions or next best offers without intrusive probing. This allows for personalised and seamless customer experiences, ensuring their satisfaction and engagement.
We have recently implemented an app that utilizes AI algorithms to analyze videos and images of cars submitted by customers. Through this technology, we can extract relevant data points and provide customers with comprehensive information about their car, including both its positive and negative aspects, as well as its service history. This level of transparency significantly enhances customer satisfaction.
Moreover, when customers bring their cars in for servicing, AI combined with machine learning proves invaluable insight. It enables our technicians to better assess the vehicle, identifying all pre-existing issues that may have gone unnoticed. This empowers our technicians to promptly address these problems and provide appropriate solutions, ensuring optimal car performance and customer satisfaction.
- Your view on the security threats impacting your firm? What are some of the measures that you have taken?
When it comes to security threats impacting organisations, we recognize the ever-increasing complexity and inevitability of such threats. We understand the need to continually enhance our defense mechanisms one side and also remain agile in our response to potential adversities. These two dimensions—strengthening our defense continuously and fostering agility—are fundamental aspects of our security strategy.
As threat vectors become smarter and more focused, predicting or anticipating specific threats becomes increasingly challenging. Therefore, we prioritize employee and organizational preparedness as a crucial element in managing and mitigating security threats. While we invest in advanced technological prowess and tools, we also acknowledge the critical role of employee awareness and vigilance in maintaining a secure environment.
Unaware employees can inadvertently become significant security risks. It is vital to cultivate a security-conscious mindset among our employees, ensuring they are equipped to respond effectively and defend against security incidents. This necessitates a shift in how we design processes, encourage adherence to those processes, and foster a culture where individuals prioritize data and security.
By continuously adapting our security measures, fostering employee awareness, and promoting a robust security mindset, we strive to mitigate the impact of security threats on our organization. Our commitment to security encompasses both technological defenses and the human element, enabling us to proactively protect our organisation and its assets.