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How traditional businesses are disrupted by a spark of the digital

VS Parthasarathy, Group CIO & Group CFO, Mahindra & Mahindra, gives a perspective of how traditional businesses are getting disrupted by the digital phenomenon

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The agility of technology has made its application spiral beyond all bounds and its seismic spread is evident and felt in every sector. VS Parthasarathy, Group CIO and Group CFO, Mahindra & Mahindra gives a perceptive of how traditional businesses are getting disrupted by just one spark of the digital.

Drawing a comparison, he shows a picture of a street in New York in the year 1900, where only one car could be seen among several horse-drawn carts; and then he swiftly changes the image to the one where there was only one horse-drawn cart among many motor cars in the year1913. “This is what happens when technology takes route. In 13 years, the tsunami of technology has changed the face of the street,” he stated.

Technology has changed the countenance of industry in phases. “We started with industry 1.0 which saw basic mechanisation. Then dawned industry 2.0 where mass production was the essence of the tenure. Industry 3.0 is a mesh-up of automation, computer, electronics. The forthcoming Industry 4.0 will be a period where there will be one human plant manager, but the rest of the workforce will be machines,” he informed. “According to a plant manager, today, machines can talk to each other enabling preventive maintenance, also the entire planning can be done online. The flow is automated and technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data can be put to use. Leveraging these technologies, mass production is possible more seamlessly,” he added.

Focusing on his area of expertise, he said, “The automobile industry is getting disrupted at a Sputnik speed. At one side, the car OEMs, are vying with each other and on the other, the IT companies are up the sleeves to build a technology-robust car by getting the OEMs to physically assemble the parts. And if this is not enough, there are ride-hailing companies like Ola and Uber, which already has a platform and may look to redefine the transportation industry. It is thus becoming increasingly difficult to define the levels and contours of competition and from where it is coming.”

Parthasarathy shared that car manufacturers, General Motors and Ford were big names in the automobile landscape for a long time. However, Tesla was launched in 2012 and over took the cap of General Motors and Ford in five years. This is an example of how traditional industry got disrupted by a spark of innovation.

Today the financial market is also not untouched by the technology paradigms. “You never heard of an ATM card before, but now we cannot do without ATMs. Not just that, crypto-currency, payment gateways and cash pooling among others are more commonplace than ever,” he pointed.

On the equation of job scarcity and wealth he said, “We often see jobs are scarce even though there is no scarcity of wealth. The trouble here is not wealth creation but wealth distribution. India’s GDP is 2600 billion, while it is 20,000 billion in the US. This accounts to 1200 dollars per capita per person. However, if we grow at the pace we are growing now which is about seven to 10 per cent while the US continues to grows at one percent, then by 2030 we will equal the GDP of the US. In tune with this process, people will invariably become wealthy. The only issue then will be wealth distribution.”

“Emerging technologies are impacting the society, people, governance and businesses,” said Parthasarathy, adding, “The future is about micro-entrepreneurship, whereby an individual will work for more than one company and company loyalty will derive new meanings.”

“The mantra to a successful business is not conglomeration but federation and enabling the workforce, by allowing them to learn and re-learn,” summed up Parthasarathy.

(The spokesperson was presenting at the Emerging Tech Conclave in Kolkata, organised by Express Computer)

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