Technology Progress And Adoption In Various Sectors

Excerpts from an interaction with Ramkumar Narayanan, VP Technology & Managing Director, VMware India

Ramkumar NarayananIn a recent interaction with Emmanuel Christi Das, Editor, CIOReviewIndia, Ramkumar Narayanan, VP Technology & Managing Director, VMware India explained how digital adoption has changed the pace of innovation and R&D in India, and how the pivot to digital has changed our approach towards the future of workplaces across sectors and lives in general.

Share your views on research and development for the future of various sectors in India. What can we expect in terms of products and services?

Technology Research and Development has grown steadily over the last few years, all thanks to the concerted efforts of global in-house centers in India. Start-ups have also been building their R&D capabilities here. The outbreak of the pandemic resulted in a new operating model for most organizations in which innovation was key to continuity and resiliency. Organizations that were already investing in digital transformation over the years, managed the crisis better than others. As we look ahead, R&D will now be more in focus and from an India perspective, particularly so as adoption of emerging technologies like AI and ML accelerates across sectors.

Accelerated customer adoption of digital technologies bolstered by support from the government has further accelerated the development of R&D in India. The growing adoption of UPI is a great example of innovation that has really been helpful for a lot of us over the last few months. We are working closely with the government to understand how to make remote working a more permanent scenario. The pandemic has been a learning curve for many of us as we move forward. So when we think about R&D in India, it really needs to be a combination of all of three - availability of technology, availability of widespread digital access, and the confluence of government policies to encourage and drive adoption across India. As more organizations pivot to digital, the focus is on how we anticipate and adapt, plan for unplanned scenarios, double down on innovation, to prepare for the future of digital in India. 

What are the technologies that are likely to be invented for sectors like education, healthcare, defence, sports, and automobile?

A few trends are gaining strength today:

  • Cloud Technology Adoption – Organizations which were early adopters of cloud are certainly benefitting from the flexible scalability it offers. The ability to use cloud effectively is only beginning to emerge now. Multi-cloud will play a big role going ahead.
  • Application Modernization – Applications need to be cloud ready and be delivered as a service. SaaS adoption will change considerably given the emergence of modern applications, which in turn will be an opportunity for start-ups to play a bigger role. Whether healthcare or education, we need an entire new generation of modern applications to meet customer requirements. For instance, voice could be a big driver of next-gen applications and organizations must invest in modernizing their application portfolio to meet this demand.
  • Software-Driven Networking – Software-driven networking will change the dynamics of how networks can be intelligently and centrally controlled or programmed using software applications. There has been a surge in demand for video conferencing and the underlying software-driven network has helped support widespread usage of video conferencing tools. VMware believes that SDN hold the key to innovation in the future. Even the 5G revolution is going to be driven by software.
  • Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity needs to be a part of a nation’s defence strategy. Every layer of the network and infrastructure will need to be reconsidered and rebuilt, and AI and ML will play a crucial role in ensuring intrinsic security. In fact, there is a conscious effort to move away from bolted on security approaches to a more intrinsic model where security is built into the infrastructure and applications.
  • Digital Workspaces – During the pandemic, we onboarded around 150 graduates out of college who are now working remotely. The entire onboarding process was also virtual.  Organizations are investing in digital workspaces to enable their workforce to work remotely with seamless and secure access to enterprise data and applications. The work from anywhere scenario has accelerated the need for software innovation and will continue to drive innovate in the future.

What role can technology play to avert another pandemic?

I think we have few takeaways from the outbreak, which has emphasized the role of technology. There is a tremendous push in industrial organizations, to automate and companies need to retrofit an existing factory to easily implement automation. If we need to be prepared for the next pandemic, we need to prevent downtime and connect to an infrastructure that is digitally enabled. During this time, aside from enabling our own workforce to work seamlessly in a remote environment, we supported many of our customers with a fully remote workforce too. This has busted all the myths around remote working and productivity. Reskilling is now more important than ever to create a future-ready workforce.

School-going children from financially secure families can afford the digital infrastructure required for online classes, but it does not hold true for a large section of our society. The country must focus on building the foundational infrastructure to ensure universal access to education and other services. In healthcare, technology can play a big role in predicting disease outbreaks by interpreting data. It can play a significant role in contact tracing as well. One of the biggest learnings from this current pandemic is that we need to increase digital adoption across sectors and extend the availability of digital technologies to a wide section of the society.

As we move ahead, we need to look at custom built applications, so the platform becomes more important. Video as a platform as opposed to a one size fits all approach, is more important as the platform can be utilized differently for education as compared to healthcare and for other business purposes.

What strategies should start-ups take to augment their research and development?

There are several opportunities for pathbreaking innovation with new verticals emerging for start-ups. The ecosystem has also seen growth in the support systems in India in the last five years. Whether it is in the form of incubators or accelerators, traditional and large enterprises are willing to support start-ups in their innovation journey. Industry bodies also play a major role in fostering growth in this sector. NASSCOM’s DeepTech club identifies and supports about a 1000 DeepTech start-ups in India. Funding helps a start-up to grow and invest in better resources to deliver the desired results. It is important for start-ups to understand that innovation is key, regardless of the challenges. A recent study by consulting firm, McKinsey & Company found that companies - large or small, that continued to innovate during a crisis, actually did better when it was resolved. Many of the unicorns (companies in social media – Facebook or Twitter), took off at the right time and captured the market to make it big after the 2009 financial debacle. 

What will be the most useful technologies for the future?

As mentioned, the five technologies hold a lot of promise in the future along with Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Extended Reality. They all have the potential to accelerate change in sectors such as healthcare, education, and industrial applications. Connecting the physical world and the digital world will be of utmost importance as the concept of digital twins gain attention. We are at an exciting intersection between digital and biotechnology. Drug discovery, vaccine development, detection mechanisms for diseases, our ability to anticipate another pandemic, are likely to be focus areas for future innovation.