Even as uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic continues, India Inc leads in adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) to cater to changing consumer needs and ensure business continuity, according to a recent report.
For instance, 45 percent of the companies in India increased their adoption of AI as opposed to 35 percent in the US, 28 percent in Japan and 23 percent in the UK. Based on the PwC analysis, Indian firms fare much better in implementation of AI across the firms.
For instance, compared to 26 percent of global firms implementing AI in business processes, 46 percent of the Indian firms now implement AI.
The analysis was based on interaction with more than 200 Indian CXOs. Globally over 670 businesses participated in the survey across sectors such as financial services, healthcare, and pharma, industrial products, retail and consumer, telecom, media, and technology, and travel and hospitality.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
According to the report, this increase was driven by Indian organisations' quick response to the pandemic.
“In India, companies have accelerated their innovations and investments in AI during the pandemic,” pointed out Anand Rao Partner and Global AI Lead, PwC US, in the report.
“In the current scenario, AI is being seen as a key enabler for organisations," said Sudipta Ghosh and Raman Bhushan, Partners, PwC India, in the report.
This included weathering the pandemic and make fundamental changes to the operating model for lasting competitive advantage, they said.
Quick to respond to the pandemic
Indian firms were quick to shift to remote working within a matter of few weeks. For instance, Indian IT firms enabled WFH for its 45 lakh workforce in a matter of two weeks. This was possible since companies used AI-enabled digital assistants to track productivity.
The report pointed out that at the wake of the pandemic, manufacturing sector reconfigured traditional practices to automate value chain processes. This includes contact tracing, and contactless thermal screening to keep the employees safe. The report said AI-enabled tools are helping them enforce best practices from a health and safety perspective.
To cater to this demand, most of the IT firms rolled out remote working and back to office tools to ensure that safety protocols are maintained within the premises.
Traditional retailers moved to e-commerce to ensure business continuity amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “Post COVID-19, AI-enabled use cases like contactless selling and delivery have gained traction due to changes in buying behaviour,” the report said.
“Similarly, universities, start-ups, and the healthcare sector have developed AI-powered diagnostic guidance systems to predict the spread of the virus,” the report added.
Ghosh and Bhushan, added in the report, “One of the interesting insights uncovered by our survey is that sectors which are facing heavy disruption, such as travel and hospitality, are also the biggest proponents and users of AI.”
In earlier interaction with Moneycontrol, IT executives pointed out that though the travel and hospitality will take several quarters to recover, the sector would still need to invest in technology to make the entire process contactless.
Scaling up, a challenge
Even as India Inc is investing in AI, challenges remain. One of the key challenges is scaling up.
While 46 percent of Indian firms are implementing AI for business processes, only 5 percent scale this up across the organisations as opposed to 25 percent globally.
Budget, the report reveals, was not a concern. While 32 percent of the companies cited budget constraints in 2019, this is no longer a concern in 2020. Lack of understanding is not an issue as well.
However, identifying right use cases for implementing AI solutions and well-trained workforce to work with the AI systems, are issues companies are facing currently.