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Crisis as opportunity

Lockdown fires a digital revolution

September 09, 2020 / 11:20 AM IST

Any crisis is an opportunity and the Digital India mission has used Covid-19 to upscale, taking Indian industry and economy to new levels of integration.

With this in mind, CNBC-TV18 and Google joined hands to celebrate five years of Digital India Mission and set the agenda for the next five with leaders from the corporate world, budding start-ups and angel investors, concluding that the road ahead is paved with technological upgradation.

At the high-level summit, Google’s top executives, bankers, corporate heads, educators, and IT heads agreed that Covid-19, despite its unfortunate connotations, had triggered digital adoption by Indian companies, thanks to the power of the Digital India Mission. 

Digitisation at the front and centre

Karan Bajwa, Managing Director, Google Cloud India, said that in the last four months, the dream of digital adoption has worked remarkably. “The use of technology has gone up significantly higher. Digitisation is at the front and the centre,” he said.


Bijith Bhaskar, Head – Digital Channel and Partnership, ICICI Bank, said that before the pandemic, the need for digitisation was not urgent. For instance, opening a savings account was not entirely digital. ``But today, relationship with a bank has become totally digital,” he said. 

Businesses have become viable

Shailesh Kumar Davey, Co-founder, Zoho Corp, and Vice President of ManageEngine division, believes that businesses that were unviable earlier have become viable. The next five years should be used maximise these digital railroads.

Manish Anandani, VP – Customer Development & Professional Marketing, India and South Asia, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health said that given the lockdown conditions, they did something they was not done before: provide their products to consumers at their doorstep. They tied up with food delivery start-ups like Zomato and Swiggy for home delivery, in addition to using artificial intelligence (AI) and developing a mobile-based capability for company retailers to place orders. 

Digitisation and supply chains

According to Dr R S Sodhi, MD Amul, digital transformation had been used for Amul’s supply chains to include their 3.6 million farmers for milk procurement. The app-based mechanism makes the system transparent and efficient. “A farmer has got an app called Automatic Milk Connection. As soon as he puts milk in a container, automatically the milk is weighed, quality is checked, and other details are entered into the hardware of the computer,” he pointed out.

Such has been the profound impact of digitalisation that, Shashank Srivastava, Executive Director (Marketing & Sales), Maruti said, before Covid, the digital enquiries stood at 3% or so. Post-Covid, it has jumped to 35%. ``Our experience is that post-Covid there has been an acceleration in terms of people wanting to use digital means for booking enquiries,” he stated.

Abhishek Singh, CEO, Mygov, explained how digitisation worked on ground. Not everyone has access to digital information in India where device or connectivity is a problem. So, Mygov works closely with common service centres so that information is shared equitably with all. The lockdown was a great opportunity to see what digital technologies can enable, he explains.

NASSCOM, says Sangeeta Gupta, its Senior Vice President & Chief Strategy Officer, always believes in the power of technology. She prefers to call it a digital bridge rather than a digital divide between the haves and the have nots. 

Good products for users

According to Neha Barjatya, Chief Internet Saathi, Google India, the path to progress is good with 500 million internet users, of which 450 million are using it through a smartphone devise, with one of the lowest data prices. ``But access,” she says, ``is only helpful when users have good products to choose from.” When Google launched Saathi in 2015, only 10% internet users were women while men were 90%, making it the largest gender divide anywhere. Things have improved since then. About 30-40% of users are women now.

For Renuka Ramnath, Founder, MD and CEO - Multiples Alternate Asset Management & Chairperson, IVCA, technology will cut across all sectors. The early adoptions and big disruptions have been seen in education, health care, financial services and telecom. Technology makes businesses cheaper, connects the suppliers and customers on a platform and democratises availability of goods and services.

Vamsi Krishna, CEO & Co-founder, Vedantu, believes that the lockdown has allowed the education sector to take a three-year leap. “What would have happened in three years has happened in 3-4 months,” forcing people to turn to technology. 

Power of Start-ups

Someone who has great faith in start-ups is Karthik Padmanabhan, Developer Relations Lead, Google India. The company has been working for the last two years through the Google for Start-ups Accelerator, reaching partnership models in Tier2 cities and Tier 3 towns, working on local problems and solving them, particularly in the fields of education, health care, logistics and agri-care.

Padmaja Ruparel, Co-founder, Indian Angel Network & Founding Partner, IAN Fund, says Covid has brought people onto the digital platform. Digital has become a demand now, no longer a push. People who were earlier handling currency and now doing digital banking. India, she believes, is the world’s pilot programme. If something works in India, given the huge diversities, it will work elsewhere in the world. 

Digital Agriculture

Vasudevan Chinnathambi, Co-founder, Ninjacart, who works in the agriculture space, believes that the demand-supply asymmetry for farmers is a very big problem. Traditionally, it has put farmers at high risk. “What we are trying to do is to change it structurally. We have data on what to grow and when to grow. We have last five years of data on supply, demand and prices. So, we have these data points.” That surely helps.

Technological innovation is the way out for Varun Dua, MD & CEO, Acko. The top 50-100 million people have insurance. New schemes like Ayushman Bharat have been covering the bottom 500 million. Yet there are another 600 million who don’t have insurance or covered by the government in any sense. ``Technology today is allowing us to create products where you can pay a small sum daily. Telecom insurance has been bundled up to a level where the government, insurance companies and the TRAI are working to see how to use this huge mobile penetration can be activated for insurance,” he points out.

To watch the entire discussion visit

This is a partnered post.

Tags: #Features
first published: Sep 9, 2020 11:17 am

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