How technology is changing the landscape for businesses in 2022
From 5G, to cloud to AI & ML, technology solutions are changing the paradigm for industries. In this article, the experts tell us how this is being done.
Anushruti Singh January 12, 2022
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Living with a global pandemic has had a clear and definite impact on India Inc, which has been well observed and documented, particularly in terms of how we use technology.
Working from home has become a priority in these times. The pandemic also unleashed a slew of new challenges upon the tech community, driving it to rethink about how people will work and interact in these testing times. Also, geographical boundaries are no longer a defining factor in the workplace.
Of course, technology is at the heart of all these developments. According to Futurice (a digital engineering company) analysts, there are four tech trends that will be prominent for at least the next two years.
The big four
Data engineering has become a critical focus area for businesses. After the artificial intelligence and machine learning wave, companies are waking up to the reality of having to harness their data and get it ready to use and deliver tangible business benefits.
MLOps and DataOps are used for more agile speed to data pipelines. DevOps is expanding over to machine learning, data science and the data engineering domain, enabling them to use the same tried and tested agile tools and methods in extracting data, building models and running deployment cycles.
No-code and low-code platforms are growing more popular. This affects web, mobile and cloud development by offering a new, more efficient way to implement services and integrations.
As the volume of data in organisations is exploding, new data management practices are emerging as well. Data mesh is one of them. It’s a new approach to manage large, complex, and monolithic data. Data mesh is a trending new paradigm and a novel way of thinking about data and analytics.
Analysts are still predicting how it’s going to be with this new phase of the web and all the new emerging technologies. We discussed how technology has been the changemaker in their particular fields with a few industry insiders. Let’s check out what they had to say.
Banking with tech
2021 will be remembered as the year of tech innovations, especially in the financial services sector.
Financial firms are revolutionising the landscape in terms of providing their customers with a smooth and seamless digital experience and real-time banking. They are using blockchain technologies to make the process faster. Chatbots and AI solutions are freeing up employee-hours for banks and financial firms. While automation tools are improving the processes, compliance and auditing and making banking more convenient at the same time.
Gaurav Anand, CEO & Co-Founder, Namaste Credit opines that going ahead, more and more banks are likely to collaborate with fintech companies to enhance their offerings. “They will collaborate more, especially in terms of credit – and expand their reach to more customers, thereby driving financial inclusion across India,” he says.
It is also expected that the fintech sector will see the emergence of more new segments like Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) in 2022 and beyond.
“Thanks to the latest technologies like AI and ML that are not only automating traditional banking but also making it safer, secure, seamless, and most importantly, customer-centric like never before by introducing personalized credit solutions,” he asserts.
In terms of security too, AI is helping fintech players to detect and stop financial fraud and attacks, keeping their consumers safe from the evolving threat landscape. Open banking is another innovation that will progress in the upcoming year on the back of affordable internet and smartphone penetration, reshaping the entire financial sector.
“Gone are the days when consumers had to entirely rely on manual methodologies for banking tasks. In today’s digital-first world, all we need is a smartphone, and everything can be performed with a few taps and clicks. The pandemic has already accelerated digital adoption across the financial sector, and with fintech firms bringing more innovative solutions to the table, we can undoubtedly say that the future of banking is digital and will be driven by ground-breaking technologies,” he avers.
IoT solutions are changing the facilities sector
Round-the-clock smart solutions like the Internet of Things (IoT) has long been discussed as a means of improving people’s lives through the use of technology. However, the pandemic has brought these discussions to a head.
“This pandemic has emerged as the year that gave rise to digital transformation across functions including facility management services, regardless of the nature and size of businesses. The main objective of any facility manager is to ensure that the employees are able to work efficiently within the office environment. Tenants are expecting an office environment that gives a connected workplace experience to collaborate with multiple teams,” says Gaurav Burman, VP & APAC President at 75F India, which specialises in smart building technology.
The facility management sector is witnessing a spike in demand due to its usage of smart technology. COVID-19 has only accelerated this demand. According to market research platform EMR, the Indian facility management market was valued at US$ 150 billion in 2020. Now the market is looking at growth at a 20 per cent CAGR and could reach a value of US$ 406 billion by 2026.
In Burman’s opinion, because of the changing needs due to the pandemic, there is also the need to maintain ambient conditions that are the most conducive to work, including air, lighting and temperature.
Thus, sectors such as HVAC and real estate have undergone a dramatic technological makeover to keep up with the evolving demands of home buyers and builders.
“As people are coming back to offices, indoor air quality has become a priority. As the risk of catching viruses is particularly high in an enclosed space shared by multiple people. And hence, businesses have a clear obligation to safeguard employee well-being by ensuring that the indoor air is both clean and optimally balanced for productivity. Adding to that, eco-friendly buildings are being designed to use minimal energy to balance the heat and cold inside the building,” he adds.
According to Burman, facility management in 2022 will witness trends such as an increased number of shared workplaces and increased adoption of technology to optimise operations and to increase energy efficiency.
Growth of foodtech in India
The foodtech industry in India is rapidly expanding. According to a report by ResearchAndMarkets, the foodtech market in India is growing at a 39 per cent annual rate and is expected to reach Rs 1,868.19 billion by 2025.
Swiggy, Zomato, BigBasket, Jubilant Foods, Freshmenu, and Licious are some of the major players in the Indian market. However, aside from delivery aggregators and the online grocery segment, there is another way in which technology is revolutionising the food industry.
“Contactless innovation will be the norm in food distribution channels whether it’s in delivery, retailing via vending stores, manufacturing or food-processing,”says Prerna Kalra, Co-founder & CEO at Daalchini Technologies.
The times are such that everyone thinks of hygiene and health, especially in the context of food.
Which means that consumers are more prone to prefer contactless services which come along with a personalised touch. And this is pushing businesses to churn out more innovations around the food segment keeping their customers’ preferences in mind.
Kalra also agrees. “Tech is changing food and beverages as the COVID-19 emergency has sped up the pace of the adoption of advanced mechanics and AI,” she says.
In the future, robot-assisted cafés, drone deliveries, and computer-vision smart stores will create personalised experiences for consumers looking for value in the least amount of time, she adds.
“Apart from hygiene and health for themselves, users will also opt for food businesses that show sustainability for the planet as their core value, hence moving to sustainable packaging and food ingredients. Overall hygiene, health and sustainability will be the key trends driving the food tech space in India,” Kalra elaborates.
Small retail businesses are going tech
One of the biggest key takeaways from the last two years is that digital transformation is a critical survival strategy for small businesses. In the retail segment, businesses were compelled to move to the online space as fast as they could. These include India’s kirana stores as well.
This was the biggest change that technology engendered, says Prem Kumar, founder & CEO of SnapBizz which helps traditional kirana stores to become virtual supermarkets.
“2021 has been a year of significant transformation in consumers’ tastes, preferences and buying patterns. Online shopping continues to be preferred, due to the convenience of shopping and ease of payment. Also, due to everything going online, there was an increase of 36 per cent in the FMCG sales this year as compared to the last two years,” he says.
Approximately, 10 million small kiranas serve the entire population of the country and are the backbone of the retail ecosystem. With consumers having a median basket size of less than Rs 200 and shopping for up to 3 to 5 times per week, it has become very important to help these small businesses survive the digitization era, he adds.
“SnapBizz, for example, maps store performance indicators like median basket size, footfall, merchandise, stock turnover ratios, the profile of shoppers and much more. Tools like this can make it easy for these businesses to strategise and make the most of their transactions. In my opinion, 2022 is sure to see online and digital payments play a crucial role in the marketing success of brands,” Kumar says.
Digitising kiranas has enabled small entrepreneurs to reach their customers in a more streamlined and safe manner. According to him, this trend is only going to flourish, and more and more small retail businesses will adopt digital solutions.
“Small businesses are making the switch to digital operations such as digital payments being increasingly adopted by rural sectors, leading to the “millennial mindset” becoming more prevalent. This trend will only flourish. Furthermore, value-based buying will see an increase in 2022,” says Kumar.
Adding to the list of trends, Kumar Vembu, CEO & Founder of GOFRUGAL, also agrees that tech will make retail more efficient. Omnichannel retail, Q-commerce, cloud and AI/ML solutions and personalising customer experience are some of the trends that will transform the businesses in this segment.
Sharing his thoughts on these trends, Vembu says, “It’s time traditional retailers embrace technology and data innovation to spread their wings and sail the retail skies. Digital technology brings in opportunities to get new customers and increases repeat purchases by the existing ones. It also increases efficiency with the automation of store operations, empowered employees, and reduced cost of managing operations along with many other benefits. Amidst all this, the physical entity would continue to revolve around and evolve to the changing needs of the consumers.”
It’s a trendsetter in logistics
COVID-19 has shaken the roots of the well-oiled world of logistics.
Before COVID-19, most companies assumed that seamless movements, stable freight rates, unlimited capacity, and minimum buffer were a given. But the pandemic pushed the sector to adopt tech solutions to combat the new challenges that cropped up because of its advent. And the logistics players are continuously modifying their operations accordingly.
Now an even bigger disruption is on the way as major economies enforce climate commitments and consumers force companies to comply with them. And again, technology has a major role to play in this.
Many new tech enabled business models will emerge to essentially help companies collaborate across countries to reduce their overall carbon footprints. Be it solar power grids or electric bikes, energy conservation is the need of the hour and green logistics tech is the future, says Apurva Mankad, CEO and Founder of WebXpress, a transportation and logistics SaaS provider.
According to him there will be a few key tech trends that would drive the logistics industry in managing climate goals. These are climate measurement or monitoring tools, localised climate data, optimum EV asset utilisation tools and carbon trading.
Mankad opines that logistics companies will need to invest in climate measurement tools to check their shipment level carbon footprint. “Green Audit tools will tell companies to balance customer and product portfolios. These tools will provide granular data at the shipment level, vehicle level, and route level to help companies focus on reducing carbon emissions every day,” he says.
In general, supply chains were built to withstand shocks from a few localised extreme weather events such as hurricanes, snow, and rains. But such events are now more widespread and ever more intense.
“Logistics companies will build real-time data at the province level, highway level, and even city level to manage the impact. These tools will stop or reroute shipment based on real-time data on road or city closures,” he says.
One of the impacts of climate goals is the adoption of EVs. But as EV production will take time to ramp up, companies will need to share resources. EV sharing tech will help logistics companies to re-use EV assets or share them by consolidating loads.
“Companies can share EV charging infrastructure rather than replicate it in every location. Companies will also invest in battery inventory and share it with each other to ensure the optimum use of EV assets,” says Mankad.
Carbon trading is another practice that will well and truly take off in many ways, across many economies. A truck owner in India can get funding to replace his 15-year-old fleet with the latest vehicles with 30 per cent less emissions. A warehouse in Rajasthan will sell solar power to the grid and offer reduced rents to customers. Amazon will use electric bikes deployed in India to offset increased investment in same day delivery in the USA.
“The world is entering a new phase of energy challenges. There will be a gap between cutting fossil fuel dependence while ramping up green energy sources. Logistics is one of the biggest emitters and it’s also technically easier to solve the issue of excess emission when compared to cement production. All you need to do is convert all vehicles to EV and run all warehouses on solar energy. Of course, the reality will be far more complex, and it will vary across nations. Companies need to offset emissions in one part of the supply chain with initiatives in distant locations. Here, technology will play a crucial role in tracking every movement, every kilometre and measure its impact. The coming decade belongs to global green tech.” he says.
Enterprises are ready for 5G!
Among other things, India Inc is forging ahead towards 5G technology. With which, a new era of connectivity and cyber safety is approaching us all. 5G will enable more innovation in the digital and cyber world since the limitations of the current bandwidths will be absent, once 5G becomes omnipresent.
Consultants and experts across different industries have mentioned that 5G connectivity will bring an era of innovative, remote and digital-based business models and encourage work collaborations across borders. It will fast track the way we work, play, interact and live while creating exciting new opportunities and making farfetched theories a reality in many areas of our lives.
“With connectivity speeds that are a 100 times more than the current bandwidth, 5G will encourage enterprises to switch their workforces and business models to the digital spectrum,” says Ashutosh Verma, Founder of Exalta India.
Sectors like healthcare, automobile, finance and many others will expand their digital deliverables and services.
“With the Internet of Things and other developing and remote access enabling technologies already present on the current 4G bandwidth, the spread of 5G will fast-track the spread and application of these technologies across different sectors and increase their reach across the globe,” he adds.
Smart cities and industries will become a reality sooner, giving us practical, more dependable, productive work & lives. 5G-supported IoT is the solution to equipping cities with more trustworthy infrastructure monitoring. It will also be adopted for smart automation in factories — dynamically changing work processes.
Clearly, business and technology are inextricably linked, and businesses understand that and are doing the needful.
There is a lot more that remains to be covered, considering that only 50 per cent of work operations have been automated with the help of technology so far. In the next few years, we will be seeing a lot more tech solutions around us, irrespective of industries.