There are six major technologies that are driving change. Cloud. Industry 4.0. 5G. Edge. AI. Blockchain. And they cannot be in silos, explains Sriram Lakshminarayan, President and Chief Technical Officer at Tata Technologies. Edited excerpts from a video interview.
Looking at the pandemic changes and beyond…
One of the things that the pandemic did was it expedited the pace of digital transformation. It was across the world and India was the tip of the arrow. For example, if you look at the industries that we at Tata Technologies focus on, automotive, aerospace and industrial heavy machinery, there were challenges like workers not being able to come to the factory and supply chain traceability issues.
When it comes to the automotive industry, people were worried about going to dealerships and sales slowed down. So, what were the customers looking for? If you look at it from a vehicle buying standpoint, I think they were looking at more and more no touch and everything digital. The retail of the future is all about bringing in a digital customer experience, something like a virtual showroom.
Then there’s the whole thing about supply chain resiliency: Bringing in track and trace and usage of technology on the shop floor. How do I minimize worker interface? Wherever it is possible, how do I bring technologies like AI, 5G, Edge etc to the forefront?
When you look at Tata Technologies and digital customer experience, we have built in something called as the Power of 8, eight different modular solutions that enhances customer experience right from the time where people are interested in vehicle purchase, to the after sales part of it. We have our own digital studio where we can demonstrate all of it by using Mixed Reality glasses.
When it comes to Industry 4.0 or the factory of the future, it will have things like visual inspection through AI. For example, we have the Visimatic, which is nothing but our camera-based AI inspection of the shop floor. We use Machine Learning and Deep Learning.
People are also embracing the distributed agile philosophy. It is a significant opportunity for India: If everything can happen out of remote centres. That’s where “skill and scale” comes into play.
On ChatGPT, AI and other emerging tech..
The one constant thing is the evolution of technology. But if you look at the underlying principle of ChatGPT or anything else, it is all about Natural Language Processing. It’s all about bringing in a human interface. All of us have already been frustrated in trying to interact with a chatbot in the past. After 2-3 questions you realize that it doesn’t understand you. You either exit or it keeps giving you the same options that it was fed in. The more important thing is how does it learn over time. Earlier people were always looking at this more from a help desk standpoint.
It has now gone into the heart of manufacturing itself. For example, when you are driving your car, and you doze off due to fatigue, there are systems and sensors in today’s cars that can sense such a situation and either give an alarm or slow down the car. We are using AI, 5G and Edge. Automotive is an early adopter of these technologies.
Even in the aerospace industry the whole MRO process (maintenance, repair and overhaul), people are looking at wherever possible, how do I bring in AI, especially to handle repetitive tasks. You can also get step by step instructions via Augmented Reality
The nature and applicability of the use cases that the technologies were solving was not there earlier, or maybe only limited, now it is at the heart of it. Because people trust technology evolution in terms of the latest solutions.
In the industries that we serve in, there are three problems that they are trying to solve. One, enhancing customer experience at every touch point, sales and after sales. Two, reducing operating costs through operational efficiency, bringing in predictability in the system. Three, new lines of revenue.
The tech that’s driving change…
There are six major technologies that are driving change. Cloud. Industry 4.0. 5G. Edge. AI. Blockchain. A modern-day car produces about 25GB of data per hour. There is significant amount of analytics that is required. That’s where cloud comes into the picture too.
Then, why do we need 5G? Particularly on a very sensitive business process side of it, you cannot expect to send a signal somewhere and then wait for a response for a longer time. For example, in an aircraft, where there is a decision that an AI must make. You need the power of 5G to immediately respond. You cannot have a buffering scenario. These are not silos. You cannot talk of just AI without the cloud. You cannot talk of cloud without data.
The problem of skills going forward…
Today if you look at the outsourcing revenue of India, we are at US$240 billion, IT plus engineering. Engineering services, like ourselves, it’s about $40 billion and it deploys about a 5.4 million strong workforce. This is expected to grow at 12-14% YoY CAGR for the next couple of years. It is not opportunity challenge, but the supply side challenge. How do we do skills at scale? Even with the number I just mentioned, majority of outsourcing still comes from North America. There is significant growth opportunity from Europe and the rest.
The Government is definitely gung ho about it and that is why they are investing in Skill India as a huge programme. NASSCOM is looking at how do they augment and work with industry in terms of building a curriculum that supports the industry readiness part of it. Industry is forming consortiums. They are trying to work directly with universities. We are also doing all of this.
The biggest change that has happened is that the focus around the ITIs and polytechnics where you bring in skilled individuals who are ready to work in a factory. We have been working with various governments for the same.
What industry is looking at is: I don’t have the time to bring somebody from college and I don’t have the time to make wait for another 6-9 months to make them productive. How do I shorten the cycle? That way I can start from fifth semester itself. For example, we are thinking of how to use AI and other technologies for ITI students to do a virtual paint job training, virtual crash testing etc. That way you are minimizing the resource wastages.
We have our own education platform called I Get It. We use it to bring in training material and help on the corporate side for reskilling initiatives. In our own technical university TechVarsity, reskilling and upskilling of resources is done. All this is because technology is constantly evolving. You cannot all the time look for new people. How do I upskill and reskill the existing people, identifying the adjacent skills that the person today has?
This is where the challenge is. This is the secret sauce. You must bring in significant freshers out of the market and train them quickly. At the same time the existing workforce needs to be constantly trained. I think we are geared up for it. If you look at the scale that most of the companies are looking at, India is going to be the melting point of everything that happens. This is going to be the lynchpin to the success of the world. Will we be ready for India2047? Absolutely!
Check out the complete video interview…