Well-prepared is half the battle won. Nothing proves this better than the aftermath of the second wave of the COVID-19 crisis. There is no doubting what we have seen. The question now is – would we repeat these mistakes? “Whether there is a third wave or not, we should certainly prepare for it,” said Arun Karna, MD, and CEO, AT&T Global Network Services India Pvt Ltd. And he is right.
We need to be working on predictive areas, infrastructure, identification, monitoring, etc. All this requires a good plan, good technology and good leadership.
— Pradeep Gupta, Chairman, CyberMedia Group
Technology will take the shape of many avenues and answers in enabling this readiness, such as contactless processes, better and faster prediction, drones, workplace automation, and a lot more.
He was speaking at the panel discussion on ‘Preparing for the 3rd Wave of COVID-19’ at Dataquest Digital Leadership Conclave recently. The panel discussion was moderated by Pradeep Gupta, Chairman, CyberMedia Group.
ML and NLP are being used with different levels of accuracy, assumptions and models for prediction. Why not have this information readily available on an app?”
— Prakash Kumar, CEO, Wadhwani Institute of Technology & Policy
Yes, we have both the tools and the prerogative to find innovative readiness in fighting the many ramifications of the pandemic. “Digital and contactless technologies can help soften the blow and aid recovery as the situation evolves,” Karna suggested.
Prakash Kumar, CEO, Wadhwani Institute of Technology and Policy explained the role of prediction with reasonable accuracy. “In natural disasters, there is a huge peak and then it subsides. But with a crisis like COVID-19, the effect is longer. That’s what changes how we look at data for prediction here. So how do we evacuate and what actions can we take? In infrastructure creation, impact minimisation, in the identification of areas of impact – in all these, technology can be very useful. Information can be made publicly available on a ready app.”
Kumar recommended that the use of AI and ML can be substantial in prediction areas – how people move and how we form assumptions. “Emerging technologies like machine learning and NLP are being used with different levels of accuracy, assumptions, and models. Why should we not have all this information readily available to a person on an app?”
Karna added that there has been a marked increase in the adoption of digital technologies. “Those enterprises that had not embarked on digital journeys were badly affected. Those that were fairly down the road on digital adoption not only survived, but even thrived – such as online marketplaces, entertainment, IT companies, edutech, fintech, and health tech. The increased dependence on digital technologies has blurred the distance between the physical and digital worlds. This growth will continue, thanks to business imperatives. We need more flexibility now to customise products as per customer’s needs.”
We need technologies for rapid response with enough flexibility, scalability and minimum human intervention. The drone technology is one such example.
— Vipul Singh, CEO, Aarav Unmanned Systems
In these times of stress, the empathetic style of leadership would be good. Now we need bold, intuitive and resilient style of leadership too.
— Arun Karna, MD & CEO, AT&T Global Network Services India Pvt Ltd
Automate for balance
Touching upon one of the important challenges of the new normal and WFH era, Gupta wondered how can one manage growth and create a work-life balance.
“In the first wave of the pandemic, we were locked in, but the second wave has affected us in a serious and deep way,” averred Amit Sinha Roy, Global Head of Marketing and Communications, Tata Communications. “So it really affected work-life balance. Moving forward, we need to look at some best practices. Now, the office and home have merged into one. We need to be able to create some distinctions in a structured way. The way of WFH needs to be more evolved, and the work-life balance has to be clearly demarcated. It has got all meshed up right now.”
Fly when you need to
People have short memories, so we need to remember and build awareness programs based on the first and second wave’s lessons, said Vipul Singh, CEO, Aarav Unmanned Systems, pointing at workplace solutions and automation to get ready. He picked out some absolutely essential technologies for third-wave readiness. “We need technologies for rapid response with enough flexibility, scalability, and minimum human intervention. Drone technology is one such example, and all the characteristics I mentioned fit well with it. India can learn from other parts of the world how they have used this. We also need to create awareness well in advance with communication technologies. Also, artificial intelligence can compensate for human presence.”
UAVs can play a big role in the delivery of vaccines too. “We have a wide variety of topology in India. Some terrains, especially in the North East, are difficult. That’s where all logistics issues start. Mobilisation of emergency supplies is largely dependent on land-based logistics and humans. That’s where drones can help. There are no obstructions in a 3D aerial space with no landslides or weather issues.” He illustrated how ICMR is running a pilot project for validating the technology’s potential and defining the standards. “IIT Kanpur, etc., are also running these tests.” Drones are being used for operations of assets in industrial use cases as well.
We need to embrace workforce flexibility through the empowerment of adaptable office infrastructure with remote access, security, etc.”
— Amit Sinha Roy, Global Head of Marketing & Communications, Tata Communications
And, of course, lead right
All this would call for the right leadership, Gupta argued. Karna seconded that and said, “In these times of stress, the empathetic style of leadership would be good.
Now we need a bold, intuitive, and resilient style of leadership too. You not only have to lead but also have to be seen to be leading. Because all informal structures that we previously had, are no longer available for the leader to show up. There is an increased dependence on digital, so the organisation would also need to align well with digital culture – till the last link in the chain. The workforce wants balance – it cannot be all about productivity increases. The enterprise should account for workforce expectations and concerns as well.”
Agile is the new A
The role that enterprises can play has become profound. Roy shared that we need to embrace workforce flexibility. “We need the empowerment of adaptable office infrastructure with remote access, security, etc. A big part of ‘return to work has to be strengthened by right solutions for workforce safety and mitigation of unnecessary clustering, among others.”
That’s where a multipronged approach to security would come in. Karna advised for a protective all-encompassing layer with software-defined threat detection and response mechanism. The security paradigm is now moving to recover and retaliate. “Network and security are a single dialogue. SASE, for instance, is the new paradigm.”
In the first wave, we saw how big companies adapted and started manufacturing sanitisers or providing oxygen support. The pandemic has changed the very fabric of the business – in many places, cited Roy as he underlined the role of agility in business models.
A big part of ‘return to work’ has to be strengthened by right solutions for workforce safety and mitigation of unnecessary clustering, among others.
India is one of the leaders in technology. We should use that carefully.
“We need to be working on predictive areas, infrastructure, identification, monitoring, etc. All this requires a good plan, good technology, and good leadership. The wheels of the economy have to run on these important components,” Gupta said. He surmised well – we need to be prepared. Technology should help. We also need a multidimensional approach to do that.
By Pratima Harigunani