There is a common consensus shaping up the world over- that while we battle the COVID-19 crisis, businesses that are geared up for a more digital future will be the winners at the end. The pandemic has emphasized the vital role of technology and innovation for supporting remote working, scaling digital channels, and measuring productivity. Companies have digitized overnight to keep operations going while minimizing the risk to employees by adapting to new ways of working and new technologies to aid them. And there is more change to come.
In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Saurabh Tiwari, CTO of Policybazaar shares how post-COVID, organizations that have not created digital assets till now, will create those assets on a war footing and how data connectivity will become an important part of the game
COVID-19 seems to be accelerating digital transformation in the workplace across industries. How are businesses fast-tracking their digital agenda amidst this crisis?
One thing that became clear was that digital transformation is a necessity, something you cannot avoid. We also felt there were many places where we had to think about transforming our digital assets-for instance, in our insurance business, people have to travel in-person to conduct medical examinations. So we have moved to a completely digital solution where medicals can be done tele-medically. And we have been working with insurance companies to evolve this technology.
Similarly, KYC is also being done in a digital form as compared to the earlier way of the physical form.
So wherever, we felt there gaps in the digital assets, we are filling them at a war pace. Things will continue to change dramatically change in the next two years.
How are you preparing for a post-COVID business? What investments are the most necessary to create a technology environment that will allow your company to thrive in the next normal?
We have two-three areas where we use technology extensively such as our contact centers where we allow tele-callers to connect with our customers. We will bring in new VPN technologies there which will allow agents to connect from home and provide necessary advice to customers. We are also investing in giving them better hardware-laptop, tablets-to better work remotely. In some places, we are also enabling our agents to have better broadband connectivity. This is largely from a contact center perspective.
“From an end-consumer perspective, areas, where physical connects were required such as KYC and medical, we are trying to build digital assets to fill that gap by adding a contactless world for the end consumer.”
A lot of employees must be working remotely. What are your biggest challenges with respect to dealing with this new style of working and what technologies are you employing to solve them?
The biggest challenge we are facing is that there has been no separation between work and home. We all are working long hours. Employees are missing office for sure and finding it tough to connect with people only on calls. So the number of meetings has gone drastically up. Also, for many people who were not used to remote working, they really had to learn the art of expressing themselves. Knowledge transfer has also become difficult.
How we are solving these challenges is by enabling them through the right coaching to do their job better and by planning informal catch-up sessions. Technologically, we want to introduce a decent and organized chat platform such as Slack, moving them from WhatsApp.
Do you see a new tech infrastructure in the making for your organization after COVID-19?
Absolutely- we all have fully understood that the new normal is going to be the new normal. And WFH will continue to stay. We realize that WFH has led to an increase in productivity and people have started giving better outcomes. And to make this happen over the long run, we have to invest in certain areas which I mentioned earlier such as our Virtual Private Network which has to become a lot more scalable and should be able to accommodate a larger number of people.
We are also looking to introduce two-factor authentication to check the authenticity of customers. Data security has become an important area. While we had been focusing on encrypting all personal information on our systems, now we are engaging with third-party partners who do a vulnerability assessment on a regular basis. These investments will go on a slightly higher side however the need for an office might go south.
What do you think are the security implications of the post COVID world because data will no longer be confined to corporate offices?
I think every organization needs to do a very detailed assessment of their technology infrastructure. Earlier organizations were more focused on infrastructure assessments within their office but now the infrastructure is not restricted only to the office.
It has spread out to unlimited homes. So security assessment has to be done thoroughly. And for that, it should be on a regular basis-like an audit every month by a third party vendor. Sensitive personal data needs to be properly encrypted and cloud infra needs to be beefed up to protect against cyber-attacks.
In the post COVID world which of these technologies will be bet on by companies most –IoT, AI, 5G, Blockchain, or cybersecurity?
Data connectivity will become an important part of the game. In India, while 4G is decent enough but the country lags in connectivity across different regions. If 5G can ensure better connectivity, which is one area that will pick up as we move forward. Blockchain still needs to have a decent application. AI/ML is part of our application stack. And COVID can create more use cases that can help us use them in a much better fashion to figure out data leakages or fraud situations. For Policybazaar, our data-driven execution is going to define our future and we are committed to investing in these technologies be it AI, ML, neural networks, as well as in improving the UI for a better customer and agent experience.
While more businesses are on the back foot when it comes to expansion and investment, do you think the global IT spend will increase?
For sure, the IT spend will increase. Because companies that have not created digital assets till now, will create those assets and for that, we will need better infrastructure. So companies like Azure, AWS, Google Cloud will see better adoption of their digital infrastructure and cloud technologies. Insurance was a business that was not completely digital-but this crisis will push a lot of companies to go digital.
To learn more about leading with Adaptable Tech in a post-COVID world, join us at People Matters TechHR India week.