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Being prepared… to win

Excerpts from a recent interaction with colleagues at one of our vendor partners. The focus was on the need for businesses to modernise and transform, especially given the fast pace of change in today’s world. 

Heraclitus, the pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, once observed that: “Change is the only constant in life.” Interestingly, the concept of ‘change’ is itself changing – today it comes faster and takes quantum leaps that, in turn cause disruption! Every forward step taken is only to make the customer experience better.

Our personal lives are filled with rapidly changing situations. Remember airline tickets in the form of printed booklets? From a time when you would queue up, negotiate at the customer window and get physical tickets printed to the experience going online - web-based ticketing is not only about convenience, it also allows you to customize preferences.

To my mind, driving such quantum changes are three factors.

1.    A generational shift: the ‘always connected’ customer

2.    A drastic shift in customer experience: from products to solutions

3.    Digitization: A combination of big data, AI and machine learning

Let me elaborate.


The ‘always connected’ customer

We live in an age where virtually everyone has a smartphone in their pockets, connecting them to just about every aspect of their lives. We’ve grown used to being able to find the information we need, contact whomever we want, even listen to whatever music we’d like, at any time of the day. Raised in a digital, media-saturated world, millennials are digital natives — and are therefore the first to notice if your digital experience is lacking. The “always on” culture means we, as customers, expect 24/7 service (or as close as possible) and are more willing than ever before to try to solve problems ourselves. As we move between channels, we expect consistency in omni-channel service and an experience that feels like one big conversation. 


A shift in customer experience

Customers today expect a personalized experience, with 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. In fact, 70% of them say understanding how they use products and services is very important to winning their business. The key word here is personalization; companies who don’t recognize this are up for a very turbulent ride.


Big data, AI and machine learning

Digitization is enabling us to go through very large quantities of data and learning – in ways which are faster, more accurate and more efficient. There is a base of 400 million smart connected users in India – up from 11 million in 2001. Each customer uses 11 GB of data and is online for an astounding 4.5 hours, per day. There are 30,000 startups in India today, a number that is growing exponentially with support from the India stack: Aadhar, UDI, and digital payments - the largest in the world.

I believe this is just the start as in a few years a connected India together with the startup eco system becomes wealthy. It is a mega-boom, one that could be unlocked by a $4000 threshold per capita income (it is at around $2100 today). How do we get to that higher number? How do we use the internet to make lives better? The answer lies in how we apply technology to provide solutions to problems touching all aspects of our personal and public lives.

So what does this mean?

The future is no longer a sci-fi fantasy. The ability to drown forest fires by sound waves; heart-monitoring T-shirts; your brain print as a password; cancer-detecting ‘smart needles’; car batteries that charge in 10 minutes; trains that run at 760mph – all these disruptive innovations are coming to life as I type! 


Let’s change before we are forced to

Being an avid Formula One fan, I find McLaren’s approach agile and disruptive, and their ability to change and adapt ahead of the curve, is indeed very inspiring. McLaren Applied Technologies operate at the intersection of technology, data and human ingenuity to deliver quantifiable performance advantage. An example being - simulators have been part of their Formula 1 program since 1997. They have only one objective – to drive performance through innovation. Think about it. In 1950, it took a F1 car about 67 seconds at a pit-stop, in early 90’s it came down to 6 seconds. Even as one couldn’t imagine it could go lower – it did! Today, on average it is 2.2 seconds.

Every part of racing performance is critical, and McLaren anticipates and prepares for every eventuality. The F1 mission control room in England helps race engineers monitor a Grand Prix anywhere in the world and relay race strategy decisions in real time. While technology plays its part, each person is an important cog and a key contributor. The racing car model itself is under constant modification and evolves from one season to another - which is a matter of a few weeks. Now isn’t that disruptive thinking?

It’s a team that’s driven by focus, ambition, imagination, dedication and microscopic attention to details. These lessons are valid way beyond the racetrack and apply in our world of business as well. At the end of the day, it boils down to being prepared to win. Let me leave you with these two questions:

Are you ready to be disrupted - or even better – are you preparing to disrupt?

Are you in a constant state of unease and making a paradigm shift from conventional mindsets?

If you said ‘yes’ to the above, you are going down the right path. If you haven’t, then remember what happened to the dinosaurs!

 So embrace change… because your competition certainly is!

The views expressed here are personal and those of the author.