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Being prepared… to win

By Sashi Mukundan, Regional President and Head of Country, bp India


Being prepared… to win

I recently addressed over 1000 management staff at a company’s Foundation Day celebrations. 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-Socractic Greek philosopher, once observed that: “Change is the only constant in life.” Interestingly, the concept of ‘change’ is itself changing – today it is faster and more disruptive, and the quantum of change is huge! We have moved from an era of manufacturing products to one that provides solutions. Every forward step taken is only to make the customer experience better. Our personal lives are filled with rapidly changing scenarios. 

Remember airline tickets in the form of printed booklets? From a time when you would queue up, haggle 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. If we observe carefully, driving such quantum changes are three factors. 

  1. A generational shift and the ‘always connected’ customer
  2. A customer experience shift: from products to solutions
  3. Digitization: Big data / AI / machine learning


A generational shift and the ‘always connected’ customer

Digitization is enabling us to go through very large quantities of data and learning – in ways which are faster, more accurate and more efficient. 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. 

Thanks to social media, the “always on” culture means customers expect 24/7 service (or as close as possible) and are more willing than ever before to try to solve problems ourselves by using FAQ pages or using call center IVRs. We expect omni-channel service, and expect that as we move between channels, we should receive a consistent service and an experience that feels like one big conversation. 

A customer experience shift: from products to solutions

N=1. Customers today expect personalization, with 84% of customers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business. 70% of customers 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.


Digitization: Big data / AI / machine learning

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. 

This is just the trailer. I expect the movie to start in a few years when connected India together with the startup eco system becomes wealthy. It is a mega-boom, one that could be unlocked by a $4000 threshold; India is today at around $2100 per capita income. 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 solve business problems, massive problems. 

The future is more than just a dream or words on paper. 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 the McLaren team’s approach to being agile and disruptive, and their ability to change and adapt ahead of the curve, very inspiring. They are driven by focus, ambition, imagination, dedication and microscopic attention to details. 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 – 2.3 seconds. 

McLaren Applied Technologies operate at the intersection of technology, data and human ingenuity to deliver quantifiable performance advantage - simulators have been part of their Formula 1 program since 1997. 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 that’s disruptive thinking. 

The lessons from McLaren’s singular focus are valid beyond the racetrack. 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:

  1. Be disrupted - or even better – be the one who is disrupting 
  2. Be in a state of unease as your mindset shifts


Views expressed here are personal.