Onward Ho!

Sashi Mukundan, Head of BP India, shares his views on disruption and change being the constant factors.

Date: 26 December 2017

As I look around, I can’t help but marvel at today’s generation – the millennials. In spite of the fact that the world around is changing even as you read this, they have not only been able to adapt but thrive in it. And with time, the options and the horizons are expanding even more. For instance, the generation in primary school today has more options to choose from than the generation which has just hit high school. The opportunities are endless, mind boggling and, thanks to the advent of technology, are all the more exciting!

The volume of data in the world is growing at an unprecedented rate. Try this for size:

 -  11 hours : speed at which world’s information base doubles

 -  +12 terabytes : Amount of data Twitter processes every day

 -  1 trillion : Number of devices connected to the Internet

 -  It will take 1000 years to view all YouTube content posted to date

These are striking numbers from 2015 so imagine the exponential growth by now! So, what does this mean for us? Data clutter, obsolescence due to continuous change, a divide between global and digital, routine jobs becoming redundant from predictive analytics and software robots (BOTs) or could this be the brave new world which is here to stay and one that we need to prepare for?

I believe it is the latter. And I think a three-pronged approach is needed to avoid being deluged by this tsunami.

1.    We need to prepare for disruptive change. To explain this, let’s take the example of airline ticket sales. Till the turn of century you would go to a sales office or an agent and follow a step-by-step, laborious process of booking a ticket. But then came web-based ticketing which opened up a whole lot of options, not to mention comparing prices.  Who needs a sales or ticketing agent now, eh? Although, I do wonder what happened to the manufacturer of the glossy red carbon paper used in paper tickets.

Same story with app-based car transportation such as Uber and Ola. It has redefined our travel needs. I won’t be surprised if very soon my car drops me at work, doubles up as an app based transportation vehicle during the day and then come back to pick me up.  This kind of efficiency can cut the number of cars on the road by 70% (not to mention the salutary effect it will have on reducing pollution).

These are just two examples from everyday life which has created disruption – economically and socially. 

If you don’t anticipate change and adapt, you are going under!

2. Every customer needs to be treated as a unique entity and given a customized experience.

The late C.K. Prahlad said “N=1 ….. every customer is unique and, R=G… human, material and immaterial sources are available everywhere“. Nothing can come closer to this truth today! 

Gone are the days of Henry Ford and the famous black Model T.  Today you can custom build your car on the same assembly line without having to pay more. You don’t have to be a maharaja to order a Rolls Royce Phantom to do this. Selecting a restaurant to order from? ‘Stumbling upon’ an event to attend? There is a lot of science, analytics, algorithms that go in to what you are clicking on. 

Just in time inventory, multiple products on the same line and predictive analytics change the way we can visualize and create things.The customer is co-creating the product! Another example is the Moto Maker, launched by Motorola for their Moto-X phone. Their customisation tools are incredibly customer-centric. And this is what we, the consumers, like – being able to design our ‘own’ product.These are examples of resources that are not constrained, but available to everyone, everywhere.

3. Genuine care and compassion for the environment is a non-negotiable. By ‘environment’, I mean both the natural ecosystem we are part of and the communities we live in.

On the left is a picture of an experiment conducted in Gujarat to cover the canals using photo-voltaic cells. It solved the largest problem faced by the solar power plants – land – as well as reduced evaporation from canals. Without going into the technical details, suffice it to say that if the entire length of the canal is used to generate electricity, then an estimated 50 million households can be powered with solar energy alone! This also implies that 11,000 acres of land can be potentially conserved along with a saving of around 20 billion litres of water per annum. 

With the oil and gas portfolio shifting more towards gas (and gas with no methane emissions during production and transportation to the customer), BP - a strong proponent of sustainable development – is doing its bit as the world transitions to a lower carbon world. With a focus on biofuels, wind, and now solar, we have the largest operated renewables business among our oil and gas peers. We are the first company to encourage an industry initiative called OGCI - 10 companies, 20% of world oil and gas production, $1 billion fund to develop clean and low carbon transition initiatives.

As we move into 2018, our priority would be to use technology to drive change – a force which is both disruptive as well as equalizing. Onward ho!
Views expressed here are personal