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Looking to the platform

July 12, 2016

Vinod Kumar   

Former Managing Director and Group CEO Tata Communications

One of the joys of my role is having plenty of opportunity to talk about interesting topics with a diverse spread of well-informed people. Over the past couple of days, at the Tata Communications global CEO Summit, I encountered just this sort of opportunity in spades.  We gathered some 50 CEOs from a range of industry-leading companies from retail to manufacturing, to take on one of the most topical discussion areas in business at the moment: the role of Artificial Intelligence (AI).

When such a diverse group of business leaders gather to discuss a topic so vital to our future, then we can be certain of some fresh and invaluable revelations. The building blocks of connectivity and cloud are already in place, and – as we heard from our own Sentient Technologies – AI is already changing industry dynamics from healthcare, to financial services, banking and retail.  However, AI is a part of a wider shift – in fact the biggest since the first industrial revolution – the emergence of the platform economy.

The new platform economy is where businesses prosper and grow by turning themselves into a platform upon which others can do likewise. They thrive by building and sustaining communities, rather than facilitating transactions. Companies like Uber and AirBnB are often quoted as the figureheads of this shift.  But with the user journey calling the shots, platform business models have now made inroads into all sectors and areas of life.

In the platform economy, anyone can innovate and succeed by building on the shoulders of giants. Increasingly, AI will provide another way to do this by simplifying and automating a host of functions – making it so much easier for innovators to operate and experiment with new and different technology.

At Tata Communications, we’ve spent the past few years building our own platforms. We’ve built out a community of partners around our IZO platform, and connected more than 70 countries around the world.  We are providing the means through which new innovations, including AI, can be pushed forward.  And of course, the platform upon with any modern business is built, is the internet.

In time, the biggest platform of them all will be the Internet of Things (IoT) network.  We are working across the Tata group in this regard.  For instance, we’ve worked with Tata Steel to create the first industrial wearable:  a watch for factory workers that provides critical real-time safety data. And we’re providing Bluetooth, WiFi and LoRa Wan to create an IoT platform for factory IoT.

I’m really looking forward to spending the rest of this week exploring the platform economy with our guests from the global technology analyst community. The Tata Communications Global Analyst Communications summit will give my executive team and I lots of opportunity to discuss the platform economy, and illustrate our play through the views and testimonials of global customers and partners for whom we are making it real. I look forward to sharing the innovation and technology that we’re employing to put ourselves at the centre of the platform economy, and to the opportunity to showcase the success of our customers and partners.  And I look forward to learning from other experts, and discussing what all this means for the future of business, society and our lives everywhere, every day.

For live updates from our Global Analyst Summit, follow #GACS16 on Twitter.