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The new normal pushed us towards inevitability

July 2, 2020

Vaneet Mehta   

Associate Vice President and Region Head, Middle East, Central Asia & Africa

The COVID-19 pandemic has completely transformed the way we live our lives, putting technology at the forefront of everything we do. Tata Communications’ Associate Vice President, Vaneet Mehta, discusses how our reliance on technology has made us think more deeply about the role of digitisation and gives us a preview of what life might be in the future.

Contagion, a 2011 US thriller film about a spreading pandemic is so relatable today. No one ever imagined that this would seem so real today. If someone told you that in Jan 2020 Mumbai, New York, Tokyo, Beijing, and other such bustling cities would have empty streets by April, would you have believed them? It is rightly said that tough times get the best out of us. Today, we all have closely witnessed the disruption in our work and social lives. Interestingly, knowingly, or unknowingly we have been on the receiving end of more digitisation in the last couple of months as ever compared to the years before.

COVID-19 has joggled mankind to think differently and innovate within their boundaries.  Although few industries are hard pressed due to closures and quarantining, the crisis has pushed work-from-home and other digital approaches to be the new normal, overnight. While COVID-19 has threatened in more ways than one, it is almost giving us a preview of an inevitable future where digital maturity leads the way.

5 silver linings from the new normal:

Renewed Business Continuity – Increasing number of companies today are evaluating the possibility of shifting work from home as the new norm, given the operational cost-effectiveness and increased productivity. One of the major learning from COVID-19 induced situations has been the emergence of seamless borderless growth. Companies are at an opportune juncture to analyse and understand how they can empower their distributed workforce to collaborate better. A right step in this direction today will safeguard the growth of the company in the long run. Organisations need to evaluate, design, and deploy the right mix of Cloud, Security, and other collaboration tools to succeed. Collaboration and unified communication tools can enable businesses to connect with both employees and partners at any time and from anywhere and if done correctly, it will provide a secure platform as well. This holds the potential to reinvent operational models in a post COVID world.

Uninterrupted Customer Experience While COVID-19 has disrupted businesses, customers reliance on services have only increased. During times of crises customers seek guidance and support from their trusted brands more than ever. Rising to the occasion, brands across sectors, even with many constraints are delivering a superior and uninterrupted experience to the customer digitally. They continue to be dynamic to the new needs during this time of uncertainty. For example, currently both a salesperson and a customer are sitting in their comfort zone and enabled by video connect, allowing a seamless familiar relationship experience to take place. This is possible in sectors like retail, banking, and healthcare.

“Growing customer interaction and the need for automation have led to an innovation of conversational bots which are a confluence of technologies like voice recognition, natural language processing and artificial intelligence.”

Companies are also looking at how technologies like Artificial Intelligence and humans can work side by side to solve customers’ problems with efficiency and speed.

Reimagined Health and Safety – The pandemic has disrupted the health and safety sector significantly with customers developing digital habits on account of social distancing. There has been a surge in adoption of digital health solutions. Masses have changed their usual habits and are open to considering Telehealth consultation and video appointments to ensure safe distancing and staying healthy at the same time. Progressing from telehealth is the inclusion of Internet of Things (IoT) enabled devices to execute digital diagnostics.

Hospitals worldwide are experimenting on it, as remote monitoring particularly in the case of elderly and critical circumstances can provide early guidance. Furthermore, IoT enabled wearables and devices will be instrumental as the workforce returns. For instance, monitoring of vitals such as body temperature and heart rate, enable social distancing with proximity alerts and also showcase movement history through contact tracing solutions. As an extension, governments globally are planning to leverage IoT solutions for optimum usage of resources driving smart cities.

Learning and upskilling – The circumstances forced us towards practicality. One where we came out of the classroom mindset and broadened our horizons with the same learnings but now digitally. Right from junior classes to eminent business institutes are running lectures on cloud. The number of webinars and video conferences during this short period have also increased two-fold. Simultaneously, enterprises are also relaying their learning and development programs in the same manner. It is now easier and more flexible to learn than ever before.

Remote Production – As most of the global population self-isolates at home, media consumption levels have gone through the roof. According to a recent report from Global Web Index, 87% of US consumers and 80% of UK consumers revealed that they are consuming more content than ever before.

“The media & entertainment industry is a good example of how segments across the world are trying to find new ways to continue. With remote productions, fan-less stadiums hosting games can broadcast live feed with the teams sitting in another part of the world.”

Remote production is being looked as a solution across media and entertainment industry, not only for its cost effectivity but as an active part of business strategy to resume production post COVID.

The benefits of digital transformation initiatives just does not stop at the company level, the drop in travel has revealed momentous reduction in air and water pollution around the world. A large shift is noticed at the consumer end as well, with their increasing expectations of 360 degree digital services. This ease and comfort experienced at all levels is giving us a glimpse of a digitally empowered sustainable tomorrow.

Find out more about how COVID-19 is transforming the way we work and live.