'We are helping clients to adopt new technologies'

IBM India Head

IBM India, part of American multinational technology company International Business Machine Corporation, is set to play a key role as the country is going through a digital transformation. In an interaction with N V Vijayakumar of DH, Karan Bajwa, Managing Director of IBM India, dwells on how the company is helping various enterprises, including the government, become smarter by leveraging platforms such as big data, cloud, Artificial Intelligence, blockchain and security. Edited excerpts:

What are your views on the data explosion happening in the country?

India will have more than 850 million internet users, and 90% mobile penetration by 2022. As per the latest report by IBM’s Institute of Business Value, we are poised to become a trillion-dollar digital economy in the next few years. The nation is poised to lead a ‘data revolution’, given the enormous amount of data generated by over a billion people. From 80 million online shoppers in 2017, the number of Indians who will shop online will rise to 220 million. This is a huge digital opportunity for both businesses and organisations like IBM to tap into this digital opportunity and help clients differentiate themselves in the way they are engaged with end-customers.

How are you helping enterprises, companies and government to harness these data?

90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. Out of the current available data, only 20% is searchable as the rest 80% is unstructured and held by enterprises. Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help in mining this data, create insights and map our transformational path to competitive advantage. We are enabling enterprises and governments to leverage AI and cloud technology to harness data and tap new business opportunities, while meeting regulatory requirements at the same time. As we usher in new technologies built on data, like AI and blockchain, all organisations have an obligation to do so responsibly. This not only means employing industry-leading security measures to protect data from external threats, but also instituting internal policies that make clear to client who owns data and the unique insights it generates, and how data is being used or managed. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t believe that clients should surrender control of their data.

What will be the role of artificial intelligence and machine learning?

For the first time since the rise of the internet, we are witnessing a shift in the epicentre of market disruption. Today, the world is progressing ahead on the digital transformation journey with new age technologies like AI, cognitive, ML, blockchain, IoT and more, delivered on the Cloud. A data-driven business strategy backed by cloud and AI will bring in transformational and cultural change. We believe that exponential data when combined with exponential AI will result in exponential learning. Armed with data, a built-in advantage that cannot be easily replicated or leapfrogged, combined with innovative use of emerging technologies, like AI incumbents can harness the best possible insights and thereby drive business growth.

What is IBM’s approach to data and how is it different from others?

Data is the phenomenon of our time. It is the world’s new natural resource, growing exponentially not only in quantity, but more importantly in form. In January 2017, IBM Chairman Ginni Rometty issued an initial set of principles for the cognitive era, describing IBM’s commitments regarding the purpose of our cognitive systems; the transparency we will bring to its use; and the commitment we have made to help current and future generations develop the skills required to succeed in this new world. IBM believes organisations that collect, store and manage or process data have an obligation to handle it responsibly. We believe that our clients’ data is their own, and they should not have to relinquish their rights over it to benefit from IBM’s solutions and services.

We are fully committed to protecting the privacy of our clients’ data. IBM believes that clients should be able to determine where their data is stored and how it is processed. Our take is that we must bring AI to data, rather than data to AI. 

Where will IBM find the business opportunity in India?

We have reinvented IBM for this moment, to help our clients embrace this new era of business and technology with: A cloud designed for data – the 80 and the 20. Watson, as the AI for business. We are aggressively looking at expanding our platforms to help clients adopt new technologies such as cloud, data analytics, IoT, AI, ML and blockchain. We have built Watson platform to further analyse data using AI, ML and deep learning. Besides healthcare, telco, retail, it will make deep impact in different verticals like finance and banking, policy initiatives by government, various enterprise application etc. Our lab teams here are doing a lot of ground breaking work in these areas. In fact, India accounted for over 800 patents making the country the second highest contributor.

How do you look at security and privacy?

How companies collect, use and protect their customers’ data will be their biggest competitive differentiator going forward. Being a data steward will be crucial. IBM has been looking at data security and privacy for the last 60 years. We have been witnessing millennials creating brontobyte of data. We understand that all great technological advancements bring in new concerns and have over the past years developed a set of processes and programmes to protect data that are unmatched in the industry. This commitment begins with a process guided by societal norms, legal and regulatory compliance, security and protection of privacy and personal information. This process pervades the entire company and has inspired a new set of programmes specifically focused on advancing, understanding and effecting the ethical development of artificial intelligence.

What is your 'One IBM' policy?

IBM has several business verticals including hardware, software, services, research - aligned to industries. Our One IBM approach is focused on giving enterprises a consolidated view of our end-to-end business capabilities and thereby create a unique approach designed to specific client needs. 

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'We are helping clients to adopt new technologies'

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