• Sachin Arora, Partner |

Prior to COVID-19, organisations weren’t racing to towards making use of AI that could play a big role in augmenting business operations, profitability, and innovation. A lot of them did not completely understand the value of AI and it was due to this that adoption and scaling up was slow.

This was then. Today since the pandemic struck, organisations have looked to invest big in AI platforms, gradually shifting from a “good initiative to have” to it becoming a key business imperative. What aided this was the disruption to the “business as usual” scenario and certain gaps it exposed in digital transformation initiatives where employees, existing processes and resources found it challenging when not being able to meet and scale as a result of the rising demands courtesy the pandemic. Going digital and embracing automation were probably the only solutions that could help in performing key tasks at scale.

Role of AI in meeting urgent business requirements

Due to the pandemic, “the future of work” is upon us with organisations graduating to becoming “digital first”. Today digital transformation is having an impact across sectors and industries and a lot of organisations are finding that automating certain processes and routine tasks, are helping them meet client and customer needs much efficiently and real time. What this means is, is that COVID-19 has resulted in the need for agility and speed, in providing solutions to customer problems in a huge way, all of this beyond the talent and capabilities of actual staff.

For example, food delivery platforms/companies saw a sudden spike in case volumes when COVID-19 struck and many of them had to overhaul their complete customer service to meet customer demands. It lends credence to the fact that barring automation, such platforms and organisations wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the speed and scale necessary, to ensure they do not lose out on customers and able to retain them.

Investment in AI tools and solutions could go a long way in improving cost-effectiveness and profitability. This at a time when businesses are doing more with less. As many as 74 per cent CEOs in India stated that they would look at creating new workforce models, strengthened by AI and automation technologies to enable business continuity and growth during these uncertain times. This is according to KPMG in India’s CEO Outlook: COVID-19 Special Edition Report.

Today we have AI-powered chatbots. As they are evolving, they are becoming more sophisticated and conversational and are now helping organisations offer seamless and efficient customer service for routine queries, at a time when many companies do not have the luxury of hiring. Today bots can not only offer solutions to problems, they can also help with insights on how products can be improved. Additionally, AI can also aid in personalised insights that improve customer engagement, be it suggesting a “next best action” to a salesperson, or helping customers select products. AI in supply chain processes such as inventory, logistics and distribution has been key to profitability to several manufacturing and distribution companies.

AI and its benefits

A lot of the many uses of AI includes iterating and making changes to existing processes. Soon, AI will come to help in reimagining business models altogether, thereby allowing organisations to find new ways to measure and deliver real-time value. It also possesses the capability to bridge silos within the organisation between business units. But today, tools like AI and RPA build connections across organisations, enabling a holistic view of the customer that enables delivering personalised value. In a nutshell, AI has a role to play in both top-line growth with solid bottom-line results with a better than ever customer satisfaction.

The future - Moving towards innovation

The COVID-19 crisis has allowed organisations to embrace the benefits that AI has to offer in a big way. Pilots and large-scale implementations that would have taken years, are taking place within weeks or months. Lastly AI if implemented well, in conjunction with human counterparts, can go a long way in helping organisations become more human and deliver greater value to customers.

(A version of this article appeared in Communications Today Magazine | March-April 2021 Issue)

  • Sachin Arora

    Sachin Arora

    Partner, Head – KPMG Lighthouse the Global Center of Excellence for Data, AI & Emerging Technologies, KPMG in India

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