Friday 4 February 2022

Digital transformation – 8 inside characteristics of the modern & digital organizations


The pandemic has changed the dynamics of almost every kind of business. And today, most businesses have no choice but to transform themselves through technology to reach their customers and continue their existence.

Digital transformation is not a new concept.  Probably, it's one of the most overused terms in recent times, especially during the last couple of years.  Every other company is either getting digitally transformed, or helping others get transformed, or both. 

However, have you ever thought about what a ‘transformed’ organization looks like? What are the characteristics of a modern and a digitally transformed organization? How does a ‘Digitally transformed’ organization function and work, to continue the agility that they have gained through the transformation?

Here are 8 characteristics or principles of the ‘Modern and Digitally transformed’ organization. These principles define how these companies operate internally, how their employees and teams see the organization from inside.


For digitally transformed organizations, the size of the company does not matter for their IT operations.  Whether the company size is 500 people, or 50,000 people, these companies do not find it hard to scale their internal operations and business processes.

The internal organization complexities are hidden behind simpler interfaces and intuitive business processes.  They provide great working experiences to the employees, customers, and guests alike.

The access to their core systems and services are easily available to build better interfaces and experiences for their internal business operations and customer facing processes.



Organization allows work from anywhere, any time and business processes are tuned and built to support remote first working culture. These organizations take advantage of the time zone aligned teams rather than limiting them to specific locations or regions. 

The services that are offered to employees and customers are hyper personalized and they can take their experience anywhere they go and access services with any device.


Digitally transformed organizations also transform the culture of the company.  These organizations encourage collaboration and prefer networked conversations over structured conversations.   Diversity and inclusiveness are key elements of the culture, and everyone’s opinions are important to take the organization forward.

Employees engage in natural and non-hierarchical communications across the organization, and they have necessary tools and technology at the disposal that allows them to communicate the way they want and improve social collaboration. 


The information is open, the organization culture promotes and actively demonstrates transparency into its operations and decisions.  With this, the information becomes an enabler for people to do better work.  Even with a culture of openness & transparency, security and privacy remain of paramount importance.  

The core IT systems are easily interoperable, and the IT assets are easily discoverable and accessible through internal developer platform / API / core asset marketplaces.


These organizations integrate the physical workspaces with digital technologies to build smarter experiences for their employees, customers, and guests.   They capture telemetry of every event happening within their digitized business process and ensure that they use big data to enhance their experience as well as the processes.

They use AI for enhancing human effectiveness at work and provide full or assisted decision support for key organizational decisions. 


These organizations care about sustainability and environment and ensure that they run on sustainable energy and prioritize being carbon neutral (if not negative).  They would have committed to and demonstrated actions on supporting the SBTi goals towards climate action.

For the assets and devices owned by the organization, they follow the eco-friendly recycling and promote reusability.  Their cloud infrastructure runs on green cloud computing.

Fast, yet accurate

Digitally transformed organizations are highly data driven.  They have trustworthy data, made available to employees and leaders through established data platforms and relevant tools.  The data that people are entitled to access is available at fingertips, in the format the employees want.  

All operational, business, and organizational decisions are driven by intelligent & actionable data insights.


Innovative, learnable

The digitally transformed organizations make innovation easy and take efforts to democratize innovation within the organization.  Their next phase of growth is driven by innovation.  They have lower barriers for innovation and experimentation and set clear paths for idea->impactful outcomes.

These organizations retain a high focus on research and continuous learning and people capability development.  Employee growth & development is a core part of the organizational strategy & culture.


Final thoughts

Markets and customer needs are evolving fast, and technology is evolving even faster.  In the new age of business, there is an inherent need for companies to stay ahead of others.  Being a modern & digital organization gives companies an advantage in the competitive market to respond faster to changing customer needs.

While above 8 principles define the characteristics of the modern & digital organizations from inside (for employees & its leaders), it’s very important to know that being digital and modern is no end state, but it’s a continuous evolution.   The companies who would wait and stay reactive, will be in a true danger of irrelevance, unless they act now, and act fast.

Being a modern & digital organization gives companies an advantage in the race, the relentless focus on customer success, being flexible and adaptable to customer needs and being continuously innovative towards building better / newer products and services for customers is what will define the success of these organizations. 

Thursday 15 April 2021

2020 from an IT company’s perspective and lessons for the future

2020 pandemic

I was to travel on my quarterly visit to the US in early February of 2020, and someone asked me about the new virus that had started making the news, coming out of Wuhan, China. I pooh-poohed the whole situation saying these kinds of viruses have been making the rounds frequently, e.g. the SARS virus, the Bird flu, the Mad Cow disease etc. They have a small life cycle and die a natural death, often being localised in specific pockets of the world. So, this should be no different. I did carry some N-95 masks and pocket sanitisers with me on that trip at my family and friends’ insistence, but I did not expect to use them. My feelings were vindicated as I did not see many travellers wearing masks all through the trip to the US. However, as I was on my way back at the end of February, the news started becoming more serious. I did see a few more masks on the way back, particularly in the transit airport in Doha, Qatar, and I, too, wore one reluctantly, still believing that it was to play safe. I heard that international travellers might be quarantined on arrival in India. I landed in Nagpur on the first of March, and much to my relief, there was no checking at all. I travelled the next day to Pune, and again everything seemed normal. 

Scramble around March

Fast-forward two weeks and all hell had broken loose, as we all now know. We were among the first companies to decide that we would ask all our employees to work from home (WFH) right away and be on the safe side. The government had still not made it mandatory, but we thought we should take adequate precautions. Of course, it was easier said than done, as we did not even have a WFH policy. All WFH requests used to be on an exception basis, and most people worked with “thin clients” in the office, and only a few had company-issued laptops. We could rent some laptops, but not enough, as there was a shortage in the market. Therefore, to expect employees to WFH was a big challenge. We had to figure out a way to have the employees WFH with their thin clients. The issue was that the thin clients did not have any Wi-Fi ability and most of our employees did not have wired internet connections at home. They were usually reliant on their phone hotspots, with Jio being the dominant player. Therefore, we had to figure out a way of ensuring connectivity. The solution came in the form of Wi-Fi extenders with an Ethernet connector that could plug into the thin client. Unfortunately, even these were not available, and by the time we tried to procure them, the government announced a lock-down, making it more difficult. Fortunately, our vendor partner moved heaven and earth and got them delivered to our office. Even then, getting them along with the thin client sets (including accessories like keyboard, mouse, and monitor) to the employees’ homes was a big challenge. Somehow, we got all that done. Some of the employees had their personal laptops/desktops. We were able to have all of them work via Amazon Workspaces through a configuration that validated the session on their smartphone using Multi-Factor Authentication to ensure complete security of our client data, which contains Protected Health Information (PHI).  The month of March was essentially spent resolving all these issues.

Settling into the new normal

Having settled into the WFH mode, we had to decide on a bunch of different things. We implemented a process wherein every team had a daily stand-up for just a few minutes each day to ensure that any issues, including any personal issues related to the pandemic, were bubbled up to the management team. That included a daily check on the health status of all the employees and their families. There were some that had family members who were in essential services like healthcare, police, essential supplies etc. Special attention had to be given to them as they were understandably far more concerned.

New normal being understood through the rest of the year

But as we progressed, we realized that even our way of working had to change. People could no longer work in fixed shifts with a “clock-in” and “clock-out” being specified. There was no help at home; kids and the elderly needed attention. There was limited space, both physical and in terms of the connectivity available. Sitting for hours together in front of the laptop/thin client system with no proper chair/desk was not only difficult; in the long run, it caused serious issues. In some cases, people found that their AWS machines were getting too slow to work effectively, particularly in the normal office time. The list can go on.

So we decided to implement several changes. To name just a few among them:

  • No fixed shift timing. Full flexibility to the employees to log in and log out as they felt convenient, so long as they were getting the job done. Some people started using the early hours before the kids woke up. Some started working late at night when the kids had gone to sleep. 
  • It became clear that the managers and supervisors also needed to reorient themselves. For someone used to managing by “looking over the shoulder” this was a significant shift. They had to trust the team to do the right thing, with no-one looking over the shoulder. We had to tell them to focus on the output and even discount if there wasn’t enough output due to exceptional circumstances. Most managers (including some of us),  who had always believed that working from home is far less productive, it was a pleasant surprise to see that the output did not suffer, which increased in some cases.
  • We educated the employees that they do not need to be worried about - and certainly not apologetic about - noises in the background. Of course, everyone quickly learnt to be on mute when not speaking. 
  • Since folks were running out of their data limits pretty quickly, they needed to upgrade their plans or buy top-up data packs. We announced a monthly allowance to take care of the additional expenses on that account
  • Individual needs varied. Some needed inverters/UPSs. Some others had to get good broadband/fiber installed; some had to buy chairs/tables to work comfortably; others did not have the space to put the furniture in but invested in good, wall-mounted monitors, built-in mic and speakers. To cater to such varied needs, we announced a package for the year, with full reimbursement up to a limit and 50% reimbursement above that for any such requirement. 
  • Since people could not socialize with their teams as they did earlier over lunch and the occasional dinner, we encouraged people to have virtual socials and happy hours, with each one ordering takeout and getting reimbursed for the same.
  • One of the challenges that came up was how to retain the great culture despite people coming on board without meeting their colleagues even once. There are teams in which not even one person has seen the physical office. How does one build a good culture leading to great teamwork in such teams? Obviously, the leaders, assisted by HR, have to take special efforts to achieve that. Some of the ideas that came up were celebrating family birthdays together virtually, having virtual happy hours with or without the families, doing fun programs like quizzes.
  • However, in some ways, this also helped in building a more global (or “glocal”) culture. There was no difference between a colleague in Pune, another in Goa, and several in the US. So long as they could come together to work, it did not matter where they were. As a result, except for the time zone challenge, it became normal for global teams to work together. Quite inevitably, sharing of individual cultures started happening. Individual customs were understood a little better. 

People started getting a better appreciation for different environments in which colleagues lived and worked. That enabled empathy and a new perspective on processes like clocking time, which suddenly became a non-issue. While that may seem like a trivial gain, it is likely that it will permanently change the way contribution is looked at, even when people work from the office.

Looking forward

As we progress through bouts of optimism and pessimism on the waves of the new case numbers, vaccination statistics etc., it is becoming clear that the way of working has changed permanently for us. On the one hand, the pandemic has proven that work can happen anywhere with almost no impact on the output. People happily spent a little more time than in the office, but considering zero commute time, they could get more time to themselves. Some teams started delivering higher output from home, depending on the nature of work. Therefore, the question that started being asked was whether we could make this a permanent arrangement. The only downside that has come up is the socialization among teams that builds team spirit and helps them achieve common goals. Therefore, the model that is now emerging in several companies is to have people work predominantly from home but come to the office on a rotating basis. Some companies have already implemented a routine that is 1 or 2 days in the office and the rest of the days WFH each week, on a rotation basis. Others are toying with the idea of a week in the office followed by a few weeks WFH. 

Inevitably, these kinds of models will lead to several fallouts that will need to be addressed. To list a few:

  • Real estate footprints will be much smaller and therefore make it more efficient. If it is 20% attendance on any given day, one can have five times the same office strength.
  • Offices will be more of collaboration and socialization spaces. Some companies have already converted parts of their seating spaces into collaboration or entertainment areas where the teams could bond together.  Some of us think that the days/weeks in the office might be the least productive as time would be spent more on other activities, for a good reason.
  • For those working a week in the office and multiple weeks from home, many in the workforce would not have a permanent residence in that city. They might prefer to travel only for that week and stay in temporary lodgings, including friends and relatives. Some companies are thinking of renting service apartments in a single building and allow their use on a no-profit-no-loss basis to the employees that would like to use them in this model. 
  • Some roles that are more individual and do not need much teamwork could be permanently remote. Particularly in case of niche skills that are hard to find, companies are willing to have them permanently remote, with company-sponsored travel on the rare occasions when they must be brought into the office. 
  • On a broader level, HR strategies and tactics, including recruitment, onboarding, training, engagement, retention and even offboarding, needs to evolve. Some specific examples with possible solutions in brackets:
    • Recruitment: 
      • No face-to-face interviews. Are you sure it is the same person that is going to join you? (We ask for a photo on the resume, and each interview is on video with screenshots taken and stored)
      • How do you know the person is not working another job? More importantly, do you care? How about gig workers? (Ideally, one should not care if the output is being delivered. However, over a long period, it is not sustainable. Frequent 1x1 check-ins, occasional contact with the family etc. will help)
      • What if you are accepting remote workers and there is a local festival that you don’t follow as a company holiday? Example: some of our employees cannot possibly take evening calls during Ganapati festival. (Have much more flexibility in terms of time off, leaves so that such issues are taken care of).
      • On the flip side, the talent pool that would otherwise not be tappable is now available to you, particularly in the case of niche skills that are hard to find in your neighbourhood. (Be prepared to offer permanently remote positions, with the company flying the person into the office occasionally as and when needed).
    • Onboarding:
      • Again, is this the same person that you interviewed? (Check against the photos taken earlier).
      • How do you ensure that the person gets to know the respective  Manager, the HR contact, the senior management, the escalation points in case of any issue? (Have a welcome meeting by senior management, another by HR and the direct manager, preferably with the buddy assigned. This is apart from the team meetings that happen regularly).
    • Training:
      • How do you keep the person engaged through hours of online training? (Ensure proper breaks to avoid video fatigue. Have fun, interactive quizzes. Intersperse with “light” content where possible).
      • How does “shadowing” or “buddy system” work virtually? Are the persons that are supposed to be shadowed trained on doing it well? How do we substitute the informal “turn around and ask someone” training on the job?  (Choose folks that enjoy helping the new joiners and have the empathy to be buddies. Tell them to check in frequently during the first few days with the new joiner until it becomes a routine. Check-in with the new joiner whether the buddy system is working well at the end of each week).
    • Engagement:
      • When people have not seen the office, never met anyone in their team or group, how do you create a sense of engagement? (Come up with innovative games/activities to encourage groups. New video tools allow for private breakout rooms. Use them creatively to have such activities).
      • For those that have been used to the camaraderie over lunch and coffee breaks and the occasional team event, won’t they start drifting apart? (Have a set time for lunch and encourage the team to have virtual lunch together where they do not talk about work. It could be once a week or some frequency that the team likes. Sponsor the lunch at some frequency).
      • Nothing like some team sports like football, cricket. How do you keep that spirit going? (Participate in fantasy leagues as one example. Have other sports like bridge, chess, poker etc., that they can have leagues in as teams).
    • Retention:
      • So easy to give interviews sitting at home and quit if you find another better offer. How do we ensure that longevity? (No different than in the earlier days of working from the office except for the convenience. Retention has to be through the proper role, proper growth and other engagement mechanisms anyway).
    • Off boarding:
      • How do you get the assets back? As per the proposed law, you have to settle the dues within two days of exit. But if the person is in another town/city, how do you get him to send the assets back? Even if you are willing to write off the assets, what about the machines’ sensitive data? (Have thin clients, no storage and use virtualization technology to protect data. Assets could be written off to an extent and budged as a percentage loss).

We have seen something that happens once in a lifetime. As someone put it, BC might well be interpreted as the Before Covid-19 era. We have learnt a lot and probably continue to learn more lessons thanks to this pandemic.

Monday 6 July 2020

COVID and Beyond – A View From SEAP

Greetings from SEAP!

It’s a pleasure to connect with all the members via this note.
At SEAP, we have reached out to you via various channels over the last few unusual months. We have all been hit by the pandemic and recognize that this is a long term challenge, and it will take some time for things to settle down in Pune. That said, we are positive that we will fight on. I take this opportunity to share with you an update from SEAP and some personal thoughts.
We all know that due to COVID-19, social distancing requirements, and a nationwide lockdown, most businesses are adversely impacted. Many are having to re-look at how they manage and operate their business, including reimagining their business models and plans.

Let me start by saying that encouraging signs have started appearing. There have been reports that IT companies have started signing the deals that had stalled when the lockdowns hit key markets. We hear members speak of pipelines slowly reopening. Specific technology areas including eCommerce, OTT video, Online Gaming, eLearning, Cloud, Security, Collaboration solutions, Automation, and others see encouraging traction. My message would be to focus on improving operational efficiency to make the most of the cash at hand and smart marketing to stay visible to your target customers.

SEAP, in the last few months, continued to support its members. In the early days of the lockdown when the information was at a premium, we provided all our members with the latest validated information from the authorities. We further continued a regular series of notifications, updates, and webinars. One of the critical areas where we have been able to help is in passes for travel across the city. The SEAP office has put tremendous efforts to resolve each query related to passes in the past few months. We are glad that this benefited our members.

SEAP continues to work on different initiatives. We have formed a CXO group, where we discuss challenges faced by various organizations to identify solutions. We are also starting with our new GURUKUL Program 2.0 soon. The announcement related to the same will be available on our social media handles.

Earlier, SEAP has scheduled webinars, panel discussions, and roundtable meets. We plan to continue this in the future as well. SEAP has started seeking memberships for the year 2020-2021, and we are getting a fabulous response.

We are thankful to our members and the Executive Council for energizing the ecosystem!

To effectively deliver our cherished objective of creating an enriching, holistic experience at SEAP, we continue to focus on a three-pronged approach, namely - Knowledge network, Business Network and Industry-Academia connect.
We urge our members to come forth and share their views, feedback, webinar queries, or to post your blog on our social media, we encourage you to write to the SEAP OFFICE. (Please specify your interest in the subject line “KEEN to share/conduct/write - feedback/webinar/blog)
Lastly, we request everyone to follow the rules outlined by the Government to help Pune city, Maharashtra, and the nation at large to overcome this battle. Let’s all stay safe and cautious.

Ashwin Megha

SEAP President

Tuesday 4 December 2018

What does the Future of Work look like?

Technological advancements have altered the way we live our lives. Everything in today’s modern times is driven technology. From buying groceries to paying your bills, from maintaining data to advertising, from manufacturing to the distribution of products, from hiring to the delegation of work et al. Perhaps sleep is the only thing where technology cannot help but then we do have gadgets and apps that help us track our sleep routines. Where life is, business went even earlier. We are already witnessing a paradigm shift in the way industries operate today.
Every startup or business event across the globe today has one thing in common – the discussion about the future of work in these technologically driven times.

What to look forward to in future?
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you think about the future of human life with regards to technology? The answer probably is simply – automation. Well, automation for sure, but this is just one tiny part of what the future of work could look like. Here’s what you can look forward to:

Moving over to Li-Fi from Wi-Fi
The internet has drastically changed our worlds. The transmission of data happens with just a few clicks and the introduction of 5G is going to transform how offices operate. Bigger bandwidths and faster data transmission will increase productivity bringing about greater efficiency in the workplace.
The internet may well shift from wireless frequency to light frequency (Li-Fi) which will use light emitting diodes for data transfer. The beta stage modules of Li-Fi are capable of transmitting data at 150 Mbps already. The scientists have said that with the use of more evolved technology backed by stronger LEDs, they can achieve 10 Gbps of speed, making it 1000 times faster than the Wi-Fi!
Transmitting data through a Li-Fi network may also be much safer than the Wi-Fi making it a more secure network to use in public places.

Physical or Virtual Workplace
Owing to digitization, a lot has changed in how companies and employees work. Many startups, for instance, have virtual workplaces. This allows them to save on office rent and commuting time, thus getting more effective work hours as compared to the regular offices.
The workplace environment is seeing a shift of policies towards helping grow employee productivity rather than the number of office hours spent. Communication technology has evolved to keep pace with the increasingly multi-locational workforce. Video calls have changed the way client meetings and conferences are held. Today, you don’t need to be physically present for that team meeting or to crack that big deal.

Humans or Artificial Intelligence (AI)
According to a PwC report, 30% of UK jobs by the year 2035 would be consumed by automation. The future of work is likely to be driven by automation and artificial intelligence. The automation would ease out many of the labour-intensive jobs across the world. Mundane, repetitive jobs are the most likely to be taken over in this manner.
However, it would be wrong to consider automation or AI as something that would rob people of their right to work and earn. Automation and AI offers an avenue to free up human resources from low value-added tasks so that they can focus on tasks that call for more skill, judgement, and emotional quotient. This will mean learning new skills and a degree of retraining -but the rewards could be many.
Automation will also help in eliminating human error thereby decreasing the number of accident and mishaps that happen due to human negligence.

Wrapping Up
Historically, the biggest fear pertaining to the implementation of technology has been that it will take away human jobs and impact many a life. But, that is not inevitable. The advent of technology has always brought about a rise in the standard of living and an improvement in economic opportunities. Humans become free to innovate and bring in a fresh perspective to their work and tasks. The purpose of technology is to help humans reduce the time spent in accomplishing any given task. With more time on our hands, we will be freer, mentally, to think about bigger and better things.
And to run and maintain these technology-driven machines and techniques, we would need humans. It is humans who are making technology and not vice versa. The future of work is likely to be very different from today with the introduction and implementation of new techniques riding high on technological advancements. And, it should be an exciting time!

Tuesday 22 May 2018

The Ecosystem Startups and Midsize Technology Companies Need To Thrive

Well first, what is an ecosystem? An Ecosystem is defined as a biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment. Similarly, for startups and midsize technology companies, the ecosystem brings together the companies themselves and everything around them that impacts their operations. That also suggests that a nurturing ecosystem is essential for their long-term survival and prosperity. There are a number of things to keep in mind while outlining the ecosystem needs of startups and midsize technology company.
Our view is thatfor our industry, an inter-connectedmulti-layered ecosystem is needed to work the magic. Here’s more about those components.
Firstly, it is the people and their expertise who make up a large part of this enabling. Entrepreneurs with their new ideas take a risk by starting their own company but they can’t go it alone. their company would also need talent. The right kind of employees is required to ideate and execute all those bright ideas to have a successful run in the market. Another, just as essential, talent that such companies find themselves relying on is mentors. It is these mentors who would point them in the right direction.Their advice is based on their own expertise and knowledge of the industry and this makes them an extremely valuable people-resource.
A company needs funds. In case of a bootstrapped startup, this capital is usually pumped in by the founder. The best funding is always from real customers – startups and technology companies that make an impact in the market have the opportunity to generate revenue through sales.Then there are theinvestors. A thriving ecosystem has a fair mix of Angel, Seed, and Venture Capital investors who are willing to bet on the future success of a company. In specific sectors, working with the Government could prove to be of great help too, either directly or through funds allocated to various ministries or government departments. There is also debt-funding in the form of loans available from banks for small and large needs for the short, medium, and long-term funding needs.
Data, research, and the ability to draw actionable insights also play an important role in driving this delicate ecosystem. Ideas need validation and actions must be based on a sound understanding of probable results. Academia plays a key role in this regard of course. This where the market studies are done, new business models are examined for impact, and up or re-skilling training provided to those about the hit the market. Academia is also a hotbed of innovation itself and a place for new and potentially disruptive new ideas to emerge from incubators and shake up the world.
Networking is key too. In the world of business, what you know if only as important as who you know. Networking platforms create opportunitiesfor an exchange of ideas and establishing common ground that can be harvested for business and partnership opportunities. Such events lay a huge role in providing information and education too – be it about the latest government tax or notification, or about the newest wave to hit the world of business.
It’s clear that ongoing education is now critically important. This suggests that a thriving ecosystem must have professional and personal development workshops. Technology is changing fast, business models are being disrupted, customers are becoming more demanding, and competitors are becoming more aggressive every day. In this situation, everyone from the top leadership to the frontline employee faces new challenges all the time. The opportunity to learn how to address these challenges effectively can drive personal and professional success.
Lastly, a thriving ecosystem demands that the startups and technology companies have access to a variety of vendor partners who can help them address specific business requirements effectively, efficiently, and in a cost-effective manner. No company is an island -while they focus on their core skills they can benefit from working with partners for tasks as varied as recruitment, facilities management, accounting and finance, and marketing.
Description: great example of how different elements of the ecosystem can come together for the benefit of the community is SEAP’s survey of the Innovation Readiness of Pune’s technology sector. We got together with our knowledge partners to capture facts and opinions, evaluate them, and derive insights. The intended outcome was to establish what has been achieved so far, as well as to recommend the way forward.Responses indicated that most companies in Pune were involved in innovation activity. However,the intensity levels of innovation and its management varied. An interesting finding was that apart from technical skills, the need to innovate was likely to put pressure on demands for higher level thinking skills, deeper understanding of the business, social and sustainability needs. This suggested that tech companies may recruit non-engineering candidates to bring in the needed diversity. Leaders need to become adept at making the right strategic decisions to prepare their organizations. Existing employees need to take care of their personal development. The survey is available here for those who want to know more, but it’s fair to say that some key directions emerged for those companies looking to adopt innovation.
It is impossible for any human endeavor to survive without proper framework or structure. Just like life needs a balanced ecosystem to survive, startups and mid sized technology companies need a supportive ecosystem as well.  The role of industry organizations like SEAP is to foster a vibrant ecosystem that enables technology companies of all sizes to thrive!

Monday 9 April 2018

Useful Info About the GST E-Way Bill Roll-Out

The all-new E-Way Bill under GST has been rolled out on Sunday – 1st of April, the beginning of the new financial year. Ever since the announcement of its impending roll-out, there has been some confusion amongst traders and business across the country. The response was no different from when GST was rolled out, as a matter of fact. Every new reform evokes such mixed reactions. But knowledge dispels all confusion -as it must. 

What is E-Way Bill
The E-Way Bill is an electronic bill generated to track the movement of interstate goods. Every consignment over Rs. 50,000 falls under its ambit. The transporter, at the point of dispatch, has to raise the bill via E-Way bill system under its GSTN. The validity of the bill depends upon the distance. Typically, a bill is valid for one day for every 100kms.
Though it is applicable on every kind of product that is traded, there are certain exemptions. Perishable products like fruits & vegetables, dairy products, and meat are exempted from e-way billing. Besides these handlooms, raw silk, gold and silver jewellery and cooking gas cylinders too are exempted.

Purpose of E-Way Bill
The government believes that this will help in keeping a check on tax evasions along with illegal activities like smuggling. Generating an E-Way Bill will help in registering every eligible trading activity that is carried out in the country.

Some questions businesses have about the E-Way Bill
  1. Technology
A significant portion of the transport industry’s comprises businesses that are not technology-lead. They are more traditional and they worry if they have the skills to deal with the new technology. The task for them is to adopt and comply with the new technological advancements in the industry.
  1. Extra Staff
The industry is very traditional, in many cases run by families that have been in the game for years. These are folks who are rich in experience, but perhaps not in educational degrees. In order to comply with the E-way billing system, they worry if they will have to hire dedicated staff for it. This could, in turn, add to their monthly expenses.
  1. Hassle for Contractors
Many of the folks impacted by the new system are transport contractors. They are not the ones paying the E-Way bill. That’s between the consigner and consignee. But, they will still need to register for a GST number and file a monthly return, even if there is nothing to report. For this, they have to pay a monthly fee to their CA. In a sense, they are going to incur unnecessary expenses without even having to pay for the E-way bill.
  1. Infrastructure
The earlier implementation in February saw the E-way Bill system’s inability to handle the volume of trade carried every day. The system saw glitches which had put the trade on standstill forcing the government to roll it back until April.

What is the Government Doing?
The government had rolled back the E-Way Bill in February on the grounds of the technological weakness of the system. The current system, which has been implemented from the 1st of April, is capable of handling around 76 lakh E-Way bills in a day compared to just 25 lakh in February.
One of the main concerns of traders was rent-seeking by the tax authorities. The taxmen have the authority to stop trucks for checking at various points. The government has put an end to this woe by passing a rule under E-Way Bill that the truck will be checked just once at the time of dispatch until and unless there are reports of suspicious activity being carried out on the way. If a truck is detained for more than half an hour, the trader can report it directly on the portal.
The other concerns of small businesses regarding the need for building a technology capability are valid to some extent, but the Government is seeking to allay concerns by saying that the system is easy to adopt. The growing sense is that adopting technology will also ultimately benefit these businesses -this could be the spark that helps then grow and scale beyond their earlier limitations.


So far, there have been no major issues reported since the rollout on 1st of April. The government claims it to be a success without any major glitches. The centralization of all trade activities will eradicate the malpractices and tax evasion instances. The traders, after initial inhibitions, seem to be accepting the E-Way Bill system. The new way is here -it’s time for a big change!

Wednesday 28 February 2018

How Pune’s Startups Can Exploit The Digital Transformation Opportunity

“Forty-seven percent of CEOs are being challenged by the board of directors to make progress in digital business, and 56 percent said that their digital improvements have already improved profits.” – Gartner

Markets and Markets estimates that the Digital Transformation market will be worth $ 493 Billion by 2022.

From being spoken of as a futuristic initiative only a few years ago, it is now clear that businesses of all sizes are embracing digital transformation. This is no longer a case of improving operational efficiencies or of creating competitive differentiation. In several industries, this is now a question of survival. As businesses around the world, and especially in the more developed markets like North America, seek to transform, the solutions and services they look to consume from their vendor partners are also undergoing a rapid transformation. This presents an obvious threat to those that cannot adapt to the new digital age, but it also presents a massive opportunity for those who can get ahead of the curve. Pune’s startups that can ride the Digital Transformation wave stand to benefit tremendously.  But what must they do to exploit this opportunity?
  •      Learn new skills:New solutions call for new skills. Where earlier the knowledge of a particular technology may have been adequate, today’s customer may call for the considered application of that technology to solve a business problem. Big Data technology experts becoming Analytics players is a possible example of this kind of shift. Startups that were earlier relying on their software development and testing skills to serve international clients may have to consider adding more strings to their bow. They may have to embrace an “Automation first” mindset –even in the delivery of their services. Areas like AI and IoT, which rely on the application of technology may offer more opportunity over the next few years as traditional IT services become more commoditized.
  •     Hitch your wagon to new stars: Change is the only constant, could well be the motto of the technology business. Mainframes give way to the Cloud, On-premise Enterprise software gets replaced by “pay as you go” SaaS products. The products and solutions that were the stars yesterday could become the also-rans within a few months. The startups that keep their finger on the pulse of this dynamic universe and proactively equip themselves with the knowledge and the skill of the “next big thing” will command a golden payday when the inevitable occasion arrives. For eg. solutions like ServiceNow that enable automation in the Enterprise are much sought after today and startups that offer solutions around such solutions stand to prosper.
  •   Innovatively extend current offerings: It’s rare for a technology to come about that is completely divorced from all that came before it. Technology evolves and what’s new today often carries traces of the old too. Startups could look to identify such synergies and innovatively extend their current capabilities to address the new opportunities. A possible example is how companies that are skilled in creating test automation could leverage similar skills and tools to enable automation in the enterprise through Robotic Process Automation.
  •     Specialize: Startups, by virtue of their scale, may not be able to offer comprehensive, all-encompassing solutions that resonate across the board. But that doesn’t have to mean that they miss the Digital Transformation bus. Solving specific small, but important problems, may present them a great opportunity to deliver real value. As long as the solution they offer can be woven into the wider tapestry of the Digital Transformation of the enterprise it stands a reasonable chance of succeeding. Another option available to startups is to seek out a specific niche domain and provide rich solutions within that arena –essentially try to become a big player in a small field.
  •       Go digital: When all the customers you are looking to target are embracing the Digital way, isn’t it incumbent upon you to follow suit? In fact, this may well become essential. As clients automate their business processes, the digitization of their interfaces with their vendor partners is likely to follow suit in short order. There are several low-hanging fruits available for startups to pick at the start of their own Digital Transformation. Embracing digital marketing, digitizing their invoicing and collection process, and automating the logging and reporting of efforts and activities carried out on behalf of clients are all options startups could consider as they start down this path.

Progress, in their, Are Businesses Really Digitally Transforming or Living in Digital Denial Report, said that of the business decision-makers they spoke to, 85% felt that they had only two years to significantly achieve Digital Transformation. Any later and they feared their competitors would surge ahead and that they would suffer financially. The message for Pune’s startups is that this is a clear and present opportunity –provided they are ready to exploit it!

Wednesday 31 January 2018

How Industry And Academia Must Work Together For Mutual Benefit

The collaboration between industry and academia has been a hot topic of debate ever since the industrial age dawned with the invention of the steam engine. So much so that one may be forgiven for believing that there exists a conflict of interest between the two. You might think that industry and universities seek different objectives.

The narrow view is that industry focuses only on its survival in the brutal market whereas universities are more focused on imparting knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Industry is driven by material success, unlike universities that engender a culture of research and development to their students. This so-called conflict of interest is what makes the relationship between industry and academia a somewhat tenuous one at times. But this is the wrong way to look at this linkage. Rather this is a truly mutually-beneficial arrangement that is essential to the long-term success of both parties.

This is a symbiotic relationship in the truest sense. The practical view is that the world of academia serves as a proving ground to create the talent pool that industry needs in order to progress. They provide well-trained, enthusiastic, energetic, and inquisitive students who are eager to make their mark in the industry. In turn, before the students are industry ready, the universities expect industry to provide them with practical exposure and an opportunity to apply their theoretical knowledge to practice.

There are also ample opportunities for learning from each other. Corporate veterans have the benefit of experience and practical knowledge and the universities and students have exposure to new methodologies and a flood of innovative ideas. Students can learn from the guidance that industry can provide. This helps them expand the scope of their knowledge and temper it with a bit of real-world realism. Industry, in turn, can incorporate these fresh ideas and methodologies into their own ways of working. Every now and then, industry needs that breath of fresh air to sweep out age-old ideas and obsolete methodologies.

Creating a mutual relationship is vital for both industry and academia. Such collaborations provide:

  1. Amalgamation of Different Cultures

Many companies look forward to tie-up with different universities for their academic and internship programmes which brings different cultures together. Students from different universities get to share space and ideas with each other. This amalgamation of students from different educational backgrounds and culture proves beneficial for the industry. As for students, they get exposure to the working culture in different industries and learn from the leaders out there.

  1. Industry-Ready Workforce

Among the biggest challenges for a growing economy like India is the availability of talent to take up key industry roles. The key issue is volume – with growth comes the need for hundreds of thousands of keen minds and active hands. As academia strives to educate these students industry must strive to train them. The end objective is a steady pipeline of people with both the theoretical knowledge and the practical skills that industry needs.

  1. Research and Development

Academia is well placed to help solve the pressing problems of industry with inventions and innovative approaches. This calls for a collaborative effort to identify the key issues that must demand attention. An ongoing partnership is needed as academia seeks opportunities to apply scientific rigour to isolating the problems, addressing the root causes, and providing workable solutions. This may also call for funding from industry as some of these issues may take time and effort to address.

If a true partnership is forged, the benefits are many.
  1. For Industry:
·         Creating an enduring talent pool
·         Having access to student research at university level
·         Long-term relationship with students
·         Optimizing the work methodologies in line with the latest trends
·         Saving resources on employee training
·         Creating a brand value in the market

  1. For Students:
·         Exposure to the actual working of an industry
·         Securing their future with assured employment
·         Enhancing work and management skills
·         Funding and real-world testing opportunities for their research

The industry can collaborate with universities in many different ways such as:

  • Internships: Allowing students to work for a short period of time to gain insights into how the real world functions and to get experience on the job.
  • Job-integrated study programs: Providing learning and personal development opportunities for their existing staff for specific courses as required or demanded by the job.

In our rapidly changing times, such collaboration is going to get increasingly more important. It’s a coming together of complementary forces that have so much to offer to the betterment of the other party that any other way would just be illogical. And say what you will, neither Industry nor Academia can be accused of following a path that is illogical!