AI To Impact

PODCAST: COVID 19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises

Episode 3: COVID19 and Changing business landscape in Europe

Listening time: 12 minutes

COVID-19 and Changing business landscape in Europe

In this episode, Monideepa Bhattacharya discusses the impact of COVID19 on the business landscape in Europe. She feels while the short-term focus will be on crisis-management and survival, businesses will increasingly turn to intelligent automation across sectors once they start recovering. This can only accelerate digital transformation journeys businesses have already charted out.

Anushruti: Hi Everyone. You’re listening to AI to Impact by BRIDGEi2i, a podcast on AI for the digital enterprise. My name is Anushruti, and I’m a part of the CEO’s program office at BRIDGEi2i and custodian of data around our sales pipeline. The scenario that we are currently in is unprecedented, to say the least. In our AI to Impact podcast we will be having conversations with BRIDGEi2i Business Heads, reputed AI and Analytics leaders, Sales Experts, and Digital Transformation Advisors to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on enterprises and how they can recalibrate their focus.

And today, I’m going to be chatting with Monideepa Bhattacharya, Business Development Director for Europe at BRIDGEi2i. She has been working in the analytics space for more than eighteen years across multiple businesses and functional roles. She’s a green belt in design thinking certified and is passionate about driving change and delivering value through transformation, analytics, and innovation, especially in the context of rapidly changing digital economy.

Hi, Moni, thank you so much for making the time.

Moni: My pleasure. Likewise.

Anushruti: Moni, so, to begin with, can you help us understand what the overall business landscape looks like in Europe? And how are businesses dealing with the current situation? How is it affecting the enterprises at scale?

Moni: So the first thing to recognize here is that Europe isn’t a singular entity and nor is it federated. Hence, there is no centrally coordinated policy, and there were already differences between different countries here, even before the crisis hit with respect to economic stability, fiscal prudence, employment, etc.

And the broad blocs are North Europe and Scandinavia, Western South Europe, Eastern Europe, which is newish to the bloc and then, of course, UK and Ireland, which people considered as part of the larger region. So the COVID-19 crisis response has hence been centrifugal, and it has varied across countries with respect to infections, control, and lockdown measures. So the focus here is also to protect lives and livelihoods. Governments and businesses are stepping in with economic and stimulus packages to keep enterprises afloat while safe regarding health of course.

In Europe so far, most of the economic harm has resulted from weak demand and supply-side challenges; serious ones are emerging as lockdowns continue. So businesses here are focusing on plans for supply chains, for facilities, governance, reporting – so that they can react quickly once all of the economic activity resumes. Also, here, a lot of organizations are severely retooling, using spare capacity to assist in the current response to remain relevant and really survive without going bust. Overall, assume that the focus is going to be on larger corporates, on digital natives who are far ahead of the curve and they can ride through this crisis.

Anushruti: Absolutely. And as you’ve mentioned, we see serious supply chain challenges and businesses trying to create newer demand channels in changing customer behaviours. How do specific industries react to it, according to you, and your experience?

Moni: So, despite the varying degrees of lockdowns across different countries, largely industries such as aviation, entertainment, hospitality, non-essential retail, and a lot of manufacturing are simply not doing much business because people are at home.

The sectors least directly affected are, of course, agriculture, construction, business services. But these are reliant on the workforce, and they are neither healthy nor available right now. So, recovery might also be varied in different countries. While customer confidence also takes time to recover from rising unemployment, the economic uncertainty, and anxiousness. And this again, for subsectors again will also change in a lot of places. Given the lack of historical precedents to an event like this, most businesses have established war rooms—very, very agile war rooms to cope with issues right now in the supply chain, in workforce management, in cash and finances. So for the short term, the focus will continue to be survival, shore up liquidity, cut costs, lobby for government support, basically remaining agile, survive, calibrate demand and supply plans constantly, learn from different sectors cities, countries which are ahead of the COVID Response Curve and simulate scenarios to plan for that.

Anushruti: Completely agree, Moni. We do not have any historical event to latch on to and thus it becomes even more difficult to cope up with an event like this. But with that said, we do see a lot of newer business models emerging, new channels of customer engagement, and definitely bigger and newer business problems. Can you discuss some of the themes emerging in this new normal, as they say?

Moni: Right. Yes. Over the next couple of months, the focus will continue to be crisis management and survival. But as things start recovering, we are already seeing a few themes emerging in the new normal. For instance, supply chain orchestration, a huge area: Most supply chains are in crisis right now and the problem is businesses don’t know where the threats are. And hence to build that transparency and a way to anticipate upstream stresses, depending on what’s happening downstream, is going to be very, very critical. Digital Employee Engagement, a huge area given the huge shift that has happened in how the workforce is working, increasing digital sales, increasing e-commerce, given the huge infusion of digital into consumers’ lives right now. Every aspect of life. Risk management, of course, is more relevant than ever, monitoring exposure to internal and external signals now. Cash Flow Planning—It’s all about cash. It’s now, in fact, companies are going lean to fat, building buffers, especially in sectors with unstable cash flows, and Brand Goodwill—How brands respond now is going to be how they will be remembered. So overall, digital is just more important than ever. There’s data everywhere and hence it is going to underlie every aspect of operating models of businesses. Robotic automations, chatbots, direct-to-customer e-commerce, digital selling—it’s really about how to get all of this done, but even quicker than before.

Anushruti: Right right. Data is more important than ever and as you said, it has to be done quicker than ever. We can see why AI is playing a role like never before. And companies have already been on their digital transformation journeys, and COVID crisis is definitely going to ramp that up. How do you see that translating into reality?

Moni: Exactly. The past couple of years, there’s anyway been a lot of talk about Digital Transformation. A lot of companies have programs underway and the natives – the digital natives are obviously ahead of the game. COVID is now going to accelerate all of this. Now there is no longer any choice. The genie is out of the bottle. Every aspect of life is being transacted online. People want to do everything online, from studying online to designing a car online, opening accounts, paying claims, buying beer. A lot of this would be irreversible. There will also be deliberate deglobalization as we are seeing that, and hence building redundancies in the value chain is another big trend. And then a large part of the workforce is increasingly working from home.

Companies will need AI to adapt to these macro trends. There is going to be massive data across every aspect of business now, and this digital adoption of consumers will only intensify. So digital models are now becoming more real and essential, which means businesses have to really re-imagine how they are doing business in the first place. Transformation now cannot be a siloed initiative. It just has to be the way organizations work. Lot of investments will go into automations. Yes, but this would be beyond robotic or process automation. This would be intelligent automation, automating decisions, alerting on stresses. So, a lot of org-wide programs with AI technologies backed by analytics—things like digitizing, optimizing factory operations, predictive maintenance, detecting newer consumption patterns, hyper-personalizing online journeys, simulating live work environments, basically taking large amounts of different types of data and learning from that to solve specific problems. Taking actions and then automating and scaling that—is going to be critical.

Anushruti: Very interesting insight there. So, in summary, digital adoption is going to intensify, and investments in AI technology will multiply because it’s no longer a choice of organizations or for organizations and things like hyper-personalization, intelligent automation, newer business models will emerge. So, I’m sure your customers must also be worried about this change. I request you to share what is the common commotion that you’re hearing from them?

Moni: Right. I think existing customers, existing conversations; it’s largely around continuity of the programs that we are running for them, given the huge changes that have happened in terms of going remote. And of course, the survivalistic anxieties. The second ask from them is for us to listen to the market and to help them calibrate what is happening across different industries. Sort of being their war room support; analytics on tap, bringing in more data, bringing in more perspectives at a time like this, and thirdly to act as a bouncing board for ideas, for building digital agendas and plans when they actually start recovering.

A lot of the newer conversations, on the other hand, we are of course hearing deferment of a lot of programs or acceleration of digital programs really depending on the sector. Either ways, all conversations are telling us that there is huge cognizance of formal digital plans, agendas being made right now, marrying them with AI and analytics. And our position right now is to really guide our clients along these plans, educate them, and to help them accelerate them when they finally come back.

Anushruti: Very well put Moni, the need of the hour is to educate clients, guide them, give them the confidence to build plans to combat their business problems, both during and post-COVID situation. And in the middle of this darkness, light will persist. So, it is going to be crucial for organizations to be agile and resilient. Last but not the least. Thank you so much for taking the time Moni.

Moni: My pleasure, Anushruti.

Anushruti: And thank you so much for listening to this episode of AI to Impact podcast. That was a very interesting conversation with Moni, Business Development Director for Europe, at BRIDGEi2i. If you found this interesting, do subscribe as we will continue the conversations with business experts and thought leaders in our upcoming episodes. They will be discussing the business impact of COVID-19 on various industries and how this journey looks for them in the future. Once again, thank you so much for tuning in. Bye Bye. Stay home. Stay Safe.

2020 will long be remembered for the pandemic that wreaked havoc on the global economy and disrupted communities and businesses in unprecedented ways. In our latest podcast series: COVID19 | Redefining Digital Enterprises, we will be interacting with several thought leaders, BRIDGEi2i Business Heads, Domain Experts, and reputed AI and analytics leaders to understand the various challenges emerging out of this crisis and the way forward for enterprises in the new world order. Tune in to know more!

Meet the Speaker

Monideepa Bhattacharya

Monideepa Bhattacharya

Monideepa Bhattacharya (Moni) is the Business Development Director for Europe, BRIDGEi2i. Moni has been in the Analytics space for more than 18 yrs. She is currently leading Business Development for Europe for BRIDGEi2i.

Moni started her career with GE (now Genpact) in their centralized Analytics group and moved across multiple businesses in GE as well as external clients, in functional areas of Analytics delivery, transitions, strategic assessments, marketing, account management, and presales. She is a green belt, and design thinking certified and is passionate about driving change and delivering value through transformation, Analytics, and innovation, especially in the context of the rapidly changing digital economy. Moni has an MBA in marketing in addition to a graduate degree in Economics. She is a trained Hindustani classical singer, dabbles in percussion, and is part of the International Choir is Utrecht.