Interview - The Need for Correct Balance
With digital interventions, Indian businesses are seeing improvement in customer experience, productivity and turnaround time. In your opinion, what should the strategic focus – disrupting with new technology or improving existing technology for competitive advantage?
I think every company or processes need the correct balance of new technological solutions and improvement of technology at hand. There are some technologies that simply become redundant due to a disruptive new model and the system needs to be flexible enough to adapt to the new paradigm. To build a system smooth enough to comfortably absorb disruptive changes is, in itself, a technological challenge. However, research says, some technologies involved with substantial human interface perform better when improved than replaced. For example, according to a study by the Cass Business School of London, the Formula One teams that improved on existing technologies of their racing cars performed much better compared to those who introduced new technological solutions apparently because the latter “...push the (already high) level of complexity beyond the team’s expertise, thus reducing the effectiveness and reliability of technological innovation.”
Ambuja Neotia Group has consistently won several awards and accolades as an organization as well as for specific realty projects. What has been the role of technology behind the successful initiatives that led to these achievements?
There are whole lot of developments in the technological area that is aimed at improving the efficiency of operations, minimising costs, maximising revenue and exercising control. Whether it is automated systems and process, upgraded equipment, energy efficient devices, mechanised tools and gadgets, products promoting conservation and sustainability etc., we have also tried to put special emphasis on green technologies and energy efficient construction at all levels.
How is the Group employing digital technologies to build energy efficient and green buildings for residential as well as commercial purpose? What are the technology enabled innovations that are gaining traction in the affordable housing segment?
The whole approach of reducing the carbon foot print of a real estate development starts with the concept of design. Different buildings, along with specific landscape features, are oriented to take advantage of the local terrain in terms of wind flow and sun path so as to minimise the use of external energy to provide comfort to the users. The use of locally available material in construction reduces the transport foot print of the raw materials. The use of treated water for purpose of flushing and irrigation has now become mandatory features. The use of most efficient equipment for air-conditioning and energy efficient lighting systems like LED lights, sensor based common area lighting, use of solar cells on roof tops etc are also being adopted to optimise the use of energy.
At Ambuja Neotia, we have tried to adapt to the philosophy of the aesthetic and environmentally sustainable development. We have endeavoured to set standards by opting for third party certification of our development- mostly gold and platinum. We have been using energy efficient LED lights since way back in 2009 in our hotel and offices when use of this technology was still in its early stages in the sector.
Healthcare is also one of your focus areas. How has digital enablers transformed the healthcare services provided by your Group?
We have two hospitals as of now in the state of West Bengal – a multispecialty hospital in Siliguri and a Woman and Childcare hospital in Kolkata and both demand specific focus on technology. This apart, we also operate in a very specialized technology-intensive segment dealing with issues of infertility. Our endeavour in this highly sensitive healthcare sector is to keep updating the technologies to continuously meet international best practices.
Ambuja Neotia Group has a significant footprint in the hospitality sector characterized by rising competition and changing customer preferences. What has been the role of technology to enable your group create mindshare as well as improve services?
Hospitality is a dynamic sector, where you need to constantly read the customer’s pulse in order to stay ahead of the curve. A slight blip in service or experience is fatal and there is no room for complacency. We have used several devices in the digital media and solutions space that help understand customer sentiments and facilitate effective interventions in case of any detected crisis.
The Neotia University is your unique initiative in higher education with focus on emerging technologies like robotics, animation, biotechnology. How do you see the future prospects of such disciplines? How is the university training young students to help them capitalize on the digital innovation wave?
Through our University, we have tried to impart highly advanced futuristic courses in various field of technology and other general areas of education to ensure that the students emerge as responsible citizens with a strong allegiance to collective advancement. The prospect of these specialized courses is forecasted to be very high in days to come as India slowly but steadily advances towards a manufacturing economy with an acquired competitive edge. This is only possible by having in place a systematic skill development mechanism at the higher education level by fostering an ecosystem of multifaceted innovations.
Ambuja Neotia Group operates in several capital intensive sectors. In your opinion, what are the policy enablers for these sectors that can accelerate the adoption of digitally enabled global best practices by Indian organizations?
The Indian Government’s push to build a more robust ecosystem for both developers and users of technology is encouraging. It has in the recent past supported several interfaces to patronize technology start ups and many digital platforms. We hope ongoing policy frameworks – such as the one for promoting creation of a sustainable software product industry – put adequate emphasis on providing a level playing field for Indian players.
Investments in innovation and R&D have long gestation period and uncertainty of returns. Being at the helm of affairs, are you looking to acquire technologies or invest long term to build internal capabilities?
I think it has to be mix of both. It is always important to invest long term in a technology, customize it according to the company’s need and see it improve, but for certain other ad hoc requirements, you also need to acquire time-tested efficient technologies for immediate use.