Grab, Rakuten, Foodpanda - Asian companies must use digital technology to compete: IDC

GrabTaxi's office at Midview City.
GrabTaxi's office at Midview City.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Businesses must use emerging digital technologies to transform their operations to stay ahead of the competition, said research firm IDC.

To become leaner and more competitive organisations, they should turn to data science, artificial intelligence, cloud computing and other technologies.

Digital transformation, or DX, is one of the key trends this year impacting businesses globally, said IDC.

Businesses who take note of it will be able to enhance their operations and develop new business models, said its research director Michael Araneta.

He highlighted that his firm's research shows that one-third of the top 20 market leaders in various industries worldwide will be disrupted because of digital transformation.

Asian companies will not be excluded. Eighteen per cent of companies providing financial services will face disruption in areas where customers find it inconvenient to carry out activities like payments and money transfers.

In utilities, 29 per cent of companies will wake up to find that smart meters, solar technology and batteries are totally changing the role of the electrical grid as a monopoly and requiring the utilities to change their business models.

"In Asia, there are already many start-ups which are disrupting conventional industries. Online retailer Lazada, taxi app Grab, e-commerce Rakuten, food delivery Foodpanda and others are taking a bite of conventional businesses," he said at a presentation on digital business transformation at the Avaya Technology Forum (ATF) held in Bangkok last week.

Asian companies have no choice but to innovate and transform by leveraging on digital technologies, he said.

When they do, they will get two big benefits, improved customer satisfaction and increased employee productivity.

Customer satisfaction will go up because customers will get 24-hour access to services. Back end systems that run areas like inventory management to finance will be connected for seamless operation. These systems will run almost automatically with little human intervention. For example, re-stocking of supermarket shelves will all be done by a computer talking to another computer and suppliers will be automatically paid.

However, they will meet new challenges in their transformation journey. A new more open and collaborative culture is needed and with it, new risk management and compliance requirements will emerge, he said.

Small experiments have to take place. Many will fail before one or two successful projects emerge. They will also face a lack of skills and resources in technologies that form the backbone of digital business transformation like cloud computing, virtual reality, robotics, cyber security, artificial intelligence and data science.

Business communication corporation Avaya is helping companies and countries transform their businesses.

President of Avaya International Nidal Abou-Ltaif said The Election Board of Indonesia used video conferencing in the country's last elections to reduce the cost and complexity of monitoring elections in 33 provinces and 1,300 islands.

Speaking at the ATF Forum in Bangkok, he said video collaboration was used for daily briefings with the Board and all local offices. Suspicious elections documents were shared on screen, which improved decision making.

In China, Avaya helped smartphone maker Xiaomi to develop its customer contact centre. Fans could reach customer support through social media, chat, text, video, voice or email. As the company sky rocketed, the contact centre grew 10 times in three years.

To cope with this expansion, it offered Xiaomi customers an option to engage with an automated customer service agent.

"The most important key to these transformations is that they have to break down the silos. In security for example, the team in charge of the CCTV monitoring is different from the teams providing maintenance and IT security. All three are related and senior management must break down the silos to get the digital business transformation they need."

The ATF held in Bangkok is the start of Avaya's annual technology briefings it holds with key customers. Similar forums will be held in the Middle East, Europe and the United States.

Grace Chng attended the ATF in Bangkok.