Sunday, May 11, 2014

Mobility adoption: The Indian scenario across sectors



‘Mobility adoption’ or ‘mobility’ is a buzzword going around the business and technology circles, more than ever before. The potential for its use across various platforms, and possible innovations has made it a top priority for industrialized countries like India. Mobility adoption would have multiple definitions depending upon its source, but it’s largely centered on building enterprise processes and solutions, keeping in mind a ‘mobile’ interface of use, such as the use of hand held devices like smartphones, tablets, phablets, and others belonging to the category.

With a trillion dollar economy still untapped and potential of growth being immense, mobility adoption holds a key for many industries in the country like IT/ITES, health-care, BFSI (Banking & Financial Services), and retail. The recent trends and the industry scenario shows an interesting picture in India, truly worth pondering upon. 


From the health-care point of view



The potential and even the current status, speak volumes about what mobility adoption can do to various industries in the country, which remains largely untapped. For example, a report by Frost & Sullivan, the potential for India’s health-care IT market could expand to the size of $1.45 billion in 2018, from the current net worth of around $381 million.  It was also revealed that technology oriented components including mHealth (mobile health), telemedicine, data maintenance, and most importantly, cloud based solutions would come to the forefront as professionals and consumers of health enterprises alike, get more attuned to a mobile lifestyle. The report also pointed out, that with the growing demand of health-care IT in India, there is an increased participation of doctors and employees to work on EMR (electronic medical record) systems. With accessibility increasing, maintenance and upkeep, improvement of work-flows, and overall cost reduction definitely are the beneficial fall outs of the trend.

Since health-care has traditionally been a sector where IT and mobility adoption has been slow. According to a report in Hospital Infra Biz, Mr. Vishal Gupta, the VP of Health-care Systems in Cisco mentions in details about the amalgamation of new technology and IT systems in the Indian healthcare industry, includes the use of cloud computing technology. Based on service models, there are 3 options health-care institutions pick from; IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), SaaS (Software as a Service). IaaS model allows user control over operating systems, applications, and programming frameworks other than infrastructure resources like processing, storage, and networks. PaaS model on the other hand, allows the additional benefits of using applications in certain technical programming languages, frameworks and tools. The SaaS model on the other hand allows end-user benefits like accessing the cloud based system through mobile devices, with limited control of user-specific applications and settings. But looking at the deployment of a cloud based infrastructure, the most obvious choice could be options on the Private cloud model, would be a PaaS or IaaS framework, whereby the entire infrastructure is meant for the management of a single organization. This service could be rendered by a 3rd party service provider, or managed by an in-house team if the resources allow so. 47% of IT managers were in favor of this approach, according to the CDW Cloud Adoption Poll

Despite all the potential and the benefits such an IT focused health-care infrastructure would have, the challenges are major, as noticed from Mr. Gupta’s point of view. Though the metropolitan cities of the country have been far more equipped to adopt new technology and applications like EMR, HIS, PACS, the smaller Tier II or Tier III cities have negligible exposure to technology, and a frail infrastructure. Needless to mention a financial crunch which plagues most establishments, implementing new technology like a cloud based management system and the suitable support system needs a high degree of inputs costs, thus acting as an obstacle to up gradations. The other major challenge is the resistance of primary stakeholders of the health-care service providers have been resistant to change, and are circumspect about investing in resources required for technological upgrades, like a mobile friendly cloud based management system. The pull on resources like training and finance, create serious decision making roadblocks even though the long run has benefits on parameters like the ones mentioned.

The buzzword in the Tech industry



Mobility adoption has become like a virtual survival beacon for the tech industry. From eco-system transformations to financial management changes, mobility adoption has touched upon each aspect of the industry, with one face or the other. The industry has mostly been driven by the consumer experience, which has been heavily driven by experiences on mobile handheld devices like phones, tablets, and phablets which are multi-functional and the most commonly known method of maintaining contact with the rest of the world.

The ecosystem, or rather the operating system which has taken center stage in India, is the Google made Android OS, driving 91% of the market in India (total volume of 40 million smartphones) and 80% of the world market as per reports by Spire Research and Consulting India, in 2013.  Due to the open source nature of the Operating System, most companies have added their tweaks and customizations for a better customer experience, and a lot of Indian players have entered the market to make it more competitive. From success stories like Micromax which now boasts of Hollywood star Hugh Jackman as brand ambassador, there are others like Karbonn Mobile, apart from Asian bred brands Huawei and ZTE which have opened up the customer connect according to different purchasing power, while Samsung has been a world player responsible for nearly 40% of global shipment of 211.6 million smart device shipments in 2013. What these numbers also indicate, as Mr. Saurabh Sharma- Country Manager of Spire Research would say, is that ‘value addition’ is the trend of the time for companies to play in. The innovation today is based on what all in terms of value, can the enterprise provide, for customers it wishes to get on board.

The next talking point in the industry is the cloud computing based services. From Dropbox, providing cloud storage for data from various devices through a common entry point, to Youtube which plays out video content on the internet, accessible from anywhere in the world at any time, to Google Docs providing the functions of composing, editing, sharing office documents, presentations, and spreadsheets apart from providing free space for storing data, the cloud space has expanded like never before, and will continue to expand as a large populace get access to the internet. It also means that Enterprise Mobility solutions will now be focused on how they can provide customers (including B2B) with the greater flexibility, greater productivity, and a virtual platform for innovation in the company, which eventually pushes the entire industry towards investing in areas like Mobile Application Development Platform (MADP) and Mobile Device Management (MDM). MADP is about allowing mobility to come to application development in a way, allowing seamless integration into various devices at the workplace. Kony is one prime example of MADP, which allows companies to build applications on a cloud platform, which can then be run and tested on multiple devices with varied operating systems. MDM on the other hand, helps with data and network security on a common cloud platform, especially when users follow a BYOD (Bring-your-own-device) policy, by bringing all devices under centralized control. The applications which run on the cloud, as well as that which runs on these individual devices are controlled from a central unit in the company.


The innovation in the Banking & Financial Services Industry (BFSI)


Considering that all industries have adopted a form of mobility in their enterprise setup, the Banking and Financial Services Industry was not to be far removed from this technological innovation. Using the example of India’s largest private sector bank, ICICI has been in the news for imbibing mobile technology on many fronts, especially with the ‘Insure’ application used in ICICI Lombard insurance division. Unlike the traditional process of going through a lengthy process of taking a broken down vehicle to a garage, arranging for photographs to be taken, and then asking for a surveyor to check the vehicle, and then filing for claims with a series of documents, the process has now been simplified down using a few clicks of the mobile phone camera.

Consumers have to now simply click photos of the damaged vehicle, record the details of the incident in his/her voice, fill in the details of the claiming policy, and simply send it directly to the claims division. This way, the consumer doesn’t have to go through a cumbersome process which was traditionally followed, and also has the advantage of filing the claims seamlessly and in rapid time. This application has found itself to be a favorite of many customers of the company, especially Android users who have downloaded it more than 7,600 times and the initiative has been taken to ensure, other users of mobile OS like iOS, Blackberry, and Windows 8 have the same advantage.  

For those keeping a watch on their TV sets, ICICI Bank has also showcased their basic banking services commercial. According to traditional method, banking services like opening of an account also had a lengthy process whereby the agent was to collect all documents needed from the customer, report back to the bank and send it to the back office who would then process, and finally create the account. Now, ICICI has equipped some 5,000 agents with an application Zapln, which enables the agents to visit the customers, fill in details via the application’s forms, click photographs and send it directly to the back office who begin processing it without glitch.  The entire process of transferring clients over to the back office occurs through GPRS/3G networks on smart devices, which accelerates the process.

Retailers' delight


According to reports from the global information and measurement company, Nielsen, India has in excess of 40 million smartphone users, of which nearly 50% are users under the age of 25. What this translates into for large organized retailers in the country is a huge market to tap as loyal customers especially in the growing urban areas.  Needless to say, this potential has bought about a surge mobile friendly innovations to help the modern day customers with their shopping experience. According to Google Playstore report in 2013, Social media applications for sites like Facebook and Twitter have seen the highest demand in terms of downloaded volumes, followed by travel, customer rating, financial, movies, and shopping applications. Though the numbers have not yet touched the volumes desired, but what it admittedly has bought about, is a trigger for organized retailers like Flipkart, Myntra, TravelGuru, Chroma, and Shopper’s Stop to offer customized applications which would connect and help customers on the move, use it as the first point of contact with the company.

Future Group, India’s largest retailer with famous brands under its umbrella, like Pantaloons, Big Bazaar, Central, and Home Town. With large inventory management issues at hand, coupled with the need to look at real time sales figures, Future Group needed mobility adoption to be one of its top most priorities. The group needed to have a central point of access for corporate visibility, as well as sales and marketing teams along with their colleagues in operations teams to look at inventory management, sales volumes, and revenue figures, right down to the individual store level. That is where the mobile application came in to the picture, whereby physical verification counting is done on handheld devices, and the information collected is synchronized with the back-end ERP system, connected to the wi-fi controller. This creates direct and real-time information passages for all concerned in the company, enabling quicker decision and reduced costs like 10% reduced travel expenses, 5% reduction in employee training expenses, and 20% higher inventory availability overall (as reported to Information Week, 2013).  

  
      
 Note:
* All images and information used here are a combination of direct sources of the author and Google Images. No plagiarism intended or rights claimed thereof. 
* Opinion and feedback respected, but please keep personal vendetta at bay. 




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