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8 Jayarethanam Pillai on Covid'19 and digital transformation

· podcast,Career


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Podcast with Jaya Part 1 



Jaya, Liew Wei Da Andrew  

Show outline: 

Section 1: About the show 

Section 2: About the guest 

Section 3: Guest telling his story 

Section 4: How Covid’19 change digital transformation? 

Section 5: Digital content consumption, platformicationand remote collaboration  


Jaya mentioned that digital transformation is now necessary for business longevity.He coined servitization of the economy using digitization is going to be thetrend. He also coined platformication. Remote collaboration is the way to goand companies need to adopt new tools regardless of how sophisticated they are. Facilitating workers to adopt new tools greatly support their work experienceespecially remote collaboration. Covid’19 also increase digital contentconsumption. Last but not least, companies and organizations are developingdigital platforms to enable ecosystem development.    

Liew Wei Da Andrew 00:18 

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the AI of mankind show where I shareanything interesting about mankind. I'm your host for the season. My name is Andrew Liew. I've worked across four continents and 12 international cities.Also, I work in tech startups across a range of roles from selling products,making customer happies, figuring out fundraising, making finance tick,building teams, and developing sticky products. Apart from building startups,I've also worked in Fortune 500 companies. As a chief data scientist ortechnologies, or people leader. You can call me Jack of all trades or master oflearning. I hope to make this podcast show a great learning experience for us.And each season there is a series of interesting things, where invite guests toshare their views about their life and interests. Now, let the show begin.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 01:10 

Hi, everyone, thank you for coming to the show. kindly allow me tointroduce my guest for today. Jaya or Dr. Jayarethanam Pillai. Jaya is the chief innovation and data scienceofficer. He has run his own technology startup company and consultancy firmoffering regional experience in providing analytical and data science work forcompanies and government agency in the likes of United Nation, Asia DevelopmentBank. You know. And also particularly specializing in developing strategic decisions using economics, data analytics and artificial intelligence. Jaya hasdone over 20 analytics related projects and widely published papers in economicpolicy, digital transformation and entrepreneurship while working and living in11 international cities. He has expert level advisory experience in deployingend to end data engineering and data systems. In addition, he has obtained hisPhD in Economics from the Australian National University. Let's put our handsto welcome Jaya.   

Jaya 02:4

Thank you very much, Andrew, for having me in one of your podcast.It's such a pleasant surprise. I'm pretty good.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 02:5

Okay, so the purpose of this podcast is to really understand how wesee things in AI, or artificial intelligence, understand digitaltransformation, and also understand about your story. Tell me, how do you gethere from the day that you did your startup after you finish school?   

Jaya 03:10 

It's an interesting story behind while being the youngest scholarto work as a research fellow for the economics department in ANU, is that I wasnot able to get back into Singapore, considering the fact that they did notrecognize the importance I could be bringing back as an international candidateand as local Singaporean.    

Jaya 03:32 Why am I not able to get back to Singapore and contribute to my ownhome country? That frustration led me to really push myself at the same timeknow that I could be one day back to Singapore to have a startup. I was verydeeply involved in researching on video gaming, where I was some leadresearcher in a government report. And since minting my PhD, it was a very interestinghow my journey towards thinking about my first startup and India's made the bigcalling, where I was actually invited to be the chair professor ofentrepreneurship at the IIM, Indian Institute of Management, meeting one of themost interesting pathways I could ever get it. So what happened is that theexperience got me to actually look at technology, innovation, at the grassrootlevel. I started to learn from our people talk at the grassroot levels. The lowand indigenous and middle income households were struggling, but at the sametime, we're able to actually develop ideas at that grass root level. And thatgave me a lot more strength, a lot more ideas, economic aspects of howinnovation actually can actually be strongly embedded in a country which is so contagious on entrepreneurship capacities. So And coincidentally, I was invited back to Singapore as a director of economic research to develop a digital platform for a large shipping conglomerate based out of China and Hong Kong, it gave me the impetus to continue learning, I actually was leading a two major database management status in this company to develop a so called back end analysis of shipping projects actually called pricing of ships how shifting from a single hub or double hub shipping scenarios were based on the future of shipping the line, so that will end how you know different form of cargoes for shipping. So what happened is that such information was available, or what was lacking was someone to put together such information into a useful form, which is easily identifiable, easily able to use it to develop some form of analysis on forecasting. So this was very strong on my part, it kind of like gave me a strong background. Also, once completing this, what happened is that that's when in 2009, immediately, I used these skill sets to actually go about setting up my own company. So in between, I had to actually continue to work for other companies as project engineer, developing and using skill sets in the area of AI, it was how production of engineering projects were from documents all the way to the final delivery of projects. So there were several areas where I kind of got my hands dirty. But all was simply because now I am the Chief Digital Officer, much more I came about. It requires a lot more understanding, as opposed to just jumping up to a position where you don't know what's happening in the background. I got to that background. Hence, when I'm sitting in my situation, I know how the cross functional actions are undertaking in different areas of job responsibilities of people. So when I hire, when I actually teach, when I actually lead different projects, what happens is I'm able to understand the various platform, and at the same time, advocate and learn from it more for myself so that I can better. So knowing the fact that, you know, I worked in areas of shipping, and then shifting to engineering mode, or what is interesting is that to get these projects running, you need good skilled people to understand drawings of skill, people who are able to handle drawings and able to learn from me and able to translate documentation in a more seamless way. And this is where my first foray into digitization of documents, how such platforms allowed me to create some form of transformation from tendering the project and one of the biggest clients which I handled was G-Selected E-New York. Fees has to be paid. Although they are a big Australian company, they had a lot of issues in different projects, although and delay in project so what happened when I went in was within three months for I started the deal with three different companies, three different divisions in China, India and Singapore, where I was the lead project document guy who actually dealt with how documents have to be accepted from tender process, how they have to be placed digitally in the system, how pricing has to be placed according to the project's how these projects are documented, and how they lead to the actual engineers who actually come up with the plans, and to the part where it gets to the factory, and people are able to understand those documents with the least amount of error. Prior to that, these projects got a lot of errors in the documentation process. Hence, projects are delayed. Deliveries got delay. I went to understand the factory in person over a 32 week period project completed every avenue and re-arranged the process in order to cut from a 32 week project process to a 28 week project process. And it's all to do with my application in an AI and machine learning methodology. I was able to forecast what are the issues going to be in terms of delivery times, I was able to clearly highlight the issues in the pricing of products. All this was automated in the system   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 09:21 

Work with me through that the moment you finish this project andyou present it to your client and stakeholders, what was your response? Youknow,   

Jaya 09:29 

the first thing they asked me, Where did you get this? Where didyou get this guy in the history of five years of being a customer for thisparticular company. They say they have never finished a 32 week or 48 weekproject, which was $100 to $500 million dollars skeet production in 28 weeks.To my project they were actually able to save almost $150 to $200 million onhorses. They were able to actually garner more projects consistently from thesame customer over a period of six months. So every time a particular projectcomes in all other vendors who lose to this particular company, simply becausethey know, the process was very automated, very clear, seamless ability tocommunicate with the engineers and the document controllers look very seamless.And that's across three divisions. So what happened is that they were veryhappy.    

Liew Wei Da Andrew 10:24 

Now coming back to this second question I want to ask you, becauseyou have been doing so many digital strategy work or machine learning work, or,you know, data science or Analytics works, you know, before and after COVID-19.So, how has COVID-19 change the way that digital transformation or data scienceis being done?   

Jaya 10:48 

There's any lingering doubts about the necessity of digitaltransformation to business longevity. But in a contactless world, this is goingto have a more major disruption in the way customers and employees are actuallyinteracting. With rare exception, operating deals really is the only way now wecan do it to mandate that shutdowns and restricted activity. So going digitaldefinitely is a must, you can't be living into that in the dark at all. So whatwe are looking at is prior to the pandemic, the paradigm shift was digitizationand servitization. Right, it's a very key word, because everything is service,you can have some kind of product, but the service to is very crucial. SoServitization of economy was underway. But in a very slow pattern, slow trend.    

Jaya 11:41 

But this pandemic has definitely given a huge kick in the butt.That's what I would say, right. So it accelerated and you can see the the hugejump from point A to point E in quick succession. Right simply again, gives youan another example. When it comes to a vaccination, it takes any bio companyvaccination company to produce a particular vaccine over a period of five tosix years, even 10 years, but you are looking at some form of amazing run ofsuccession by these companies are doing it within a few months. Right.    

Jaya 12:19 

So it just gets to show that how companies can actually transformtheir processes and servants to the community and to businesses in such quicktransformation is simply because of adopting consistent policies and efforttowards digitization. Right. For instance, for businesses, on the other hand,which have not developed any strategies, or been executed them prior to thepandemic, are now in a position to actually leapfrog against their competitorswho seem to kind of lay back simply because they think they have already doneit. But I, based on what my personal experience, I can clearly say that there is no longer sitting on the laurels and hoping everything will get me back tonormal. No, we are going to live with this for a long, long time.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 13:13 

So what is the advice you give to those business that is veryreluctant, you know, to embrace digital transformation?   

Jaya 13:20 

They have to quickly really understand a few key factors, right? Aremote work. To do my readings and research I could say before the pandemiconly 30% of the US employees work remotely 100% of the time, for others 70% including 38% of the total US workforce, right. But the silver lining is that such high percentage of the working project population now are remote. Why? It's becauseof the shutdown the mandated shutdown.    

Jaya 13:53 

So remote work, has jumped in heaps and bounds. remotecollaboration, right has clearly indicated this is the way: the future of work,right, both in terms of sophistication of tools to adopt it, and facilitate itworkers to level of comfort it has.    

Jaya 14:14 

Next is the omni channel commerce. As many physical businesslocations are shut down. Consumers are turning to online shopping to meet their needs. Now these businesses have to be in the forefront if they actually don'tactually understand that this is the way that next generation of shopping isgoing to lead that they are out of the market. When those who had historically been reluctant to do so, in particulargrocery delivery services such as Instacart pointed here, and even here we haveredmart in Singapore, have been in high demand. So consumers who can choose groceries, pay online, leave feedback actually creates a opportunity for thenext generation of business models. Right How do we serve as consumers Mostpurchasing is one thing. But if you cannot provide good service there, theylose out on the profit channels. Right? So businesses are blending the physicaland digital divide, to provide the customers, to choose deliveries methods. Itis very crucial, right? How are they doing that? Are they doing it a lot moresafely, or they don't even have contactless deal in January, again, they loseout on the market, if they don't that right due to the corona pandemic. Sophysical digital integration is more important than now than ever.    

Jaya 15:31 

The next is actually the digital content consumption those who love to go watch, cinemas mostly love to be out in human interaction in this pandemic that is markedly been reduced. So home bound consumers are turning to digital content, pretty much for their entertainment needs. 54% of Internet users worldwide are watching more showing more shows on streaming services. Sothe 1st 3 months of 2020, Netflix, saw 16 million new signups. It's amazing howdigital content consumption has jumped from minimum of 10-15% to almost 60-70%.And anywhere in businesses, right.    

Jaya 16:13 

Next platformication, what I mean by platformication, institution,and organizations are all tests are trying to, they are trying on digitalplatforms to stay above water, like the digital consumption mode, they also haveto do exercises that mean they have to perform aerobic activities to onlineactivities for those who are shut down and locked at home. Right. So thisrequires some form of good platforms like pre recorded. Similarly schools,everyone's actually working through a certain platform. So now this is wherebusinesses guys who are actually been on the platform development have toclosely monitor platformication, I would say, right, which means entireprocesses are now going to digitally to a specific platform. And one of thegreatest examples is zoom. Why bring in zoom is because I was the lead guy whoactually introduced zoom to Kurdistan's Ministry of Education.    

Jaya 17:15 

I like to highlight along all these channels is that there are fivemain things in my mind, I can think efficiency advantage, very efficient.Productivity, why productivity, because if you take for a simple workertraveling from home to where he works, and get back, you know, a person'straveling time itself has lost. Now they don't have to, right, so they canincrease your productivity from walking out of the bed, having a shirt onwithout any heavy long pants, and sitting down and immediately responding toemails and having meetings.    

Liew Wei Da Andrew 17:53 

But coming back to productivity, don't you think that there's thistechnology paradox? Yes, because of COVID-19. Everybody works remote, if it ispossible to remote . We are not talking about frontline. It brings us closerbut it also brings us further because you know back in the office, you can talkto your co co workers on on the drinking cooler machine or the coffee machine.Now you can't and everything everybody you want to talk to you have to scheduleon Outlook or Google Calendar, what do you have to say about it?   

Jaya 18:20 

I mean, as I said, the actual pandemic actually prevented everyoneto communicate face to face, and we are human beings, human beings need facialcontact human beings like touch feeling. Unfortunately, this is one of theparadox paradigm, you're looking at that lack of human face to faceinteraction, right. But the good side of it is that the increase inproductivity due to this is actually improving business structures, businessprofits. By the same time. The feel good factor of being able to know back on astaggered basis is actually improving workers expectations, too. So they, youyou're not going to get a full all 100% visual interaction, even in thiscurrent year. So I feel while it's a paradox, slowly, what's happening is thatpeople are psychologically accepting the fact that it's going to be an on andoff scenario. And hence, they are kind of like working to it. Right? And thiskind of like, alleviate some of their worries of not being able to be in officeall the time. Right. What is going to happen is that staggered timing is wherethey're going to have some interaction is allows more a bit more comfort, a lot more relaxed version of their working habits, and hence, there is going to be a balance eventually.   

Liew Wei Da Andrew 19:45 

Hey guys, thanks for listening to this podcast. If this is thefirst time you are tuning in, remember to subscribe to this show. If you have subscribed to this show and love this episode, please share it with your friends. family and acquaintances. See you later and see you soon. 


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