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June 21, 2016

Why Peer-to-Peer Insurance Is Coming Your Way

Posted by Pankaj Kulkarni (View Profile | View All Posts) at 7:20 AM

Why Peer-to-Peer Insurance Is Coming Your Way

If ever there were an industry that was open and ready for radical disruption, it's the insurance sector. That's one reason why so many new, nimble insurance companies have sprung up in recent years with completely different business models. Of them, in my opinion, the peer-to-peer model is one of the most promising and, quite frankly, realistic.

Why? Because the insurance behemoths commonly sell expensive policies that are 'cookie cutter' in nature. But, suppose you were a concert violinist who owned a multi-million dollar Stradivarius violin. You would have to find a specialized insurance agency who could come up with a customized policy for your precious instrument. The concept of peer-to-peer insurance is that (continuing with the violin example) you find musicians and rare instrument aficionados around the world who all have the same specialized insurance needs that you do. You form a crowd-funding community based on trust and a common theme. The more people who pay an initial insurance premium, the smaller the premium. What binds all peer-to-peer set-ups together is that if you don't make a claim during the course of a year, you receive a cash bonus. According to the peer-to-peer company Friendsurance, there have been cases recent years in which 94 percent of participants received some sort of year-end cash bonus.

The system works, according to experts, because crowd-funding ensures that people form like-minded digital communities. In China, families deal with an issue fairly exclusive to that country: child abduction. So families with small children have used a peer-to-peer agency known as TongJuBao to form a large group of policyholders who focus on that one social issue. Policyholders in most peer-to-peer insurance companies say that one of the greatest benefits is that the set-up discourages fraud and therefore premiums don't skyrocket to help defray the cost of fraudulent claims.

To read the full post, visit Medium.

June 17, 2016

How To Close That Elusive Digital Loop

Posted by Nitesh Bansal (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:01 AM

How To Close That Elusive Digital Loop

How do we know or measure when an enterprise has truly gone digital? This is a question that every organization should be asking itself if it wants to succeed in the next five years. You read it correct: next five years. Not within the next century or even the next decade. Becoming a truly digital enterprise is no longer an option, if you want your enterprise to open up to new markets and thrive in the current ones.

I'm sure I could challenge one of my talented colleagues to write an algorithm by which enterprises could gauge their level of digitization. The algorithm would measure the total data in the organization - compare offline and online data, data derived from sensors, including ones on the shop-floor and products and from customer touch-points through a number of live connection nodes, web and social media presence, etc. These stats may look great during company presentations and can boost an organization's ego (due to the sheer amount of data they have been able to collect). Yet, if they are not leveraged to derive unique and actionable insights, they don't mean much.

I believe that the true measure of an enterprise becoming fully digital is in closing the loop. It's when the knowledge gained out of both real-time and historical data covering the enterprise, the customer, and the product, are harnessed to make insightful decisions. Successful ecommerce retailers, such as Amazon, offer us a compelling blueprint of this in practice. It knows what a customer wants based on both historical data as well as how that person is behaving online at that very moment. That way, they can offer real-time special deals that are tailored to that very customer. Positive and personalized online experiences such as these keeps the brand on customer recall. Customers are more likely to come back to the site.

Recognizing the importance of digitization, Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE famously said, "If you went to bed last night as an industrial company, you're going to wake up this morning as a software and analytics company," and is thoroughly transforming GE into a digital enterprise. Their CIO Jim Fowler aims to add US$ 1 billion to GE's productivity over the next three years by harnessing the power of data, and insights in creating digital twins that enable proactive problem solving.

Another company in the electrical equipment manufacturing space is already thinking about using sensor data captured from their equipment installed around the world to carry out near real-time root cause analysis and provide a proactive fix. More importantly, they are also going to use these inputs to influence the product design and hence, close this loop.

The number of examples are growing by the way. The bottom line is that a company that accomplishes the amalgamation of enterprise knowledge to influence elements such as product design, lifecycle, and other associated decisions in as near-real-time as possible is, in my view, closing that elusive digital loop.

So what are you waiting for? Let your digital journeys begin.

June 15, 2016

Message In A Bottle

Posted by Balakrishnan C. S. (View Profile | View All Posts) at 10:55 AM

Message In A Bottle

In the past, consumer goods companies launched product after product with predictable success. New products were backed by meticulous research, consumer insights and a blaze of publicity. However, modern marketers are realizing there is no formula for a successful product story.

The 4Ps of marketing are getting upended by e-Commerce and buffeted by demographic and economic forces. The holy grail of consumer loyalty is now part of mythical folklore. Consumers now seek products that are utilitarian as well as convenient.

Perhaps, the brightest ideas in consumer goods now emanate from outliers who blend uncommon wisdom about products with a nuanced consumer sensibility. Let us distill lessons from challengers and find out what makes consumers gravitate towards these compelling product ideas.

Service over brand

The premium that consumers are willing to pay for is service, not the brand. A service-first mindset is the result of how consumers are being served by airlines, retailers and other service industries. A compelling service mantra is enough for a product to differentiate itself from peers. Take Hot Coffee Club, for example, who offers six variants of freshly grounded coffee by mail every month across the United States. Consumer's experience with the brand begin with a tasting box, following which customers can select their personalized mix of coffee. Then there is Sanitary Owl in the United Kingdom, an online sanitary subscription service that mails sanitary kits to customers who choose a mix of products that meets their personal needs.

Inherently organic

Consumers are becoming more and more health conscious as lifestyle ailments surge. They also have a lot of information at their fingertips, which is driving them eat fresh, local and organic food. This has opened a market for holistic health and wellness products. In India, Patanjali offers packaged food, cosmetics and home care products by tapping into the ancient Ayurvedic system of natural healing. Natura Brazil offers cosmetics using ingredients from the biodiversity of the Amazon rainforest. The company adopts an advisor-customer direct selling model that serves as a hybrid social network.

Always connected

The digital generation seeks to control interaction as well as experience with products. As connectivity becomes ubiquitous, millennials are turning to products and services that add value to their lifestyle. Beam Technologies offers Beam Brush, a smartphone-connected toothbrush, as part of a holistic dental subscription service that includes dental insurance. Data from the brush is transmitted to an app that monitors dental hygiene and determines dental insurance premiums based on the principle of preventive care. Ralph Lauren's Polo Tech smart shirt has sensors that record the user's movement and beams data to an app via Bluetooth. The user can monitor steps taken, calories burned, and heart and breathing rate.

Several startups are pushing the boundaries of innovation in consumer goods. The success of progressive companies will depend on how innovative ideas serve consumer needs. While the genie is out of the bottle, the messages that emerge from the shifts in consumer goods serve as guiding lights for the industry.

June 10, 2016

Spotlight on Regional Issues At World Economic Forum on ASEAN

Posted by Mayuresh Vaidya (View Profile | View All Posts) at 3:14 AM

Leaders consider ASEAN's future direction [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=abzspVpP89s]

Last week, I represented Infosys at the World Economic Forum (WEF) on ASEAN in Kuala Lumpur. The theme of the conference - Shaping the ASEAN Agenda for Inclusion and Growth - couldn't have been more relevant. Southeast Asia is experiencing great economic growth and urbanization, but that kind of social improvement doesn't include everyone. Granted, the ten-member states of ASEAN all share similar cultures and histories by virtue of geography. But that's where the similarities end. There is Singapore and Brunei on one hand, with their pristine streets, skyscrapers, and some of the wealthiest populations on the planet. Then there is Cambodia, with a largely rural and poor population.

This year's conference focused on public and private partnerships to address some of the areas that need immediate attention, such as education, infrastructure, transportation, and unemployment, to bring about parity between the developed and poorer countries in the region. And for such initiatives to succeed, digital - as the great enabler of our times - must connect 625 million people in the ASEAN region. It was heartening to witness unanimous faith of leaders from political, social and business communities in digital technologies in accelerating changes, improvements and benefits in the ASEAN region. The perfect confluence of needs, collective intent to address these and opportunities.

One area in which digital would make an incredible difference is education. For example, the Malaysia's Ministry of Education has ensured that all of the country's 10,000 schools have 4G Internet available to students. Plus, the Ministry has developed a virtual learning platform. Now, suppose you take a classroom in an urban area with a teacher and then connect that classroom to hundreds of others in remote farming areas so that all children can receive the same high-quality education. Just think: hundreds of classrooms in rural Malaysia have a virtual teacher who students follow on a digitally-connected computer screen. That's bringing scale through technology.

And technology, not necessary digital, can do so much for the region. For example, the ASEAN nations are bearing the brunt of a huge population movement into cities, many of which are already congested. There is a reason that cities in the region continue to see an influx of rural populations: they are looking for work. What if a bullet train (a rail system that moves people at 300 kilometers an hour) could connect cities in places like Cambodia and Laos with the farming regions? Rapid public transit could allow rural populations to take advantage of good jobs in growing cities without having to move into them, where the cost of living is far more expensive.

As a first-time WEF delegate, it was awesome to see leaders from different walks of life coming together to initiate important discussions of our time. This included human trafficking, which unfortunately is plaguing the region. Due to corruption, the situation has continued to worsen. The regional leaders at WEF ASEAN discussed how they have a shared responsibility to protect those that are most vulnerable, especially children and women.

Regional WEFs like this one, which have grown in numbers over the years, create spaces for deep dive into local issues - that may not be discussed at length in Davos, which has a global emphasis. More so, it enables regionally-tailored dialogues between business leaders, policymakers and non-profits - leading to actionable insights, which can be executed now.

June 7, 2016

Continuous Learning: Millennials Want It, Organizations Need To Foster It

Posted by Holly Benson (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:39 AM

Continuous Learning: Millennials Want It, Organizations Need To Foster It

My friends and I learned the hard way. As baby boomers, we entered the workforce in the '60s, '70s, and '80s with the fresh-faced expectation of 'jobs for life'. Many of us assumed we'd fill out our W-4, buy our first car, get married, raise our kids, and finally retire with the same company's name at the top of our paycheck. My idyll was shattered when my Fortune 10 employer - a company which had never downsized its staff in its 100-year history - launched the first of what became a decade of annual staff reductions. Most of my generation had received the same wake-up call by the end of the millennium.

Fast forward to 2016. The millennials harbor no illusions. Two similar studies on millennials' job outlook, one published in January by Infosys and one released last week by ManpowerGroup, underscore the sharp re-set of their expectations. They want employment security, but know that it's elusive; they've cleverly redefined security in terms of career, not job. They think in terms of serial jobs, job portfolios, gigs. Long-term career growth in one company is the ideal - but they know it is hard to find.

However, in addition to their yearning for security (ManpowerGroup finds that 87% list security as their highest priority), they simultaneously want change. Born of the fast-paced digital world, they crave a steady diet of new experiences. Few, apparently, want to stay in one position for more than a year. These are seemingly contradictory priorities. How and where do they converge, and what are the implications both for individuals and for employers?

Learning is the glue that twines these threads together - the quest for security and the hunger for new experiences. Learnability is the skill of the hour; individuals must be able to acquire new skills and adapt. They need personal agility in shifting from one role to the next. Learnability is the key to career security, giving the individual the ability to ride the crest of successive waves of strategy, technology and product innovation. It also offers a path to new experiences and responsibilities at the desired pace.

The takeaway for individuals is that learning is not optional. Whether this means taking advantage of company training, seeking training on their own time, working with superiors to chart a course across a progression of roles, or job hopping to tick off developmental needs - employees cannot stand still. Most millennials grasp that they need to invest in lifelong growth and development to be secure.

So what's the takeaway for employers? With talent as one of today's biggest differentiators, employers have to provide continual learning - whether in the form of formal training or job experiences. The Infosys study found that millennials recognize that technology skills are only half the story; they view soft skills as equally critical. Employers ignore this at their own risk. In addition to the standard corporate curricula, many businesses are now exploring the use of MOOCs - massive open online courses - to enrich employees' overall learning experiences. Through partnerships with entities such as Coursera, edX, or Udacity, they are offering a rich portfolio of learning experiences that allow employees to explore new interests at their own pace. Gamification is helping employers drive continued learning through challenges and games.

Some new approaches might also be timely. Could partner companies in a value chain create exchange programs that help talented employees tack between companies, offering them broadening opportunities while remaining within a managed talent pool? Employers have long-managed rotational programs within the bounds of their own organization; could that be extended across a value chain or network of partners? This might satisfy millennials' appetite for new experiences without losing them to the larger market.

It's time to think creatively about creating cultures of learning in our organizations. Thirty years ago, companies struggled to get employees to attend training. Today's talent leaders realize that a continual learning proposition is a differentiator that attracts and retains top talent - and helps them win in the marketplace.

June 1, 2016

Intelligent & Context-Aware: A.I. Grows Up

Posted by Sanjay Nambiar (View Profile | View All Posts) at 8:27 AM

A Battle Of Digital Assistants | Tech Bet | CNBC [Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLXIDdBsNiQ]

As every major technology company rolls out a new 'chat bot' or virtual assistant (Siri, Echo, and Alexa immediately come to mind), it's becoming clear to consumers that comparing them is akin to comparing apples with oranges. There are those devices or apps that you can talk at, and they respond with basic answers because they've been programmed with reams of data and can access even more. So if you're looking for a new restaurant in your neighborhood, just about any such product on the market will suffice.

But there's a relatively new term being used today that's separating the Artificial Intelligence-enabled apples from the oranges: 'conversational interface.' That's when you begin talking to your device instead of at it. Rather than simply drawing on its vast data banks, it can actually learn from your questions and conversations and teach itself to become a better digital assistant. After all, we've had Internet search engines for two decades now. Simply making them blurt out answers to your search is not that radical. Understanding who you are and what you're wanting to, however, is changing the marketplace for everything related to A.I.

One example is Viv, an A.I. platform that appears to be re-writing the rules of how digital interfaces work. It can seamlessly integrate with third-party services and is able to understand conversational language. During Viv's live demonstration last month, its creator Dag Kittlaus asked Viv to pay US$ 20 to a friend, and Viv did just that using the app Venmo, which allows one to make and share payments with friends. No longer are some companies jealously guarding their A.I. platforms; they're opening them up so that anyone can use them and improve upon them. The more this happens, the more interconnected devices will become and their A.I. standard will become a global standard. There's also SoundHound, for example, which recently unveiled Hound, a virtual assistant that also works with apps.

One area where A.I. will truly make a difference is in the field of education. A.I could facilitate one-on-one tutoring for children, often touted to be the most effective method of education. In fact, academics at University College London's Knowledge Lab have written in a popular report that A.I. has the potential to mimic a human when it comes to one-on-one tutoring. Plus, the report states, teachers can use feedback from those A.I./student interactions to develop more accurate assessments of students' talents and skills. Simply put, suppose a mathematically-inclined student is identified at an early age by an A.I.-enabled interface. That means the school can develop a more robust mathematics curriculum for that student. All students will theoretically receive more personalized curricula.

It's clear that Artificial Intelligence has the potential to change the way we live and learn and work. A professor of computer science at Georgia Tech, Ashok Goel, wanted to prove a point about Artificial Intelligence. He wondered: What if he used an A.I.-enabled computer to stand in as a teaching assistant in an online course? Would his students notice? It turns out that many students never caught on to 'Jill,' his teaching assistant that was actually an A.I.-enabled computer. Professor Goel said that the computer would only answer a question if it had a confidence rate of at least 97 percent. That's much higher than the chat bots we experience when we call into a customer service center. But it's also a sign of things to come. A.I.-empowered computers are getting smarter and acting more like us.

Viv is indeed a breakthrough when it comes to virtual agents and conversational commerce. Gone are the days when chat bots on a website responded to your query from a list of pre-loaded messages. Viv's creators tout the fact that it can write its own code as it learns from its surroundings. That's a giant leap as far as consumer-based A.I. is concerned. There are several other A.I.-enabled platforms that are shaking up the market. I came across a report that Google's Allo will be able to learn from its users so that if it is asked the best way to roast a chicken, it will realize that its user is cooking a meal and therefore suggest dishes (and their recipes) that complement the roasted chicken. What the marketplace is experiencing is that A.I. is pivoting towards ubiquity. I've often heard it said that we don't think about electricity unless there's a black-out. Someday, A.I. will teach itself to become so smart that consumers won't have to ask a device 10 questions just to get the answer they need.

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