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Blue Star Limited’s Suresh Iyer on digital business models, identifying technology gaps, and more

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The electronics industry in India has witnessed a huge transformation over the past two decades. As requirements of both the customers and businesses have changed, there is a demand for more innovative and technologically advanced products in the market.

According to a report, the electronics industry is one of the fastest growing across the world, set to reach US$ 7.3 trillion by 2025. The Indian market is expected to be second only to China’s, followed by Vietnam, South Korea and Taiwan. The government of India has backed the industry with policies such as Make in India, National Policy of Electronics, Net Zero Imports in Electronics, and Zero Defect Zero Effect. 

As per a report published by the World Economic Forum, “The vision for the future of consumption in India is anchored in the growth of the upper-middle-income and high-income segments, which will grow from being one in four households today to one in two households by 2030.”

The product categories that will result in this consumer electronics sales boom will be consumer appliances such as air conditioners, washing machines, and others. The giants of the industry include Blue Star Limited, Voltas Limited, Amber Enterprises India Limited, among others.

As part of our Tech Gurus Series, we talked to Suresh Iyer, Chief Information Officer, Blue Star Limited about the tech play at the company and future plans. A digitally charged IT professional, Suresh Iyer focuses on leveraging the opportunities presented by today’s digital platforms for enriching and enhancing the businesses he serves. 

Currently, as CIO of Blue Star Limited, he orchestrates a number of transformational initiatives to deliver end-to-end digitalization encompassing Blue Star’s ecosystem of products, customers, dealers and suppliers using technologies such as M2M, Internet of Things, Cloud, Mobility, Bots, RPA, Machine Learning and Analytics. In this process, he has rebuilt the digital core and developed the digital capabilities of the organization.

Digital is a must

Iyer believes that techniques such as design thinking and agile methodologies helped the company to realign with the rapidly changing requirements during the pandemic. The lockdown caused a major disruption to the business giving rise to unprecedented risks. Other than continuity, the businesses were required to be agile and adapt quickly.

For him, the digital business model is a must as the businesses are at a risk without it. Secondly the systems have to be adaptable and agile and should be accessible from anywhere, securely and safely. 

Our critical business solutions are highly configurable – this enabled us to bring in the required changes without going through a major development effort. And the solutions that were rolled out to address some of the new requirements were quite innovative and well received.”

Automation- a saviour in hard times

Iyer mentioned how the lockdown impact was reduced due to automation at Blue Star. The systems operated seamlessly and the company was even able to build in additional layers to address Covid- specific requirements.

He said, “Thanks to our Digital Blueprint laid out some years back, we were focused on both internal and external processes – for both optimization and automation. This approach resulted in an extensive reengineering of critical business processes, automation of all business-related processes and integration between critical systems.”

Technology is always evolving

The technology professional firmly believes that the only constant about technology is that it is always changing, and this applies to IT hardware, software as well as cybersecurity. For instance, IT hardware has a shelf life and needs to be upgraded with time.

But when it comes to applications and COTS solutions, businesses need to weigh in other factors before they decide to upgrade. These factors include changes in business scenarios, compliance issues, inability to deliver new requirements, lack of stability, security issues, among others. Iyer mentions that the company does a horizon scan every year to identify softwares and applications that need to be upgraded. Then the process is carried out, keeping the allocated budget in mind.

“Our first priority would be to always focus on addressing process automation or technology gaps as compared to investing in existing areas for a technology refresh. Technology for the sake of technology is never a criteria.”

Going forward, Iyer talks about plans to invest in new and improved technologies. Blue Star plans to improve data quality to enhance the effectiveness of analytics. The company is also going to leverage modern day technology such as AI and ML to apply predictive maintenance into the product maintenance process, especially for remotely monitored products.

Other than this, Iyer also talked about enhancing the IQ of the bots using analytics. This will help in delivering better insights and smart suggestions to improve the productivity and effectiveness of employees.