Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Global Markets
Tata Consultancy Services
"Technology can solve a lot of problems if it’s applied in the right way."
In this episode of CMOtalk Klaas and Adam talk to Abhinav Kumar, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Global Markets at Tata Consultancy Services. We will talk about something big, a global digital transformation. This year's World Economic Forum in Davos names the Internet of Things top priority. What does the third wave of the connected economy mean for industries, organizations, work, and everyday life around the globe. Today we dive into the future of digital.
Abhinav Kumar has been CMO of Tata Consultancy Services for 19 years. For 15 consecutive years now TCS is partnering the World Economic Forum at Davos, something which has grown into a pretty important partnership for TCS. Abhinav: ‘It's a great opportunity to meet and connect with a lot of our clients and partners. And also to gauge of the sentiment of world leaders from the world of business, from government, from academy and media, and what is everyone thinking about how the year is gonna come across.’
‘One of the things we’ve taken away from it this year is that people do expect challenges. There's significant challenges in the world today, economically as well. But a lot of people also expect the economic downturn is gonna be soft and creates also a lot of opportunities. One of which is on the technology.’
‘If you look at the 400 sessions which took place this year, I would say most of them had some element of technology involved in it. Technology has become such an intrinsic part of every debate.’
Technology as the solution to all our problems? Abhinav: ‘Technology can solve a lot of problems if applied in the right way, it's regulated well, we develop it towards the right purposes. But it has its own risks and downsides, which we need to be aware of. For example, on the media side, the challenge of misinformation, fake news and what it does to societies.’
What about the downside of AI? ‘Do you know the demographic which is the most positive about ChatGPT? It's teenagers. Mainly because of homework. But so often technology when it creates a challenge or a problem, you can use technology as well to solve that problem.’
So, about AI, where's the growth pocket? ‘In every field, for example right now AI is being used extensively as a tool in healthcare. But I think in every field there are great applications: self-service, customer service. Airlines are using AI to help their customers do simple things. Using Whatsapp to communicate. Like if you had a seat booked and a flight, you could change yout seat on WhatsApp.’
‘One of the other exciting places where we are starting to use technology now is towards the big shift happening on the planet. I think that's probably the most important mission for our generation. Climate change, energy, transition energy. If we want to reach the goals which we need to reach to prevent the rise in temperature.’
‘We've done it itself as TCS, we intend to be net zero by 2030. But industries also will need to speed things up. Two things will be important. One is adopting new technologies. You're getting cleaner sources of power, whether you use wind or solar or whatever. and the other thing is to optimize what you're doing currently. So technology is already playing a very big role.’
Where's IoT playing a role in that? ‘IoT looks very complex to people, but in simplicity, all it means is that you have these sensors on different machines, and through that we are able to collect data and take more intelligent decisions. An example from the Netherlands is Diamond Shipyards, a very long-standing and prestigious business. One of the things we've helped them do is implement an IoT platform by which a ship has about 5,000 sensors on it. For preventive maintenance for example. Now they're able to advise their own clients on how they can use a better optimization of their routes or how to repair the boat when it needs to be repaired. More efficient and using less energy or burning less fossil fuel.’
Abhinav, please comment on the following statement:
Real growth through technological innovation can only happen when everyone participates. ‘Yes. I believe technology should be inclusive and I think one of the challenges is that we gotta break through the digital divide. One of the biggest challenges for this industry is the shortage of talent. Today there are about 6 million open jobs across the technology industry globally. And the reason they’re open is because either, in the education system, there aren't enough students who've chosen STEM career. Or the exact skills which are needed. There aren't enough people trained in it. And some areas are going really fast, like cybersecurity or IoT. You're talking about data scientists, artificial intelligence scientists. I think that's an opportunity for our inclusion problem. What technology and the internet have done is making people digitally literate. We have a lot of programs, of course in India but also here in Europe, in the United States and other places. Many of our engineers volunteer at schools, teach children about robotics and excite them about careers in this field, but also help teachers. I think one of the key things in helping educate the next generation about technology is to give teachers the tool to help them do so.’
It seems the future holds too many challenges for just one CMO or communications officer to tackle. How does that feel? Do you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders? Abhinav: ‘There is a lot thrown on CMOs, but it’s the hardest time in the world to be a CEO. The expectations of you are not just to lead your company, but also transform your business, society. Opine on everything. Manage talent, manage investors, more activist investors. It's a tough job.
‘CMOs as well are under a lot of pressure as businesses have grown in scale and complexity and stakeholder complexities in continuously adding value and in creating growth for the business, in strengthening the brand, and finding new ways to engage your customers, audiences… And at the end of the day figuring out what are those 9,932 tools and which one should they use?’
‘Having said that, I think it's always better to have a lot of problems to solve. Because then you have the potential to make your role relevant and your contributions to your organization more relevant. I think anyone who goes in for these roles needs to enjoy that challenge. But also I think it is about ruthlessly prioritizing what you work on and what you don't. Because there is so much thrown at you that your ability to prioritize for yourself and your teams and take them in the right direction is really important.’
More about sponsoring: ‘One of our big investments in our portfolio on the sports sponsored side are marathons and running platforms. Today we partner up to 14 running platforms across the world. Very iconic properties like the TCS New York City Marathon, the TCS London Marathon we signed on last year and right here in Amsterdam, the TCS Amsterdam Marathon.’
How do marathons relate to your brand? How does that strengthen your brand? ‘So marathons do many interesting things for us. We got into marathons, not because of a brand, but for a very different reason. We look at it from the point of view of the health and wellness of our workforce and our clients. One of the challenges of being a typical software engineer, is that you're spending most of your day punching a laptop. Creating great innovations is not great for your health. We had some programs to improve wellness inside. Our CEO at that time took up running as well and we encouraged people to do that. But I think the benefit it has done for us from a brand point of view, it really takes a brand down at a city level. Into business hubs where a large part of our client- and our employee base is.’
‘The sheer visibility the brand gets: one of the challenges of being in a B2B services business is that our product is invisible. These marathons change that. and we bring a lot of technology to these events.’