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Nitish Jain

Nitish Jain is President and Director at SP Jain School of Global Management.

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Is Technology Disrupting Business Models?

Technology which was once invented for a certain purpose is now being used to aid a completely new human need.

For the past 100 years, automobiles have witnessed a slow and gentle evolution – the engines became faster and improved suspensions made the ride smoother. The changes were moderate and kept happening until one day when Elon Musk and TESLA started changing the automobile industry at its very core. As a result, driverless cars became a reality. No longer did you need to drive a car – they became smart enough to drive themselves. This paradigm shift isn’t simply a matter of an engine with more horsepower, but the use of several technologies, mostly those that were never used in car manufacturing before, that were brought together to create one of the most amazing inventions of our time. TESLA, with just 1% of the revenues from Ford Motors (Henry Ford was the pioneer of the assembly car still used in car production) has a higher capitalisation! Technology, most definitely, is disrupting old business models.

And, cars aren’t alone. Automation across several industries has started to and will continue to replace human labour. It’s the age of the BOTS. Technology which was once invented for a certain purpose is now being used to aid a completely new human need. Consider, for example, a voice BOT. As soon as you call a bank and start speaking, the BOT recognises you (using voice recognition technology). It uses artificial intelligence tools to know why you have called, and profiles you and offers products and services custom designed for you using big data. Sci-fi? No. This is the present.  

What is the fastest appreciating currency today? Is it the US Dollar? Or perhaps gold? No, it is Bitcoin! Bitcoin, as most of you know, is not physical or produced in a bank. Yet, more people are using it to transact, causing the value to surge exponentially. It is a product of new technology, and in this case, blockchain.

This rampant change induced by technology brings forth the age-old question – how can traditional companies compete in the new age? In my view, the first step is acceptance. To accept, that the revolution in technology is real and is here to stay. Your business is definitely going to be swamped with new players who use crazy new business models that were never considered possible before. Walmart didn’t look at e-retailing the same way that Amazon did. Guess which company is more valuable today? This change is not going to be easy. I am reminded of JF Kennedy who famously said, “We chose to go to the moon not because it was easy but because it was hard.” 

The second step is to get a new team of people who understand new technology. CEOs and business leaders of today are largely technology experts instead of finance, marketing or supply chain. Just like the self-driving car, one may need several technologies to come together to serve a human need.

The third step is to use Design Thinking. Use this methodology to understand the core value proposition and arrive at fresh ideas that will serve the human need. The solution is rarely obvious. A valid example I can think of is the issue a cancer hospital for children once faced. Kids didn’t want to get into an MRI machine – it was too noisy and claustrophobic, they thought. How does one get over this problem? The hospital tackled this by painting the machine to resemble a space ship! The MRI thus became a cylindrical spaceship with noise-making aliens, transporting the kid into a space adventure! Painting a picture of the future, indeed.

The final and one of the most important steps – know that the devil is in the details. UBER was obviously a radical idea. But its success was largely on account of a brilliant user interface and experience. 

Being an educationist, I am often asked what the future of education is. One thing is for sure - it will no longer be the last man standing. Education, much like others, is bound to change at its very core. Factory-styled classrooms are already being replaced by more personalised learning methods. The technology for it exists. The challenge lies in how we can leverage them to create a truly meaningful experience. This is not a change that will happen in the future – it is one that is already happening. Before you realise it, the change would have taken over. Technology waits for nobody. History is riddled with examples.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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