Indian Firms likely to raise AI investment this year and develop AI-ready culture: Deloitte’s new ‘State of AI in India’ report

CXOToday has engaged in an exclusive interview with Mr. Prashanth Kaddi, Partner, Consulting, Deloitte India

  • According to the report findings, 39 per cent of Indian organisations plan to increase investment in artificial intelligence (AI) by more than 20 per cent this year. What do you think is leading to the rise of these investments and what potential does AI hold to transform businesses?

One of the key findings from the report is the increased confidence that organizations have shown in AI because of the business outcomes that they have been able to achieve from AI initiatives such as revenue growth, cost optimization, engaging customers better and other strategic initiatives. The report also found that payback period for a lot of organizations has shorted with nearly half of the respondent suggesting that they witnessed quicker than expected payback periods from their AI initiatives. If we look at a macro level, there are two shifts that have contributed to the increased confidence in AI. Firstly, the move towards digitisation led to greater AI adoption hence improving the payback period. Secondly, companies are focusing on select use cases leading them to deliver fast value by drilling down to specific AI solutions and algorithms. These are the two primary drivers for increased AI investments and in the future, we expect AI to continue to create significant impact across businesses.


  • Since the pandemic, our country has made significant progress in the realm of Technology. How do you think covid has increased AI adoption and how has India Inc’s experience with AI evolved over the past year? Can you also share use case examples across industries that have adopted AI and transformed businesses as well as consumer experiences?

While the pandemic is behind us, it definitely led organizations towards digitsation and hence greater adoption of AI technologies to drive these initiatives. The bullish sentiment for AI was apparent in the past year’s survey and has only strengthened further this year – from 82 percent businesses planning to increase AI investments in 2021 to 88 percent this year. Covid has given a push to organisations to develop AI-ready culture and businesses are taking several concerted actions to accelerate AI adoption by ensuring transparent communication around AI vision, effective change management and incentivising AI adoption across workforce to develop AI-ready culture.

We have seen four key industry sectors with increased AI penetration over the past year. Life Sciences and Healthcare is one of the prominent ones evidently because of what we have witnessed in the last few years due to pandemic. It is especially adopting AI use cases (such as chatbots, converstational AI and customer feedback analytics) to improve the understanding of and response to customers. Second is the Financial Services sector that showed prioritisation for industry-specific use cases, such as fraud analytics and detection, operations automation and price estimation. Third is Telecom, Media and Entertainment that has dramatically changed the way it processes data for use cases such as operations forecasting, back-end and production operations automation and cloud pricing optimisation. Lastly public sector is increasingly adoption AI in some interesting use cases such as disaster recovery, population risk support and more.


  • The report also talks about organizations feeling more comfortable in making a move towards greater AI decentralisation and democratization. Could you explain this in detail and list down some of the practices/ steps that are being adopted by organisations to ensure this?

Decentralisation or federation as we call it, is a key trend that has come out in the report. Traditionally, a lot of AI and ML initiatives in organizations have been focused on a central competency-based approach which limits the decision-making capabilities of stakeholders across functional areas as a lot of decisions are taken on the edge. Democratization provides the ability to make it easier for people across organization, who may not be domain experts, to have appreciation for AI and derive value out of it. It allows decision makers to be armed with the right insights at the time of decision making in their respective functional areas. The advent of cloud and low-code/no-code platforms have led to a significant ease of use of AI in among people who are not very technically trained to harness the power of AI. Moreover, organisations are making significant progress in re-training their workforces in AI that has led to increased penetration of AI skills within the workforce.


  • About 93 percent respondents mentioned that their organisations’ senior leaders communicate a vision for AI. Deloitte too has been talking about the Age of With. What do you think is the future of AI given the increasing integration of such technologies at organisations level? Will it create additional opportunities for businesses in India?

The report suggests that the skills of current workforce may not be relevant and that leaders may need to pivot differently to address it. What makes it a stubborn problem to solve is that this fear is grounded in the observation that most businesses count automating jobs amongst their top AI use cases. Having said that, report also highlights that businesses are proactively charting out and communicating an acceptable transition plan towards the future of each function, such as the future of finance, future of supply chain etc. Most leaders are taking active steps by ensuring transparent communication around AI and imparting specific skillsets to keep the workforce AI-ready. We at Deloitte believe in the ‘Age of With’ which essentially means machines working along with humans. It is not an ‘either’ or ‘or’ situation. Rather we believe that it is the efficiency and intelligence of machines with the creativity and judgement of humans that will work best in terms of intelligent decision making and creating new working opportunities for the workforce.

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