Shashikant Burnwal heads the business development, sales and operations at Trillbit. His work experience includes a stint as Senior Manager at Ola Cabs, where he led projects that included launching Customer Relationship Management and Customer Complaint Management System along with structuring the entire Customer and Driver (Partner) Support. He has worked with different business teams for various category launches and defined the entire support experience for both customers and partners. He also worked as Manager at Tata Motors, where he led projects of new product development and business launches of commercial vehicle driveline systems. He also developed low-cost sourcing for mechanical parts and led cross-functional teams to deliver cost-optimized manufacturing. Burnwal has a Dual degree in B.Tech and M.Tech in Mechanical Engineering, IIT Kharagpur (2006-2011). He went on to complete his PGPM (Equivalent of MBA) in Operations & Finance at the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad (2014-15). Some of his notable accolades include being a merit list holder in MBA from ISB (top 10% of the class), recipient of Leader in Innovation Fellowship (LIF) by RAE (Royal Academy of Engineering), UK and also having published several scientific papers based on his M.Tech project with more than 100 research citations.
We all may agree that the Covid-19 pandemic is truly a ‘black swan’ event and impacted the entire world in an unprecedented way as per this term popularized by Nassim Nicholas Taleb-a black swan event is an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. The way our lives have changed in the last two years really looks like fiction.
Who would have believed in 2019 that people will be restricting themselves at home for such prolonged time and all activities like our jobs and education will be carried out primarily virtually? Things that we were not accepting as standard or normal before the pandemic has become the new normal.
We were already on the path of digitalisation with all kinds of tools and platforms built by technology companies, spanning from social media, chatting and meeting tools, digital gaming and online education. However, this pandemic accelerated these avenues that would have taken five or ten years to become mainstream but now those already adopted by millions have become a reality in our lives. Think! who would have thought that our kids would be getting their schooling through platforms like Zoom or people would attend events like CES (Consumer Electronic Show) and would be able to see new electronics and product launches completely in a virtual format.
When the whole world was crumbling with the onset of Covid and complete lockdown, deep-tech companies got their boosters and released products and features that really helped people to navigate through the pandemic. Almost all technology companies either came up with new products or some product features that were attuned to the Covid era. Whether it was contact tracing platforms brought by Apple and Google together or Covid vaccines brought by pharmaceutical companies or initiatives taken by Indian start-ups like Chalo who introduced contactless ticketing for public buses in India at scale based on a pretty new technology called ‘data over sound’.
There are plenty of innovations happening in a very short span of time fuelled by deep technologies.
I would like to start with technology play in meetings and events. The way meetings and events evolved virtually with digital technologies during this pandemic are really commendable. We may feel that these virtual solutions cannot beat the in-person meetings and events but we also have to accept that the way companies brought new solutions was really intriguing and pleasant. The introduction of AR & VR to give an immersive experience while adding enriching features in meetings or events. Start-ups like Airmeet helped companies conduct their events online with features that not only make organisers conduct these events at scale but keep one-to-one interaction possible. Similar to the physical world, expo booths can be created, pamphlets can be distributed, and you can walk around the event as if you are present there physically.
A related area where technology came into play is meeting tools like Zoom that added many new features to have online meetings in a cool way. You can put virtual backgrounds that can reflect your mood and preference, create groups within the call to have closed discussions and take and distribute notes and minutes of the meetings quite easily. In some sense, these led to more productivity as people did not have to travel or commute and could save time. Now few companies like Facebook have taken a big leap on this trend and are building solutions for virtual offices. Office meetings with truly a virtual reality experience. And in the upcoming years, we are going to witness a tectonic shift in the way we will be conducting meetings and hangouts with each other in the metaverse created by these companies.
The second sector that really revamped itself is education. While parents are cautious in sending their kids to schools, they also have a concern that their kids’ education should not suffer. When the pandemic forced educators to go with virtual classrooms, deep-tech start-ups came to the rescue with features, animations and learning experiences that make students attentive during virtual classes and maintain their interest in attending the classes from home. In some cases, online classes are more fun and have immersed learning with 3D animation as if students can really see or feel the lessons through these tools. Even when schools will open again, I hope teachers will keep on using these tools to make their teaching more receptive and fun for the students.
The third sector which emerged and gained traction during the pandemic is related to crypto and blockchain. NFT started in 2014 but it is 2021 when they saw the surge and the biggest reason was a lot of enthusiasts could join this wave because they have available time due to everyone working from home and at the same time many artists, creators started looking out for digital avenues for monetising their creation. Companies like Discord, Decenterland, OpenSea not only provided the necessary platforms to create or trade NFTs, but they played a critical role in making these mainstreams and will have big impacts and may change the entire art and music industry in years to come.
Now, when we talk about general companies, especially manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and supply chain companies, they have introduced automation and innovation with AI and automation tools to keep up the production level and movement of goods even when there is a shortage of labour. And we know that companies like automobiles and pharmaceuticals are investing billions of dollars to bring more innovation in automation and production. Robotics, process automation technologies are getting matured with this kind of investment and becoming implementation worthy in real working environments. Robots and machines have been used widely in public places, hospitals, airports to monitor persons’ temperature, maintain social distancing, sanitise the physical places and in certain cases do automated manless swab testing.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that these deep technologies not only helped us to go through the Covid-19 pandemic and keep our lives rolling but also strengthened our zeal to survive and excel, no matter what comes our way.