ESDS, Leveraging Cloud Technology For Banks, Start-Ups

“We should also expect the mass integration of IoT devices and Machine Learning technologies. At present, the Next Generation Technologies are not making as big impact in the Government to Consumers arena as we are still on the rudimentary stage. However, we should be expecting a great change as more and more players are entering the Indian market in multiple business verticals, and this will promote rapid expansion and up gradation of technologies”, asserted an optimistic Piyush Somani, CEO and CMD ESDS Software Pvt. Ltd. in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty. Excerpts below:

Digital India Mission of Government of India is a well-articulated policy intended to ensure last mile connectivity in the country. To what extent has this policy been implemented? Your views. 

A well-connected nation is a prerequisite to a well-served nation. Once the remotest of the Indian villagers are digitally connected through broadband and high-speed internet, delivery of electronic government services to every citizen, targeted social benefits, and financial inclusion can be achieved in reality. One of the key areas on which the vision of Digital India is centred is “digital infrastructure as a utility to every citizen”. Digital India initiative is not a recent one but the kind of push, which was required, was not coming. In the initial years, we were only digitizing the G2G part and G2C was supposed to happen once the G2G implementation of Digital technologies was sound enough to support the latter. We have lost so many years in implementing G2G and in the last 8-10 years G2C implementation started and it has picked up a good pace in the last 3-4 years.

India’s Digital India Mission is an expansive network of concepts. Has India’s ’Digital India Mission’ been able to create sufficient jobs in the country? Please share your views. 

 As the Indian ITES companies and Indian start-up’s partnering with the government, so it is creating jobs indirectly. Our start-up’s will be the backbone of Digital India in next 5 years, so allowing our startup’s to work with government was necessary. Policies have been rolled out by the government allowing the startup’s to come forward and give their solutions to the government and those solutions are being implemented to frontend in front of the Citizens. Our big ITES companies have been extremely good with their G2G solutions, while the startup’s are delivering next generation G2C solutions. We will see some Unicorn startup’s rising to the top level in in next 5 years and that will be mainly because of their innovative G2C solutions. These startup’s will create jobs the way our big ITES companies did in the past.

What is your view on the Data Protection Bill? 

In August 2017, the Indian Supreme Court declared the right to privacy to be a part of the fundamental right to life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and currently the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Information Technology (Reasonable Security Practices and Sensitive Personal Data or Information) Rules, 2011, primarily govern India’s data protection regime. These laws miserably fail to protect the interest of the individuals in today's time. India is taking steps to enact a data protection framework modeled along the lines of the GDPR Data Protection Bill, which calls for firms to protect personal data of Indians, such as health and financial data, religious or political affiliation, caste, and biometrics, by storing all data in India, government and industry. These include requirements for notice and prior consent for the use of individual data, limitations on the purposes for which data can be processed by companies, and restrictions to ensure that only data necessary for providing a service to the individual in question is collected. In addition, it includes data localization requirements and the appointment of data protection officers within firms. If enacted, the bill will provide a comprehensive, cross-sectoral privacy and data protection framework for India. This is expected to take 12-24 months or even more to happen, as the law would require passage in both houses of parliament and certain NGO’s would also want to stop it through their regular channels.

Is India 5G ready? 

We are couple of years away from 5G becoming a reality, as our 3G and 4G networks have still not managed to penetrate the very depths of the rural India. There are a number of discrepancies in the rollout of 4G network at present. As of now, we should be focusing on stabilizing a 4G Network countywide before we jump into the 5G market. While the rollout of 4G networks is all about data connectivity, 5G networks would mean less latency, faster speeds and the ability to make lives more meaningful with technologies like Internet of Things, which would mean a lot more connected smart devices. Also in the case of 5G, it is expected that the migration, even if the networks claim otherwise, will happen slowly from 4G LTE and eventually 5G, as capital-intensive replacement of older equipment and technology will take time. 5G services are anticipated to create an economic impact of USD 1 trillion in India by 2035. 5G would enable massive commercial deployments of technologies such as IoT, AI, RPA, AR/VR facilitating use cases across industries like automotive, media and entertainment, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, and agriculture amongst others. Before we initiate the 5G tests, we need to collectively answer if 5G has become necessary at this point of time or will a high speed 4G and consistent network of 4G would make more sense for next 4-5 years?

What major challenges do you observe in the Indian ecosystem for the successful implementation of the Digital India Mission? What methods of mitigating these challenges should be adopted? 

High level of digital illiteracy is the biggest challenge in the success of Digital India; Low digital literacy is a key hindrance in the adaptation of technologies. Digital literacy is the first step in empowering citizens. People should know how to secure their online data. Making Digital India scheme known and creating awareness among common masses about its benefits is also a great challenge. To make this program successful, a massive awareness effort is required. There is a pressing need to educate and inform the citizens, especially in rural and remote areas, about the benefits of internet services to increase the growth of internet usage. It is a mammoth task to have connectivity with every village, town, and city. Connecting 250000 Gram Panchayats through National Optical Fibre is not an easy task. The biggest challenge is ensuring that each panchayat point of broadband is fixed up and functional. A key component under this vision is the high speed of internet as a core utility to facilitate online delivery of various services.

The biggest challenge faced by the Digital India program is slow and delayed infrastructure development. India’s digital infrastructure is comprehensively inadequate to tackle the growing increase in digital transactions. India needs over 80 lakh hotspots to reach a global level. The private participation in government projects in India is poor because of long and complex regulatory processes. These regulatory processes involve dealing with people and we are still facing issues in that area. Many request proposals issued by a government are not picked up by competent private sector organizations since they are not commercially viable. There is a wide digital divide between urban and rural India. Until now, funds have not been deployed effectively to meet the cost of infrastructure creation in rural areas.

To mitigate the challenges and make Digital India mission successful, we will need to jointly take care of marketing and selling the next generation digital solutions to our citizens. We have seen awesome adoption of WhatsApp and Facebook by even the uneducated people of India, but the same people are not ready to use the Gram panchayat apps or their Municipal Corporation Apps which are equally easy to operate and also have video tutorials available, while whatsapp and facebook doesn’t have any tutorials. India’s top Smart City and No.1 Municipal corporation(Pune) with 100% G2C digital solutions has digital penetration of 2%, so we can imagine the situation of other cities and towns.

How is ESDS implementing strategies in lines with the Government of India’s Digital India Mission? 

We are trying to understand the pain points of our customers because if our customers are not able to push their digital initiatives to the citizens, then eventually we also fail as a cloud service provider. ESDS has implemented many social drives to create awareness for the Digital India Mission and we have been one of the biggest contributors of Digital India. ESDS is taking this initiative for Digital India transformation because, for us, our country comes first and we have the means to enable a large-scale dispersion of awareness media. To make our services successful, and to bring a major transformation, we are also creating Informational multilingual videos and social media content. We are posting on a regular basis to create positive transformation and create citizens awareness about all the initiatives, which are available from the Government of India.  ESDS has managed to connect more than 380 Million Indians and it’s our mission to take this number to 1B India Citizens in next 5 years.

What major projects are in the pipeline of ESDS with respect to digital transformation in BFSI and enterprise sector? 

Many Indian banks are moving their banking on cloud and today we have around 310 banks hosted on our cloud platform and their Core Banking Softwares are running on our eNlight Cloud. Some of the banks had moved to cloud 4-5 years ago and because of this early migration, they are now able to implement multiple digital payment channels for their customers. Many NBFC’s now have a complete online presence with no physical branches in India. They exist completely on the internet and many NBFC’s have already started reducing their branches. ESDS is hosting SAP HANA ERP for 150+ Enterprises and some of these are huge in size with thousands of users. With our world class service and support on our eNlight Cloud platform, we have managed to influence a lot of Enterprises to adopt Cloud first strategy. Our enterprise customers now understand that Cloud is the most secure way to run your online business and all big and small enterprises plan to completely move on cloud in next 2-3 years. We are also providing a lot of Blockchain solutions to our banking customers and IoT solutions to our Enterprise customers. Along with our ISV partners, we are also providing a lot of AI, ML and Analytics solutions to our customers.

How is ESDS leveraging start-ups to ensure scopes and opportunities for them?

The Indian Technology start-up landscape has evolved to become the fourth largest in the world. ESDS is always on the lookout to support new and enthusiastic companies and technology start-ups. We have various programs under which we try to help people with innovative ideas. Under the Digital India Mission, we have tutored start-ups to convert an idea into a business plan. Small and medium businesses are the backbone of India's economy, employing 100 million people and contributing to a 3rd India's GDP. A significant number of SME’s are hosted on eNlight platform and we have been able to give consistent technical support to these businesses. We are providing an opportunity to these Start-ups to work with our 1000+ Enterprise customers, 310 Banking customers and 100+ Govt customers. These start-ups are offering their next generation solutions to our customers.

Going forward, what Digital Transformation do you foresee, happening for Digital India Mission?

The beginning of India's digital revolution was the 2010 launch of a biometric identification program called Aadhaar; the project is nearly complete, with most of India's 1.3 billion people now registered in the government's digital database. It has paved the way for another program, called Jan Dhan, aimed at ensuring that every household in India has a bank account. This financial inclusion initiative began in 2014 after which 285 million Indians have opened bank accounts. Prior to Jan Dhan, an estimated 35% of Indian households did not have a bank account. Currently, India has around 800 million unique mobile users, and about 430 million have Internet access—a third of India's population and we estimate that 915 million Indians will be on the Internet by 2026. We should also expect the mass integration of IoT devices and Machine Learning technologies. At present, the Next Generation Technologies is not making a big impact in the G2C arena as we are still on the rudimentary stage. However, we should be expecting a great change as more and more players are entering the Indian market in multiple business verticals, and this will promote rapid expansion and upgradation of technologies.