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Hitachi Exchange: Driving Digital Success

Adrian Johnson
Vice President, Singapore, APAC

April 09, 2024

Knowledge sharing to drive digital success

A few weeks ago, I attended a coming together of thought leaders in Udaipur, India’s City of Lakes, who sought to convene to discuss the digital challenges of today with the goal of getting ahead of tomorrow.

To start the day and in what can only be considered a fitting entrance, my peers and I sailed across one of the city’s historic lakes, heading for the event’s venue. We expressed our excitement to connect over some of the key challenges facing our industry during this journey, which took place in one of India’s most picturesque settings – an experience that set us up perfectly for the day ahead.

Once we’d arrived and were settled into the room, which was full of customers, partners, and technology leaders, the primary discussion on the table concerned the new ways in which data is changing the face of our world. Today, businesses face increased pressure to understand exactly how to leverage data to benefit their organization while simultaneously navigating the exponential growth of technology. With these challenges and opportunities in mind, attendees were treated to a range of pertinent topics at the get together, including how to exceed customer expectations, successfully adopt new technologies, and balance profitability with sustainability. These topics all came under the umbrella of cloud and sustainability and data protection and innovation, and were delivered by a host of Hitachi Vantara expert speakers including Sheila Rohra (Chief Executive Officer), Matthew Hardman (Chief Technology Officer for APAC), Rajesh Prabhakaran (Vice President and General Manager for APAC), Sasan Moaveni (Global Business Leader), Sanjay Agrawal (CTO, Head- Presales for India & SAARC) Bharti Patel (SVP and Head of Engineering), and Jens Doerpmund (VP, Software Architecture).

We also heard from panelists Pradeep Nair (Managing Director for India, Broadcom Software), Ramesh Narayanaswamy (Chief Technology Officer at Aditya Birla Capital), Narendra Sonawane (Head of Information Systems, Infosys), Hemant Tiwari (VP & MD for India & SAARC, Hitachi Vantara), and Cyrus Daruwala (Managing Director for APAC, IDC Financial Insights), who acted as the day’s moderator alongside Minu Sirsalewala (Executive Editor, DataQuest).

An era of constant innovation driven by data

With a room full of attendees, Hitachi Vantara CEO Sheila Rohra kicked off by introducing herself and speaking about her experience growing up in India, where learning was instilled as a priority for her – something she credits for her determination and passion for the art of doing things differently. She spoke about this ethos in relation to Hitachi Vantara, and referenced its work with the International Space Station as evidence of the role data can take in changing history – in this case, providing a true foundation for innovation in space. Highlighting the impact of the explosion of data, Rohra explained how it has grown into a key business tool used to gain insights and drive outcomes, but which also presents a myriad of challenges that must be tackled. This, in effect, provided the central topic around which the day’s discussions would revolve.

Cyrus Daruwala then began a session on behalf of IDC Financial Insights, speaking directly to us as the audience about our role in our businesses, today and looking to the future. He began with the question: what is your plan for your company over the next few years? Walking us through IDC data, Daruwala highlighted that amongst global challenges, India is the only market that is sustainable long-term and provides a huge amount of productivity and, as such, return on capital. He noted that as a result, Indian executives are highly sought after thanks to their experience, stating, “When you’ve honed your skills in an aggressive and highly dynamic market like India, the world is your oyster.”

But, Daruwala concluded, in a world where data is everywhere, business leaders must ask themselves what sort of data-led initiatives they want to work on and ultimately be known for. He closed the session by encouraging us to consider how to create our own personal roadmap, enabling us to bring legacy experience into any role – whether as an individual or a practitioner.

Daruwala then led the day’s panel on the topic of how businesses can define their roadmap for digital innovation. During a conversation about the advantages of cloud, hybrid cloud and on-premise, the need for hybrid cloud was examined. Here, panelist Narendra Sonawane suggested that cloud is not a cost game and highlighted its benefits in enabling flexibility, where on-premise provides more control. Hemant Tiwari concluded that hybrid cloud is “a way of life for any customer,” cementing the importance of technology partners in helping businesses map where their applications should sit in order to get the most out of this offering.

The day then moved into Matthew Hardman’s session, who took over by underlining the fact that we are experiencing a hugely exciting moment for data. He noted that all technology leaders who were in the room are united in the shared goal of driving change and positive outcomes for their organizations through the key enabler of technology, and that today, technology is being developed faster than ever before. Hardman described the flood of new developments that are emerging every day, whether it be in automation, AI, analytics, or GPU-driven applications. But what underpins all these new technologies is data. My key takeaway here was that in a world where businesses are becoming increasingly data-driven, it’s more important than ever to choose a cloud provider and platform that enables the flexibility to keep up with this constantly changing digital landscape.

The next session of the day saw Rajesh Prabhakaran talk to the sustainability journey for businesses. He referenced that in 2023 alone, India recorded 114 billion digital payment transactions – a significant figure. It’s no secret that technologies like these, alongside growth in IT infrastructure and services, contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. As such, most Indian enterprises are now taking a more proactive approach to meeting sustainability goals. This is a shift that will also resonate globally, with Prabhakaran also referencing a recent Hitachi Vantara survey of global CEOs which found that 70% have already set emission reduction goals. With sustainability remaining high on the agenda, he underlined the importance of choosing the right sustainability technology partner and implementing suitable technologies and governance systems that enable businesses to report progress towards their sustainability goals.

Next up were Hitachi Vantara’s Sasan Moaveni and Sanjay Agrawal, discussing the challenges of trying to build an unbreakable infrastructure. One of the most significant problems businesses face in building a future-proof infrastructure is the associated costs, which deters a good number of organizations. Moaveni and Agrawal explained that the first step to successfully implement this process would be to identify the data that your business has, and the associated risk profile that comes with this. It was impressed upon the listeners in the room that this understanding is critical to finding the best and most cost-effective solutions to protect your assets – and fortunately, there’s no shortage of technologies that can help here.

Finally, we heard from Bharti Patel. She referenced the role of ‘hot’ technologies like ChatGPT in exposing the power of generative AI and bringing it to the attention of consumers and enterprises alike. But for enterprises to successfully harness AI, there are a number of crucial components that are key to adoption and must be considered, including cost, carbon footprint, explainability, biases, and security. Here, we heard again from Moaveni, who highlighted the need for data platforms that can feed GPUs at speed to enable AI use.

The session closed with the recognition that those who do not harness AI capabilities within their business will be left behind, but that making a success of this is a process that takes time. It felt clear to me that it’s through collaboration in the development of technologies like artificial intelligence that the best possible business outcomes will be enabled.

One personal highlight for me was the guest appearance of Anil Kumble, the former head coach and captain of the Indian Cricket Team. He discussed the importance of strategy, leadership, and yes, data, for being successful in the sports of cricket. It was insightful to recognize the parallels between mastery of the sports, and mastery of  IT and business strategies.

A coming together of ideas

Events like these are crucial in providing an opportunity for thought leaders and IT decision makers to gather, share observations and advice, and learn from one another. Every business is different, so I’m sure that every person in that room took something different away from the day – but ultimately, one thing will have been agreed on: harnessing data in the right way for your business is critical, and there is no one-fits-all approach.