He is deeply entrenched in the new wave of digital technology coming to the fore and has wide-ranging experience in structuring transformation business engagements around digitisation, smart- technology sourcing, business-aligned IT, technology-portfolio optimisation and future-edge tech.
As CEO of In2IT South Africa, he manages the business along with a mandate to drive technology innovation. Under his leadership, In2IT has been able to establish differentiation in the consulting and technology services space.
WOULD YOU CONSIDER IN2IT AS AN IT SPECIALIST?
In2IT is a multinational technology company that provides digital services to many of the top 100 companies in South Africa. In2IT uses automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to solve various technology challenges that many large corporates face. In2IT is a specialist in business processes, IT infrastructure and application management as well as software services.
AS THE CO-FOUNDER AND CEO OF IN2IT SOUTH AFRICA HOW DO YOU MANAGE TO KEEP MAINTAINING YOUR SPOT AS THE BEST IT SERVICE PROVIDER IN SOUTH AFRICA?
A services company that thrives on innovation is only as good as its people. The chief reason we continue to be a trusted partner of large corporate companies is the passion of our engineers and how they engage with and service our clients. At In2IT, we believe in the philosophy that the best way to manage people is not to manage them. Those employees that manage themselves and show initiative are the ones that excel and embody our work ethic. We lead by example and provide employees with ample avenues to innovate and grow. It is also important to empower them and break the ‘halo’ that is usually associated with senior management, that makes them unapproachable.
IN2IT TECH WAS NAMED SOUTH AFRICA’S MOST INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGY FIRM FOR 2017 BY GLOBAL BRANDS, HOW HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN AND WHAT ARE THE KEY BENEFITS FROM THIS?
Innovation is a culture that has to be woven into the fabric of the business. We must remember that the light bulb was not invented due to the continuous improvement of the candle. It requires innovation and a revolutionary approach, where newer solutions are developed and utilised to resolve old problems. This is generally not as easy as it sounds.
Furthermore, as an organisation, we believe we must be ready to embrace failure in order to learn from it and move ahead. The experience and feedback from our clients is always encouraging, but validation from third-party organisations or analysts confirms that we are on the right path.
WHY DO YOU THINK YOU RECEIVED THIS RECOGNITION INTERNATIONALLY?
Our approach towards new age technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), robotics, artificial intelligence and digital transformation is the key reason for our innovation and global recognition. A software chatbot has no nationality. It can be used in any part of the world with ease. Automation could potentially make the outsourcing industry redundant, especially those companies that have experienced growth because of labour arbitrage of delivering from low cost locations. It is thus heartening to see the international recognition In2IT is receiving.
IN2IT HAS PARTNERED WITH MICROSOFT FOR FURTHER EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAMMES. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THE INITIATIVE AND HOW IT CAME ABOUT?
There are predictions that millions of jobs will become redundant with automation. The only way those affected can survive is through unlearning and then relearning. We have been partnering with various organisations who are world leaders in this space. In2IT has set up the In2IT Academy where we provide training for these future skills. As a corporate, we also have the responsibility of transferring these skills to our youth. In2IT launched the In2ITIntellect Programme where we have been hiring unemployed graduates from rural South Africa and enabling them to gain future skills.
THE IOT IS A NEW FIELD OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE ICT SECTOR THAT IN2IT IS QUITE FAMILIAR WITH, HOW HAS IT IMPROVED YOUR SERVICES IN COMPARISON TO THE TRADITIONAL WAY OF SERVICING CLIENTS?
Currently, close to 25 billion devices are connected today. However, as per industry projections, the Internet of Things (IoT) will revolutionise the way we operate and by 2020, it is predicted that more than 50 billion of these devices will connect with each other. To contextualize this, for every person in this world there will be seven devices connected to the Internet. This is a huge opportunity for business and as such, we have set up an IoT lab in Sandton, South Africa, where clients are able to simulate real-life situations before deploying this technology in real life.
TECHNOLOGY IS EVOLVING AND RAPIDLY ADVANCING ACROSS THE GLOBE, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE INFLUENCE OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE NEAR FUTURE ON A GLOBAL SCALE?
The World Economic Forum (WEF) announced last year that we are at the start of the fourth industrial revolution. In my view, ten years from now we will spend most of our time in autonomous vehicles, be it a car or human carrying drones. 3D printing cafés will also be widespread like Internet cafés of the past. We will have a device sitting next to our microwave to print calorie controlled food for consumption. These advancements in some form and fashion are already happening. For instance, it was recently announced that Dubai is testing self- flying taxis.
IN A FEW YEARS’ TIME THERE WILL BE NO BANK TELLERS, CASHIERS, PETROL ATTENDANTS OR CAR GUARDS BECAUSE OF NEW AI MACHINES BEING INTRODUCED BY TECH COMPANIES. THIS WILL PUT MANY JOBS IN THE RETAIL AND SERVICES SECTOR AT STAKE AND ALSO BRING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENTREPRENEURS TO INVENT MACHINES THAT WILL MAKE OUR LIVES MUCH EASIER. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THESE TECH VENTURES?
Companies across the globe are exploring ways to automate various functions and business processes. One such technology is to use blockchain and the IoT to create machines that would change the way retail industry works. The future of retail lies in the tech industry, similar to what we have seen in other industries like Uber – the giant in ride-sharing, and Airbnb – the biggest hotel chain in the world. Today a simple transaction of you swiping a card on a till goes through tens of intermediaries. A decentralised technology like blockchain can cut through all of this and make it a real-time transaction.
IN2IT HAS BEEN IN OPERATION FOR MANY YEARS, WHAT WOULD YOU CONSIDER THE COMPANY’S MOST NOTABLE ACCOMPLISHMENTS SINCE ITS INCEPTION?
In the IT industry, revenue has a linear link with the number of employees. We have consciously made sure that we move away from a traditional resource-linked way of addressing challenges in large corporates to a more automation-focused method. Thus growth of the revenue is not linked to the number of resources you hire. This has been a good accomplishment. We are now multinational and able to serve clients in over 9 countries directly and over 26 countries through partners, thus being a partner of choice if you are going multinational.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN YOUR JOURNEY AS A COMPANY THUS FAR?
When you start a company there are many roadblocks that you overcome. For us the biggest challenge has been to ensure we continuously build technology, tools, processes and teams that differentiate us from others. These are like four legs of a table and if one leg is missing, the table is of no use. In2IT is already in a fast pace growth mode and we will maintain this.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE FUTURE OF AFRICA IN THE TECHNOLOGY SPACE?
Technology today is a great enabler in balancing society. With access to high speed broadband, youth from urban to rural areas will be hugely instrumental in creating innovative solutions. More than 70% of Africa’s population is below 30 years of age. There are hundreds of tech zones being set up across the continent and it is only a matter of time before the next big tech start-up has its headquarters in Africa.
What are your thoughts on the increasing gap between industry regulation and the disruptive market? In essence, do you feel regulation is moving at the same pace as disruption and what challenges are likely to keep arising from this?
One of the biggest challenges new age technology innovation faces is around regulations. While these regulations were created years ago, the advent of new technology demands significant changes to enable disruption. While a disruptive idea would certainly find its way to enable changes, lack of deregulation would bring costly delay.
HOW MUCH VALUE DO YOU PLACE ON COLLABORATION IN BUSINESS?
The problems of today demand collaboration to find the right innovative solutions. We place huge focus on internal as well as external collaboration. Our innovation council has representation from customers who are open to ideas and experimentation. Similarly, we have collaboration sessions not only with companies who own product, software or IPs, but also educational institutions.
WHO HAS BEEN YOUR GREATEST MOTIVATION IN BUSINESS AND WHY?
There are many aspects in business that are a great source of motivation; the first customer who puts his bet on a bunch of young guys to solve his technology challenges, to the hundreds of employees who are giving all they have to build a great company one brick at a time.
HOW DO YOU JUGGLE BUSINESS AND FAMILY TIME?
For an entrepreneur, purpose itself determines the drive and power. Thus, business talk does come through to the dinner table and inside the house. Thankfully, technology has made it easier to work from home or from my daughter’s tennis tournament. My spouse has been a great source of strength in handling family matters. It also helps to have a great team at work, who can independently handle tricky situations and complex decision making.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT FROM THE COMPANY IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
We have identified two more provinces, apart from Gauteng, where we intend to set up innovation labs on new-age technologies. These will be rolled out over the next six months. We are well on target to have trained and absorbed over 100 unemployed graduates in our workforce before the end of next year. During the same time we intend to launch digital workforce or Bots to replace some of the mundane tasks being carried out in the remote IT infrastructure management space.
30 Seconds with Surabh Kumar: