Will businesses of the future trade on the past?

Many established businesses dreaded the advent of online trade. They feared that the sheer scale of products and services available on the internet would result in high streets being replaced by a few behemoth warehouse operations.

While it's clear that internet shopping has had a profound impact on consumer habits, according to an article on CityLab the online domain is also causing a renaissance in certain old-fashioned areas of the economy. It turns out that when the internet offers shoppers anything they want, a substantial percentage want a more convenient way to access what they used to have.

Take milk delivery for example. The milkman with his pony and trap or electric buggy used to be a common sight in our streets. In 1963, around 30% of US consumers had milk delivered directly to their homes. Big stores and automobiles led people to favour buying milk in big stores instead; by 1975 only 6.9% used milkmen and in 2005 the figure was just 0.4%.

However, in the modern age nostalgic consumers are rediscovering the joy of home delivery. Supermarkets and online giants such as Amazon has long since discovered the appeal of offering consumers goods on their doorstep. Now smaller businesses are getting in on the act.

An Irish start-up called My Milkman has launched an app allowing users to order milk from a local supplier. Similar niche on-demand businesses are springing up elsewhere - in Stamford, Connecticut you can order a traditional barber to call at your home or office to deliver a trim or shave.

Alex Gomberg is another entrepreneur harnessing the nostalgia boom. He founded the Brooklyn Seltzer Boys in 2013, delivering carbonated water in hand-blown blue and green glass bottles stacked in traditional wooden crates. As the sole survivor of a once-thriving New York soda industry, the seltzer industry has a unique selling point for retro-loving customers.

Are heritage industries going to become the latest trend? We could be seeing a lot more traditional revivals fuelled by technology.

Will software revolutionize the role of doctors?

What will it be like to work as a doctor in the future? According to venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz, the smart money is on medical software. Doctors may spend a lot less time feeling pulses and a lot more time running analytics on computers.

According to an article on ZDNet, software could be set to redefine healthcare, absorbing developments in biotech and healthcare treatments. There are a few factors that point to why this may be the way forward.

Firstly, progress in machine learning, big data and the cost of computing have combined to make the concept of using software in medical treatment feasible. Once upon a time, having your genome sequenced was the kind of thing an eccentric millionaire might do; now a host of companies offer the service on an industrial scale at affordable prices.

The more data we have on patients, combining data sets such as family history, medical record, diet, exercise, blood pressure and so on, the easier it is to build a software system that could model possible outcomes of particular symptoms and treatments.

For example, Vijay Pande, a partner at the investment firm looking to develop medical software, believes it may be possible to use data analysis to replace biopsies. Algorithms and simulations would give an accurate prediction of the patient's condition without the need for an invasive procedure.

Commentators also think that digital delivery of therapeutic services could be scaled up in future. Behavioural therapies involving, for example, physiotherapy, diet changes or lifestyle changes to help address chronic pain or insomnia are currently relatively expensive, with limited numbers attending specialist clinics.

In future, software could enable the delivery of therapies on a huge scale, combining data inputs from wearable technology with resources offering guidance and support. This has the potential to offer low-cost, effective treatment and reduce reliance on drug treatments which often have harmful side-effects.

How long will it be before big data dons a stethoscope? Doctors of the future could be a lot more digital.

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Digital Transformation in India: A Sea Change in Value Generation is Underway

India’s digital story is all about growth – massive growth. Digital transformation is now a primary agenda for C-suite executives in India. They are clearly seeing the growing signs of digital opportunities as companies quickly adapt to the changing market requirements. Our latest whitepaper “Asia Rising: Digital Driving” highlights that 74% companies surveyed in India are already on their way to digitally transforming their business, while 26% plan to embark on the transformation journey over the next 12-24 months. They are already experiencing an average 8% revenue growthas a direct result of their digital transformation efforts, and they expect that to reach nearly 14% by 2017.

As cliché as it sounds, digital transformation is quickly becoming the path to thriving – if not surviving – in our new age. The winners in this new digital world will be companies that challenge their conventional thinking on product innovation, customer engagement, organizational structure, strategy, and business models. Against this backdrop, Cognizant will hold its flagship CXO summit - “Cognizant Community” on November 18, 2015 in Mumbai, India and the theme is “Digital Business: Opportunity Decoded”. The summit will focus on decoding the vast opportunities resulting from the new digital business era by powering new value chains, operating models and customer-centric experiences.

One of the key highlights at the summit is the C-suite panel discussion: “The Future of Digital Transformation in India”. I will act as panel moderator and will be joined by Manish Choksi, President, Home Improvement - Asian Paints; Manik Nangia, Chief Digital Officer - Max Life Insurance; and Mukesh Kumar Jain, Chief Technology Officer – Reliance Capital. We believe the digital opportunity is among the most important business shifts of the past 50 years and Asia Pacific is at the center of this opportunity. Switched-on leaders have already recognized the need to transform the very essence of business value generation, as well as their own vision surrounding technology, work and the global economy. However, transformation also introduces some unforeseen challenges in the form of new investments, internal skills, change management, and roles and responsibilities for companies. The mandate has intensified for businesses to quickly rise to these challenges and turn them into opportunities. In this session, the panel will address the following strategic questions:

  • Is digital transformation simply the latest technology trend, a management consulting fad or a “once-in-a-decade” shift for businesses?
  • What are the key forces (internal and/or external) driving the change?
  • What are the biggest challenges related to digital transformation that businesses face and the role that technology decision-makers will play in addressing them?
  • What will be the impact of digital on business processes and traditional IT systems?
  • What are the key lessons that leaders can learn about the future of business?

“Becoming Digital” is the biggest challenge — and opportunity — that we’ll face over the next 10 years. Much has already happened, but we are just getting started. This is an invitation-only CXO event and a must-attend for leaders wanting to keep pace with changes in global business.