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Driving India's digital transformation

In today's rapidly evolving digital landscape, where the only constant is change, India emerges as a shining beacon of transformation.
October 2023

India’s digital evolution has been characterized by staggering numbers. With over 1.3 billion people, it boasts one of the world’s largest digital populations. This demographic diversity is both a challenge and an opportunity, and India has harnessed it to create a vast and dynamic digital ecosystem.

During his keynote presentation at the India Management Transformation Summit on September 21 in Bangalore, India, Mohan Subramaniam, Professor of Strategy and Digital Transformation at IMD, offered valuable insights into India’s digital evolution and the transformative potential of data utilization. The event was honored by the presence of Mr. Krishnakumar Thirumalai, the former President of Coca-Cola India and South-West Asia, a highly experienced professional in the fast-moving consumer goods sector.

Prof. Subramaniam offered a thought-provoking vision for businesses navigating the digital age, emphasizing the human element. Focusing on data utilization, Subramaniam differentiated between episodic and interactive data.

  • Episodic data: Historic data, relevant to past events. It includes information such as market trends, historical customer behavior, and actions taken by businesses in response to specific circumstances.
  • Interactive data: Real-time and continuous. It is generated when a product or service interacts directly with the customer, collecting information on their actions, preferences, and behaviors in the moment.


The shift from episodic to interactive data

Prof. Subramaniam underscored the need for businesses, especially those with deep-rooted legacies, to transition from relying solely on episodic data to embracing interactive data. “With interactive data, it’s not about aggregate data but knowing how each customer is reacting in real time.”

“The quality of data about your customers, down to something as specific as their sleep quality, can open new avenues for value creation,” he said.

He encouraged a shift in perspective, urging businesses to experiment with new models, modern technologies, and data-driven approaches. He emphasized the rewards of such a transformation, all within the context of respecting privacy and delivering genuine value to customers.

The reasons behind this shift are multifaceted:

Real-time decision-making: Interactive data enables businesses to make decisions in real time, adapting to customer needs and market changes instantly. This agility is crucial in a rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Personalization: Understanding how each customer is reacting in real time allows for personalized experiences. Businesses can tailor their offerings to meet individual preferences, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Innovation and value creation: By delving into granular details, such as a customer’s sleep quality, businesses can identify unmet needs and create innovative solutions. This level of insight paves the way for value creation that resonates with customers on a deeper level.

Competitive advantage: Embracing interactive data gives businesses a competitive edge. Those that can respond swiftly and effectively to changing market conditions and customer expectations are better positioned for success.

He encouraged companies to experiment with new models, modern technologies, and data-driven approaches. This experimental mindset fosters innovation and resilience in a digital world. Respecting privacy and delivering genuine value to customers is non-negotiable. Businesses must walk the fine line of harnessing data for customer benefit while upholding the highest standards of data ethics and privacy.

Nurture ambidextrous leadership to drive digital transformation

Ambidextrous leadership is a term that has gained prominence in recent years. It refers to the ability of leaders to effectively manage and balance two seemingly opposing modes of operation within an organization – exploitation and exploration.

Ric Roi, Affiliate Professor of Leadership and Organization at IMD, shared a revealing statistic: only 12% of CXOs effectively lead dual transformations. This stark figure highlights the need for compassionate leadership in an ever-evolving business landscape. Prof. Roi emphasized that this alarming statistic means that the majority of senior executives are, in essence, linear leaders, ill-prepared to handle the demands of dual transformation leadership.

He challenged senior executives to revisit their leadership styles, fostering the human side of leadership to navigate the complexities of digital transformation.

Why ambidextrous leadership matters

Market dynamism: In a world of constant change and technological disruptions, organizations must be prepared to adapt quickly. Ambidextrous leadership provides the agility required to thrive in dynamic markets.

Competitive advantage: Organizations led by ambidextrous leaders are better equipped to innovate and stay ahead of competitors. They can explore new opportunities while maintaining the efficiency and profitability of their existing operations.

Sustainability: Balancing exploration and exploitation is crucial for long-term sustainability. Overemphasizing one at the expense of the other can lead to stagnation or excessive risk, both of which can threaten an organization’s viability.

Customer-centricity: Ambidextrous leaders are better positioned to remain customer-centric. They can respond to evolving customer needs and market trends, ensuring their offerings remain relevant and competitive.

Ambidextrous leadership is a necessity in today’s business environment. Leaders who can effectively manage the duality of exploitation and exploration are equipped to drive dual transformations, successfully navigating the complexities of the digital age. The ability to balance the demands of the present while preparing for the future is a trait that will continue to be in high demand as the business landscape continues to evolve.