2020 was the year of major shifts and disruptions across the world, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic that brought monumental change in the ways the pre-pandemic world worked. Due to nationwide lockdowns businesses – small and large were affected drastically, as the personal touch with the customer and the workforce was lost. In the initial months of the pandemic, industries across the world suffered and had to incur huge losses, which was depicted in stock markets crash around the major stock exchanges of the world.
There were some organizations and industries that were capable of transitioning from a partly dependable digital infrastructure to a complete digitally operated business model, such as IT and Finance, whereas industries such as consumer durables, non-durables, small businesses in the manufacturing, textile and consumer frontier businesses were largely impacted. Technology came to the rescue, the most reluctant and digitally averse industries adopted and used technological tools such as AI, virtual assistants, video conferencing for better and effective customer service during the pandemic, to afloat their businesses.
In a study by IBM, titled “Global AI adoption Index” revealed that while AI adoption was flat during the year 2019, adoption of AI soared during the pandemic. The study revealed that 53% of IT-Tech professionals have stated that their company has accelerated AI usage since the beginning of the pandemic. According to IBM, a large majority of these investments into AI are focused towards three key capabilities of AI: Automating IT and processes, building trust in AI outcomes and understanding the language of business. The tech giant believes, that these investments will continue to accelerate rapidly as customers look for new, innovative ways to drive digital transformation by taking advantage of Hybrid Cloud and AI.
Below are few ways in which AI has helped industries during the pandemic:
- Assistance in managing sales: Sales and business development suffered a lot during the pandemic due to lockdown and mobility restrictions, which impacted sales at a huge level, especially for customer led businesses. As a solution AI-powered sales performance solutions were of huge help to such organizations. As people were obligated to stay at home, consumers have shifted from personal interactions, where they provide direct feedback, to digital interactions. As it’s no longer possible to eat out, they’ll be ordering online deliveries. The same pattern is being replicated in sectors across the board. This shift is creating a ton of new, unstructured data, which can be hard to make sense of. That’s where AI solutions can cut through the noise and find out what consumers feel and need, that will help businesses target their sales and business development initiatives, to achieve better growth.
- Balancing Demand and Supply: Companies are interested in matching demand and supply, and that’s going to be critical in coming out of this crisis. The positive side is there’s more and more external data available on demand. A big steel company, for example, has information about the various factors that might influence demand for steel, such as the demand for automobiles. These demand measures depend on external data that’s used to match up to what their supply chains can produce. AI solutions can analyze this external data. But the catch is that AI typically relies on data from the past, while the COVID-19 crisis is unprecedented. Therefore, companies must ensure they use data that is representative. In some industries, the past will be a better guide to the present and future activity than it is in others.
- Documentation and Identity Verification: AADHAR interface has helped centralized identity proofs of India’s vast population and this identification parameter has been a prime necessity for any kind of identification. The best part of AADHAR is that it is a digital storage interface which is like SSN – Social Security Number issued in US. Therefore, it makes it easy and simpler for industries to verify the customer identity. AI has augmented this to another level, for instance think of a bank that needs to verify its customers for onboarding and compliance. This is often done by human checkers, who check pay-slips or driving licenses. It’s a very costly, inefficient process. Instead, AI is used to quickly identify the type of ID document captured, determine if the security features of the ID are present, perform face-matching comparing the picture in the ID to the person in the selfie and even help determine whether the person is physically present.
Similarly, AI can be of help in various other ways such as managing accounting books, cash-flow forecasting, managing back-office tasks, medical advisory, insurance verification and many more. The pandemic has opened avenues that might have taken longer for people to implement. Even after the pandemic ends these technologies will be upgraded and utilized by industries to foster growth.