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IBM's AI push helps Parle, Mother Dairy go digital

By Peerzada Abrar and Sai Ishwar
September 14, 2020 13:13 IST
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The applications range from disaster recovery to predicting demand and understanding customer choices using artificial intelligence.

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Illustration: Dominic Xavier/Rediff.com

The next time you buy Parle biscuits or Mother Dairy products such as milk, ice cream, paneer and ghee, the chances are that IBM’s technology has played a role in bringing them to you.

At a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has created hurdles for businesses, several consumer companies such as Mother Dairy, Parle, outdoor gear firm Wildcraft and Indian Oil Corporation (IOCL) are collaborating with technology giant IBM to drive their digital transformation.

 

Big Blue is providing them technologies to help them address the challenges posed by the pandemic.

And the applications range from disaster recovery to predicting demand and understanding customer choices using artificial intelligence (AI).

“Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption of cloud and AI,” says Subram Natarajan, chief technology officer, IBM India and South Asia.

“It’s been a growth engine for IBM, and we have so far had a triple-digit growth this year in our cognitive, cloud, AI and cyber security businesses in India.”

Recently, IBM collaborated with Wildcraft to implement a customer relationship management (CRM) as-a-service-platform to drive customer advocacy and enhance customer experience.

The solution, developed by IBM, is powered by AI and machine learning capabilities and it analyses customer interactions with Wildcraft at multiple touch-points.

The idea was to help the company map every customer and come out with a personalised shopping experience across all channels.

As part of this solution, Wildcraft is introducing a virtual chatbot on its website and via WhatsApp.

The chatbot will be available in English and eight Indian regional languages.

It will handle inquiries ranging from general FAQs to questions on products, policies and procedures, and customer complaints.

“In the last couple of months, we have been able to reach out to some of the remotest areas in the country,” say Gaurav Dublish and Siddharth Sood, co-founders of Wildcraft.

“A lot of these consumers are first-time users of Wildcraft and it was necessary to create a mechanism to reach out to them effectively.

"Partnering with IBM allows us (to build) a robust technology-driven platform to understand our consumers and their wants.

"This will help us make our products better and customise them according to larger needs.”

Similarly, Parle Products, which sells biscuit brands such as Parle-G, Monaco, Krackjack and Milano, wanted to improve product availability and operational efficiency.

This included predicting business outcomes while analysing huge amounts of data generated out of thousands of suppliers, third-party logistics firms, manufacturing locations and distributors.

That’s when it reached out to IBM to help it set up a huge procurement platform to work with hundreds of Parle’s suppliers.

According to IBM, its digital and analytics solutions enabled price discovery, strategic sourcing decisions in several procurement categories like wheat-flour, palm oil, sugar, packaging materials and transportation.

The company also managed Parle’s entire IT infrastructure, leading to cost optimisation and improved service levels.

Now, IBM and Parle are working together to create an intelligent supply chain, using IBM’s Watson artificial intelligence and decision-optimisation solution.

The idea, says Natarajan, is to enable Parle to predict demand better, right-size inventory across the supply chain and reduce time-to-market.

IBM is also working with IOCL to deliver an omni-channel customer experience for all IOCL products and build lifetime customer relationships. Said to be a first-of-its-kind digital transformation in the chemical and petroleum industry, it involves deploying CRM and secondary dealer and distributor systems globally.

After implementing the project, IOCL witnessed 1 million app downloads and a 400 per cent improvement in same-day resolution.

Other improvements  included about 4 lakh digital payments a day and over 4 lakh interactive voice response system-based cylinder bookings daily.

Virtual computing at Mother Dairy

During the lockdown, IBM enabled 500 employees of Mother Dairy to work from home by building a virtual computing environment.

It is also ensuring 100 per cent monitoring of Mother Dairy’s data centre and disaster recovery infrastructure.

“Every morning at 4.30 am (hundreds of milk) tankers have to leave Mother Dairy plants across different routes with fresh produce and come back (by afternoon) for a thorough cleaning so as to be kept ready again.

"This entire cycle is connected by technology,” says Lingraju Sawkar, general manager (global technology services), IBM India and South Asia.

“We are also enabling remote technology for a lot of our clients and those who are involved in decision making, to make sure their systems are up and running.

"For clients like Mother Dairy, decisions have to be made daily, based on the consumption data that comes to them.

"We make sure their billing systems work continuously and without any disruption,” he adds.

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Peerzada Abrar and Sai Ishwar in Bengaluru/Mumbai
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