Digital transformation on steroids for past year-and-a-half: Rajan Krishnan
Oracle is getting ready to bring on the next phase of growth, venturing into new industries and investing in modern technologies like touchless and voice-based computing for tracking complex business processes. With over two decades of experience in building enterprise technologies, Rajan Krishnan, Group Vice-President, Oracle Product Development, in an interview with BusinessLine, talks of what made Oracle stand out among its peers during the Covid pandemic and strengthened its portfolio.
Cloud applications businesses for Oracle saw a dramatic increase in Q4. What have been the levers of growth and which industries and sectors are adding to the momentum?
We are in a very good space leading up to Q4, if you look at our portfolio for SaaS and compare it with the competition. Ours is the most complete portfolio in the sense that we have ERP (enterprise resource planning) including EPM (enterprise performance management), supply chain management and project management; HCM (Oracle Human Capital Management Cloud), customer engagement — it covers the entire gamut of enterprise business process.
At a global level, some of the industries that are powering our growth include financial sectors, public sector, telecom, retail and some of the micro-industries like gaming. Most of Las Vegas today runs on Oracle ERP Cloud.
In India, we are seeing growth in several sectors, manufacturing, healthcare, especially professional services. Also, online digital businesses whether it is e-commerce, delivery services, travel booking; we are seeing a lot of growth here.
What are some of the major trends that you are currently seeing globally within SaaS and back-office enterprise software like ERP?
Before the pandemic, the world was already moving in a digital direction. From a systems standpoint, historically, when we were dealing with on-premise systems, the upgrade cycles were slow. IT departments were spending most of their budgets and time on keeping the lights on — patching something, doing a security patch or keeping an upgrade current. CEOs and CIOs were tired of spending so much money on these basics.
There was already thought and some movement towards SaaS. The pandemic changed everything. It is like digital transformation is on steroids for the past year-and-a-half.
HCM processes and technologies changed rapidly and so did customer engagement.
How do you envisage the future of ERP and supply chain with emerging technologies like AI/ML, automation, RPA, Blockchain, etc.?
One interesting use case in the core financial sector of AI and Machine Learning (ML) involves companies having to produce financial statements every quarter to the authorities which would, in a usual set-up, take weeks to prepare. We are able to do in a matter of four days or less.
Manually a person would read those statements, create a narrative and a presentation for the board. In the case of ML, it can actually reach out to those important numbers in a document and create the text automatically.
In blockchain, we have created a pre-packaged application using blockchain, especially in the area of track and trace. This has been very useful during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, 25 per cent of the value of vaccines is lost due to poor storage conditions, for instance, if it is kept 2-3 degrees higher than the required temperature, the product gets wasted.
Our blockchain traces the product from the moment it leaves the shop floor to the time it is consumed in a hospital or a clinic. A combination of Blockchain and IoT is being used to identify where exactly is the deviance and the batch is discarded. If you have these systems in place you may not even have to discard products. Malaysia used our blockchain and IoT technology to secure the supply of vaccines during the current pandemic.
Do you see an acceleration of cloud in the Indian market?
In India, healthcare and manufacturing are driving the growth. The other segments include private sector banks and the traditional SAP customer base which are making a switch to modern ERP cloud delivered by Oracle.
Overall, how significant is India for Oracle? What kind of uptake/growth (in terms of numbers) are you seeing in India?
Globally, for ERP, we grew 46 per cent and for HCM we grew by about 35 per cent in terms of revenue in Q4. We are seeing the same growth patterns in other regions, including India. India is a key growth driver in Japan and APAC, also contributing to global numbers. The country also drives our investment. We have two modern data centres in Hyderabad and Mumbai in India. Without the right numbers, we wouldn’t have been investing more in this market.
In terms of product development, what are some of the moon shot ideas that you are working on with an eye on the future?
We think ML and AI can take enterprise computing to a new level so much so that it has become ubiquitous and touchless computing. Not like the simpler functions like Siri and Alexa, we are talking about dealing with complex businesses processes. For instance, you can just ask which regions are performing the best or where does the company have a headcount problem. And the computer talks back in real-time.
I personally feel the best AI and ML is the ones where you don’t even realise that you are interacting with these technologies. Conversational computing using AI is a space we are investing more in. Analytics is, again, an important space, which is powering big data. Together with AI, this will deliver a better experience to customers. Touchless computing and IoT components are already in the market.