Rajeev Misra, CEO, SoftBank Vision Fund, has said companies can leverage technology to reach billions of people and that the impact of artificial intelligence and machine learning on the global GDP, including India's, would be a lot more rapid in the next 3-5 years.
Speaking on disruption amid Covid-19 pandemic, the SoftBank Vision Fund CEO said the conglomerate's vision is to invest in businesses that are enabling the next stage of the information revolution using AI and big data.
"We need more Indian tech companies to compete on a global scale. We need to close the digital divide to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to join the information revolution," said Misra.
He added as India moves ahead on the recovery path after the pandemic, it needs to make more of the opportunities presented by AI and machine learning. Misra said in India, small business and agriculture are behind in adopting technologies, and the gap may grow in the post-covid period.
"Physical businesses challenged by pandemic will not be able to bounce back at the same pace. They will find it difficult to compete with those who use digitisation," said Misra.
He said businesses need to be data-and-mobile first. "Thanks to Mr Ambani (Mukesh Ambani), smartphones and cheap data are ubiquitous now. So, in future, only data and mobile-first mindset will help companies grow their businesses," he said.
Talking about Lenskart, Misra said 50 per cent of the start-up's business comes from its mobile app, which makes extensive use of AI and machine learning to stream data. Thanks to AI and Lenskart's approach to data, they can now predict faces with 90 percent accuracy.
Second, businesses need to be omnichannel. "Lenskart has 600 stores, which offer better customer services leveraging augmented reality while you are in store. So they can scale easily," he said, adding that physical businesses don't have such data and thus they face difficulty in growing.
Misra also said in India, major part of growth is coming from non-metro regions. World-class logistics and support to vernacular languages can help speed up the development in these areas, he said.
On the logistics part, Delhivery solved these challenges by remapping India and addressing challenges.
"They optimised delivery time, saved time on missed deliveries, and thus saved money. They can ship any product across the country at a much cheaper cost than the traditional modes of logistics," he said.
Citing examples of how companies are leveraging using vernacular languages, Misra said Flipkart and Amazon are offering products in local languages. "Companies will have to do it to reach a billion customers," he said.
Misra said that in the past 12 months, Covid-19 pandemic has re-shaped dynamics and those who fail to adapt will be left behind.
Misra said he was excited about three sectors the most -- education, payments and healthcare -- in future. "Tech is a great leveller," said Misra, adding that technology in education is the most powerful way to reduce inequality.
"Smartphones and cheap data is now everyone. On the supply side, best teachers are creating high-quality content. BJYU, Vedantu and Unacademy are some of the prime examples," he said, adding that Covid-19 has made edtech a necessity.
"While students will eventually return to the classroom in a few months, future is hybrid, the combination of both online and offline," he said
On payments, Misra said the industry was poised for disruptions. "Covid-19 and larger e-comm penetration has forced people to share details online," he said.
In healthcare, Misra said Covid-19 disruptions have accelerated the change and doctors and hospitals have finally embraced tele-medicines.
"Dozens of companies are now offering online consultations. One-third of all illness can be better managed online. India could benefit from these disruptions as the country has a shortage of beds in hospitals and tele-medicine could improve people's access to quality healthcare," he said.
Misra said after the pandemic, the world will never go back to previous ways of living. "Every industry has been impacted -- education, food delivery, eCommerce, finance and beyond. However, the upcoming time presents tremendous opportunities," he said.
Misra said India could create a new generation of start-ups after Covid-19 pandemic. "At Softbank, our goal is to find fearless and forward-thinking people. Give them support to create a fulfilling future for all," he said.