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Robots and Humans: Combined potential will help businesses deliver unprecedented results

Ravi Mehta     January 22, 2020

The last few years have seen a significant infusion of robots in various industries. This trend is expected to continue in the next 3-5 years. Almost 1 million robots are expected to be sold for enterprise use in 2020. There are primarily 3 types of robots - industrial, professional services and software robots.

Professional service robots (e.g., those used in healthcare, retail industries) and software robots (e.g., those used in functions such as Finance, HR, Procurement) will comprise a significant portion of these new robot sales. The market for professional services and software robots is growing much faster than that for industrial robots.

As the use of robots, increase in non-manufacturing industries, the companies which are able to combine the uniquely native human capabilities (e.g., inspiration, aspiration, emotion, empathy, imagination) with powerful robot capabilities (e.g., accurate transaction processing) will be able to re-imagine their business processes and deliver better and newer business outcomes for their stakeholders.

On the other hand, the companies who do not take the required steps now to effectively integrate the human and robot capabilities may run the risk of being left behind in the competitive race.

The market in India for robots is expected to emulate global trends. With a low robot density in the manufacturing industry (4 industrial robots per 10,000 employees). India is poised for an industrial automation revolution. Industrial robot sales reached a new record of 4,771 in 2018, up 39 per cent from the previous year(one of the highest among the largest markets).

Similarly, the professional service robot market in India is also expected to grow significantly in the next few years. This growth may be driven by opportunities in healthcare (e.g., use of robots to augment the capabilities of human healthcare workers) and retail sectors.

These robots have maximum utility in three key functions in the retail industry-managing in-store customers, managing warehouse, and creating the last-mile link between customers and service providers.

In addition, the cleaning robot market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of more than 17 per cent during the period 2021-2025, due to the increasing demand from the residential and commercial sectors, and rising disposable income.

In addition to the industrial and professional robots, India is also one of the growing markets for software robots, including Robotic Process Automation (RPA), cognitive, and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven process automation.

The RPA market in India is scheduled to grow at a CAGR of more than 20 per cent during 2021-2025. This growth is driven by the increasing demand for automating support functions such as finance, HR and accounting.

India is home to more than 50 per cent of GICs (global shared service centres) across the globe and has a large service industry footprint. These factors, coupled with process proximity and familiarity and availability of skilled resources (e.g., a large number of technology graduates/professionals), makes India an ideal location for the software robot market.

Additionally, many organisations are also looking at leveraging these emerging technologies to re-imagine their processes to create better and newer outcomes for their stakeholders.

This process re-imagination using software robots and other emerging technologies will create new job roles, increase efficiency, improve effectiveness and enhance experience of stakeholders. Used well and wisely, software automation can help companies create significant, differentiated and sustainable competitive edge. Hence, the software robot market in India may witness significant growth in the next few years.

Bottom line

The robots are coming and here to stay. This will fundamentally change how processes will be designed, delivered and monitored in the future. The pervasive use of robots will also have an impact on various roles in the whole value chain. The organisation of the future will effectively leverage the combined and complementary capabilities of both Humans and Robots (Bots).

This symbiotic human-bot ('HumBot') interface and interaction model will help organisations to deliver superior and potentially unprecedented outcomes to their stakeholders.

The start-up ecosystem for robots (industrial, professional services, and software) in India should also see a good growth in the next few years. These start-ups can work with GICs to further accelerate adoption of software robots in the GICs and Indian IT/ITeS industry.

The robots have already left an indelible mark in areas where they have been leveraged intelligently. However, in future, we will see significant increase in penetration of robots of all variants in industries. The future seems exciting and holds immense potential.

However, the key to realising this immense potential will rest primarily on the ingenuity of humans to utilise their phenomenal intelligence (e.g., both IQ and EQ) to best leverage the combined potential of humans and robots to create outcomes that are fundamentally different from the ones we see today.

(The author is Partner, Deloitte India)

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