The World has changed.

And it would never be the same again!

I brought in my birthday this year with the Indian Prime minister announcing the largest lock-down in Human history. Instead of blowing on candles, I armed myself with the strongest hand sanitizer I could find and boarded the last flight from Bangalore to Ahmedabad.

At the time of writing this, one-third of Humanity is under lock-down to save itself from COVID-19.

Business in a post-COVID-19 China

Next-door in China, the peak is over, and 190 million workers are getting back to business. However, new precautions include – avoiding overcrowding of trains, physical distancing at work, and continuous anxiety over a possible second wave of infections.

textile worker china with mask

Chinese companies are struggling in the post-COVID-19 world, and are Reimagining their operations under severe workforce shortages. While talking to a good friend in PWC China, he shared how limited workforce and Business Continuity Planning (BCP) are the hottest topics in Chinese board rooms.

Challenges Indian businesses should brace for after COVID-19

While people would be staying at home, away from crowded places for as long as 1–2 years, we will have to ensure that our essential civic services run as designed. The air-conditioning in offices, power distribution across the country, and water pumping stations in cities can’t break down at any cost.

According to Bloomberg and Business today, India is already facing a shortage of essential goods as workforce crunch is causing hurdles in production.

India has more than 270 Million Factories – manufacturing our daily needs, such as salt and wheat flour. We also have 500 Million Buildings, some of which have critical infrastructures like computer servers that help run our mobile phone and internet.

We need to ensure our Buildings, Factories, and Cities don’t encounter breakdowns — else we will face complete mayhem!

There are two explicit realities ahead for India (and the world at large):

  1. Massive workforce uncertainties due to COVID-19
  2. Enterprises will be facing a severe resource crunch in times of recession — the focus will be on productivity.

IoT and AI will be game-changing post COVID-19

Now, let’s take a closer look at Buildings, Cities, and Factories.

They are typically all made up of machines!

connected cities india art

Source: 100 Open

These machines (or assets) include – massive pumps providing water to mega-cities, cooling systems at data centers that ensure the internet stays functional, or even large motors manufacturing edible oil to keep our kitchens running.

These machines need to become Smarter – smart enough to need lesser human attention and resources.

We need to adopt Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence to track real-time health and efficiency of machines and processes. Advanced AI algorithms can then identify early warning signals of machine degradation and failure.

IoT powered Asset Intelligence is needed to ensure our Buildings, Factories, and Cities keep functioning as we intend to!

dashboard view of smartsense platform

This technology can bring massive productivity improvements for Companies and Governments.

Large corporations like Godrej Group, Delhi Metro, and JLL are already using this technology to help avert the disaster of machines failing due to workforce shortages.

For e.g. The Indian arm of global facility management company – JLL implemented this technology to achieve a 40 % reduction in labor-hours to manage commercial office infrastructure across the country – not to mention improved reliability and uptime for the buildings.

Godrej industries reduced its Energy consumed by ~2% and was also able to improve manufacturing efficiency by real-time condition monitoring of critical equipment.

While these were innovative initiatives taken up by large Enterprises, it will become the new normal and emerge as a basic need once the dust settles.

If we somehow do manage to do this on a large scale, India has the potential to emerge as the global leader in Smart Infrastructure – showing the world how to thrive in the post-COVID-19.

However, we need to act fast!

In the words of Charles Dickens, “It was the worst of times, it was the best of times.” 

Choices made by us today will decide how history will be written tomorrow.

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