Web 3.0 is Inevitable

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The fundamentals of Web 3.0 are deeply rooted in technology that is ever-changing and continuously evolving. Web 3.0, powered by blockchains and crypto, is the Internet’s biggest technological upgrade since it became mainstream in the 1980s. 

What is Web 3.0 and Why Does it Matter? 

Web 1.0 (1990-early 2000s) – READ. The early Internet was characterised by an open-source protocol like HTTP, where the value accrued to the users and builders. In this era, technology companies such as Google, Yahoo and Amazon made their mark by layering on services such as search, directory listings and media publishing over an open-source infrastructure, essentially creating an online version of the offline world. The core contributors to digital media were mainly journalists, writers and reporters who reproduced pieces of their print content in a digital format. There was very little censorship during this period and the information was available mainly as databases.  

Web 2.0 (early 2000-today) – READ & WRITE. This phase witnessed a wave of tech advancement, upgrades to servers, faster Internet speeds, development of complex APIs, algorithms and code to create peer-to-peer opportunities, user-generated content and social networking. Services such as Facebook and Twitter began monetisation of the increased user base through digital advertising. The years 2007-2012 saw a mobile revolution with Apple providing users with their first iPhone in 2007 and opened doors to third-party apps and builders. Facebook’s mobile pivot in 2012 amplified user social connectivity tremendously. 

The tech architecture for Web 2.0 is built on a client-server protocol, where users are the clients, contributing content and the companies control the servers. The core functionality of the early Internet which was open for anyone to use and build on, has now transformed where the authority rests in the hands of the few. The rise of the creator economy is dependent on the frameworks developed by centralised companies. Software and hardware upgrades and renunciation of data and privacy rights by users to platforms have further accelerated centralisation of power. The Web 2.0 ecosystem now has a monopolistic culture where the companies decide who can participate, in what capacity, and how much value to share with stakeholders. Consumers do not have any ownership of their data or control over how it gets used; while creators give up rights to their content and do not have the ability to export their fanbase out from the platforms they have used, to interact with their communities. There is no incentive alignment between corporations and networks, and the users have no say in the platforms’ economics and governance. Web 2.0 is an Internet era built on ‘rented land’ where users don’t own anything. 

Web 3.0 (2020 onwards) – READ, WRITE and OWN. Web 3.0 is a new computing platform, a paradigm shift towards a more democratised Internet, which is owned by the users and builders who create and transfer value in a trustless and decentralised way, facilitated through tokens. It is re-engineering the Internet’s open protocol and leveraging its architecture to benefit people rather than corporations. 

The Core Components of Web 3.0 

In order to understand the importance of Web 3.0 as technological innovation, it is essential to learn about its core components – tokens and blockchains. 

Tokens are pieces of code that are used to transact over a blockchain and provide a record of digital ownership. They can be fungible and non-fungible. Fungible tokens are interchangeable (fiat currency, cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin). Non-Fungible tokens are unique, i.e no two tokens are alike (such as pieces of art).

The genesis of the blockchain architecture was developed by a pseudonymous individual named Satoshi Nakamoto in 2009, who developed a peer-to-peer electronic cash system called Bitcoin (the blockchain), that uses its native token (BTC) to transact over its network.  Blockchain is a decentralised distributed ledger system, where transactions are executed and recorded in a series of immutable blocks on an interconnected network of nodes (computers). 

Blockchains can be imagined as supercomputers that process thousands of transactions in exchange for incentives or tokens that accrue to miners and validators as rewards. Tokens are a new digital asset class that is increasingly seen as a store of value (Bitcoin), means of exchange (Ethereum, Solana and alternative cryptocurrencies), social currency (Rally.io) and several other use cases that offer utility and monetisation abilities to creators, entertainers and artists.  

Future Value Drivers

Since 2020, we have seen the growth of cryptocurrencies and blockchain adoption by institutions and retail investors due to the decoupling of crypto into various value drivers like Decentralised Finance (DeFi), Non Fungible Tokens (NFTs) and Decentralised Autonomous Organisations (DAOs). 

DeFi. DeFi refers to a financial system that runs on blockchain technology, and uses smart contracts that replace the need for traditional financial (TradFi) businesses to act as intermediaries. Core functions such as lending, borrowing. and transacting takes place seamlessly without the need for banks to execute the transactions. DeFi runs on code, a set of rules that are predefined on smart contracts. Users of the decentralised protocol own the network and participate in the rewards through token distribution. Tokens are distributed as incentives to users who are contributors to the network. There are strong differences between DeFi and TradiFi on trust, transparency, identity and access.

NFTs. NFTs are a record of ownership of digital assets on a blockchain. Technological advancements to the Bitcoin Blockchain genesis architecture and the introduction of smart contracts to blockchains such as Ethereum enabled a new use case of tradeable programmable tokens to emerge in the crypto landscape.

NFTs have been transformational to digital asset ownership and saw exponential growth in user adoption in 2020. A key milestone event in the history of NFTs is the USD 69 million sale of ‘Everydays: the first 5000 days’, by digital artist Beeple at an art auction organised by Christie’s in March 2020. Transaction volumes have now surpassed nearly USD 13 billion.  

NFT represents anything digital that’s unique (non-fungible), has value, can be traded and its ownership secured on a blockchain. NFTs most commonly represent digital art, but they can be digital wearables, in-game virtual objects, a contract deed attached to a property, a domain name, or even a piece of writing such as this insight! For the first time, it is possible to exchange value between two trustless individuals anywhere in the world without them needing to disclose their identities or establish any contact and have asset ownership transferred and recorded on a blockchain. 

DAO. A DAO is a community that is created and managed by its members who band together to achieve a common objective. Web 3.0 has enabled a dynamic shift in behavioural economics which is drawing people to it. The shift can be described as triabism at times but has been fascinating. The ongoing pandemic made more people spend time online and in the Metaverse, connect with others and also create. That happy place is called a DAO, where humans meet to share, connect, and drive value in a digital world known as the Metaverse. 

Here are some ways that a DAO differs from a corporate. Companies are governed by a hierarchical system whereas DAOs are run like cooperatives in a flat structure. Company management takes decisions whereas DAO members vote on proposals to take collective decisions. Companies hire talent that meets certain criteria whereas anyone can join a DAO if they hold the DAO tokens/NFT or get invited to join the community. Companies compensate their employees with salaries whereas DAOs reward contributors with tokens.

The Future of a Decentralised Economy

Web 3.0 is transforming the economics of the creative, media and entertainment industry by changing the dynamics of how value gets created and distributed. It is an Internet that works for stakeholders who own it and create value for themselves. The shift from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 is taking place more rapidly than the previous evolution of the Internet. The power dynamics and value generation are fundamentally changing how we view the Internet. 

Web 3.0 is inevitable! 

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Life Inside the Metaverse

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While the concept of the Metaverse can be complex and confusing, it is not hard to imagine the benefits it will bring to an enterprise. In Applying the Metaverse to the Enterprise, I talked about how a Metaverse is nothing more than real life in digital form. Let us now look at what life inside a Metaverse will look like.   

The 4 Key Capabilities of the Metaverse

A Metaverse will allow for individual validation within a corporate environment through the association of four key capabilities:

Digital Built Environment. The digital built environment is the representation of the physical surroundings that provide the setting for human activity. A Metaverse provides a powerful, online, 3-D and 4-D representation of the physical workplace.

Interaction. Inhabitants of a Metaverse are known as avatars or residents. They can be representatives of staff or customers; and personalise an individuals’ interaction with the information being sought.

Navigation. Natural search occurs when the capability exists to spatially move an avatar through a digital environment. Today, the power of spatial search is self-evident and highlighted through applications such as Google Maps.

Collaboration. Social and information networks are created when two or more parties can openly and freely exchange information. They are also the basis of contemporary, decentralised digital economics (e.g., blockchain). Organisations are increasingly moving to incorporate emerging social technologies into traditional collaboration environments for decades.

The choice of a Metaverse would seem obvious for large organisations looking to move away from a process view of information. Building or construction analogies are already used to deal with the abstraction of information within their complex physical environments. It is, for example, a key principle of enterprise architecture. As a result, the decision to utilise a metaverse as a channel is ultimately not a big call.

The Metaverse will Require a Paradigm Shift

As a presentation layer, a Metaverse makes navigation and discovery easier and more intuitive. Adopting this new approach would allow a completely social and familiar way to interact with information. It would provide organisational benefits beyond the current capabilities of traditional data and process-driven environments and become the catalyst for major differences in the treatment of enterprise information. The interactive context of a Metaverse will also require differences in the way information is expressed.

The Metaverse will require a paradigm shift

Although the tech industry is strewn with concepts of “exchange” and “collaboration”, such terms are really actions that occur after an audience has engaged with the content. The Metaverse approach potentially addresses this challenge by first getting users comfortable with their environment before encouraging them to interact in it with others. Using these differences as key drivers, the creation of a Metaverse can focus on delivering a platform for personalised information discovery, specific to the responsibilities and opportunities for individuals within an organisation or broader ecosystem.

This is just one example of the Metaverse and enterprise. There are many others. For example, think about fully integrated asset management platforms used by retail property groups or airport corporations. The Metaverse will now allow these organisations to commercialise their full physical retail assets in a digital metaverse by offering tenants both a physical store and a digital store. Or even offer the digital space to a whole new portfolio of different tenants. The commercial upside of such models is significant and sure to drive investment.   

Overcoming the challenges of introducing a new information delivery channel seems like a difficult transformation choice today. Ultimately, this is the transition choice of Web 3.0. It is one that acknowledges that existing process-oriented channels will fail to meet the primary drivers and demands underpinning the growth of the new Web 3.0 world: individualism, personalisation, and decentralisation.

Yes, virtual reality environments are a super-appealing channel because of their immediate visual gratification, but behind that façade, the monetisation of physical, commercial data and the continual rise of infonomics is what it is all about.  

The Future of Technology
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The Future of Marketing: Enabled by Crypto

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In the last decade, blockchain technology and crypto have been laying the foundations for an alternative reality in which humans interact and organise themselves without the mediation of a third party. Cryptocurrencies are almost a USD 2 trillion asset today and billions of dollars are being traded globally without the need of a bank or intermediary, with transactions secured on blockchains. Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) – currently valued at over USD 500 million – fuelled the democratisation of the art world and provided a proof-of-concept that crypto enables wider communities to transact pseudonymously.

The discovery, storytelling, evangelism, transfer of ownership in exchange for monetary value, are taking place seamlessly in the decentralised world, without a single dollar being spent on advertising. There is no central owner or authority directing this phenomenon.

Read on to find out more about:

  • How crypto is causing a Marketing revolution
  • The ways corporates, consumers and content creators are leveraging it
  • The growth in Decentralised Marketing (DeMar)
  • The NFT use case for brands
  • Brands in Web 3.0 today
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Technology-led Transformation of the Banking Industry

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When the FinTech revolution started, traditional banking felt the heat of competition from the ‘new kid on the block’. FinTechs promised (and often delivered) fast turnarounds and personalised services. Banks were forced to look at their operations through the lens of customer experience, constantly re-evaluating risk exposures to compete with FinTechs.

But traditional banks are giving their ‘neo-competitors’ a run for their money. Many have transformed their core banking for operational efficiency. They have also taken lessons from FinTechs and are actively working on their customer engagements. This Ecosystm Snapshot looks at how banks (such as Standard Chartered Bank, ANZ Bank, Westpac, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Timo, and Welcome Bank) are investing in tech-led transformation and the ways tech vendors (such as IBM, Temenos, Mambu, TCS and Wipro) are empowering them. 

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Building Resilient Future-Proof Cities

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In this Ecosystm Insight, our guest author Randeep Sudan shares his views on how Cities of the Future can leverage technology for future resilience and sustainability. “Technology is not the only aspect of Smart City initiatives. Besides technology, we need to revisit organisational and institutional structures, prioritise goals, and design and deploy an architecture with data as its foundation.”

Randeep Sudan, Former Leader World Bank, Founder Multivrez, Board member Ecosystm

Earlier this year, Sudan participated in a panel discussion organised by Microsoft where he shared his views on building resilient and sustainable Cities of the Future. Here are his key messages for policymakers and funding agencies that he shared in that session.   

“Think ahead, Think across, and Think again! Strategic futures and predictive analytics is essential for cities and is critical for thinking ahead. It is also important to think across through data unification and creating data platforms. And the whole paradigm of innovation is thinking again.”

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The Evolution of Global Capability Centres in India

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In this Insight, our guest author Anupam Verma talks about how the Global Capability Centres (GCCs) in India are poised to become Global Transformation Centres. “In the post-COVID world, industry boundaries are blurring, and business models are being transformed for the digital age. While traditional functions of GCCs will continue to be providing efficiencies, GCCs will be ‘Digital Transformation Centres’ for global businesses.”

Anupam Verma, Senior Leadership Team, ICICI Bank

India has a lot to offer to the world of technology and transformation. Attracted by the talent pool, enabling policies, digital infrastructure, and competitive cost structure, MNCs have long embraced India as a preferred destination for Global Capability Centres (GCCs). It has been reported that India has more than 1,700 GCCs with an estimated global market share of over 50%.

GCCs employ around 1 million Indian professionals and has an immense impact on the economy, contributing an estimated USD 30 billion. US MNCs have the largest presence in the market and the dominating industries are BSFI, Engineering & Manufacturing, Tech & Consulting.

GCC capabilities have always been evolving

The journey began with MNCs setting up captives for cost optimisation & operational excellence. GCCs started handling operations (such as back-office and business support functions), IT support (such as app development and maintenance, remote IT infrastructure, and help desk) and customer service contact centres for the parent organisation.

In the second phase, MNCs started leveraging GCCs as centers of excellence (CoE). The focus then was product innovation, Engineering Design & R&D. BFSI and Professional Services firms started expanding the scope to cover research, underwriting, and consulting etc. Some global MNCs that have large GCCs in India are Apple, Microsoft, Google, Nissan, Ford, Qualcomm, Cisco, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Barclays, Standard Chartered, and KPMG.

In the post-COVID world, industry boundaries are blurring, and business models are being transformed for the digital age. While traditional functions of GCCs will continue to be providing efficiencies, GCCs will be “Digital Transformation Centres” for global businesses.

The New Age GCC in the post-COVID world

On one hand, the pandemic broke through cultural barriers that had prevented remote operations and work. The world became remote everything! On the other hand, it accelerated digital adoption in organisations. Businesses are re-imagining customer experiences and fast-tracking digital transformation enabled by technology (Figure 1). High digital adoption and rising customer expectations will also be a big catalyst for change.

Impact of COVID-19 on Digital Transformation

In last few years, India has seen a surge in talent pool in emerging technologies such as data analytics, experience design, AI/ML, robotic process automation, IoT, cloud, blockchain and cybersecurity. GCCs in India will leverage this talent pool and play a pivotal role in enabling digital transformation at a global scale. GCCs will have direct and significant impacts on global business performance and top line growth creating long-term stakeholder value – and not be only about cost optimisation.

GCCs in India will also play an important role in digitisation and automation of existing processes, risk management and fraud prevention using data analytics and managing new risks like cybersecurity.

More and more MNCs in traditional businesses will add GCCs in India over the next decade and the existing 1,700 plus GCCs will grow in scale and scope focussing on innovation. Shift of supply chains to India will also be supported by Engineering R & D Centres. GCCs passed the pandemic test with flying colours when an exceptionally large workforce transitioned to the Work from Home model. In a matter of weeks, the resilience, continuity, and efficiency of GCCs returned to pre-pandemic levels with a distributed and remote workforce.

A Final Take

Having said that, I believe the growth spurt in GCCs in India will come from new-age businesses. Consumer-facing platforms (eCommerce marketplaces, Healthtechs, Edtechs, and Fintechs) are creating digital native businesses. As of June 2021, there are more than 700 unicorns trying to solve different problems using technology and data. Currently, very few unicorns have GCCs in India (notable names being Uber, Grab, Gojek). However, this segment will be one of the biggest growth drivers.

Currently, only 10% of the GCCs in India are from Asia Pacific organisations. Some of the prominent names being Hitachi, Rakuten, Panasonic, Samsung, LG, and Foxconn. Asian MNCs have an opportunity to move fast and stay relevant. This segment is also expected to grow disproportionately.

New age GCCs in India have the potential to be the crown jewel for global MNCs. For India, this has a huge potential for job creation and development of Smart City ecosystems. In this decade, growth of GCCs will be one of the core pillars of India’s journey to a USD 5 trillion economy.

The views and opinions mentioned in the article are personal.
Anupam Verma is part of the Senior Leadership team at ICICI Bank and his responsibilities have included leading the Bank’s strategy in South East Asia to play a significant role in capturing Investment, NRI remittance, and trade flows between SEA and India.

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The Winning Formula – Achieving Success with AI

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Last week I wrote about the need to remove hype from reality when it comes to AI. But what will ensure that your AI projects succeed?

It is quite obvious that success is determined by human aspects rather than technological factors. We have identified four key organisational actions that enable successful AI implementation at scale (Figure 1).

Keys to Unlock AI Nirvana - Enabled by Upskilling

#1 Establish a Data Culture

The traditional focus for companies has been on ensuring access to good, clean data sets and the proper use of that data. Ecosystm research shows that only 28% of organisations focused on customer service, also focus on creating a data-driven organisational culture. But our experience has shown that culture is more critical than having the data. Does the organisation have a culture of using data to drive decisions? Does every level of the organisation understand and use data insights to do their day-to-day jobs? Is decision-making data-driven and decentralised, needing to be escalated only when there is ambiguity or need for strategic clarity? Do business teams push for new data sources when they are not able to get the insights they need?

Without this kind of culture, it may be possible to implement individual pieces of automation in a specific area or process, applying brute force to see it through. In order to transform the business and truly extract the power of AI, we advise organisations to build a culture of data-driven decision-making first. That organisational mindset,  will make you capable implementing AI at scale. Focusing on changing the organisational culture will deliver greater returns than trying to implement piecemeal AI projects – even in the short to mid-term.

#2 Ingrain a Digital-First Mindset

Assuming a firm has passed the data culture hurdle, it needs to consider whether it has adopted a digital-first mindset. AI is one of many technologies that impact businesses, along with AR/VR, IoT, 5G, cloud and Blockchain to name a few. Today’s environment requires firms to be capable of utilising a variety of these technologies – often together – and possessing a workforce capable of using these digital tools.

A workforce with the digital-first mindset looks for a digital solution to problems wherever appropriate. They have a good understanding of digital technologies relevant to their space and understand key digital methodologies – such as Customer 360 to deliver a truly superior customer experience or Agile methodologies to successfully manage AI at scale.

AI needs business managers at the operational levels to work with IT or AI tech teams to pinpoint processes that are right for AI. They need to make an estimation based on historical data of what specific problems require an AI solution. This is enabled by the digital-first mindset.

#3 Demystify AI

The next step is to get business leaders, functional leaders, and business operational teams – not just those who work with AI – to acquire a basic understanding of AI.

They do not need to learn the intricacies of programming or how to create neural networks or anything nearly as technical in nature. However, all levels from the leadership down should have a solid understanding of what AI can do, the basics of how it works, how the process of training data results in improved outcomes and so on. They need to understand the continuous learning nature of AI solutions, getting better over time. While AI tools may recommend an answer, human insight is often needed to make a correct decision off this recommendation.

AI Research and Reports

#4 Drive Implementation Bottom-Up

AI projects need alignment, objectives, strategy – and leadership and executive buy-in. But a very important aspect of an AI-driven organisation that is able to build scalable AI, is letting projects run bottom up.

As an example, a reputed Life Sciences company embarked on a multi-year AI project to improve productivity. They wanted to use NLP, Discovery, Cognitive Assist and ML to augment clinical proficiency of doctors and expected significant benefits in drug discovery and clinical trials by leveraging the immense dataset that was built over the last 20 years.

The company ran this like any other transformation project, with a central program management team taking the lead with the help of an AI Centre of Competency. These two teams developed a compelling business case, and identified initial pilots aligned with the long-term objectives of the program. However, after 18 months, they had very few tangible outcomes. Everyone including doctors, research scientists, technicians, and administrators, who participated in the program had their own interpretation of what AI was not able to do.

Discussion revealed that the doctors and researchers felt that they were training AI to replace themselves. Seeing a tool trying to mimic the same access and understanding of numerous documents baffled them at best. They were not ready to work with AI programs step-by-step to help AI tools learn and discover new insights.

At this point, we suggested approaching the project bottom-up – wherein the participating teams would decide specific projects to take up. This developed a culture where teams collaborated as well as competed with each other, to find new ways to use AI. Employees were shown a roadmap of how their jobs would be enhanced by offloading routine decisions to AI. They were shown that AI tools augment the employees’ cognitive capabilities and made them more effective.

The team working on critical trials found these tools extremely useful and were able to collaborate with other organisations specialising in similar trials. They created the metadata and used ML algorithms to discover new insights. Working bottom-up led to a very successful AI deployment.

We have seen time and again that while leadership may set the strategy and objectives, it is best to let the teams work bottom-up to come up with the projects to implement.

#5 Invest in Upskilling

The four “keys” are important to build an AI-powered, future-proof enterprise. They are all human related – and when they come together to work as a winning formula is when organisations invest in upskilling. Upskilling is the common glue and each factor requires specific kinds of upskilling (Figure 2).

Upskilling needs vary by organisational level and the key being addressed. The bottom line is that upskilling is a universal requirement for driving AI at scale, successfully. And many organisations are realising it fast – Bosch and DBS Bank are some of the notable examples.

How much is your organisation invested in upskilling for AI implementation at scale? Share your stories in the comment box below.

Written with contributions from Ravi Pattamatta and Ratnesh Prasad

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