Rapid & Deep Innovation To Bridge Structural Gaps, Cater New Market Demands: Rekha M. Menon, Accenture

Advanced technologies can help Indian businesses become more efficient and competitive, create new opportunities for growth across sectors, strengthen India’s position in the global innovation ecosystem and bolster the export-oriented IT services industry

Rekha M. Menon, Accenture

India plays a central role in the talent-led global innovation network, which is the foundation of Accenture’s industry leadership. With 200,000 people, India is one of their largest talent locations in the world, and a hub for specialised skills for delivering innovation at scale. 

With the pandemic impacting businesses across India, we asked the Chairperson and Senior Managing Director of Accenture in India, Rekha M. Menon, about how the company is ensuring business continuity, employee safety, and helping clients. She elaborates, “Accenture is one of the most digitally-enabled enterprises in the world, and we are 95% enabled by the Cloud, which has helped us stay agile and responsive to the volatility caused by the pandemic. We were able to transition people for remote work rapidly, deploying resources as needed so we could keep them safe, even as we supported our clients through different stages of this situation. Our digital capabilities, and our own experiences in navigating the crisis are helping us shape our clients’ digital transformation journeys.”

On Responding to the Pandemic

Covid-19 crisis has precipitated fundamental changes in societal behavior and economic structures, throwing things off balance. But the pandemic has not slowed innovation—it’s amplifying it to new levels. “Rapid and deep innovation is the only way in which we can bridge the structural gaps exposed by the pandemic, and also respond to the new market demands sparked by it. Governments and industry have an opportunity to review their priorities – thinking innovatively about overcoming challenges while realising the opportunities – such as improving our burdened healthcare and education infrastructure, creating social security for the unorganised sector or undertaking labour reforms and policy amendments to tap into new work models. One of the biggest outcomes of this crisis is its long-term impact on human behaviour. Virtual consumption has grown, and so has people’s demand for health care products and services, and we are seeing a much greater focus on conscious consumption. Businesses must reinvent themselves, to create products, services and experiences that meet the new set of expectations from individuals, be it customers or employees,” Menon expresses.

On Role of Tech in Recovery

We also asked her what role do emerging technologies play in recovering from the current crisis, drive economic recovery and enable a step change in driving innovation-led growth. “Advanced technologies like AI, IoT, big data analytics, extended reality and robotic process automation can help Indian businesses become more efficient and competitive, create new opportunities for growth across sectors, strengthen India’s position in the global innovation ecosystem and bolster the export-oriented IT services industry. They can also help drive equitable growth through improved access to work opportunities, universal healthcare and education for all – but for this we need to make the right investments today,” she opines.

On Equality at Workplace

Menon has been a keen advocate of equality at the workplace and the importance of being intentional about equality. When asked her on how important is culture of equality for an organisation to thrive and what has been the impact of Covid-19 crisis on diversity in the workplace and equal opportunities for all, she states, “Not just diversity, but equality is a powerful multiplier of innovation, and our research shows that people are more successful in organisations that have an intentional strategy to create equality. The pandemic is affecting some communities more severely than others and we need to ensure that the marginalised – whether its women, the differently abled or the underprivileged - benefit from the opportunities and are not left further behind. Consider the large number of women employed by the services sector including retail and hospitality, or those who are now having to cope with the physical demands of managing their homes while working remotely. Business leaders and other ecosystem stakeholders have a responsibility to come together and develop a strategy that balances these challenges and risks, against the opportunities presented by the new work paradigm for their people as well as the communities they operate in.”

On Workforce Disruption

The crisis is causing large-scale workforce disruptions. Menon comments on the future of the workplace and the skilling imperative. She states, “The crisis will reshape the future of work, with three broad considerations - its purpose, the way it is done, and where it gets done. Organisations need to think about each of these elements in the context of evolving people expectations. For many organisations and people, work from home has worked well – employee satisfaction, productivity and efficiency are high – and a new work model seems obvious. As this is thought through, leaders will need to consider the implications on all aspects of people management. For example, what kind of work management models should be considered that balance control with trust? What kind of mindset and management approaches do we need to build in leadership to optimise this model? What kind of skilling programs can they implement to institute a culture of continuous learning among their people?”

To conclude, the world is going through an extraordinary period, with the crisis precipitating three big changes – the value of tech is now unquestioned, the speed with which one reacts to change is determining success, and there’s an attitudinal shift towards conducting business more responsibly.