Monday, April 9, 2018

Swaraj Tractors: Focusing on Higher HP Tractor Segment

The Indian tractor market is witnessing a steady shift to higher horse power tractors. Punjab-based Swaraj Tractors – the tractor arm of Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd – that hitherto did not have a presence in the higher horse power segment recently marked its arrival in the new 60-75PH platform, up from its current offering of 15-60HP range, with its all-new Swaraj 963 FE. Auto Tech Review caught up with Rajesh Jejurikar, President Farm Equipment sector, Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd to know about its newest offering, changing farm mechanisation trends and what lies ahead for the industry.

The higher horse power tractor market is still in its nascent stage - the market for 50HP and above in India is less than 10% with a couple of players having a presence in this segment. Swaraj Tractors took a call to develop this tractor as it felt that it was missing out on opportunities in the 60-75HP segment. The company took around four years (including six months of planning) to develop this tractor. Swaraj Tractors had rolled out the 960 FE two years back and the exercise provided it an opportunity to understand the needs and gaps of the high horse power segment. The launch of the Swaraj 963 FE enables it to address the missing link in the 60-75HP segment, Jejurikar said.

The government has drawn up plans to frame a contract farming policy. Such a policy will create new opportunities for tractor manufacturers like Swaraj Tractors. A contract farming policy will effectively create a need for bigger farms. Bigger farms, in turn, will create demand for higher horse power tractors. Swaraj Tractors is excited to tap into this higher horse power segment, Jejurikar explains.

The tractor landscape is fast evolving and will witness more specialised products for niche applications like niche horticulture-based farming. There has always been a focus on rice and wheat but going forward there will be more focus on non-core grains. The farming is diversifying; the horticulture output is higher than grain output and many mechanisation solutions will come into play, Jejurikar said.

The Indian tractor space enjoys a high level of farm mechanisation penetration in stark contrast to the trends witnessed across the globe. The size of the non-tractor mechanisation market globally is much higher than the tractor market. 30% of the business comes from tractors and the rest from machinery or whether attached to a tractor or independent. In India, tractors comprise 85% of organised mechanisation and only 15% comes from machinery. This is because the landholding size in India is much smaller, but the market will see a change happening over the next 3-5 years once the government contract farming policy is rolled out, he added.

The country is grappling with acute labour shortage in this space, which leaves adequate scope for new technologies to come into play that will improve yield and productivity. Farming 3.0 is all about bringing new technologies to enable farmers improve yield and productivity, including use of technology like driverless tractors and precision farming. Precision farming will be an important part of Farming 3.0, using emerging technologies with algorithms to predict the yield and the right use of products, Jejurikar puts things in perspective.

The Swaraj 963 FE is designed indigenously by its in-house R&D team based at Mohali. The tractor is powered by a 60HP engine and the company claims it can deliver 15% more torque (delivering 220Nm of torque) than other tractors in the same category, which will significantly enhance productivity. Torque plays an important role in enhancing productivity as well as the ability of the tractor to get more work done in time. High torque engine enables a farmer to operate bigger and heavier implements that other tractors cannot, Jejurikar said.

The engine of the Swaraj 963 FE operates at a lower rated RPM. There is less wear and tear when an engine moves slowly. As a result of this, there is less fuel consumption and offers much better efficiency for farmers, Jejurikar said. The engine is equipped with a bigger radiator that ensures enhanced engine cooling. The increased engine cooling enables farmers to operate for longer hours without running the engine hot.

The Swaraj 963 FE comes with industry-first 400 hours of service intervals. A lengthy service interval reduces the cost of ownership of the farmer and paves the way for prolonged operation as well as significantly lowers service stations visits. This is in line with Swaraj Tractors’ tradition of long life engines, Jejurikar noted.

The tractor space in the country is witnessing heightened farmer expectations. The general trend is that farmers want more power, speed, productivity as well as flexibility but without any corresponding increase in fuel cost, Jejurikar pointed out.The Swaraj 963 FE boasts of a best-in-class lifting capacity of 2,200 Kg. The higher capacity hydraulic pump enables quick lifting, making it best suited for various ploughing and sowing operations. The precision of how hydraulics work and manages the lift with implements is crucial. It is important to understand that if precision is not achieved it will lead to slower work or rework.

There is a great deal of buzz being generated about electric vehicles in India, but Swaraj Tractors does not believe that there is a market for electric tractors as yet. Tractors are used for long hours and there will be a need for backup torque something that electric does not easily give, Jejurikar signed off.

Paracoat Products Focusing On Innovations Around Driver Monitoring Systems

Driver management has always been a huge challenge in India, be it the passenger vehicle or commercial vehicle space. Paracoat Products Ltd, a well-known NVH solution provider, has taken up the challenge of coming up with an innovative solution that it claims will alleviate the ‘driver handling’ concerns of customers in a big way. Auto Tech Review caught up with Rajesh Poddar, Director, Paracoat Products Ltd to know more about the driver management system (DMS) that was showcased at the recently-concluded Auto Expo.

At the expo, Paracoat rolled out three types of dash cams – front, internal and rear. While the front and rear cams will come into play in cases of a vehicle being involved in an incident, the internal cam tracks the behaviour of not just the driver but also of the passengers. The internal cam could work wonders for cab aggregators such as Ola and Uber, said Poddar, as it can not only track driver behaviour but also passenger behaviour. This is critical, since passenger misbehaviour does not generate the same kind of attention like driver misbehaviour in India.

The feedback from radio cab drivers has been very encouraging for the company. Poddar has himself taken over 30 rides in radio cabs, and “all of them” have shown interest in buying the cams at their own cost, because it is for their safety, he claimed. The company intends to sell the dash cams through OES partners as well as OEMs’ accessory showrooms.

Paracoat also showcased an in-cabin sensing technology, which it claims will track drowsy or drunken driving and pre-empt any untoward road accidents, especially in the commercial vehicle space. An estimated 60-70 % of road accidents in India are attributed to trucks. There are no regulations to monitor truck drivers in the country, and they are often found tired, drowsy and at times, drunk. This is what this in-cabin sensing technology aims to address. The DMS will set-off a buzzer, when it detects a driver feeling drowsy. With the aid of the GPS technology, the system will also inform the fleet manager about the health of the driver, and his location.

Paracoat also entered into a licensing arrangement with Israel-based eyeSight Technologies for this in-cabin sensing technology. Under this arrangement, the company is importing the hardware and software from Israel and will do the installation, servicing and monitoring, if any issues crop up, said Poddar.

Part of the DMS is a driver identification system (DIS) that integrates biometrics and retina into the sensor. Simply put, this system recognises drivers of a particular truck, and any unauthorised person driving the truck will be flagged. The DIS will ensure that the truck will not start unless the driver is recognised. If at all a driver wants himself replaced by somebody else, he will have to contact the call centre and get the new driver identified or recognised, before the latter can proceed with the journey.

Daimler has recently announced that it will deploy such a technology in their trucks, Poddar informed. He is confident that every truck company, school buses and public buses will be keen to deploy such a technology.

The company also unveiled a gesture control infotainment system that it claims will help avoid driving distractions, such as increasing or decreasing music volume, changing music channels or attending to phone calls. Fitted with a small camera, the infotainment system can respond to the driver’s voice or by just raising the hand to receive or lowering his hand to refuse a call. The company is looking to forge tie-ups with multiple Tier 1 infortainment system guys on how to in-build this sensor into their infotainment and make it a compact package for OEMs, said Poddar.

The company also rolled out an EV battery charger that features a display board. This interchangeable display board, Poddar said, could be used to post advertisements. It will enable shops adjacent to the battery charging stations to post commercials for customers, who may like to eat or engage in something else during the time his vehicle battery is being charged, said Poddar.

Most OEMs have an EV somewhere across the globe and bringing them to India will be a huge challenge, he said. Moreover, he recognises that putting in place an EV battery infrastructure will be a gargantuan task. The company nonetheless is seeking opportunities to set-up EV battery charging infrastructure across relevant markets.

At the expo, the company also rolled out a battery cover that ensures the heat from the engine does not go into the battery, enhancing the battery life by a claimed 30 %. Business overall has been good for the company in the last five years, growing at 14-15 annually. This year, Poddar said aiming to grow at 20 % on the back of the various future-ready solutions rolled out recently.

Delux Bearings Is Bullish About Tapping Into Passenger Car Segment

Automotive bearings are a vital component in the efficient and smooth running of a vehicle. Mumbai-based Delux Bearings has been India’s leading manufacturer of clutch release bearings, ball bearings, pulleys and steering column bearings largely catering to the commercial vehicle segment over several decades now. Auto Tech Review caught up with Rohan Rathod, Director & CEO, Delux Bearings to know about its robust presence in the commercial vehicle segment and its new focus areas in the bearings space.

Delux Bearings is betting big on its newest product – pneumatically actuated clutch release bearings – that were showcased at the recently-concluded Auto Expo – Components. These bearings can be pneumatically actuated for heavy duty cycles with doubly extended product reliability, and offers a lifetime run of 100,000-200,000 km. Compared to a typical release bearing for trucks, these bearings eliminate the complete clutch actuation mechanism, making all into one.

The company has also made provisions to mount sensors on these bearings. That would allow automatic actuation through the intelligence of the engine and transmission. The sensor will dictate when the shift should be made – thus reducing shift time – and has the capability of finding out if the vehicle is going uphill or downhill, explained Rathod. It will be commercially available in 12 months, he said.

Bearings essentially transmit load and reduce friction. But there are always frictional losses within the bearing that are contributed by rollers, balls, cages, lubrication, etc. These are inherent within the design of the bearing, Rathod explained. The challenge lies in reducing internal frictions. The company is carrying out innovations on the existing types of bearings a typical car would use, not just in the powertrain but in the wheels and other areas and how it can increase those efficiencies, the Delux CEO observed.

On the R&D front, Delux adopts a ‘studio method’ that is unlike a typical R&D set-up. Its R&D activities have engineers, robotics and graphic designers all sitting in the same room. Rathod is striving to bring a flavour of his strong overseas experience in architecture at Delux. “Such collaborative R&D provides us a competitive edge and also ensures our products are aesthetically more appealing than typical products,” he said.

The company revamped its development process and introduced a lot of simulation software that enabled it to predict and prevent instead of doing trial and error. This simulation software helped plug small issues that can typically cause a delay of six months during prototyping, he said. The company is also implementing Windchill PLM for its product data management. All its plants have access to the entire library of components that they can share in the design phase. It also uses software that is similar to Nomax for calculating scenarios within which a bearing has to perform. This has enabled the company to understand the dynamics of the product in a virtual condition before it is prototyped.

The company has high focus on efficient manufacturing and has already started piloting Industry 4.0 at its factories. It has installed computer and distance screens at some of its machines for monitoring. One can check out on their phones what is the OEE (overall equipment efficiency) of the machine; the level and reasons for operator rejection; the failure mode for that rejection – all these will ensure a level of interconnectedness in manufacturing and ultimately bring down unit economics, Rohan pointed out.

The country’s move to electric mobility will render many bearings redundant. Typically, an IC powertrain or driveline needs around 30 to 42 components, but an electric powertrain would need around 7 to 10 components only. Clutch, clutch bearing, some gearbox bearings as well as some bearings in the propeller shaft will turn redundant, Rathod highlighted. What happens to these players who are supplying these bearings and how their capacities will be utilised is a big question, wondered Rathod.

With a robust commercial vehicle market presence, Delux is now bullish about tapping into the hugely untapped passenger vehicle market. Many top Indian carmakers like Maruti Suzuki India, Honda Cars India and Hyundai Motor India are still importing release bearings. Delux wants to replicate its CV success in the PV segment. The company has bagged orders from Mahindra for one of its UV platforms, and is close to sealing a deal with PSA Group for clutch release bearings, intimated Rohan.

Delux generates around 60 % of its revenue from OEMs and exports, while the remaining 40 % comes from the aftermarket. The company grew by 10 % last year and is expected to grow by 15 % this year. Delux aims to double its turnover by 2020 on the back of its soon-to-be rolled out pneumatic actuated clutch release bearings and the untapped PV market.

Public Transportation Should Be The Focus Area For EVs: ARAI Director Rashmi Urdhwareshe

With so much of talk around electromobility, we decided to speak to Rashmi Urdhwareshe, Director, Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) to know her perspective on how the country is geared up to transition from ICEs to EVs, as well as her views on other energy sources. The country’s EV focus should be on public transportation and subsequently on creating public infrastructure for EVs, she said. Excerpts from a freewheeling interview:

Rashmi Urdhwareshe has been consistently the pillar of strength behind the growth and success of the Pune-based Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) – the country’s apex vehicle testing body. Urdhwareshe, who took charge as ARAI Director in the second half of 2014, has successfully handled a wide gamut of responsibilities over the years, in areas of automotive electronics, instrumentation & controls, quality management, homologation & standardisation, international harmonisation of automotive regulations, vehicle type approval certification, export homologation, laboratory accreditation, etc.

Born in Nagpur to professor parents, Urdhwareshe leads from the front, in terms of taking up challenges at ARAI. Interestingly, she kicked off her professional career as a trainee engineer at ARAI in 1983. Urdhwareshe completed her post-graduation in Electronics Engineering from the Collegwe of Engineering, Pune. She is a former NCC cadet, a state-level bridge champion as well as a trained sitar player.

As the Indian auto industry starts making a transition from ICE to electric vehicles as per the government’s 2030 go-all-electric mandate, how do you assess this transition?

These are indeed challenging times for the industry. I think the government’s direction of going all electric by 2030 has to be interpreted in a right manner. Go-all-electric does not mean that all vehicle categories should go electric – the country’s EV focus should be on public transportation and subsequently we can focus on creating public infrastructure for EVs. The need of the hour is to focus on electric mobility for auto rickshaws, buses and taxis as it is easy to deploy charging infrastructure at auto stands, taxi stands and bus depots. We need to create success stories around these segments and once that happens, the acceptance of EVs will increase. I feel that it is very much achievable because policies are in place and action plans can be certainly drawn. As far as personalised mobility is concerned, I don’t think consumers are ready to absorb EVs.

How do you think the challenges related to electromobility can be overcome?

The Indian auto industry has been vibrant enough to take on challenges and I’m sure the industry will respond to the challenges positively. Engineers love technical challenges! The first and most important thing will be to increase the acceptability as well as commercial viability of EVs on a large scale than just the pilot/ experimental introduction. I can definitely see customer awareness among modern city dwellers be it Delhi, Pune or any other city that want a pollution-free environment. People in these cities are talking about moving to cleaner transportation solutions and these are the areas where acceptability will be very high. There is a need to move in a structured manner towards creating the EV infrastructure as well as bring the ownership cost down. After the current government’s go-electric announcement, cities are coming forward and investing heavily and are willing to create public infrastructure for charging and enabling electrification, which I think will be a major game changer. ICEs will certainly stay because there is no such thing as dominance of one segment over the other

How is ARAI’s E-mobility Centre of Excellence likely to help shape the EV journey across the country?

We perceive that this e-mobility centre of excellence will help in multiple ways in handling technology – ranging from creation of charging infrastructure, developing vehicular technology solutions, knowledge management, providing testing/ validation facility and skill development. ARAI will focus on one more aspect – collaborate research and develop an ecosystem for enabling technology to be made available for quick absorption. We do not have the time to reinvent anything; it is important to adopt technology for Indian-specific requirements and move faster to achieve the national objectives. This centre has all the testing and validation infrastructure at component level, systems level and complete vehicle level.

In addition, it provides R&D for start-ups as well as simulation-based technologies that can be effectively used for fast development. ARAI plans to create a web-link with the Ministry of Heavy Industry (DHI) for inviting collaborative research as well as technology transfer services. There are multiple institutes that are working on development of battery or motor technologies – it will be important to integrate these so that we can achieve our goal of electric mobility.

The battery cost of electric vehicles has always been a big talking point – how do you think a concept like battery swapping is relevant for the Indian market?

It is a worthwhile concept. India should try this out in a controlled manner in small battery packs. Keeping in view environmental and usage duty cycles, operational safety would be a big concern that needs to be addressed. Swapping concept works well with standardised packs and specifications. Two- and three-wheelers could therefore be good candidates for trying out the battery swapping concept.

With so much EV talk, how do you see the ICE space shape up? Do you think it will play a second fiddle to EVs or replaced completely or can co-exist together with EVs?

ICEs will certainly stay – co-exist is the right word, because there is no such thing as dominance of one segment over the other. Sectors such as construction and mining, commercial agriculture tractors, long haulage trucks, special purpose vehicles, etc, will continue to be dependent on ICEs.

In the future mix of propulsion technologies, what role do you see for hybrids?

Hybrids would have been a natural and logical choice had it not been for the government’s focus on pure EVs. Technically, hybrids are much easier to adopt. I also see a space for retrofitment of vehicles done through hybrids. Such retrofitments would offer dual benefits – increase fuel efficiency as well as reduce emissions. For now, because of the government’s immediate electrification goals, OEMs as well as ARAI have shifted their efforts towards EV development and the focus on hybrids is taking a backseat, but the technology is very much relevant for India. I believe that we should pursue it for after-fitment of vehicles to clean up the existing fleets.

Be it BS VI emission norms, the 2030 all-electric target or safety regulations – the auto industry seems to be under pressure to respond to all these challenges.

The auto industry is certainly under tremendous pressure. It is important for OEMs to reshape their investments and also ready up their Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, as the supplier base for all these technologies is very different. The time available for all these is so short that effectively managing their product portfolios is a big challenge. Similar challenge is there for ARAI as well – our resources and capabilities are also being planned to support the development, validation and final approvals. Nevertheless we have been anticipating the dynamic demand and are able to shift our focus and work towards alternate energies.

ARAI is not just focusing on electric mobility but also on very actively developing alternate energy solutions, where IC engines would continue to play a role if not in pure petrol or diesel mode, but in dual fuel variants working on various blends or combinations of alternate energies. We anticipate that there is immense potential to explore these possibilities in parallel to EVs.

How does ARAI plan to address the enormous challenge of testing the huge number of engines in the country today for BS VI compliance?

ARAI has created additional test centres and is scaling up its operations multi-fold. We have invested heavily with support from our parent ministry as well as from our own research funds in our facilities at Kothrud and Chakan. We have augmented the technical capabilities and skills of our testing and homologation teams. Our teams have undergone extensive training, working on optimisation using simulation technologies as well as working on advanced after-treatment devices and other newer areas involving green fuels. ARAI is focusing on collaborative work; drawing up joint research programmes with fellow institutes to accelerate the speed of technology development. ARAI has also internally created a Technology Group that acts as a think-tank to bring in technology solutions to cater to the industry needs. ARAI is working with most of the OEMs for reengineering their vehicles to migrate to BS VI. This covers the entire range of products – two-wheelers all the way up to buses, trucks and tractors.
We are seeing vehicle manufacturers voluntarily coming forward and seeking to carry out safety tests

There is a lot of talk about India’s own car assessment programme – Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program (BNVSAP). How prepared are we to make this programme a success?

If we look globally, such safety assessment programmes are not regulated by the government or through any mandatory norms. It is usually regulated by insurance and consumer demands – the purpose is to enable the consumer to select the product on the basis of its safety rating. The draft protocol of the Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Programme has already been announced, but the government is yet to announce who will be administering it. As far as ARAI is concerned, we have full testing and certification capability as per this protocol as well as Global NCAP. It is seen that vehicle manufacturers are voluntarily coming forward and seeking to carry out such evaluation tests.

ARAI has lined up its 2020 roadmap that includes a big focus on light weighting of vehicles – how that is shaping up?

ARAI is working closely with the Department of Heavy Industry to develop competencies and techniques for lightweighting through concepts like smart structures, materials & composite development and forging processes. These projects are undertaken through the government’s cess funding. One of the completed projects involves developing an aluminium super structure for buses that will help in electric bus development programmes; light material and lighter structures will help enable electrification to a large extent. This project is close to its successful conclusion and the technology is now available for transfer. We are also working on high strength steel development and material characterisation with various combinations of alloys at the material level. At the manufacturing level, the forging industry is coming forward with research projects related to energy saving and process optimisation and quality improvement.

How do sum up the future of the Indian auto industry?

Given the changing scenario, it is important to ride the right wave. Policies such as ‘Make in India’ are already creating the enablers. The need of the hour is to encash them by developing the complete ecosystem that will be a big advantage for India. India has a large supplier base; we have material development and manpower resources. Given all these, India has a huge potential and I have no hesitation in seeing a bright future for the automotive industry.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How can Blockchain revolutionize Healthcare?

The blockchain technology has been generating plenty of buzz across industries even before its commercial rollout. This much-hyped technology has been grabbing newspaper headlines although it is still a long way from being ready for commercial adoption. In fact, a recent study by Infosys and LTP revealed that the commercial adoption of blockchain technology is unlikely to happen at least until 2020.

There is also confusion in some quarters, if not everywhere about what this technology is all about? Blockchain is a decentralized ledger that records and stores every transaction across a peer-to-peer network. It stands out for data integrity, networked immutability and for being tamper-proof.

There is a lot of talk and activity in the industry around the disruptive nature of blockchain and its possible impact on businesses. The big question is: How can blockchain revolutionize the healthcare industry? It is perhaps too early to make an emphatic statement but one cannot overlook the new possibilities this technology will present for the healthcare industry. Blockchain-powered health IT systems can facilitate health data interoperability, data integrity and security, portable user-owned data among others. What’s more, blockchain could ensure cryptographically secure and irrevocable data exchange systems. Leveraging such a technology will ensure seamless access to historic and real-time patient data and eliminate data reconciliation costs. A classic example of blockchain technology in the healthcare space could be the recent collaboration (on a trial basis) between data-centric security company Guardtime and Estonian eHealth Foundation to secure the health records of one million Estonian citizens. But such a model is unlikely to be replicated globally given the complexities surrounding data ownership and governance structure for health data exchange between public and private entities.

Claims adjudication and billing management is another area where blockchain can transform the operating ways of the healthcare industry. It is estimated that around 5-10% of healthcare costs are fraudulent owing to excessive billing or billing for non-performed services. One can recall the Medicare fraud in the US that caused around $30 million in losses in 2016. Blockchain-enabled systems have the potential to automate the majority of claim adjudication and payment processing activities and minimize these medical billing-related frauds. Not just that, blockchain systems could help to root out the need for intermediaries and trim administrative costs for providers and payers.

Pharmaceutical companies have been incurring an estimated annual loss of $200 billion owing to sale of counterfeit drugs. Blockchain can play a significant part in ensuring drug supply chain integrity. This technology can facilitate a chain-of-custody log, tracking each step of the supply chain at the individual drug/product level. Furthermore, add-on functionalities such as private keys and smart contracts could help build proof of ownership of the drug source at any point in the supply chain and manage the contracts between different parties. Take the case of iSolve LCC that is currently working with multiple pharma/biopharma companies to implement its Advanced Digital Ledger Technology (ADLT) blockchain solutions to help manage drug supply chain integrity.

This technology can be leveraged to cope with unreported clinical trials that can create patient safety issues and knowledge gaps for healthcare stakeholders and health policymakers. Blockchain-enabled, time-stamped immutable records of clinical trials, protocols and results could potentially address the issues of outcome switching, data snooping and selective reporting, thereby reducing the incidence of fraud and error in clinical trial records. Blockchain-based systems could help drive unprecedented collaboration between participants and researchers around medical research innovation in fields like precision medicine and population health management.

Health data breaches are a huge concern in the healthcare industry. According to the Protenus Breach Barometer report, as many as 450 health data breaches occurred in 2016, affecting over 27 million patients. The blockchain technology can avoid such breaches due to hacking and ransomware.

Given the current growth of connected health devices, the existing Health IT infrastructure and architecture will find it highly challenging to support the evolving IoMT (Internet of Medical Things) ecosystems. It is estimated that 20-30 billion healthcare IoT connected devices will be used globally by 2020. Blockchain-enabled solutions can bridge the gaps of device data interoperability and ensure data security, privacy and reliability around IoMT use cases. Companies such as Telstra (user biometrics and smart homes), IBM (cognitive Internet of Things) and Tierion (industrial medical device preventive maintenance) are actively working around these use cases.

One would stop short of suggesting that blockchain will revolutionize the healthcare industry but there is no denying the fact that this technology will drive enhanced operational efficiency of healthcare players. Bring on blockchain! The healthcare industry across the globe is excited to embrace it!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Will AI remove the human factor from HR in future enterprises?

The changing market demands invariably create the ‘need’ for enterprises to look at enhancing their operational efficiencies and stay healthy on the profitability front. In a highly competitive marketplace where enterprises are looking at every possible opportunity of staying ahead of their competitors, it has become imperative for businesses to wear the ‘change jacket’ to stay competitive.  

Given this scenario, the arrival of much-hyped artificial intelligence (AI) has set tongues wagging about its ‘deployment’ across various industries. It won’t be a far-fetched exaggeration if this machine learning technology is considered as an ‘extended helping hand’ to the existing processes of involving humans across diverse workflows. In fact, the layman’s version about artificial intelligence is that it can carry out tasks performed hitherto by humans, in terms of human intelligence such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and language translation.

The deployment of artificial intelligence is well and truly underway across industries, but there is a great deal of buzz about how this machine learning technology will enhance the efficiency parameters of the human resources (HR) department.

There is little doubt that artificial intelligence will transform the way how HR departments function across the globe. For starters, artificial intelligence can play a big role in a candidate’s application screening process. There are various AI tools that can keep the candidate engaged after he/she has applied for a position in a company. There is a growing trend nowadays of asking candidates a set of questions pertaining to that position, which helps the hiring manager to get a deeper understanding of a candidate’s credentials for any position.

Artificial intelligence also ensures adequate candidate engagement. Sample this – a candidate applies for a job through the company’s website or through some job portal or recruitment consultants; it is only natural for companies to take time to respond, in terms of taking the process forward. Such a situation can leave a candidate impatient and clueless about the way forward. This is where artificial intelligence can optimize candidate engagement by sending out automated email or messages that the selection process is on and avoid any unwanted communication gaps.

Artificial intelligence can be of big help when it comes catering to unsolicited applications – a classic case of a candidate applying for a job after the job application process is closed. In such cases, AI can facilitate reengagement of such candidates by providing them an opportunity to update their individual records, which could have gotten updated from the last time they were engaged.

There is also talk that the HR department does not quite adhere to the follow-up process as seriously as desired. This is evident is cases when an offer letter is rolled out to a candidate and there is a time gap of one or two months for he/she to join depending on his notice period. It is increasingly seen that many candidates don’t turn up on the day of joining, thus defeating the whole exercise of a hiring team’s screening, interviewing and selection process. AI can help to substantially prevent ‘no-shows’ by engaging the soon-to-join candidates and ensure they are motivated to turn up on the day of joining. This area of focus is crucial because candidates at times, have multiple offers at hand and care little about adhering to promises of joining a company on a particular day, as monetary gains drive most, if not all, to resort to such tactics (of not taking up a job as promised with the acceptance of the offer letter).

Artificial intelligence can smoothen the existing onboarding process. Normally, a candidate goes through an induction programme, where a HR personnel introduces him to the company, company’s culture, policies, and processes. AI can minimise the physical presence of HR personnel by providing new candidates with required company information.

Artificial intelligence can also be handy in optimising the employee relationship management process. A lot of routine queries such as leave, salary, bonus payment, etc are addressed by HR personnel and AI can address these queries via a chatroom or emails. Of course, there will be queries that will demand human interaction and in such cases AI can set up meetings between a candidate and the HR personnel.

Deploying artificial intelligence across the HR department won’t come cheap. AI are highly complex machines and would entail high costs. Such machine learning technologies have software programmes that need regular upgradation to meet the needs of the changing environment. To top it all, such AIs requirement lofty repair and maintenance costs. Cost is not the only factor here – in the event of any severe breakdowns, the process of recovering lost codes and reinstating the system can also be a time-consuming exercise.

Artificial intelligence is seen as an answer to many corporate woes but it must be pointed out that it cannot probably replicate humans. It is important to understand that AI do not carry any emotions and moral values and performed their tasks in a ‘programmed’ manner with little or no scope of making the judgment of right or wrong. AIs are incapable of taking decisive decisions when a situation warrants if a complex scenario crops up.

Humans deliver better productivity with experience but the same cannot be said about AI. In fact, artificial intelligence will only witness wear and tear with time. AI cannot be expected to work passionately as care or concerns are outside its purview. They not capable of distinguishing between a diligent worker and an inept worker.

It will be too much to expect original creativity from artificial intelligence as it cannot match the thinking power of the human brain and lack emotions.

Of course, the big talking point of artificial intelligence is centred on whether machines will replace humans and create large-scale unemployment. It could be true to some extent that robots will carry out the jobs until now performed by humans, but it is hard to see AI replace humans in all work streams of a company.

The advent of artificial intelligence is seen by companies as a mechanism to not just up their performance efficiency parameters but also trim labour costs by getting things done through machines. It is also impractical to see that AI will entirely replace human personnel and that the HR department will functional through robots. Surely, AI will make the working of the HR department more efficient than ever before, but it will be inappropriate to suggest that AI will take away the jobs of HR personnel. The HR department across industries will embrace artificial intelligence going forward, but this is not to say that human intelligence will be wiped off from the corporate landscape.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

RERA just what the doctor ordered for Indian real estate sector

Home buyers across the country have been at the receiving end of endless delays over delivery of projects or late possession of real estate projects over the years, leaving themselves ‘helpless’ at the hands of  developers. All that is set to change with the implementation of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act (RERA) 2016. The RERA is poised to bring about a paradigm shift in India’s real estate sector, with the onus now on real estate developers and real estate agents to comply with RERA, which came into effect from May 1, 2017.

Touted as a consumer-centric Act, the RERA aims to drive transparency and accountability in the sector and enhance the confidence level of home buyers. More importantly, it will not only protect the interests of home buyers and developers but also ensure home buyers are not taken for granted by real estate developers and brokers. 

It may be worth mentioning that both houses of Parliament had passed the real estate bill in March 2016. It is important to point out that the onus is now on the states to draft and pass their own laws according to the guidelines since land is a state subject.

The effective implementation of RERA is expected to mitigate the pain points of the sector. Although real estate players have welcomed the new Act, industry watchers believe that there are still challenges that need to be overcome before the much-hyped Act is effectively implemented. Many states are not still adequate prepared with the desired infrastructure and resources to implement the Act. What’s more, most real estate developers and brokers have indicated that they are still in the process of understanding the regulations. The response from the states to the Union government’s April 30 deadline to notify the Act left a lot to be desired with only 13 states and union territories having notified the rules so far – only three states – Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – have appointed a housing regulator. Significantly, barring Maharashtra no state has set up a website where developers and brokers can register or apply for new projects under the new Act. All these effectively mean that teething problems exist, which have to be resolved before the Act is implemented across the country. 

The Act makes it mandatory for all real estate developers and brokers to register with their respective state regulatory authorities by July 30 without which they cannot sell any project. It remains to be see whether all builders and agents meet the stipulated deadline. For now, it does appear a tall order simply because most states do not have a regulatory authority and nor have websites ready to apply, which mean no new registrations and project launches can take place in these states. It is only a few big states with major real estate activities that are in advanced stages of either having notified (the new rules) or are geared up to comply with RERA.

Real estate lobby group Confederation of Real Estate Developers Association of India (Credai) is aware of the challenges the new Act offers for developers. Credai feels that real estate developers will face teething problems, which will result in new project launches getting delayed and home sales getting impacted for the next few months.

According to industry experts, most developers would be need about six to eight weeks of work to make themselves RERA compliant. It will not be easy for developers and agents to be RERA-compliant in a sector, which has been under no regulation for so long. Despite all the initial challenges, the RERA is a win-win situation for buyers and developers. But there are areas that would pose concerns for real estate developers. Developers would be held responsible for any delays caused by other agencies or authorities. From this perspective it does appear that RERA will end up favouring home buyers at the cost of builders and developers.

On the positive front, the RERA will instil a sense of fiscal discipline – it ensures no developer can transfer funds meant for one project for another. This measure will ensure sufficient funds for timely completion of projects as well as for timely delivery of flats to the home buyers.

The smooth implementation of the RERA may take some months, but there is no doubt that the Act will change the way real estate developers operate across the country. RERA was just what the doctor ordered for the Indian real estate sector.