India can become the world’s automation hub: Ankur Kothari, Co-founder & CRO, Automation Anywhere
The combination of RPA with cognitive and analytics is a game changer for intelligent automation. Automation Anywhere is the robotic process automation market leader with over 1,000 enterprise customers worldwide. It has deployed over 6 lakh bots across the world. The company gained 396 new enterprise customers in 2017.
In an interview with ETCIO.COM, Ankur Kothari, Co-founder and CRO, Automation Anywhere discusses how the company is making automation accessible to all.
Canadian professor Marshall McLuhan, who predicted the internet and the impact it would have, had famously said: As technology advances, it reverses the characteristics of every situation again and again. The age of automation is going to be the age of 'do it yourself.' How is Automation Anywhere aiding automation democratization to make automation accessible to everyone?
Let me explain the problem that we are trying to solve. Every enterprise today has hundreds of systems but less 10-15% of the systems can actually talk to each other. Rest of the systems don’t have API’s and don’t talk to each other. So, in order to solve the problem of interoperability, enterprises make employees as the interface between two systems, meaning they take information from one, apply the same rules and put it into another. They call it a ‘business process’. This practice exists in every enterprise across every industry. As the business scales, it’s hard to beef up the workforce in view of the increased interoperability issues. This is where automation makes solid business sense for every enterprise. They can automate most of these processes by combining people with robots, to create a hyperactive digital workforce.
Automation Anywhere is a platform for the digital workforce. Using our software platform, enterprises can create digital workforce or bots that can allow the user to automate everything that an employee does on a computer. Our platform allows enterprises to automate any process, from end to end.
We combine three major technologies to achieve such end to end automation. We pioneered the RPA technology 14 years ago. We have now combined that with cognitive technology and real-time content analytics. When we combine RPA with Cognitive and real-time content Analytics, it allows us to create the perfect digital workforce and end to end process automation.
We have 1000+ large fortune 5000 customers. Google, LinkedIn, Maersk, Cisco, ANZ, Tesco, Siemens, GM are some of our customers.
Now from that standpoint, we are by far the largest player in this space. We are the only player which combines RPA + cognitive + analytics. Our RPA technology is extremely comprehensive and enterprise-grade, using which you can run mission-critical processes.
Historically, when you wanted to automate, people would write programs and integrate codes and that was time-consuming. But using our technology platform enterprises can create robots within days, weeks but never months. Suddenly anyone can create them, suddenly you can automate any kind of process. That paradigm shift allows, you to automate any process and anybody can do it, fundamentally changed the whole dynamics of this automation space.
I want to drill down into your technology platform that combines RPA with cognitive technology and real-time content analytics. How do see cognitive automation creating a disruptive revolution in the workplace?
Let us observe the anatomy of any process. It’s a combination of 6 steps: you get data, validate it, enrich it, perform the process, reconcile, and then we analyze and report. Any process can be broken down into these 6 steps. If your data is structured and in systems, our RPA technology can automate the process end to end. But most of the times data is unstructured or semi-structured and not in systems. Take, for instance, a large logistics provider that has thousands of vendors and all of those vendors send different invoices in a different format. Right now, the logistics provider has teams of people, who just read those invoices and get information from it and plug it into the systems. Now, if you have to automate that process, you require cognitive technologies as opposed to RPA. So, the first three steps of the business process require cognitive technology.
Once you automate any process, it goes through a bot, you can tag any data, tag any field and you start getting real-time business data using which companies can drive greater business value. Automation Anywhere provides consumers level ease of use and power which means anyone can automate the process with proper controls and security. You don’t have to be a programmer to create these bots. Now business people can create medium level bots and technology people can create complex bots which fundamentally changes the whole paradigm of automation.
Automation Anywhere has emerged as the largest enterprise software provider in the RPA space worldwide. What’s your secret sauce?
First, our RPA technology is designed to work with any kind of systems. Some of the vendors only do SAP. Some of them only do 20% of the systems. We go through the entire stack and we have the broadest technology stack. We can talk to any systems and automate any process from end to end.
Second, the combination of RPA with cognitive and analytics is a game changer for intelligent automation.
Third, in the modern enterprise, you require a technology that is platform agnostic. You should be able to run it on the cloud, on-premise, on the server, virtual machine or desktop. You should also be able to trigger it from your iPad within your car. Our product allows you to manage these digital workforces and run them anywhere you want.
Fourth, we allow automation democratization. In a modern day digital enterprise, you can’t say that 10 people can create the bots. If you create a technology which only C++ programmers can use, then you are addressing only a certain kind of need. The approach doesn’t support business scalability. If you want to truly automate anything, your product needs to be simple enough so that everyone should be able to use it and participate in it. So, you require a consumer level of ease of use. In a digital enterprise, you expect thousands of bots working side by side with humans.
Fifth, we have a lot of AI components embedded in our RPA as well as in IQ Bot, which is our cognitive technology. These are some of the key reasons why Automation Anywhere is the only platform that is designed to scale on an enterprise level.
RPA as a category can create new job opportunities in the range of 2,90,000-3,20,000 over the next 3 years. Automation Anywhere has already deployed over 6 lakh bots across the world.
Which are some of the industry verticals that lend themselves naturally to automation?
Automation has penetrated more in industries like banking, financial services, insurance, manufacturing, telecom, and healthcare. These industry verticals deal with large datasets and complex processes. They are also highly regulated industries, so every manual error can be extremely expensive. So, everything that can be automated should be automated. They have a clear mandate to automate as much as they can, to improve customer experience, productivity, drive competitive advantage and improve compliance.
Generally, every journey starts with finance and accounting, horizontal or under HR or IT processes or in the supply chain. These are some of the places where the journey starts and then it virally goes across the enterprise through different functions.
We work with customers across 80-90 countries. Every country brings a different challenge but everywhere the answer to improving productivity is automation. A company in Japan would go for automation because they are facing the challenge of a shrinking workforce and overworked employees.
How will automation impact India, which has traditionally been an outsourcing magnet?
India has a huge opportunity to become the hub of process automation. Most of the processes have been outsourced to India. If we talk about BPO industries, service providers or even global in-house centers or captives, large companies have their centers in India where they run their shared services or they outsource it to their partners. So, the processes are here, the expertise is here, and we have a good technology background from a country standpoint. If you combine the three, India has the opportunity to lead the world in process automation.
For the process industry, the next wave is automation. India can be a leader in the process industry so it has an opportunity to lead this wave.
How strategic is India as a market for Automation Anywhere?
Our association with India started from the first day of our operations in Bay area. We opened our India center in Baroda. We have a team working out of both the offices working together. So, the entire RPA platform was created in Silicon Valley and in Baroda.
And we continue to invest in our development center in Baroda and Bay area. In India, we have around 400 odd employees and we are looking to double it. We have worked with 100+ large SI’s and advisories and global players for our channel partners like Wipro, TCS, Cognizant, Infosys, Deloitte, EY, IBM, and Accenture.
We believe this is one of our top three or four markets globally. We have a large center in Baroda as well as in Bangalore while we have a smaller office in Mumbai. India is already the largest development center for us and we expect this to only accelerate through 2020.
Demand for RPA solutions in India has increased exponentially over the last few years due to significant adoption by GICs, financial institutions, telecom service providers, technology and manufacturing companies.
What can the customers expect from Automation Anywhere in the next couple of quarters in terms of cutting-edge technology?
We keep pushing boundaries on the three technologies – RPA, cognitive and analysis and combine them in a very seamless way which fundamentally allows enterprises to automate any process.
We will keep investing and improving our bot store because it is a marketplace where people can come and share their ideas and consumers of those ideas can allow them to take a look. We also have a technology called “bot farm” which allows you to manage and maintain hundreds of these bots in the cloud or your data center or your virtual environment. So, it allows you to dynamically spin up and spin down and auto-manage these bots without any person to manage it as its done by bots.
Pushing the boundaries of technologies, we will further keep on automating everything that should be automated. And automation should not be limited to only a few. Just like any other technology like computers and the internet. The moment you democratize it and allow everyone to participate, you see unprecedented levels of process improvement and efficiency.