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Saturday October 23rd, 2021

Axiata Digital Labs: Enabling successful digital transformations

Thushera Kawdawatta, Chief Executive Officer at Axiata Digital Labs

Axiata Digital Labs helps telcos, banks, fintechs and others rollout successful digital transformations. With a growing clientele across the region and globally, Thushera Kawdawatta, Chief Executive Officer at Axiata Digital Labs, shares the blueprint for a successful digital strategy and how Axiata Digital Labs is helping enterprises reimagine themselves.

Technology has emerged as a great enabler during this pandemic. Can you tell us how it is shaping the future of the business and the enabling role of Axiata Digital Labs?

The pandemic pushed businesses up against the wall in terms of digital transformation. But then, fortunately, there was a convergence of all this demand for digital solutions and the enabling technology, thus making a new way of working possible. Now, even a non-technical person leverages technology to conduct their day-to-day operations.

All that matters is whether or not we can develop technology that has value for individuals of all ages and socioeconomic levels simultaneously. So that is where we are heading. In that context, creating unique experiences for customers is critical. User experience is more like a de facto requirement. Next, we need to define what technologies we can leverage to provide that experience.

To be clear, digital transformation is not synonymous with automating current operations. Digital transformation entails fundamentally altering the way a service or product is delivered. This is important when developing a digital strategy. When you digitally change your company, you may not be able to replicate the same manner of execution.

When creating a new digital experience, it must be intuitive and reasonable to the enduser or consumer. Before embarking on a digital transformation, companies must be very clear about their objectives. You need to choose which technology to employ and how to deploy it most effectively.

Security is also critical because as more individuals utilize these digital platforms, it is critical to safeguard consumer privacy. This makes utilization of data security protocols and standards critical.

An additional factor to consider is how quickly a user can reach his or her desired destination. That’s where artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) come in.

Can you briefly tell us about Axiata Digital Labs and the innovative products and services that set it apart?

By assisting our clients in providing better customer experiences, we want to enhance both the top and bottom lines of their businesses. With over 150 digital transformation solutions, we can help with anything from data science and engineering to IoT and middleware to FinTech, self-care, hyper-automation, and everything else in between.

We employ some of the smartest, brightest, and most experienced engineers and professionals in the country to provide services designed to bring successful digital transformation and ubiquitous connectivity to leading telcos, banks, and fintechs in the region and globally.

We have a portfolio of innovative products and platforms that caters to different requirements of a business. As I said before, establishing the underlying infrastructure is the first critical step.

We have API management solutions and other services to build an enabling digital infrastructure foundation. We also have a platform called Axonect API Management that caters to any unique business requirement of any enterprise.

We also have a digital telco transformation enabler platform where an entire CICD process is automated. It has everything you need to transform a non-digital enterprise into a digital one within a brief period: at least half the time it would otherwise take with other options.

Then there is privacy. You might be using the personal data of your customers, but you cannot share their data or expose their identities. For that, we have an excellent “InKognito” product platform to protect identities and personal data. It hides all personal information, leaving only the information required for a meaningful engagement.

What are some of the challenges confronting a business looking to invest in technology? And how do you advise your clients on approaching technology adoption?

Digital tech professionals are in high demand these days, and this has pushed costs up. Digital transformation is no longer affordable for small enterprises, hindering the speed of digital transformation. We have a unique approach to attracting, retaining, and upskilling talent to give our clients the best benefit. At Axiata Digital Labs, training is a KPI. We have to deliver more than 40 hours per person per year.

We encourage our customers to invest in individuals with the necessary skills and build a people-oriented culture. Following that, they must create enabling policies, procedures, and ecosystems to foster innovation. Once you have the most talented individuals, you cannot prevent them from inventing. Simultaneously, you must safeguard your consumer rights. Simply because you want to innovate does not mean you must forego data privacy and intellectual property protection. As a result, you must instil such expectations inside the culture.

We continually advise our customers not to embark on large-scale digital transformation initiatives. Begin simple and set a quantifiable objective for yourself. Testing, pivoting, and iterating should occur quickly, which is why you must establish a culture and environment conducive to the growth of people and technology.

Digital transformation is an iterative process. This process may take months or even years. However, by starting small, it becomes simpler for individuals to pivot quickly and adapt to changes, and the journey becomes more meaningful and relevant to them, resulting in quicker transformation. Finally, success requires creativity. It is not about the technology, but about how you offer products and services to your customers in an innovative way. All of these characteristics will allow you to disintermediate the work you are now performing and streamline that process in order to reach customers much more quickly, effectively, and affordably. To reach this level of technology, you must have a person with the necessary competencies, the appropriate platform, and the appropriate mindset.

What are your plans for growth, and what are the next steps in the company’s journey?

For us, it’s all about the people: we invest in talent development and training. We provide tools and training to enable everyone, regardless of their position within the business, to become a better version of themselves. Additionally, we encourage them to be creative and explore new things. The technology industry is currently facing a talent shortage. From a growth standpoint, the rest is quite straightforward when you have the appropriate personnel. All of our objectives are centred on the individuals at Axiata Digital Labs.

We serve several of Asia’s largest telcos and fintechs, as well as clients in Europe with our API management solutions. We are expanding into the North and South American markets, specifically targeting platforms that accelerate digital transformation. Our primary emphasis is on telecoms and fintechs, but we are also interested in other sectors.

Axiata Digital Labs began operations in 2019 with less than 200 employees. We found ourselves thinking both as a startup and a mature business. However, we were able to put in place the necessary safeguards to ensure that we retained all of the positive aspects of both a startup atmosphere and a mature organization.

Since then, we’ve expanded to over 1000 employees in less than two and a half years; the growth pace is phenomenal. Since its start, revenue has increased every year. We intend to place a greater emphasis on stability and staying current with our clientele’s ever-changing needs. Over the next five years, we want to expand the company at a healthy annual pace of approximately 20%-30%.