Mahindra Comviva CTO Ganesh Jayadevan on innovation for telecoms

 

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Ganesh Jayadevan, chief technology officer at Mahindra Comviva, says 2015 has been a transformative year for Mahindra Comviva – thanks to its investments in innovation.

Beyond achieving 100 percent of its revenue targets in the last fiscal year, Mahindra Comviva has also announced its entry into B2C space targeting end consumers.

Innovation at Mahindra Comviva

Nurturing Culture of Innovation

Over the years Mahindra Comviva has evolved its thinking in innovation from technology to one of technology for business. Mahindra Comviva is committed to foster a culture of innovation and to incubate critical thinking within our employees.

The company has undertaken various innovation focused workshops and hackathons to enable “market-driven innovation” within employees. The company encourages all employees to go ‘out there’ and get insights into how our consumers are using our products, discover the frictions that our customers face and the white-space that exists where it can deliver value. These frictions and white-spaces allow Mahindra Comviva to innovate in the way it delivers value to customers.

Investment in talent 

Like last year, Mahindra Comviva continued to invest in people, and in various industry-led programs that would help employees to up their performance scale in the industry. Courses like “Blackblot” and “Design Thinking” enables the employees to think beyond normal course of business and help them innovate more.

Mahindra Comviva has also started Com.start, an incubation framework inside the company that encourages employees with innovative ideas and helps them pursue it by providing them monitory and technical staff support. It fosters the culture of Innovation by incubating these start-ups like culture within the organization.

Mahindra Comviva’s recent innovations include products in mobile payments, mobile money remittance, digital music, m-Learning, to name a few.

The company’s remittances platform, Terra, is a much-needed and disruptive product that can make a huge difference to those who need it most. There is a lot of migrant population in places like South Africa, The Middle East from places like Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and even within India just to name a few.  All legitimate and legal options for remittances with protection are very expensive and cumbersome.

Mahindra Comviva offers the service simply tied to a mobile number, which is ubiquitous today. What paypal does with an email, Mahindra Comviva does with an MSISDN. Mahindra Comviva is uniquely positioned to offer this innovative service that ties technology and our deep strategic relationship with the world’s leading telecoms.

Today, Mahindra Comviva is positioned as the No 1 player in delivering music to mobile phones in Nigeria. Recently Mahindra Comviva has seen a lot of traction with our Mooditt Digital Store, a digital content store.  This Digital Store brings the entire ecosystem of content providers, application providers and distribution channels on a single platform and leverages multiple channels of content distribution like Web, APP, WAP, DTH, Radio, TV, IPTV, Text, and IVR for seamless distribution.

Mahindra Comviva is also exploring other innovations in terms of payment using just feature phones. A lot of consumers and merchants still use feature phone as getting a smartphone still cost a few thousand rupees of investment and a continued month-on-month recurring cost for a data plan. The company believes that a feature-phone play for payments will make a big difference to large populations in the developing world.

2015 and beyond

One of the greatest insights is that intellectual property created through market-driven innovation far outweighs the traditional view of the worth of the technology solution and its surrounding patents. Patents are surely worth something but it has to be seen as an outcome, the beginnings of which lie in deep understanding of markets and consumer behavior.

Immersion with our customers and relevant markets is an essential element in this process. So, while in the past engineering units drove innovation, we now strongly encourage our engineers to think like product managers and take an end-to-end view of products. We have grown very competent product management teams to help with the process.

We feel this is most important for a long-term thinking company. As markets change and consumer preferences shift a company needs a very strong product management discipline to respond.  And we have come to believe that good innovation is in many ways a well-run product management program.

How improved customer experience?

We have been primarily a b2b business but in that we find that thinking for the customer’s customer goes a long way in improving the experience with our products. For example, we have deep ties with a major operator in Tanzania. Our products managers would spend two full days with retailers (who are also known as Waqalas). Immersing ourselves and observing first-hand how transactions actually take place, the challenges (friction) that the retailer faces in delivering the service to it’s customer (the telecoms subscriber) brings in a lot of insight. These insights often results in small changes in the product or its operation but has a big impact in the quality of service delivered. We will strengthen this practice going forward.

Predictions

We will be seeing a lot of action in the E-learning industry. There is a major need to educate the population in a better way. India has a demographic dividend we should exploit it.

We also see a lot of opportunities interestingly in A2P messaging with the increasing growth of businesses that are getting digitized.  Innovation in service offerings and innovation in operations to scale-up and low price points will be key.

E-commerce is clearly here to stay and how e-commerce can go beyond the urban population where data adoption is not as high will be very interesting. Solutions that do not violate the notion of net-neutrality while providing a ‘reach out’ to consumers should see much more traction.

The industry will also see, what Nandan Nilekani calls as a Whatsapp moment, in mobile payments. It’s a great solution to many of the frictions we are living or putting up with. Once we adopt it will be hard to imagine how life was without it. There are price-point issues and I would think cultural habits that are currently impeding adoption. That is about to change.
Mahindra Comviva chief technology officer Ganesh Jayadevan

By Ganesh Jayadevan, chief technology officer at Mahindra Comviva
editor@telecomlead.com