BIG Data-A Revolution in the Making?

Posted in Operations & IT Articles, Total Reads: 1020 , Published on 25 June 2013

Ever increasing data is the biggest challenge faced by the Indian enterprises, more so than any global recessionary impacts, any financial or operational challenges.

Big Data is a term loosely used to describe anything which is more than a petabyte of data. It has not been clearly demarcated yet whether “Big Data” represents a boon or bane for the industry in general. The jury is still out on whether it is the cause of the problems caused by huge amount of data, or is the miracle solution to a plethora of issues.

Big data can also be defined to be the data that search engines are left loaded with after a countless number of people have used the internet and left their digital footprints behind. The web companies generally do not understand the validity of this data. They need to be helped to find meaning in the mass debris of information. It can be pretty valuable indeed as it will allow for a real indicator or marker to understand what a consumer wants or feels when he/she is searching through a plethora of options on the World Wide Web. It can also assist these companies to understand their own operational efficiency – whether they are able to optimise their search results for the benefit of the customer and, in the long run, indicates their visibility and mindshare goals.

The analysis and finding meaning in the pile of big data is called as Big Data Analytics. In simple terms, it means analysing the billions of tweets or status updates that come up on Twitter or Facebook every-day, to find meaning in it and creating a trend prediction, or to identify the major trends across a particular geography, age group or sex.

Implementation of Big Data Analytics is coming up fast in the country. It is supposed to be the next big thing after the IT Boom of the early 2000s to take the Great Indian Dream forward.

Analysis of Big Data indicates important lessons for different companies. Big companies like GE have been able to save nearly $8billion in the past year after implementing big data analytics in its aviation business. Healthcare is another major sector where Big Data is highly useful due to the sheer number of patients and the different, almost unique set of characteristics of each, which help the hospitals and nursing homes to maintain a very important catalogue of its past patients in order to improve its operational efficiency and customer service.

Retails firms, pharmaceutical firms, insurance firms or gadget-makers are the major industries which employ big data analytics currently. They are the biggest recipients of information that comes out of big data. However, Big Data has much greater potential for most industries. It is currently valued at $8billion and is projected to grow to $25billion in the next half decade and represents a potential $100billion revenue stream for the Indian IT firms in the next decade.

The biggest challenge for Big Data is the visibility to the data that is actually required. In the huge web of highly differentiated data, finding the one which serves meaning is difficult and current mass analytics software and applications are not suitable for it. This has led to a situation where new  applications and software need to be developed and a suitable ecosystem needs to be created.

India can be a place of limitless opportunities when it comes to this new tech issue of Big Data. With the huge workforce being IT-oriented, the country has all the right credentials to make Big Data work in India and offer a route of higher value and returns compared to its European and Chinese counterparts. The demographic dividend of our country will allow for a huge number of people to join the workforce in the next decade while the same cannot be said about its foreign counterparts due to their ageing population. It is estimated that about half a million people will be needed to handle data-related businesses in the United States alone, as cited by a recent McKinsey Global report and this figure can be used as a marker to estimate the total requirement for the entire world. India is best positioned to take advantage of this situation and turn it into a growth engine for the next decade just like the IT-sector drove the service sector in the past decade.

However there exists a big problem with Big Data and that is the issue of privacy and security. For a firm to be specialising in the field of Big Data, it is highly important that they come up with solutions where the data of the customers are not misused or lost to opportunistic miscreants. Data analysis will require them to cross-pollinate across many different firms in various industries which will increase the chances of privacy failure of the huge amounts of data.

There are other stumbling blocks too to this rosy avenue of next generation business. The biggest among them is the fact that the country’s corporate culture may not be agreeable to it. There is a high chance that Big Data analysis will lead to the detection of operational flaws and most people in the top management would be resistant to the changes that would be recommended in light of these detections. Most companies operate with a SBU-Model rather than a Core Competence Model which will limit the effectiveness of Big data when it comes to managing customer “experiences”. An SBU Model calls for a particular SBU to be self sufficient with no external authority and this may limit the effectiveness of any customer specific recommendation as it may entail the cooperation of multiple SBUs. Hence, a visionary top management is a prerequisite is crucial for big data to be effective.

Big data can be the next revolution in the Indian economic and technological sphere. But many roadblocks have to be dealt with to unlock the potential of Big Data in a developing country like India.

The Article has been authored by Soumyajit Sengupta, Aneesha Chandra – MDI, Gurgaon


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