Tailored digital strategies to address the specific needs of each Business Division

In this Research NXT Interview, Sharda Nenwani Gupta, MD & and CH (Country Head) of GBS Bayer India, talks about her journey in the organization and the transformative role of Indian GCCs in Digital Customer Experience (CX). She also highlights the in-house GCC model’s potential and real-world applications that act as the base of actionable insights to create the whitepaper “Leaders Speak: Transforming Customer Experience (CX) through Global Capability Centers.

Key takeaways from this Research NXT interview:

  • Indian GCCs are integral to fostering innovation, enhancing operational efficiency, and ensuring Bayer remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the life sciences sector.
  • How Bayer GBS has been supporting farmers worldwide in embracing digital tools and the advanced insights derived from them is pivotal to the future of farming.
  • Improved operational efficiency, faster decision-making processes, and enhanced collaboration across teams due to these digital transformation initiatives.

At the onset, Congratulations! For receiving the Woman Icon of the Year & Best Organisation for Women Empowerment award from Women’s Summit & GIWL Awards 2023. We would like to start with your role and journey at GBS Bayer India and being a custodian for the digital transformational programs in the organization.

Sharda: In the 28 years of my corporate journey as a technology professional, I have had the opportunity to work as a programmer, IT architect, and data strategist. I started my career with Coca-Cola and then moved to consulting firms like Accenture, Infosys, Deloitte etc.., servicing multiple Fortune 100 clients globally.

Then I came back to India to join my first industry job, which was Monsanto (now acquired by Bayer), and since 2016, I have been with Bayer across multiple roles. My journey at Bayer has been marked by a steadfast commitment to driving digital transformation across various facets of the organisation. As the Country Head, my role involves spearheading initiatives that leverage digital technologies to enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, and drive innovation. We are a 1000 people, and our focus has been on integrating digital solutions seamlessly into our business processes to create a more efficient and customer-centric organisation with the advent of DSO principles in our business (Dynamic Shared Objectives)

The hybrid model of in-house capabilities and specialized third-party expertise enables us to navigate the complexities of digital transformation effectively

While setting up and leading the GBS at Bayer India, what were/are your primary goals in achieving the strategic business priorities via digital transformation initiatives? Could you also share some notable and effective business impacts of the initiatives?

Sharda: Our purpose is health for all and hunger for none as an organization. And our digital transformation initiatives have yielded significant business impacts for this purpose. 

Speaking of notable business impacts of these initiatives, here are a few:

  • We have witnessed improved operational efficiency, faster decision-making processes, and enhanced collaboration across teams due to these digital transformation initiatives. 
  • Additionally, our digital initiatives have profoundly impacted customer experiences, making interactions more personalized, efficient, and responsive to their evolving needs.

Elaborating on this, traditionally, GBS focused primarily on core operations like procurement, HR, finance, some parts of IT, legal, etc. However, presently we have evolved to include our aim of being customer-centric in everything that we do as part of the GBS here in India. 

We have a two-pronged approach, i.e. a horizontal GBS for managing BAU tasks, and the second layer is the agile teams focusing on each of the key business divisions, viz. cropscience, farmer, and consumer health. So we have this mixed bag of people servicing the business to achieve specific objectives operating from India.

What are your observations around the approach at Bayer in terms of tech usage for the digital transformation initiatives, including innovations, and product/service launches for improving digital customer experiences?

Sharda: We recognise the importance of aligning our business divisions with the evolving digital customer experience landscape. We have tailored our digital strategies to address the specific needs of each business division, ensuring a cohesive and integrated approach to customer interactions. This involves leveraging data analytics, AI, and other emerging technologies to provide a seamless and personalized experience throughout the customer journey.

For the Farmers:

Crop science agriculture is almost ~50% of our business, and in markets like North America, we serve commercial farmers with large produce capacity. In contrast, the Asian farmers (which constitute ~80% of the global small-scale farmers) are not tech savvy and need a very custom strategy to market to in terms of digital initiatives. 

One such initiative is ensuring that we curb counterfitting from the farming ecosystem through our digital transformation strategies. FarmRise™ app, powered by Bayer, provides personalised agronomy advisory solutions for India’s small and medium land-holding farmers to help them make informed decisions to reduce costs, increase yield, and get better prices for their output. In a commitment to empowering more than 100 million smallholder farmers, Bayer is setting out to balance the equation by mitigating risk and making farming more rewarding through innovative digital tools. As part of this effort, FarmRise has integrated with IRRI to provide personalised nutrition advice for paddy crops.

Although farmers in India possess deep knowledge about traditional agricultural practices, they often need more real-time access to unconventional methods for farming. Farmers typically produce rice in Asia on small landholdings, with farming practices varying among farmers and fields. A change was necessitated with field-specific crop and nutrient recommendations to optimise yields and profit. The task was to simplify the FarmRise™ app design further, make it more convenient, and motivate users to follow the advisory.

Secondly, our app also empowers the farmers by providing critical scientific agriculture-related information and suggestions (like location information, soil condition, pesticide guidance and seasonality impacts) for sustainable and profitable farming practices.

For the Retailers:

We are digitally optimizing our inventory management and in the process, collecting a lot of actionable data on farmers that proactively allows us to serve them better.

How has Bayer’s Indian GCC been pivotal in achieving the strategic business priorities via digital transformation initiatives? What has been your team’s focus on leveraging technology to drive your Bayer’s digital transformations goals?

Sharda: Indian Global Capability Centers play a pivotal role in achieving our strategic business priorities through digital transformation. These centers focus on technological advancements to drive our digital transformation goals. The Indian GCCs are integral to fostering innovation, enhancing operational efficiency, and ensuring Bayer remains at the forefront of technological advancements in the life sciences sector.

For example, In context, GBS Bayer has over 5000+ employees globally spread across seven international locations. Diversity is a crucial enabler of Global Business Services, with 64 nationalities and 34 languages being represented by our centers. We are dedicated to Powering Our Business to Enable Health for all and hunger for none, embracing a powerful vision and culture that empowers everyone to fulfill their potential. We deliver superior services, enhance user experience, leverage unique capabilities, and innovate to create additional value. Transitioning from a back-end data compliance operation to data implementation, some key unique selling points (USPs) of GBS in the global arena include outstanding service for our customers, consumers, patients, and farmers, collaborative solutions for our internal partners, and a user-centric approach that creates value across business and demonstrates commercial astuteness.

As an industry leader, what is your observation of how things have changed in the post-pandemic scenario in the Life Sciences sector, and what are the key CX approaches to look out for while stepping into 2024 and beyond for top Life Science organizations?

Sharda: The life sciences sector has undergone significant changes post-pandemic, with an increased emphasis on digitalization, remote collaboration, and accelerated innovation. As industry leaders, it is crucial to adopt agile CX strategies that adapt to changing market dynamics and customer expectations.

Do you think Global Capability centers are better poised to enable Global Enterprises in their Digital transformation initiatives as compared to partnering with a third-party service provider? Or for that matter, do you prefer a hybrid approach of the best of in-house and outsourced capabilities in the form of Tech, Talent and infrastructure needs?

Sharda: Bayer believes in a hybrid approach, balancing in-house capabilities with strategic partnerships with third-party providers. In-house capabilities provide us with greater control, agility, and a deep understanding of our business, while partnerships offer specialized expertise, scalability, and access to cutting-edge technologies. This hybrid model enables us to navigate the complexities of digital transformation effectively.

What according to you are the key CX focus areas/challenges that are faced by global enterprises of the size of Bayer?

Sharda: The primary focus areas for global enterprises like Bayer in the CX domain include personalization, omnichannel experiences, and real-time responsiveness. Challenges involve data privacy concerns, regulatory compliance, and the need for continuous innovation to stay ahead in the rapidly evolving digital landscape.

Data science and cutting-edge digital tools are empowering farmers with actionable insights, shaping the landscape of modern agriculture. Across all seasons and in every corner of the globe, farmers diligently collect and analyze vast amounts of data. From the types of seeds sown to the inputs applied, from the yield per acre to the effectiveness of operational practices, farmers increasingly rely on the advancements in data science and the proliferation of digital technologies to enhance their operations and outcomes.

Digital farming is not merely a vision for the future of agriculture; it is the present reality. Our farmers and scientists intricately navigate the complex interplay between the growing environment, seed genetics, and farm management practices in their pursuit of unlocking the potential of prescriptive agriculture. Harnessing agronomic modeling techniques in collaboration with farmers is the key to promoting the adoption of precisely tailored products, applied at optimal times and in the most effective ways, thereby optimizing farm sustainability and productivity.

We firmly believe that supporting farmers worldwide in embracing digital tools and the advanced insights derived from them is pivotal to the future of farming. The next generation of agricultural solutions, which combines leading seed genetics with crop protection products boasting unparalleled safety, all integrated into our FieldViewTM suite of digital tools, holds the key to unlocking sustainable farm productivity required to meet the demands of a changing world.

In the realm of healthcare and pharmaceuticals, our research and development are dedicated to promising trends that hold great potential for enhancing patient well-being. Here is a glimpse into our current research focus:

Artificial Intelligence – Technology-Driven Disease Prediction to Advance Patient Care: To extract valuable insights and maximize the potential of Real World Data (RWD), we are employing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. This data, encompassing patient health status and healthcare delivery, is routinely gathered from diverse sources such as electronic medical records, health insurance claims, genomic data, and information from health apps, wearables, and other biometric devices.

Applying New Technologies in Clinical Trials: We are actively leveraging the combination of data and AI-driven solutions to enhance our understanding of diseases and accurately stratify patient populations. Collaborations in therapeutic areas like Cardiovascular and Oncology with external partners, including the BROAD Institute, underscore our commitment to achieving these goals. Recognizing that success requires collaboration, we emphasize partnerships to access the expertise and data necessary for optimal results.

The pharmaceutical industry is undergoing a profound transformation due to big data and advanced analytics, including AI. This shift is fundamentally altering our innovation paradigm, presenting significant opportunities for AI to revolutionize drug development and reshape our interactions with stakeholders. AI has the potential to drive unparalleled improvements in productivity across the value chain, as well as enhance our value proposition by introducing new offerings and business models. Progress, propelled by innovation and collaboration, is the cornerstone of our commitment to advancing healthcare and pharmaceuticals into the future.

Before we wrap up, take us through the three must-checks (or more) every Digital Transformation plan needs to follow to ensure successful Digital CX accomplishments.

Sharda: Every digital transformation plan should include a comprehensive strategy for data management, cybersecurity, employee training, and a culture of continuous innovation. Regular assessments, feedback loops, and a customer-centric approach should be integral elements to ensure the success of digital CX accomplishments.

In conclusion, we need to remain committed to leveraging digital transformation to enhance customer experiences, drive innovation, and stay at the forefront of the rapidly evolving life sciences sector. Our focus on collaboration, agility, and a customer-centric approach positions us for sustained success in the digital era.