Digi's CDO Praveen Rajan: 'Automation is the next thing every first-jobber should learn'

As with every new year, there will always be new and evolving trends that shape the marketing industry. While AI and chatbots, for example, have been talked about the past few years, Praveen Rajan (pictured), Digi's chief digital officer, said this trend could evolve to include more personalisation and utilisation of more popular chat platforms. Having spent about 13 years with Digi and co-founded a social networking start-up named LifeLogger in 2003, Rajan is an experienced figure in the digital space.

Currently, he heads up an independent division called Digi-X, responsible for dreaming up and launching projects and businesses independent of Digi. Rajan tells A+M the digital trends he looks forward to this year and the role digital plays in future proofing Digi.

 A+M: What are the digital trends you look forward to in 2020?

Rajan: Automation is the next thing every first-jobber should be learning; and the next big thing for every company to adopt. Processes that can be automated should be automated. That said, most of the best automation tools still require people to figure out how to craft the solutions – such skills would be sought after.

Another trend I foresee is structured chats in place of AI or machine learning chatbots. Using AI or machine learning chatbots mostly to respond to customer queries was the early hype for many businesses. While it can be effective in sending immediate templated responses, we look forward to a reintroduction of more old school structured chats as part of customer service for personalisation, fully utilising popular chat platforms such as WhatsApp.

Also I think we are going to see more innovation in the out-of-home media space. Marrying digital media assets with location data, for instance, is still at a nascent stage here. Lastly, as companies grow and evolve, there are more aspects of the business to manage. We see the trend of more non-core services being transformed into managed services, whereby specific functions of the company are managed by a service provider whose expertise is in that field. For example, automated programmatic ad buying, or managed services for fleets with Digi’s iFleet, helping businesses optimise efficiency and productivity.

A+M: What role does digital play in future proofing your company?

Rajan: Digital is no longer a fancy new toy – it has become part and parcel of our every day business. Every part of our business is being digitalised and will continue to be digitalised, to stay relevant to our customers. So in this sense, digital is not an option, it is a necessity, and plays a role in every aspect of a business.

A+M: What is an overhyped area marketers should stop harping on?

Rajan: Personalised marketing - this is already a norm, it’s almost a default these days as customers expect some form of personalisation as part of the buying experience. It’s now a matter of much more precision being added to targeting and marketing execution, as well as how brands manage growing privacy concerns, as consumers become more aware of the need for better security measures where important and personal data is concerned.

A+M: How can marketers reduce the digital talent gap and retain employees?

Rajan: Digital marketing is a good starting point for companies to hire fresh talent and retain these talents by eventually moving them into other roles within the company. Given the attraction and prospects of digital marketing, it’s a fast way for companies to train new talent in the latest marketing practices, while also helping these talent appreciate and understand the company’s business.

From here, it is much easier to nudge these talents towards seeing other seemingly "boring" commercial roles but where they can create greater impact only by virtue of understanding the actual business. A role in product management, for instance.

We have practiced this at Digi, where we hire young talent in digital marketing. They get assigned to the various product segments such as prepaid, postpaid and so on, and they then learn how to do digital marketing with the latest practices, as well as the actual product details and operational aspects of it. This helps us nurture talent to move into other roles in the core business, while at the same time possessing useful skills on the marketing side. Moreover, given how digital marketing practices keep changing rapidly, it is best to nurture new talent through the pipeline quickly.

A+M: What are the biggest challenges in the telco industry?

Rajan: Making sure that all parts of Malaysia are served with affordable high-speed Internet connectivity. This is in line with the ambitions set out by the government under the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) agenda, which we believe will directly impact the economy and allow Malaysia to fully leverage on the opportunities of IR 4.0. One of the NFCP targets that we have committed to is helping the nation achieve average speed of 30Mbps in 98% of populated areas by 2023.

We have worked to actively rollout in high-impact areas nationwide now covered by our high-quality network: 4G LTE: 91%, LTE-A: 72% coverage and 9,610km of fibre network. We look forward to working closely with the government to facilitate further development of infrastructure in the country towards spurring economic uplifts for Malaysia.

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