Artificial intelligence is undoubtedly changing the society and its foundation, but how much of it is actually happening at the ground level? How is technology transforming modern enterprises and FMCG companies?
R. S. Sodhi, MD, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF) gave a brief picture of how technology has enabled smoother operations inside Amul at the 16th edition of exchange4media Conclave on November 16.
He talked about how machine intelligence is helping organisations which are farmers-based and bringing in opportunities for AI. Sodhi set off his session on a lighter note joking how in his company he knew of only AI i.e. artificial insemination. He delved into Amul’s history, on how a 72-year old cooperative started off from a small town of Anand and went on to become India’s biggest dairy company.
He explained with numbers, “We collect 23 million litres of milk per day, 85 per cent from Gujarat and 15 per cent outside. It is owned by 3.6 million farmers in Gujarat. It provides livelihood to millions of people. It’s the largest FMCG brand with Rs 41,000 crore for the fiscal year ’17-18. We are growing over the last eight years at CAGR of 18 per cent.”
Speaking of marketing, Sodhi mentioned that back in the day it was simple. “When I joined sales and marketing it was all about positioning the product and market. It was simple. There were mass media, mass marketing, and transaction. It was one-way communication. The balance was in the hands of the marketer.”
Sodhi added that now with the help of AI one can do fragmentation which was easy back in his days. But now after spending Rs.100 crores also brands aren’t satisfied with media planning because of social media. There are now opportunities for deeper two-way integration with consumers using digital technology. “Now communication is two way.”
Sodhi specified what he’s looking for an AI solution. It’s majorly to communicate with consumers directly, to see how technology can be used for deeper and targeted distribution for rural India and how to cultivate consumers’ interest and habit for products. “From 1952 till today we think that high business productivity will create more jobs and wages. But the reality is jobs are not coming.”
He then moved on to technology and how it enables deeper distribution. Monitoring performance of field staff without going to the field is possible with a distribution management system. Sodhi explained, “Most FMCGs are using this distribution management system which helps them monitor each transaction, plan production and know how much distributor has sold to each retailer.” AI has helped Amul and its management to know what’s happening at the retailer level, manage the inventory and ensure smooth transportation of finished product movement with GIS. Sodhi added, “You get to know whether the truck stopped in between or whether the lid of one of the cans has been opened.”
To overcome new age marketing challenges Sodhi advised keeping a finger on the consumer pulse, thinking or modifying strategy as per new age challenges, ensuring cost efficiency and excelling in core competency. “If the system is not cost-efficient for an organisation like ours, value for mass and value for money will not happen,” he warned.
Sodhi advised that AI should help in decision making but it shouldn’t be fully allowed to make decisions on behalf of the human, then it’s going to be dangerous. It should not replace the ‘hunch’, specifically.
The CEO signed off with a statutory warning, “AI is good if it’s going to serve humankind not only the bottom line.”