interview | Virender Aggarwal Business

‘Cameras will soon be marking your attendance’

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Facial recognition helps spot ‘ghost’ workers: Ramco CEO

Automation is touching every sphere in the information technology industry. Can human resources and payroll be far behind? Virender Aggarwal, CEO, Ramco Systems says the opportunity here for IT firms is immense. Edited excerpts from an interview:

You are enabling attendance through facial recognition. What drove this?

We tried it for ourselves. We had employees register their faces in the database and one fine Monday morning, we went live. We are 100% live all over the world with this solution. Many of our customers have also bought it. Recently, a customer in Dubai called Averda,which has distributed workforce, has bought it.

We also provide NFC-based attendance systems for employees and contract workers distributed across locations, where the supervisor’s mobile phone is the kiosk.

Even in an NFC (near-field communication) card-based system, the card can be stolen, lost and can be used by another employee, nobody will forget their face. The swipe card becomes a meaningless item.

Usage can be further extended to ensure that the people are on the right floor. If need to see a doctor in a hospital, then with cameras capturing faces, you will automatically know where a certain person is. There is no need to ask ‘where is this particular doctor or nurse?’ The system will report – ‘anesthesiologist last seen at this particular location three minutes ago’. It may be a hindrance to privacy but it is helpful in the right situations.

Facial recognition is becoming a very common tool; boarding for airlines has been done through face recognition. Terminal 4 in Changi (Singapore’s Changi Airport) is working entirely through facial recognition; you don’t need anything else, right from immigration to boarding the flight.

Is this raising productivity?

We have instant data available for a given client across the world.

Let’s say you are running Dominos; at one centre you have no cook at all and the other place has three cooks.

You will at least have the information and you will be able to transfer one cook as quickly as possible to the other centre. Possibilities are enormous.

What we are saying is that with cloud and Internet ubiquity, you have a global picture of your attendance, [on] real-time basis.

As a user, how have you measured the success of the system?

We now have 99.98% time sheets filled the same day. We are producing daily revenue reports as a company – project-wise, location-wise, SBU-wise… We can also tell you how many people we were short by for a project, so there is no month-end dispute.

Is it valuable especially for services companies?

Let’s take contract labour as an example. We have a client who has 28,000 temporary workers. They came with a problem statement where they believed 6,000 to 8,000 temp workers didn’t exist; we built systems to eliminate the ghost workforce which was eating into the cost of the company.

A retailer with 13,000 employees had a similar problem and we helped weed out ghost staff. Earlier, if they weren’t free, these labourers would send a family member to register in their names and enter the work area.

For a super-contingent workforce (weekly or hourly staff) we also have what we call the 2-Minute Onboarding. The likes of Swiggy will need 3,000-5,000 workers between 11 and 3pm during working days in a place like Nariman point or Bandra Kurla Complex to address the peak hour work load. Once the worker is verified and registered in the system, onboarding him based on Aadhaar and facial recognition should pull all his past data automatically to the application.

The future will also see emergence of daily payroll. This is what you call frictionless computing. Right now you have to stop and show your face at the kiosk at the reception counter. In our Singapore office, the door automatically opens. The camera from the distance recognises you and door opens. It is an IoT door. So, we can capture attendance right there. It’s a frictionless experience.

Your MRO & logistics vertical, especially in the Philippines, has suddenly shown quick growth...

Yes, Philippines has become our largest market.

So logistics is the largest market for all of Ramco’s revenue or particular vertical?

In terms of fresh booking, it became the largest. We got invites from our customers in Philippines to visit. We got the order in ERP, aviation first. Then we got four more orders before we set up the company. Our Philippines subsidiary is three years old now. We were very positively surprised. One is that they speak English well. So, language is not a barrier. Second, clients had suffered at the hands of large ERP vendors and did not get the result they were hoping for so they wanted a breath of fresh air and somebody is not threatening them with an upgrade to new version of a database and they were looking for a genuinely integrated solution.

Post-GST in India, logistics firms benefited. Did you as a vendor to logistics firms too see a follow-on effect?

We got two logistics orders here in India after a long time. We’re hoping to sign few more. We have a decent pipeline in India. What is happening is because of a borderless world, the sizes of warehouses are increasing as a result of which automation is increasing. So, offerings in warehouse management will proliferate. Professional warehouses will become a fairly big thing. What used to take 72 hours from Mumbai port to Delhi has now come down to nearly 24 hours.

So will your play in warehousing get bigger?

Yes, because of the e-commerce boom, the role of WMS has increased. Within the city delivery has increased a lot. Now last mile delivery is becoming huge.

We have branched ERP to different sub segments, one of these is Logistics ERP which has WMS, Transportation Management, Optimization and Algorithm. With this, the customer can see the real-time location of the truck, where their goods are lying, what is the quantity etc.

Your aviation business is seeing consistent orders. Do you sell in India?

It’s from the international market. 70% of all civilian helicopters in the U.S. are on Ramco’s systems. We maintain fighter jets in the U.S. whereas in India we have zero business.

Are you seeing an impact on order sizes or decision cycles due to geo-political tensions?

We are not very large and the size of the orders also aren’t so large that geo political issues impact them. For us, getting orders is not a problem any more. We play on our Innovation strengths and this distinguishes us from the large legacy vendors.

You say getting an order is not a problem. So what is?

Our problem is in executing the order; this is because Ramco skills are not available everywhere, so for us, expansion depends on the speed at which we can train people. We don’t have like 1.2 million people with SAP skills in the market.

How much does aviation contribute to your revenues?

Aviation contributes about roughly 27% of our business. Our fastest growing vertical is the HR and Payroll business; it contributes about 37-38% of the business.

What are your ambitions for the HR & Payroll vertical? Would you want to see it constitute 50% of your business?

The Global Payroll & Logistics will definitely constitute a significant portion of our business. That is because none of the other players have any products in those sectors currently. In logistics we address third party logistics, no other player has both WMS and TMS in one platform. We also have another vertical named Services ERP, where people use timesheets for billing. This also happens to be an un-serviced sector globally and no single company has a product that covers the entire spectrum. Few products may have a few elements, even we do not cover the entire spectrum but no one has one complete product. But if we can build such a product fast enough in that area that will be the third blue ocean.

But didn’t timesheet billing already exist in the IT industry?

Let’s say you have a salesperson who goes to meet a customer in Silicon Valley who says he has a large project coming up and they urgently require people that are skilled in Angular, Javascript…, and that they require a team of 25 onsite and maybe 100 offshore. Is it possible for the sales person to respond to the client query immediately?

First, the tool will have to search within your existing employee base, availability of people, people with relevant visas available for that country and will then give you a list of matching people skills. If it cannot see people that have matching skills employed it will search for ex-employees with the skills required and instantly contact them. Then it will look for the candidate’s photos and credentials and give you a % match to the skillsets required.

Didn’t you do all this with a human interface in the past?

Yes, but still without the tool the sales person sitting at the customer’s place cannot answer that question… For example, for how many people a particular assignment is coming to an end within the next month as per the client’s requirement. Especially with the existing Visa that is required for travel, to take up the assignment or are already in the country of requirement.

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 12:49:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/business/cameras-will-soon-be-marking-your-attendance/article25643762.ece

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