P&G is making innovation a priority for emerging markets. Source: Shutterstock

P&G is making innovation a priority for emerging markets. Source: Shutterstock

How P&G is preparing to digitally transform Asia’s toughest markets

MULTINATIONAL conglomerates often lead the way when it comes to digital transformation in advanced, developed markets where the applications of emerging technologies are quite straightforward.

However, those very companies usually struggle in developing markets such as Asia and Africa, where smaller digital disruptors lead the way because they better understand the customer and are more agile.

P&G, however, is determined to be different and is working smart to accelerate its digital transformation agenda across the region.

In an exclusive interview with Tech Wire Asia, Sanjay Singh, Director – CIO Asia Pacific, India, Middle East, Africa at P&G explained why the company made an initial investment of US$100 million in Singapore last year and followed it up with an additional investment of US$30 million in 2018— and how it is helping propel the company ahead in the region.

These investments are part of P&G’s launch of E-Centre, its digital innovation programme with the EDB.

The project’s first phase was launched in April last year and created three pillars to help develop digital solutions for the company:

  1. i-Supply, to enable “arms reach” availability of P&G Brands for consumers by launching a new supply chain visualization tool, 13 robotic process automation (RPA) bots, and providing 1,300 hours of digital training
  2. e-Analytics, to rapidly understand how to connect best with consumers via real-time social listening
  3. e-Business, to serve consumers on rapidly growing channels by creating a data science innovation team to accelerate category growth in e-commerce.

Part of the funds will also go towards P&G’s digital omnichannel retail center, i-Singapore Digital Omni-channel Centre (i-SIDOC), enables P&G to work with regional retailers to create actionable knowledge and retail solutions in multi-channel consumer shopping.

The funds will also support new supply chain projects and a new team of data scientists.

But these investments in technology weren’t made simply because the company wants to grow the portfolio of technologies it uses. Instead, they were directed by consumer and business needs.

“Digital to us starts with identify the problem areas, have everyone in the business understand and agree on those, highlight key outcomes, and then bring in the right technology,” said Singh.

The CIO believes that motivating everyone to align their goals and agree upon the outcomes helps make the biggest impact in the market with technology — and going by the company’s decision to make the second investment in the E-Center, it seems as though Singh is on to something.

E-Center 2.0, as P&G calls it, has fine-tuned its focus based on what the company learned in the previous phase of the project.

Some of the center’s latest goals include getting employees future ready with intensive training, translating digital strategies into scalable plans for the region while leveraging on new digital channels to innovate and improve business models, and developing best-in-class digital capabilities and solutions to strengthen APAC operations.

It also aims to leverage the power of data analytics to drive customized product solutions for shoppers, development of superior products, and packaging innovations backed with scientifi­c research of the human physiology.

Singh emphasizes the need for clear leadership and the importance of staying close to the customers in order to build P&G’s technology use cases.

As a company, P&G values its employees and wants to help them play a significant role in the future of the business.

Hence, they’ve instituted the ONward program, aiming to improve their digital capabilities and digital IQ — and hope to continually train their staff on the technologies that are important to the business.

Based on the conversation with Singh, P&G seems to understand that leading in some of Asia’s emerging markets will take more than just technology, and the company’s initiatives are geared to help executives go the extra mile.