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Robots in your business

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Robotics and automation technologies present new opportunities for South African organisations to redefine their Business Process Services (BPS) functions, say RAJESH SEHGAL and GAVIN HOLME of Wipro.

With robotics at the centre, organisations are able to scale faster, enter new markets or industries and become more fluid and responsive to customer needs.

Robotics is driving what we could succinctly refer to as an evolution from ‘efficiency’ to ‘effectiveness’

What does this mean?

Firstly, robotics offers far greater value than just simplifying and automating what were previously manual processes. It sets the scene for cognitive analytics: where systems start detecting patterns, learning of their own accord and providing new insights into potential business opportunities.

Secondly, it enables the smoother flow of operations in increasingly complex business ecosystems. By being able to tightly integrate internal business silos and external business partners, organisations enjoy the benefits of true collaboration.

For example, by analysing buying trends and automatically sending data to suppliers or partners, firms can optimise their supply chains and distribution networks.

Thirdly, by connecting with an organisation’s legacy systems, robotics can unearth hidden value from the data lying in this infrastructure. Tasks that were previously too complex as they required system integration, were time-consuming, or expensive for humans to perform, can now be performed at a fraction of the cost by the intelligent application of robotics.

And finally, robotics-focused BPS allows firms to elevate parts of their workforce to higher-value roles.

By detecting patterns and automatically plugging into workflow environments, BPS removes many of the lower-value operational activities from staff. Human capital resources can be devoted to higher-value strategic business management instead of operational efficiency.

Bigger opportunities

Taking a broader perspective, robotics-based BPS promises to realise the vision of South Africa becoming a leading BPS outsourcing hub for the rest of the world.

Factors like local currency devaluation, strong English-language skills, similar time zones to Western Europe and good connectivity offer South Africa an excellent potential to become a net exporter of BPS skills and services.

Through our local operations and various training endeavours, Wipro is playing a catalysing role in achieving this ambition.

For example, of the 1450 Wipro staff delivering services for African customers, approximately 300 are from previously disadvantaged South African backgrounds. Wipro absorbs newly-fledged graduates and invests in rigorous business and technical training programmes and have found employment within the organisation delivering value to our customers.

This is just example of how by developing local skills, and then combining those with advancements in robotics and automation, Africa can very quickly become a premier destination for outsourced BPS services.

Whether we are discussing robotics within the organisation, or more broadly at a national level, now is the right time to seriously start considering the technology and how it can enhance the region’s companies, government departments and the economy at large.

Robotics-based BPS will continue to evolve at rapid rates over the coming years and those that adopt the technology earlier will have a clear advantage over their peers.

* Rajesh Sehgal, Global Head of Quality & Process Excellence, Wipro BPS and Gavin Holme, Country Head, Africa, Wipro Technologies

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SA startups in Visa final

Leading fintech companies from the Sub-Sahara Africa technology startup community have made it to the finals of Visa’s Everywhere Initiative.

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Among the 12 chosen, from the 238 total entries, South African startups Howler and FinChatBot will compete against innovators from across Sub Sahara Africa for a chance to secure funding of up to US$50,000 to develop their ideas when the initiative concludes in Johannesburg on July 24. 

Fintechs in Africa are making incredible strides; not only to bring more convenience to consumers, but also to enable people who would not otherwise have access to financial services or even a way to connect to the formal banking system. Venture funding for African startups jumped by 51% to $195 million in 2017 and fintech in Africa is expected to grow exponentially in the next few years as it continues to disrupt the traditional financial sector. With a clear goal of reducing reliance on cash, building digital payment based economies and increasing financial inclusion, Visa is committed to fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and driving innovation in its payments landscape. 

The Sub Saharan Africa edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative challenged local fintech startup to deliver solutions based around three real life business challenges: 

  • How can startups leverage Visa Developer APIs to either:  Enable smaller merchants to accept payments in-store digitally OR Provide a safe and secure solution for online merchants to drive eCommerce and reduce cash on delivery?
  • How can startups use Visa’s APIs to leverage mass reach and social media partner platforms like Facebook to help businesses operating in fast-paced consumer centric environments improve cash flow and receive payments? 
  • How can startups leverage technology to provide services that are functional for illiterate customers to provide them with secure transaction experiences that build and enhance their confidence in the banking system?. 

Entrants were asked to submit ideas to leverage Visa’s network and technologies to resolve against at least one of the challenges. One winner per brief will be selected, with each receiving funding of US$25,000. Winners will be invited to a working meeting with Visa and may be presented with the opportunity to create a prototype. Visa will then select one overall winner to receive an additional US$25,000.

Geraldine Mitchley, Senior Director – Digital Solutions, Sub-Sahara Africa, Visa, said: “We are delighted with the response to our Visa’s Everywhere Initiative and the quality of submissions we received is an indication of the region’s rich talent pool and innovative spirit.”

“Launching this innovation program in the region has been an exciting time for the Visa SSA team, and the takeup reflects Africa’s enthusiasm to develop and pioneer solutions to the continent’s challenge – particularly in the payments technology space. I would like to congratulate the finalists and  wish them luck as they enter the final stretch.  When they come together for the final, they will not only have the chance to turn their ideas into reality, but also potentially help shape the future of payments in the region.”  

Howler which enables cashless transactions and end-to-end ticket handling for consumers and event organisers is competing in the first challenge and FinChatBot, which aims to automate part of customer services for financial service providers through AI-powered conversations is competing in the third challenge. 

The SSA edition of the Visa’s Everywhere Initiative will wrap up on July 24 in Johannesburg, with each finalist having an opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges from Visa and the payments industry. 

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Win a Poster Heater with Gadget and Takealot.com

This winter Gadget and Takealot.com are giving away three Poster Heaters, which look like posters but become heaters when you plug them in.

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Three Gadget readers will each win a unit, valued at R550 each. To enter, follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter and tell us on the @GadgetZA account how many Watts the heater consumes.

What’s the big deal about these heaters? Many of us are struggling to keep the balance between soaring electricity costs and the need to keep warm this winter.

However, the recently launched Poster Heater by EasyHeat and distributed in South Africa by Takealot.com is not only one of the most cost effective electric heaters currently on the market, it is also easy to setup and use.

As the name indicates, it is a poster similar to one you would hang on a wall. But, plug it in and it turns into a 300 Watt heater. The Poster Heater isn’t designed to heat hallways or large rooms, but rather smaller ones like a bedroom or a baby’s nursery or a dressing room.

It uses radiant heating, which means that it heats up in a couple of minutes and the heat is directed at the objects or people around it, quickly taking the chill out of the air and providing a comfortable ambient temperature.

The other advantage of radiant heating is that it doesn’t dry out the air like infrared or gas heaters. Users also don’t have to worry about their children or pets getting too close to it because, even though it gets hot, it can be touched.

To enter the competition follow the steps below:

Competition entry details:

1. Follow @GadgetZA and @Takealot on Twitter. (We will ONLY be accepting entries via Twitter, so please don’t enter through the comments section of this article.)

2. Tell us on Twitter, via @GadgetZA, mentioning @Takealot in your posting, how many Watts the Poster Heater consumes.

cleardot.gif3. The competition closes on 31 July 2018.

4. Winners will be notified via Twitter on 1 August and Takealot.com will be in touch to organise delivery.

5. The competition is only open to South African residents.

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