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McKinsey in Malaysia: What are the keys to capturing real opportunities from artificial intelligence?

AvantiKumar | Nov. 8, 2017
Computerworld Malaysia Industry 4.0 interview with McKinsey’s Shilpa Aggarwal on how advanced analytics and artificial intelligence can enhance decision making.

robot-looking-through-binoculars (Storyblocks)

Credit: Storyblocks


  While turning up the spotlight on the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), Malaysian agencies have also included Big Data Analytics among certain transformational shifts in the way businesses operate.

In an exclusive Computerworld Malaysia interview in Kuala Lumpur with Shilpa Aggarwal, who is associate partner at McKinsey & Company, discusses how advanced analytics, artificial intelligence can improve decision making for companies.
This interview takes place in the context of McKinsey's recent acquisition of talent and assets from VLT Labs, a Malaysian digital business builder and product development studio based in Kuala Lumpur (KL).

As VLT Labs has more than four years of digital product engineering and design experience, specialising in helping corporations to conceptualize, design and build digital products. VLT Labs will join the existing team within McKinsey Digital Labs, which includes developers, designers, IT architects, agile coaches, and data engineering experts.
Nimal Manuel, Managing Partner, Malaysia, McKinsey & Company commented: "We are committed to growing a digital studio in Malaysia to serve our clients across the region. We are proud to have found exceptional talent in home-grown VLT Labs to help us achieve our mission. We look forward to integrating the team of designers, developers and product managers into McKinsey, taking them to serve our clients globally."

Shilpa Aggarwal - McKinsey

Photo: Shilpa Aggarwal, Associate Partner, McKinsey & Company

To start with - could you please briefly talk about your role and what excites you about the current landscape?

I am an Associate Partner within McKinsey & Company and I co-lead the Advanced Analytics practice for SEA. I am passionate about bringing this new science of management to clients in different industries as well as analytics maturity. A lot of this stems from my own client work. I serve leading technology and telecom companies on improving performance through data enabled transformation.
While analytics has been around for long (companies have been collecting and analysing data for many years), the landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years - driven by 3 key factors.

The first thing that has changed - very simply, there's a lot more data. About 90 percent of the world's data existing today didn't exist two years ago. Secondly, we have computing power, with cloud and connectivity, which is at greatly reduced cost than ever before - so we can compute more. And finally, by leveraging machine-learning techniques, we can analyse so much more.
Do you think there are differences on how emerging technologies are playing out in Asia's business sectors?

Artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its early stages in Southeast Asia: the use of machine learning-an AI application in which machines are given access to data to learn from-is just beginning to have an impact on the region.

If Southeast Asia wants to catch up to the United States and China, the two major hubs of AI development, it needs to coordinate efforts to put fundamental building blocks in place.

All member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are engaging in some level of AI research and we see early deployment across companies in Malaysia. Example; Hong Leong Bank in Malaysia is using a cloud-based AI system to gauge customer's emotions by the way they speak on telephone. The use of virtual assistants is more widespread but very few firms in SEA have scaled AI use cases like credit scoring and dynamic pricing. So early stages for AI in SEA.
 So what are the expected real business returns from AI and other emerging technologies?
 Companies that combine strong digital capability, robust AI adoption and a proactive AI strategy see outsized financial performance. In fact, we categorized the ways in which AI can create value into four areas:

  • Enabling companies to better project and forecast to anticipate demand, optimize R&D, and improve sourcing
  • Increasing companies' ability to produce goods and services at lower cost and higher quality -
  • Helping promote offerings at the right price, with the right message, and to the right target customers;
  • Provide rich, personal, and convenient user experiences.


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