Passionate to Innovate

Ravinder Pal Singh with his dedication, energy and focus brings life to the Enterprise digital technology space in India and certainly at Air Vistara. He is a rescue pilot and has flown for the Red cross missions to help those affected by Nepal Earthquake and the devastating floods in Chennai. Over and above all this, he is also the Chief Information and Innovation officer at Air Vistara.

He is truly the man in the arena of Digital Innovation. We sat down with him to understand his take on Innovation and the new and innovative things his team has accomplished at Air Vistara.

What are the various innovations you’ve embarked on?

Innovation is a core value at Air Vistara. And the core motivation driving us is to simplify things for our customers and employees. We have arguably built the world’s first Airline robot, which goes with the moniker “RADA” and the idea is to create several purpose-built robots as we find success in the journey we’ve embarked on. Empathy towards our colleagues and customers is the central theme of the Robotics initiative. As a result, we believe the robots would help us elevate customer experience and improve our engineering diagnostics and airport operations. We are looking at Blockchain platform to further reinforce the integrity of our engineering systems. We are also working on Biometric technology for a Government of India initiative called ‘DigiYatra’ aimed at bringing digital experience to air travelers in India. I am especially fond of the work we are doing on IoT and social AI for ensuring the safety and comfort of my onsite colleagues such as cabin crew and the pilots helping them with necessary Technology to reach on time to fly or their home or hotel.

How do you mitigate the risk of digital transformation false starts?

We encourage ideas, courage and fearlessness but at the same time we don’t encourage repeating mistakes as those are expensive. We don’t shy away from funding innovation. We are quick at identifying mistakes and starting all over again.

How do you project manage Innovation projects?

Most of the Innovation that has happened at Air Vistara is organic and has not been that expensive. The innovation ideas we work on has a garage like feel to them. We are not at that stage to have a structured methodology to qualify innovation ideas, for example, making them pass through series of project managers and spend managers. Air Vistara prides itself in providing a workspace which is open to all for bringing ideas and experimenting with them.

What’s your vision for a good innovation ecosystem?

A lot of books have been written on the topic of Innovation. I don’t know if there is a certain structure that assures Innovation. What I know for sure are the necessary conditions for successful Innovation. First, you must encourage the organization to be free and open to experimentation. Second, quick funding in thousands or lacs for ideas. The willingness to trust the idea even when the sponsor is not completely convinced is key to Innovation. I believe in people who ideate, quickly build things and fail fast.

How do you measure the success of Innovation projects?

Innovation success comes in two stages. First is when the intended community starts believing in the products of innovation. And we have achieved this in case of RADA, the world first airline robot. End user adoption of the products of innovation in Robotics, Biometrics, Blockchain or AI is the second stage.

But at the same time these technologies take time to completely diffuse into the fabric of the Enterprise. RADA has been tremendously successful from an adoption point of view but at the same time it takes time for the robots to learn obstacle tracking, find the shortest path or answer questions outside their domain of understanding. Success and failure will always be mixed from a technology perspective. The initial results have been good and therefore we were able to go public and place RADA in a live environment. Only time will tell whether it becomes an established trend setter.

Is Biometric security a technology problem or a human problem?

There are two aspects to Technology, one is information security and the other is privacy. We are part of a democracy; citizens have rights and those need to be respected. Customer approvals must be taken in matters of privacy. That way privacy is straightforward. When it comes to security, all information within the enterprise must be impeccable. I don’t consider biometric security to be any different from security of any other information we capture. All information is secured but having said that the chance of a breach in case of emerging technologies such as biometrics is more. And this is because Enterprise tech is lagging consumer technology. For example, we depend on the fingerprint sensor on our phones and have got used to it. But we don’t see biometrics in most of the Enterprise systems we use. Therefore, Biometric security is not a technology problem.

How do you manage the risk of failure in your innovation projects?

Structurally Vistara has a very nimble way of sponsoring Innovation. We seek consensus before we back an idea. We do enough research and we are very good in doing quick pilots and making revisions. We are after the big picture, elevating the game for our industry, delighting our customer and employees and to set examples by pioneering the use of technology. The overall idea of encouraging ideation but failing quickly helps us avoid the risk of failure.

What would you like to say to young people walking into the workforce today?

My only mentors and teachers are young folks in Vistara. I have learnt computer science in the classroom but the current generation joining the workforce is born in the age of mobile phones. That makes them far more superior when it comes matters of Technology. The only addition to the younger workforce at Vistara from my end is the ability to see a little further into future based on my past experiences. This I hope helps them in saving time as I have come to know with time that Time is most precious resource.

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Air Vistara RADA robot biometrics


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