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Advanced mapping, voice: Airtel CIO targets cutting-edge tech

A major part of every digital transformation is exploring how cutting-edge tech can facilitate the journey. Some companies, like Indian telecom giant Bharti Airtel Ltd., are more capable than others of experimenting with new technologies, affording them a wealth of opportunities for innovation.

In this video from the recent MIT Sloan CIO Symposium, Harmeen Mehta, global CIO and head of digital at Airtel, discusses some of the cutting-edge tech she's employing at her company -- everything from advanced mapping techniques and network digitization to voice computing technology and AI-driven customer offerings.

Editor's note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

What kind of cutting-edge tech are you using to speed up your company's digital transformation process?

Harmeen Mehta: Lots of pieces. I think one of the biggest challenges that we have is mapping the intricacies and the inner lanes in India and doing far more than what even Google does. For Google, the streets are of prime importance [when it comes to mapping]. For us, the address of every single house and whether it's a high-rise building or it's a flat is very important as we bring different services into these homes. So, we've been working on finding very innovative ways to take Google's [mapping] as a base and make it better for us to be able to map India to that level of accuracy of addresses, houses and floor plans.

Another problem that I can think of where a lot of cutting-edge tech is being used is in creating a very customized contextual experience for the consumer so that every consumer has a unique experience on any of our digital properties. The kind of offers that the company brings to them are really tailored and suited to them rather than it being a general, mass offering. There's a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence that's going into that.

Another one is we're digitizing a large part of our network. In fact, we're collaborating with SK Telecom, who we think is one of the most innovative telcos out there, in order to do that. We're using, again, a lot of machine learning and artificial intelligence there as well, as we bring about an entire digitization of our network and are able to optimize the networks and our investments much better.

Then, of course, I'm loving the new stream that we are creating, which is all around exploring voice as a technology. The voice assistants are getting more intelligent. It gives us a very unique opportunity to actually reach out and bring the digital transformation to a lot of Indians who aren't as literate -- to those whom the reading and the writing part doesn't come to them as naturally as speaking does. It's opening up a whole lot of new doors and we're really finding that a very interesting space to work in and we're exploring a lot in that arena at the moment.

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