RPA can create digital transformation without disrupting existing systems: Param Kahlon, UiPath

There is immense talent available in the Indian market for robotic process automation (RPA), according to Param Kahlon, chief product officer at UiPath.

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Founded in 2005, Google-backed UiPath is currently one of the biggest RPA companies providing a software platform to help organizations easily automate business processes. 

In an interaction with IDG Media, Global Chief Product Officer of UiPath, Param Kahlon speaks about how RPA can make business processes more efficient by easily connecting applications across different systems. Kahlon also highlights UiPath's thriving developer community in India. 

Edited excerpts

How important do you think RPA is for digital transformation? 

The digital transformation journey can take quite a long time because of consolidation of multiple ERP systems into one ERP, change in customer relationship management systems, and putting the data together. The challenge with that approach is that that takes too long when you want to adapt very quickly. 

... The level of talent that is available in the Indian market from the RPA perspective is so immense that even though when we work with some European or American clients, they actually set up their centers of excellence that manage the deployment of RPA in India.
Param Kahlon
Global Chief Product Officer, UiPath

Where we come in and where robotic process automation (RPA) is helpful is to create digital transformation without disrupting existing systems. We can take a business process that exists in different systems, remove the bottlenecks and make them more efficient by connecting the applications easily, all without writing any line of code.  So while it could take somebody years to retire systems and make the processes more streamlined and efficient, we can do the same thing within days and much faster than anybody else. 

In which verticals are you getting the most traction and can you elaborate on some of the enterprise use cases of RPA?
The use cases for RPA are very broad and generally very horizontal in nature. So that's why we're getting a lot of traction across pretty much every vertical that we deal with. Some of the common use cases that people deploy us for is invoice to pay. So, if you receive an invoice, it needs to be read, processed by an optical character recognition (OCR) engine, after which the extracted fields need to go into a line of business application so the person that raised the invoice can get paid. All of this can be automated using RPA. 

“One, we want to make sure that we can create a technology where a robot can help every employee in an organization. Second is to create an open and extensible platform. The third key part of our vision is making sure that we put more and more AI into our platform.”

Another use case that people use us for is employee on-boarding. So, when somebody joins an organization, that person has to be set up in tons of systems, from payroll to benefits to employee lists to email systems, etc. That could take a manual workflow of days and maybe sometimes, weeks to be completed. People can deploy robots to take care of that in minutes because it's a very predictable set of things. 

What is the product roadmap? Are you planning on integrating new features?

Yeah, so we shipped 4 releases in 2018 and we're going to slow down a little bit and do two just because our customers don't want to upgrade and absorb so much so fast. With each one of those, we are going to focus on core innovation and incremental updates to the platform that usually comes from a lot of feedback from our customers. There are a lot of things, for example, integration to Git as an additional source code control system. 

Our vision around the roadmap is threefold. One, we want to make sure that we can create a technology where a robot can help every employee in an organization. Second is to create an open and extensible platform. The third key part of our vision is making sure that we put more and more AI into our platform. We call this, robots getting smarter, which is that robots have the skills to apply more automation in the context of a business process. 

Are there any new trends in RPA technology that you would like to speak about?

The key trend that we're seeing is that there is a lot more AI being embedded into the automation processes. With AI being infused into the processes, the scope of the area that a task automation can cover is increasing because you can process unstructured data. You can also make decisions that in the past required humans to be able to do. So, more kinds of use cases can be applied from the scope of automation. 

How do you see the impact of robotic process automation and artificial intelligence on the jobs market? 

“With AI being infused into the processes, the scope of the area that a task automation can cover is increasing because you can process unstructured data. You can also make decisions that in the past required humans to be able to do.”

Overall, where we see technology get deployed is - to make people more productive. We can take away the repetitive tasks that people don't enjoy doing and redeploy it in the attended automation scenario so those people can focus on things that are more creative. In that context, the way the jobs are going to be impacted is that you don't necessarily have to work 80 hours a week and you can get work done sooner. 

In terms of reskilling workforce, do you have plans to help promote training people for automation?

Absolutely. So, we are doing a few things there. One, we have made our platform completely open so anybody can come in, download the platform and go through hours of online training without having to spend any money to go through that training. In fact, India is the number 1 country that has consumed our online training program on academy.uipath.com. 

UiPath is investing through alliances with academic organizations to help reskill people. We also announced recently our intent to train a million students over the course of the next three years across the globe. So, a million is the global goal, out of which 500,000 will be from India by 2022 through the medium of academic alliances.

How do you see the developer community in India and what is the importance of creating a rich developer community here?

For the open platform that we have, we have seen the most number of developers sign up and go through certifications in India. Our global community is large across the world but it is the largest in India and we're super excited about the Indian developers taking the platform and learning on it. So globally, there are about 138,000 UiPath certified developers in RPA, out of which, 75,074 (or 55 percent) are in India itself. And while they are investing in our product, we want to continue investing in making sure developers have everything they need to be able to be successful.

What is your take on the Indian market for RPA adoption? 

I think India is one of the first markets that we tapped into and the country continues to grow significantly as a market for us. The level of talent that is available in the Indian market from the RPA perspective is so immense that even though when we work with some European or American clients, they actually set up their centers of excellence that manage the deployment of RPA in India. So we are working with both the BPO firms in India and also the shared service centers from organizations that are doing their work in India. India is a very important market for us.