Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is slowly becoming a universal programming medium, not just helping professionals to leverage automation to eliminate redundant tasks. According to most analysts, the future of RPA is bright, especially in a world where low-code meets artificial intelligence.
Global robotic process automation (RPA) software revenue is estimated to climb up to $1.89 billion in 2021, with an annual growth of 19.5% from 2020 as per analyst firm Gartner. The global pandemic and recession are also forcing companies to cut costs by adopting process automation and cutting manual tasks. Digging into the realm of robotic process automation, we connected with Manish Bharti, President – India & South Asia, UiPath for an interview.
With a valuation north of $10 billion, UiPath is currently one of the market leaders in RPA, along with a handful of other competitors in the market. Its market lead has helped in making its annual revenue of more than $400 million. The RPA giant has also built a vast community of developers around the world and especially in India.
Here are the edited excerpts from the interview:
Are there any new trends in RPA technology that you would like to speak about?
There are several key technology trends underway in the industry, such as cloud, the corresponding growth of application fragmentation driven by the growth of cloud, integration of AI, and low-code/no-code emerging. Cloud is being seen as the new normal to deliver business applications, and in fact, the public cloud market (including SaaS, PaaS and IaaS services) has been a growing opportunity for some time now. We are also seeing that the increase in the use of cloud has had a corresponding effect on application fragmentation, where companies have multiple enterprise applications running internally, and it is a struggle to create and adapt business processes that span all these disparate and siloed applications.
The third trend globally is the emergence of low-code/no-code platforms. No code is a shift in how users’ interface with software tools, and it will bring in the next wave of enterprise innovation by democratising technical skill sets. Essentially, functions previously handled by technical users can now be managed by business users. We also expect to see more organisations use no-code to facilitate faster innovation cycles and enable higher levels of organisational agility.
How do you see the impact of robotic process automation and artificial intelligence on the jobs market?
Automation has its advantage of ensuring there is no pause or break in work, except for maintenance requirements. Human intervention in day to day repetitive business functions are reduced, and employee bandwidth is applied to tasks that require more thought. In short, it improves employee bandwidth by taking over low-end repetitive jobs. But this does not mean that human requirement is being replaced; it simply means that daily repetitive, mundane functions are being freed up from humans so they may focus more on creative and strategic work.
In fact, the Economist Automation Maturity Survey (July 2019), shows some of the top benefits that companies have noted are increased productivity, improved process consistency and output, increased revenue, reduced human error, enhanced customer experience and reduced operating expenses. The simplicity of RPA is its strength. RPA reduces the complexity of business data and transactions and simplifies it for more productive results. RPA and AI have also been creating more job opportunities, and large enterprises in India are emerging hotspots for RPA and AI talent in India.
In your opinion, what is the role of RPA to make AI successful?
AI Fabric can help you apply AI to your RPA workflows in a matter of minutes. It can help companies automate increasingly complex and cognitive processes better. For example, AI and RPA can be combined with other technologies such as document understanding and Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to create workflows that can organise, interpret and validate documents, allowing employees to take timely action in high-stakes professions while saving on costs.
Across the board, AI and automation are being used to work on tasks like email classification, inventory management, and loan approval. AI and RPA together can deploy, consume, manage, and improve machine learning models of bots. This means that they can help bots recognise images on a screen, extract critical information from invoices and updating data, use natural language from voice and text inputs to solve customer service requisitions.
By combining these technologies, organisations will be able to see benefits such as higher RoI, faster and more efficient automated output through increased accuracy and decreased usage of man-hours, and an overall happier and productive workforce.
What is your take on the Indian market for RPA adoption? Which verticals are you getting the most traction from in India?
The initial RPA motivation for most companies was to reduce costs. However, this drastically transformed in the past eight months, and the pandemic spurred the rate of adoption globally. Companies started understanding the need for digital transformation to ensure business continuity, with RPA being at the core. This enabled RPA to become a boardroom priority across sectors and businesses. In India, we have seen RPA being adopted the fastest by the BFSI, healthcare, retail and manufacturing sectors. However, given the current situation, we have seen a large uptake from governments as well. In fact, we are working with several state governments to help collate the statewide data of people quarantined. We expect to continue to see sectors like telecom and BFSI, among others, to leverage RPA to enhance their operations. And, sectors affected by the pandemic, such as healthcare, travel, manufacturing, etc. will begin embracing RPA in business continuity planning.
What are the advantages of having an RPA ready workforce in the fast-growing Indian market?
Over the past couple of months, with the onset of the pandemic, we have noted a very high interest in automation, from businesses of all sizes and across sectors. Businesses that have not been automated, want to adopt automation, and those who are already in the sphere want to scale their solutions. In most of the established businesses, RPA is now becoming commoditised. Most GICs have shifted their focus to hyper-automation; so much so that ‘A Robot for Every person’ is becoming a reality. The BPO market especially is experiencing a high demand for automation and is experiencing maximum growth. The need is to scale and expand the usage of bots. In short, the increased RPA adoption across Indian billion-dollar large enterprises is being propelled by the country’s skilled talent.
How is UiPath’s Academic Alliance program and UiPath Academy helping to evolve the RPA ecosystem in India?
UiPath encourages continuous learning and has multiple programs that help train people in automation. Our Academic Alliance program aims to build the required skills that are needed to meet the demands of one of the fastest-growing sectors in the IT industry. The program provides a curriculum that can be used by students of all backgrounds. In addition to this, we have the ‘UiPath RPA community’ which was created to foster continuous RPA and automation learning in people. Local chapters have also been set up globally for virtual connections. We have continuous on-going meetups in this region as well. We also work with a few industry bodies and committees.
Our objective is to democratise RPA and enable ‘A Robot For Every Person’. With this in mind, our Academic Alliance program is aimed at creating a workforce fluent in automation technologies. This upskilled workforce will be empowered to meet the increasing demand for RPA resources. The UiPath Academy is an online platform with over 60 resources that allows you to skill your self on RPA through a variety of courses for all levels. It also allows you to get certified through these learning courses.
How do you see the developer community in India, and what is the importance of creating a rich developer community here?
We currently have a vast global RPA developer community and a growing Hyper Intelligent Automation (HIA) developer community in India. By nurturing and enabling our developer community, we aim to democratise RPA and support the digital business revolution.
We believe that facilitating skilling in this area is important to shape the future of work with an inclusive community of students and experienced professionals. We recently even concluded our global virtual DevCon, which was attended by RPA developers and solution architects across the globe. Some of the other programs conducted for developers include the Power Up Hackathon, a pan-India event for developers to hone their skills and win recognitions.
The ‘UiPath RPA community’ meetups to foster continuous RPA and automation learning in people.
There is also UiPath Connect, a single sign-on platform providing access to
- UiPath Academy, an online learning platform for RPA developers, with comprehensive learning modules and training documents.
- UiPath Forum driven by and accessible to the RPA developer community, created to help each other with queries.
- UiPath Go!, an automation marketplace with easily downloadable, secure, and open-source automation from the world’s biggest RPA community.
How has the demand for RPA as a skill has grown during the decade in India?
As automation continues to become a boardroom imperative, the demand for RPA skilled talent is also expected to rise. In fact, recent industry surveys have revealed that Bangalore emerged on top, followed by Delhi, and Pune.
In fact, under our Academic Alliance Program in India, we have collaborated with several universities to fill the skill gap and create an empowered automation talent pool. These institutions will receive curriculum, content, learning materials, educator enablement sessions and software tools, to provide training to their students. We also have a growing global RPA developer community.
What is the product roadmap? Are you planning on integrating new features soon?
Back in January, we released the first version of UiPath AI Fabric, which breaks down the barriers between RPA and data science teams. It allows you to apply AI to your RPA workflows in minutes. AI Fabric allows data scientists to deploy, monitor and continuously improve machine learning models with ease, while RPA developers drag and drop the additions required on an RPA workflow.
The 20.4 update, which was rolled out in April 2020, delivered a lot of improvements and enhancements across every stage of the automation cycle. For example, automation cloud that provides instant scalability with ease, the UiPath Task Capture and Automation Hub integration speeds up the automation development process, and UiPath Process mining helps convert process data into intuitive visualisations.
Based on customer and developer feedback, we align features and work towards new releases that will propel our roadmap. For example, following its introduction at DevCon 2020, UiPath Apps has seen growing interest from the developer community. During our monthly update, we made UiPath Apps available for public preview. It brings easy access to the features of our Hyper Automation platform to design and deploy simple apps without disrupting existing systems and applications. The Object Repository feature was also introduced in UiPath Studio last month. This allows developers to build, save and reuse automation saving time and enable consistency across projects.
Another very significant feature from our 2020.09 update is the air-gapped installation that allows customers to use AI Fabric in a low or no network connectivity environment. This upgrade especially benefits customers in the financial services and public sectors who work in highly secure environments. We are constantly working to further our products and platform offerings, and have our Studio 20.10 release due next month.
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.