For over four decades, HCLTech has played a pivotal role in the ASEAN information technology landscape. Recently, HCLTech Singapore commemorated 43 years with the launch of a year-long campaign centered on the theme of Tech + Community. This initiative aims to deepen the company’s connection with the Singaporean community around the arts, corporate social responsibility and industry talent, as well as the prestigious Women Top 50 Leaders award, reaffirming its commitment to technology-driven progress and positive societal impact.
The ASEAN digital economy is projected to experience substantial growth, with projections suggesting it will reach US$1 trillion by 2030. Under the ASEAN Digital Masterplan 2025, the region is poised to make significant strides toward becoming a stronger digital community and economic bloc. Key to this transformation is accelerating 5G technology to unlock new digital possibilities.
In this exclusive interview with Telecom Review, Sandeep Sarkar, ASEAN senior vice president, HCLTech, sheds light on some of the digital challenges faced by companies across industries. Additionally, Ravishankar S, senior vice president and head of 5G engineering, HCLTech, provides insights into ASEAN’s progress in 5G adoption and the pivotal role played by HCLTech in driving businesses’ digital evolution.
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by enterprises as they navigate a fast-evolving digital landscape?
Sandeep Sarkar: Across industries, the digital challenges that businesses face are ubiquitous as they navigate a rapidly-evolving digital landscape. A prominent challenge is the need to adapt to a fast-changing technological environment. Traditionally, IT projects had fixed budgets and longer timelines, but nowadays, requirements undergo rapid changes. This can be observed in the telecom industry, for instance, where discussions about 5G and 6G have already commenced while still in the 4G phase.
Another significant challenge is overcoming resistance to change, particularly in large organizations, where people tend to resist new ways of doing things. Effectively addressing this resistance then becomes the crux of ensuring successful transformations. Moreoever, the skillsets required within organizations are constantly evolving. Skills that were once relevant may no longer be applicable, making it necessary for organizations to adapt their skills to meet newer market demands. Cultivating a culture that fosters change is important, but not without its challenges. Therefore, integrating agile methodologies and ways of working is a significant challenge.
At HCLTech, we recognize the importance of adapting to this dynamic business landscape. Our primary objective is to be the preferred digital partner for operators and enterprises.
Tell us about services and products that help HCLTech become the partner of choice for enterprises across industries and geographies.
Sandeep Sarkar: In Southeast Asia, Singapore is the leader at the forefront of digital transformation, demonstrating significant advancements in both business operations and government-citizen interactions. While countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are also making substantial progress in their digital transformation efforts, Laos and Cambodia are still in the development stages.
In this region, the financial services and telecommunications sectors serve as primary catalysts for digital transformation, as displayed by the widespread adoption of digitalization during the pandemic and significant investments directed toward advancing digital banking and accelerating 5G deployment. Beyond these sectors, many companies, including Keppel and Singapore Airlines, are heavily invested in digitalization to ensure future-proof operations. This demonstrates a broader trend across diverse industries, where the adoption of digital strategies is seen as critical for ensuring competitiveness and long-term success.
We strategically focus on four economies in Southeast Asia, namely Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. This strategic approach allows us to harness the region’s substantial customer base and access a pool of skilled digital individuals to cater to our global clients more effectively.
At HCLTech, our engineering culture sets us apart, allowing us to harness innovative technology and scale it effectively for clients. By adopting a client-centric approach, we deliver end-to-end digital solutions that entail building a robust digital foundation and infrastructure, developing cutting-edge applications and technologies, and integrating these elements seamlessly with operations to ensure a comprehensive digital transformation for our clients.
By aligning our focus and recognizing the widespread impact of digital transformation across various industries and geographies, HCLTech is well-positioned to deliver innovative solutions and support the digital evolution in the region.
Can you tell us about 5G adoption and trends in ASEAN, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore?
Ravishankar S: The global deployment of 5G Standalone (SA) is experiencing significant growth. By December 2022, more than 50 operators had already deployed 5G SA, with more than 30 operators planning to do so this year. This growth is primarily driven by countries in the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions.
In Singapore, for instance, approximately 55% of the cellular network is projected to be based on 5G technology by 2025. This showcases Singapore’s leading position in embracing 5G as telcos introduce advanced enterprise offerings like private 5G networks and marketplace platforms, as well as diverse 5G use cases aimed to address business challenges and capitalize on 5G monetization opportunities.
In contrast, Malaysia's 5G rollout is taking place at a slower pace, with only around 20% of the cellular network expected to be based on 5G by 2025.
How does HCLTech help operators adopt 5G at scale and harness the full potential of 5G for a future-ready network?
Ravishankar S: Our 5G engineering strategy stands out due to our collaborative partnerships with ecosystem players. This unique strategy allows us to generate new revenue sources, provide solutions for critical missions, enhance operational efficiency, and create immersive experiences. Throughout the value chain, we offer an extensive range of 5G services, empowering operators to accelerate their 5G journeys.
Our approach includes comprehensive support for defining, integrating, deploying and operating 5G networks that are multi-cloud, multi-vendor, disaggregated and distributed. Leveraging automation, optimization, cloudification and containerization, our "as a service" offerings are seamlessly tailored to meet individual customer needs and address diverse industry use cases.
Furthermore, our 5G system integration framework is designed to significantly reduce network function onboarding time by up to 35% and certification time by up to 40%. We provide support for all target platforms, including public, private or hybrid cloud environments, and have invested significantly in establishing 5G labs worldwide to focus on testing, integration and proof of concept (PoC) development.
Our effort in driving industry advancement is reflected in our active contributions to the ORAN alliance, where we invest in and establish ORAN RU integration and test labs to expedite 5G SA deployments.
We also offer an extensive array of 5G product engineering services, specializing in domain-specific enterprise 5G use cases. Our expertise spans diverse areas, including enterprise IT, digital engineering, telco cloud, IoT, data engineering, AI/ML, and more.
With this comprehensive approach and industry-leading expertise, we stand as a trusted partner for 5G engineering solutions to lead clients into the future of connectivity and technology.
Can you share some success stories or case studies where HCLTech has enabled enterprises to supercharge their digital transformation efforts using 5G?
Ravishankar S: HCLTech has successfully implemented location-based services integrated with a public cloud platform for a Japanese client. This implementation includes deploying a 5G core Location Management Function (LMF) to monitor personnel movement and provide real-time alerts.
Additionally, we have developed a mission-critical enterprise 5G application aimed at ensuring a 99% safety compliance rate for personnel working in hazardous environments. This solution depends on geofencing technology to track and monitor movement, grant access based on roles, and issue alerts or block individuals from approaching hazardous areas. This involves interfacing multiple systems, such as location-based services for precise tracking, intelligent video analytics to identify individuals and authenticate their identity, and tracking device location to send notifications based on specific conditions.
This innovative solution can be expanded to address other use cases, including verifying if personnel have the required safety gear before entering hazardous zones or promptly alerting them in case of incidents like fire. These use cases exemplify HCLTech's ability to leverage innovative technology to advance workplace safety and enhance operational efficiency to deliver value to clients.