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We are trying to do something similar to what Apple did with the iPhone: William Ruh, General Electric

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General Electric is betting big on the digital technologies and the Internet of Things (IoT) as it begins its transformation to a digital company. In an exclusive interaction, William Ruh, who heads the industrial giant’s digital business, told ET the transition of the firm, which expects to earn $6 billion in revenue from industrial applications this year, was still in an early stage but is seeing tremendous progress. Excerpts:

How will the industrial internet transform your business?
Our strategy always started with doing it for ourselves because we are showing the world that efficiency in the industrial world is going to be driven through digital and less through process and labour arbitrage. Our digital productivity will result in $500 million net to our bottom line this year. We are improving manufacturing , supply chains, servicing of all of our service lines through digital mechanisms. And by 2020, we hope to reach $1 billion in net new productivity. The focus this year is automating 75 of our factories. That’s only automating about 10%. Imagine when we automate 100% of our factories.

How are you looking to enable the industrial internet outside GE?
The real opportunity is what we are doing outside GE. We continue to expand our app portfolio. This year we plan on having revenues of $6 billion in our industrial app portfolio. So for us, this application world is already starting to be a major part of our business. We are already seeing 20-30% growth rates. We think our customers want to get efficiency. We have announced to the market our industrial platform called Predix. Not only can we write apps, our partners can write apps, our customers can write apps. What Apple did with the iPhone and the app store, we are doing the same with Predix and the industrial internet.

What role will India play in GE’s digital strategy?
I think it started with tech talent. We continue to increase our digital capabilities. I would say more important is our partnerships. The biggest change is, we are not just hiring but we are working with partners such as TCS , Tech Mahindra, Infosys , Genpact (and) Capgemini -iGate — these would be just five examples of companies that we have deep partnerships with. They are all training and developing talent. So it’s not just what we hire, it’s what they hire and train as Predix talent as well.

Manufacturing is becoming smarter. What kind of impact will that have on jobs, especially in India?
I think the days of labour arbitrage as the corner stone of manufacturing are coming to an end. This does not mean the end of jobs, but it means a smarter and better-equipped labour force. I think this is a place where India has to think, at government level, what is their policy to enable the talent pool. Even China realises labour arbitrage isn’t the future. It doesn’t mean we are getting rid of jobs, but it does mean there will be people who will have to be retrained…If you don’t prepare your workforce for it then you are going to miss a once-in-a-lifetime shift of how manufacturing is going to be done on a global basis.

How do you view the competitive scenario?
The industrial internet is the biggest opportunity in the world today. All of them have announced IoT that at one stage sounded competitive but what we are seeing is they are much more complimentary.

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