New S'pore lab eyes business mobility apps

HCL Technologies sets up first global facility in Singapore dedicated to help enterprises leverage mobile technologies to create "innovative" apps.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--With the setting up of its first global enterprise mobility lab, Indian IT giant HCL Technologies aims to ride the mobile wave by providing "innovative" applications for organizations to boost their productivity and better personalize customer experiences.

Merlin Lab, which stands for Mobility Experiences Ready to Lead Business Innovation, was officially opened Tuesday by Vineet Nayar, HCL Technologies' vice chairman and CEO; T.C.A. Raghavan, Indian High Commissioner to Singapore; and Jayson Goh, director of infocomm and media at the Economic Development Board (EDB). The lab is part of a 35,000 square-feet HCL facility located in Jurong, in the western part of the island-state.

During his presentation at the facility's opening, HCL's regional sales director Subbaraman Ramaswamy noted that mobile devices have caused a disruption to the consumer space and that wave of change is now moving to the corporate realm. The new center will tap HCL's product engineering expertise in order to help businesses use mobility apps to differentiate themselves from their competitors, he said.

While technologies such as cloud computing will be utilized in time, Ramaswamy told ZDNet Asia on the event sidelines that the lab will first focus on developing mobile applications for enterprises users across various industry verticals such as aviation, automotive, finance and healthcare.

These apps help a business create a seamless customer experience, boost staff productivity and connect with external ecosystems, he explained. In the airline industry, for example, a cabin crew member can access a dashboard on a mobile device such as a tablet to view information of a particular business class passenger who has just boarded the plane. Such data can range from dietary habits to preferred choice of periodicals. Airline staff can also view or update training manuals, flight schedules, or help book a limousine and hotel room for the passenger even before he leaves the plane, he added.

"It's a CRM (customer relationship management), a CMS (content management system) that can be enabled out of an iPad," Ramaswamy summed up.

The HCL executive also observed that companies today are not leveraging innovation to the fullest, to create value for their customers through personalized experiences. Businesses, he added, are also not adept at capturing their customers' emotions, and hence loyalty, through their brand, product or service. The lab is meant to help companies "think better" and achieve "non-linear growth [via] non-linear innovation", he said.

Asked if the lab will focus on developing mobile apps solely for the tablet interface, HCL chief executive Nayar emphasized that HCL's business apps will not be limited to any specific mobile device or form factor, but rather "revolutionize anything that will be mobile".

Nayar also iterated that HCL's mobility lab in Singapore is about "creating solutions, not [developing] technologies". The purpose is to incubate innovation by leveraging all the technologies to solve business problems, rather than develop new technologies, he said.

Virender Aggarwal, HCL's president and head for the company's business outside of India, said Singapore was chosen to house the facility because of its infrastructure, high quality of talent and excellent support from the government. The lab will, for a start, be staffed by 25 full- and part-time developers, he added.

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