In a recent interview, tech and marketing guru Phaneesh Murthy was asked about the business trend that excites him most. His answer? All things generative AI.
Generative AI is a type of machine learning that uses neural networks and pattern recognition to generate original text, images, and video. Significant breakthroughs in this technology, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard, have created new opportunities for businesses across a wide range of industries.
It’s not surprising that Murthy, who has been called the father of the modern IT services industry, is intrigued by the possibilities of generative AI. But he isn’t just interested in the tech. For the first time, he revealed that he’s been actively working on AI-related projects for some time.
“AI Is something which I’ve been doing a fair amount of work and research on and that’s what’s keeping me quite busy,” Murthy said. “And quite excited.”
Phaneesh Murthy believes that AI will go beyond improving the way businesses operate and engage with customers. He predicts it will change the way we create and share ideas. Businesses that anticipate these changes and act early will find themselves in an enviable position in the future.
Who is Phaneesh Murthy?
If Bezos is the king of eCommerce and Zuckerberg is the czar of social media, Phaneesh Murthy is the father of the IT services industry. The Indian billionaire began working for IT firms at the dawn of the internet age. Over the next two decades, he would turn two fledgling IT companies, Infosys and iGATE, into global powerhouses with billion-dollar valuations.
Murthy succeeded by dismantling and rebuilding the business model of IT services companies, adapting his firms’ operations and sales strategies for the internet age. He engineered major disruptions, such as the Global Delivery System (GDS) and IT and operations convergence (known as the ITOPS model), that are considered standard in the IT industry today.
Phaneesh Murthy also had a massive influence on India’s rise as a leader in IT. The dominance of his companies put the spotlight on India as a major player in emerging technologies, sparking more investment and jobs. In turn, more Indian students began going to university to study IT. Murthy’s home of Bangalore, India is now considered second only to Silicon Valley as a tech hub.
Today, Murthy serves as the CEO of Primentor, Inc., an advisory firm he founded in 2013. He works with senior executives, helping them overcome stagnation to unlock hyper-growth. He’s also an active board member at Cigniti Technologies and Opus Consulting.
Phaneesh Murthy on Generative AI: A Liberation of Ideas
Many businesses are still unsure of how to leverage the power of AI, especially because the technology is freely available for anyone to use. But Phaneesh Murthy doesn’t see this as a barrier. In fact, he sees it as an opportunity for businesses to gain unrestricted access to more ideas.
Ideas and opportunities are always a good thing, according to Murthy, and AI will afford all businesses a better chance of encountering ideas that fit their strengths and culture.
“I have always believed that all ideas should be open,” Murthy said.
Some business people are paralyzed by the fact that every company can access the same generative AI technology (most are powered by OpenAI’s product). How can they gain an advantage on a level playing field? But Murthy knows that strategies are only powerful when they find the right type of fertile ground.
“The culture, the DNA, and the core strengths that you have are what make you successful in a particular strategy,” he said. “If somebody else tries to take your strategy and they don’t have that culture, then they’re not going to succeed.”
Murthy urges businesses today to tap into the endless well of ideas afforded by generative AI and not be stifled by the unconventional availability of the technology. The liberalization of ideas might be scary to those who keep their proprietary information confidential, but Murthy believes it will be beneficial to all businesses that take part.
Turning Ideas into Lucrative AI Business Models
Giving advice to businesses today, Phaneesh Murthy says that the biggest challenge is to convert generative AI’s broad functionality into more specialized, niche products.
“Today, I would say some of the best business ideas are vertical instances of artificial intelligence,” Murthy said.
AI tools as they exist today, such as GPT and Bard, are horizontal in that they offer a broad functionality that satisfies a wide range of users’ needs. But thanks to AI’s limitless malleability and variation, these tools can also be harnessed and “trained” to perform more specialized tasks.
This is where businesses will be able to derive real value.
Companies that use AI’s broad functionality to update their chatbots will miss out on greater opportunities to convert AI’s horizontal appeal into highly valuable niche services.
“How do I convert [generative AI] for policies? How do I convert it for mortgages? How do I convert it for payments? How do I convert it for something else?” Murthy said.
Generative AI can write code, analyze text, create images, solve problems, provide insightful responses, and much more. With a bit of direction, it can perform thousands of specific tasks, improving operations or offering totally new services at a very low cost. For example, Phaneesh Murthy is currently exploring using generative AI to prevent fraud.
“That’s going to be my big ticket item,” he said. “I think there’s a huge business potential there.”
Anticipating the Social Implications of AI
Phaneesh Murthy is bullish on AI, but he’s also aware of the negative effects it may have on society.
Murthy has never been against disrupting the economy—it’s one of the things he’s excelled at in his industry over the past 30 years.
However, he is aware of the social risks of AI, especially those revolving around stereotypes, racism, and bias.
“There is likely to be a whole bunch of social implications around this,” Murthy said. “That’s something that we have to think about.”
As an Indian residing in the USA, Murthy has always believed that people should be judged on their merits. Unfortunately, AI learns from humans, and as a result, it has been found to show racial and gender bias and exacerbate stereotypes in its responses.
Nonetheless, Murthy supports pushing forward with this technology. Like any other software he’s worked with over the decades, he knows that the bugs can only be patched as you move forward. Pausing progress is not an option.
Phaneesh Murthy: Always Keep Active, Always Keep Listening
AI technology is progressing so fast that many business leaders are suffering from AI fatigue even before launching a product. How can you keep up with every AI tool and trend?
Murthy reminds businesses that it’s impossible to keep pace with technology that can generate infinite ideas. Instead, he suggests teams narrow their focus around their own needs and the needs of their customers.
AI may create as many uncertainties as it does opportunities, but according to Murthy, it’s going to be a cornerstone of technology and business from this point on.
He encourages businesses to always keep active, always keep listening, and always keep experimenting—especially in these early stages of generative AI.