From May 31 to June 1, Rakuten Product Conference (RPC) 2023 Presented by Rakuten India showcased the power of generative AI and cloud computing, offering insights into the many ways these game-changing technologies are transforming the world.
Titled “Generative AI and the Future of Cloud,” the event attracted 6,300 participants from across geographies and sectors who were eager to learn more about these rapidly evolving technologies.
Now in its third year, the conference featured a total of 25 sessions over the course of the two days, and was streamed live from Rakuten India’s Bengaluru headquarters.
Sunil Gopinath, CEO of Rakuten India, set the tone for day one by putting the truly transformative potential of GenAI into perspective. “The tech industry stands completely redefined. Generative AI is unlocking value across multiple industries, from material science to creative design, climate change, self-driving vehicles, medical research and education” shared Gopinath.
While this adds uncertainty to any organization, Gopinath was quick to note that AI is more than just an outcome or option for Rakuten India; it is the culture of the company.
He stressed that while tech leaders like Rakuten are working to unlock value through creative AI and generative AI, we also need to think about how we can come together to address the challenges posed by AI to the industry.
Yasufumi Hirai, Group Executive Vice President and CISO of Rakuten Group, took to the stage on day one to deliver an insightful keynote focusing on the importance of putting people at the center of any AI innovation. “Many tech engineers start their sentences with technology as the subject. But the subject of any sentence should be people; society; the world; organizations; family – technology can be the enabler to realize something amazing.”
Ting Cai, Rakuten Group Senior Managing Executive Officer and CDO, and one of Rakuten’s top AI experts shared his thoughts on how AI is changing the way we learn, travel and invest – and the critical importance of understanding the driving forces behind it.
“We want to leverage AI to synthesize and generate information efficiently. But the creativity, the emotion, the empathy, is what human beings are uniquely good at. We hope to leverage AI to augment human creativity and unleash infinite possibilities.”Ting Cai, Group Senior Managing Executive Officer and CDO, Rakuten Group
In addition to Rakuten’s internal AI experts, RPC 2023 featured an impressive lineup of GenAI leaders from across the industry. Ankush Sabharwal, CEO at CoRover presented on the fascinating topic of BharatGPT, a large language model that supports multiple languages and exemplifies the transformative power of AI. Nischal Nadhamuni, Founder & CTO at Klarity furthered the conversation by discussing the utilization of GenAI to automate complex finance and accounting workflows.
Dr. Nanda Kambhatla, Sr. Director at Adobe Research India, explored the implications of GenAI for creators and communicators, outlining its potential to reshape the landscape of content generation and communication. He went on to explain some of the factors that have lead to the boom of AI and why it is being compared to the industrial revolution in terms its scale of impact. “As a machine learning (ML) researcher, the game has changed. It used to be that ML meant that for every task you want to do, you collect some data, train a model on it, fine tune it and deploy it for inference. But now, we have foundation models, which are mammoth models. This is becoming the new way of doing AI.”
Vishwesh Pai, Sr. Director of Product, AI Platform at ServiceNow, on the other hand, addressed the challenges and benefits of creating generative AI-based experiences specifically for enterprise customers, a pressing topic given the increasing adoption of AI in business processes.
Kirthi Ganapathy, Specialist Customer Engineering Leader of Google Cloud India, touched on the important topic of ethics in AI, explaining that “in a time when the gap between left and right, liberal and secular is seemingly widening, where gender equity and biases are being stretched, responsible AI needs to ensure that it walks within the line in order to maintain neutrality in all aspects.”
The day’s events were neatly wrapped up with a comprehensive panel discussion on “Chat GPT/Large Language Models.” The session, moderated by Ewa Szymanska, Rakuten Group Executive Officer and Global Head of Rakuten Institute of Technology, was a robust exploration of the present landscape, future potential and associated challenges of these models in the organizational context. Closing notes for the day were delivered by Anirban Nandi, Vice President of AI Products & Business Analytics at Rakuten India, who thanked the speakers at the event and the record-breaking turnout of attendees.
The Future is in the Cloud
Day two focused on the future of cloud, with an insightful opening presentation from Tsubasa Shiraishi, Vice Chairman of Rakuten India. His remarks were followed by a keynote presentation from Akihito Kurozumi, Group Senior Managing Executive Officer and CIO of Rakuten Group. Rohit Dewan, Executive Officer and Division CTO of the Technology Platforms Division at Rakuten Group followed with a presentation on the recent trends in Cloud technology and Observability. He highlighted Rakuten “SixthSense,” the company’s homegrown SaaS product, an all-in-one observability intelligence software.
“One advantage we have had in our enterprise observability solution is not being shackled by legacy, since it is something we have developed over the last few years. We have been able to build a modern look at how you want to build an observability platform in the current context.” Fergal Downey, Regional Director of Blockchain Lab Department at Rakuten Marketing Europe Limited, highlighted the vision for customer engagement and the exciting possibilities of loyalty and rewards in the Web3 era.
Also on day two, Rajat Pandit from Google took to stage to talk about how “cloud computing is becoming part of the core technology stack,” noting that “we are seeing cloud computing bringing in a diverse set of data sources, breaking data silos, being able to access data at speeds and network latencies we have never seen before and being able to do analysis at a pace faster than human reaction. And all of this at a cost that technology has not been able to see in the past.”
Industry stalwarts including Dr. Rahul Ghodke from CGI and Nitin Mishra from ONDC took to the stage to share their knowledge and insights on the future of cloud technology. Nitin Sharma drew the attention of the audience to the scale of e-commerce penetration in India, including some of its challenges. “Innovation got confined to platforms and improving their buyer experiences. But is this helping the Indian economy?” This is where open networks come into the picture. “Open networks are a key here to ensure that innovation can happen, even in pockets. Those innovation values can be transacted through open networks and open AI”.
Lory Kehoe, the founder of Blockchain Ireland, offered an unconventional perspective on entrepreneurial ecosystems, discussing the birth and evolution of such systems.
In a talk that was particularly relevant to India’s rapidly expanding e-commerce sector, Sandeep Kohli, Vice President of Engineering at Flipkart, outlined how next-generation multi-cloud is driving a revolution in e-commerce, fundamentally enhancing customer experiences.
The panel discussion that followed was both informative and inspiring, with speakers offering a comprehensive overview of how cloud technology will disrupt businesses of the future. Nalini George, Chief People Officer of Rakuten India, closed the session by underscoring her conviction that AI and cloud technology will continue to shape our future and hinting at big things to come in the future for RPC and Rakuten’s Tech community.
Impact of the conference
Rakuten Product Conference provides a valuable opportunity for industry leaders to come together and discuss some of the world’s most pressing tech questions. Rakuten India showcased its commitment towards fostering a technology-forward environment, pushing the boundaries of mobile application development, data analytics, engineering, DevOps and information security.
The event was also a conduit for networking, enabling attendees to connect with a broad spectrum of professionals – data artists, innovators and researchers driving AI strategies in their organizations. This exchange opened doors for potential collaboration and relationship-building within the industry, reinforcing the community’s collective progress towards a future shaped by generative AI and cloud computing.
Stay tuned for more tech topics and events in the future!