by Yogesh Gupta

Digital agenda must align with key organization strategy: Deepak Sharma, Kotak Mahindra Bank

Mar 25, 2018
4GAnalyticsArtificial Intelligence

Digital transformation s쳮ds works with active collaboration of all stakeholders including the CIO, says Deepak Sharma, Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank.n

The digital transformation is a ‘must-have’ journey for organizations accelerated by the changing technology world and the dynamic business climate. With ‘real-time’ customer experience and new-age interaction models that are much in demand, banks need to up their ante with a well-etched digital agenda to stay ahead of their competition. CIO India spoke to Deepak Sharma, Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank who drives digital transformation, business model innovation and future-ready initiatives of the bank. 

Edited Excerpts

What new age technology trends will accelerate Indian banks to turn into digital companies?

While several technologies are poised to reshape the banking sector, one of the most critical ones with maximum impact is Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning application in conversational banking, credit decisioning, risk management and portfolio management. Another big trend is the increased use of data warehouse, big data and analytics to acquire, engage and cross-sell to different customer segments. Lastly, IndiaStack and PaymentStack will further define fast, frictionless, paperless and presence less omnichannel banking. 

Mobile is the key driver of digital experience for 400 million household and thus it is fair to say that India is a mobile-only country for a majority of our population.


Deepak Sharma, CDO, Kotak Mahindra Bank

How has your company changed its DNA internally and externally for its customers to emerge as a digital bank? 

As a rule, we ask one key question before every decision-making process: “How does it make our customer’s life simple, easy and delightful?” This helps us keep the customer at the center of everything. We enhance the customer experience through various product, process, and technology-led innovation, which also helps us align focus, resources, and priorities.

My Big Tech Bets for  2018 : Deepak Sharma


Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning


Data warehouse, Big Data & analytics


IndiaStack and PaymentStack

Kotak Mahindra Bank has been leading in mobility through digital banking and mobile app. Do you see mobile banking to be the bloodline of Indian banks? 

We have one of highest-rated and most frequently-used mobile banking app in India. Mobile growth in India is unprecedented with the rapid growth of smartphone (device) and 4G (data) usage. Mobile is the key driver of digital experience for 400 million households and thus it is fair to say that India is a mobile-only country for a majority of our population. 

Today, 80 percent of all new digital banking users are mobile only and it has been growing at over 100 percent YoY over the last four years. Rich mobile experience has helped us build, stay engaged and enhance transactions with the customer base. This has been the foundation for India’s first downloadable banking product “811” as well. 

Deepak’s ‘Digital’ Bucket List for Industry Peers


Digital is not just about technology but what the technology can do to transform your business.


Define business problem, strategic objective and key outcome clearly before starting an initiative.


Be bold and ready to experiment various ideas in the digital world.


Do not be afraid of shutting them (experiments) early if they do not work.

How does your role as Chief Digital Officer augment the overall business and IT synergy? Any significant initiatives you have undertaken in this role?

At Kotak, digital is a way of life and digital as Centre of Excellence (CoE) works horizontally across the bank. We focus on transformation initiatives which are cost, revenue, growth, productivity and customer experience led. This apart, the digital banking team also focuses on business model innovation, future-ready initiatives and Fintech/ecosystem collaboration.  Under my leadership and the collaboration with various teams, Kotak launched several innovative and global first products including 811, Jifi, Hashtag banking, Bharat Banking, M-Store and Kaypay, apart from new initiatives like API Banking, BYOD Biometric Banking and Robotic Process Automation.

CIO-CDO-CEO collaboration is the key to a company’s digital transformation. How can ITDMs (IT decision makers) imbibe digital culture in their companies and its employees? 

Digital transformation succeeds when it is an organization-wide objective and works with the active collaboration of all stakeholders including the CIO. We, at Kotak, are fortunate to have strong CEO level sponsorship and guidance to make this happen. 

Digital initiatives have to align with key organization strategy. Getting teams with different yet complimentary skill sets around projects is important. It requires a collaborative, learning and experimenting mindset. Fail fast, rapid scale up and agility are critical building blocks for an effective digital culture. 

Your list of Dos and Don’ts for the industry peers on their digital agenda in banks.   

Firstly, digital is not just about technology but what technology can do to transform a business. Chief Digital Officers or CIOs in conversations with their company’s business stakeholders need to define the business problem, the strategic objective, and key outcome clearly before starting a digital initiative. 

They must be bold enough with a mindset and approach to be ready to experiment various ideas. And do not be afraid of shutting them early if they do not work.



Chief Digital Officer, Kotak Mahindra Bank

May 2016 till present


EVP & Head Digital Initiatives, Kotak Mahindra Bank : Oct 2013 – Apr 2016


EVP / SVP – NRI Services, Remittance, Retail Forex : Kotak Mahindra Bank : Mar 2008 – Oct 2013  


Business Head – Consumer Banking , Standard Chartered bank : Feb 2003 to Mar 2008


Head – Corporate & New Initiatives, Hutchison Max : Sept 1996 – Feb 2003

What big digital initiatives will emerge in the banking industry in 2018? And how are you prepared to ride the wave? 

We focus on numerous technology-led initiatives at any given time focussing equally on transformation and innovation as it is difficult to bet on a single initiative. Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, biometric, payments, API economy, data analytics and fintech partnership for new solutions are all likely to grow bigger in 2018, and we are equally focused and committed towards all. 

We started leveraging social, mobility and analytics early on and are at a fairly advanced stage of implementation across the organization. We have partially moved to the cloud and are excited about its prospects as we look ahead.