AiThority Interview with Malina Platon, Managing Director and Head of Sales (ASEAN) at UiPath
How did you start in this space? What galvanized you to start at UiPath? Tell us about your interaction with smart technologies like AI, Robotic Process Automation and Cloud-based Analytics platforms.
I have years of experience in the enterprise software space, starting in my early years as a Customer Representative for WebHelp before expanding into market development for Intel which saw me take on a more Business Development role. My roles in companies such as Intel, Softwin and ABC Data were very Business Development-orientated which meant that I had to become an expert in the technology and in understanding how that technology could solve the problems that my customers faced. It also meant that I had to build and maintain relationships, skills that have served me very well in my recent role at UiPath.
Throughout my career I saw how good quality enterprise technologies can really help drive a company’s competitiveness and productivity, so UiPath was a natural fit for me when I joined them in 2016. I have helped drive UiPath’s expansion into ASEAN, from setting up offices in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea, to hiring staff and providing strategic oversight of operations.
Over the years I have seen our Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions evolve and take on a new level of sophistication. Our Computer Vision AI allows our customers to automate Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) environments such as Citrix, VMWare, and Windows Remote Desktop, something that was very challenging before. Our Drag-and-Drop Designer (UiPath Studio) enables business analysts, subject matter experts, and non-engineers to rapidly automate tasks and processes.
Our Open APIs and UiPath Go! make it easy for third parties, such as IBM, Google, Microsoft, ABBYY, DataRobot, Oracle and others, to integrate their Automation, Machine Learning, BPM and AI capabilities with UiPath. Lastly, AI Fabric is UiPath’s vision for delivering end-to-end AI/ML skill creation and deployment within the UiPath platform, enabling customers to build, manage, deploy, and continuously improve AI Skills.
What is UiPath and how does it help customers digitally transform their IT and Workplace efficiency?
UiPath is the world’s fastest-growing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution provider championing the “automation first” era in enterprise technology. We are the highest-valued enterprise AI company, valued at US$7 billion and are committed to preparing over one million students in the next three years across more than 3,500 universities around the world for the future of work. We are based in New York City and have more than 3000 employees in 20+ countries around the globe.
UiPath was recently recognized by Gartner as a Leader in the 2019 “Magic Quadrant for Robotic Process Automation Software” research report within the 2019 Gartner Peer Insights Customers’ Choice for Robotic Process Automation Software. We were top amongst 23 other leading RPA solution providers and placed highest for the ability to execute and furthest for completeness of vision.
UiPath’s RPA solutions save time, improve service levels, increase compliance and reduce operating costs for companies. We offer both attended and unattended robots with the only truly versatile robot in the RPA space. This delivers the complete automation experience that covers both front-office and back-office opportunities and requirements. Furthermore, we are committed to democratizing RPA; anyone who wants to learn RPA can do it for free – from young students to experienced professionals. Our platform is open, transparent, and extensible allowing users to create automation faster with our drag and drop, code-free, studio editor and a library of more than 300 pre-built, out-of-the-box automation components to use and re-use.
What is the state of RPA technology in 2019? How much has it evolved since the time you first started here?
The RPA market is huge and will only get bigger. By the end of 2019 it is forecast to reach US$1.3 billion, and 2.4 billion by 2024, with millions of robots doing office, administrative, sales, and related tasks. Gartner estimates that 85% of large and very large organizations will have deployed some form of RPA by the end of 2022.
The evolution of the market is reflected in UiPath’s growth since I started working with the company. Within a few years, we have developed into a company valued at US$7 billion, with over 3,000 employees spread out in our offices around the world. RPA has also evolved in terms of the customer base. In the beginning, RPA was used mainly by large financial institutions and insurance firms, we now have over 3,700 customers who use our RPA solutions for a wide variety of tasks. These include paralegals who use RPA robots to read, digest and process eDiscovery documents. Customers as varied as Uber, Pandora, Equifax, GE, HP, NASA, and Virgin Media use RPA for cases that include processing payroll to credit underwriting and inventory management.
Which industries and regions have been the fastest and most successful in the adoption of AI/ML and RPA technology?
As mentioned earlier, in the early days large financial institutions would use RPA to automate tasks. They would do this in part because their own legacy IT systems were old and unwieldy and so RPA – which is light and non-intrusive – could be ‘placed on top’ of their existing IT ecosystem. Nowadays we have customers from all over the world in nearly every industry you can think of. Our customer base operates in Financial Services, Insurance, Healthcare, Telecom, Retail and more, including 40+ U.S. Government agencies as customers, including the Army, Defense Logistics Agency, GSA, IRS, NASA, Navy, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. In Asia Pacific, we work with SMBC Bank, Starhub, the University of Auckland, Optus, Downer Group and Australian Unity among others.
How do you see the ASEAN region coping with RPA trends? Do you think AI’s threat in joblessness and automation is valid/glaringly true in ASEAN?
ASEAN is a big growth region for UiPath. We have our regional headquarters in Singapore with offices in Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, and we expect to expand into more countries in the coming years. The market here is very receptive to RPA and the benefits that technology brings for a number of reasons. Firstly, RPA makes companies more competitive, so Thai firms can now start competing with other international companies including from the West. Automation technologies such as RPA allow many of these developing countries to ‘leapfrog’ into more developed nation status quicker. We also find that many business owners here – from major multinationals to SMEs and start-ups – are very accepting of new technology and embrace progress, so they are receptive to our RPA solutions.
It is also becoming clear that not only will RPA result in more competitive, productive economies, but it will lead to more and better jobs. RPA allows employees to concentrate on their strengths – creativity, emotion, innovation – while handling the tasks that humans are not designed to do. This will lead to a higher value, better-paid jobs that will have a beneficial knock-on effect throughout the economy. In fact, we already have use cases of RPA improving productivity while enhancing jobs. For example, one of our clients in Japan, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), has saved more than one million man-hours (without a single forced layoff), and projects cost reductions of nearly $450 million (US) by 2020. We believe RPA can actually empower employees to be more efficient so that they can strike a better work-life balance. It can help people grow in their careers and create jobs, rather than destroy them.
Furthermore, through the UiPath Academic Alliance program we are working with educational institutions around the world to prepare their students – and thus the future workforce – for the automated future that lies ahead. We have partnered with Singapore’s Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Institute of Technical Education, ITE College West, Asia Pacific College (APC) in the Philippines and King Mongkut’s University of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL) in Thailand to incorporate RPA courses into existing curriculums. By institutionalizing RPA into education we hope to teach students and employees to work alongside robots, allowing them to do even more with less.
Do you think Asia is the most fertile region to deploy and measure RPA results?
Yes, ASEAN is a big growth region for UiPath and companies and governments here are very receptive to Automation technologies, as I alluded to earlier. ASEAN is a market of 642 million people, growing at a rate of 5.9%, much higher than the global economic growth rate of 3.8%. As countries such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Malaysia continue to develop and gradually move into more developed nation status, they will start to demand technology that makes them more competitive as well as address some of the labor challenges that they may face. Furthermore, developed countries such as Singapore and Japan have their own demographic challenges (the number of babies born in Singapore fell to its lowest rate in 8 years, for example) which RPA is well-suited to solve by allowing each employee to be even more productive.
What are the opportunities and challenges in this region that you manage today, and foresee in the future?
As countries become more developed a number of things happen which drive demand for Automation technologies such as RPA. Firstly, labor becomes more expensive as employees become more educated and fewer are available to do the more repetitive, rules-based work. Therefore, companies need to turn to technology to automate many of these jobs. Additionally, once a country has become more developed their own companies will want to expand into other countries, RPA and similar technologies allow them to be more competitive. So, there are many opportunities on the horizon and while it is hard to forecast geopolitical and economic uncertainties, we see a bright future for RPA and UiPath.
The Crystal Gaze
Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?
This is very exciting. AI will evolve and become even more capable and accurate. We may see AI merge more fully with robotics both on a software level and a hardware level. For example, AI will make self-driving vehicles a reality and perhaps, along with other technology, it will allow us to enhance our own bodies, enabling paralyzed people to walk, etc. When it comes to RPA AI will allow us to automate even more complex tasks and assist existing human employees to do even more
The Good, Bad and Ugly about AI that you have heard or predict
The good is the jobs that will emerge as a result of AI/Automation that do not exist today. In just a few years’ time, I predict that young people will be performing roles that simply don’t exist today which is exciting. The bad is the persistent misconception that AI and Automation will cost jobs and result in a dystopian future. This is unlikely to happen based on history, rather we will see a brighter future with more opportunity.
What is your opinion on “Weaponization of AI/ML”? How do you promote your ideas?
I think this is overblown. However, any technology can be used for good and for bad depending on who uses it
Thank you, Malina! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Malina is the Managing Director of ASEAN at UiPath, the leading Robotics Process Automation (RPA) provider. In her role she helps companies across the region explore innovative RPA approaches, delivering cost savings and productivity gains across their businesses.
Malina has been integral to UiPath’s expansion in ASEAN, from setting up offices in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and South Korea, to hiring staff and providing strategic oversight of operations. UiPath works with regional clients and partners from KPMG to SMBC Bank, helping them save millions of man-hours thanks to its best-in-class automation solutions.
UiPath is leading the “Automation First” era – championing one robot for every person, delivering free and open training and collaboration and enabling robots to learn new skills through AI and machine learning. Led by a commitment to bring digital era skills to more than a million people, the company’s enterprise Robotic Process Automation (RPA) platform has already automated millions of repetitive, mind-numbing tasks for business and government organizations all over the world, improving productivity, customer experience, and employee job satisfaction.
Recently named the 6th happiest place to work by Comparably in the US, UiPath has become one of the fastest-growing enterprise software companies in history. The company is backed by over $400 million in funding from Accel, CapitalG, Credo Ventures, Earlybird’s Digital East Fund, IVP, Kleiner Perkins, Madrona Venture Group, Meritech Capital, Seedcamp and Sequoia.