India's industrial products and manufacturing sector has seen the maximum adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) over the last two years, according to PwC.

"Almost 64% of the organisations surveyed in the Industrial Products and Manufacturing sector say they are currently at an early stage of their AI-based transformation journey reflecting the opportunities for further investments and growth led by AI/ML solutions in this sector," PwC's report titled 'Towards a smarter tomorrow: Impact of AI in the post-COVID era' says.

Over the past two years, from mid-2020 to 2022-23, the manufacturing sector has seen the maximum increase of 20% in the adoption of AI/ML solutions. Following implementations in the 12–18-month period following the pandemic, organisations from this segment have reaped maximum benefits from AI in three business functions – namely, manufacturing and operations, supply chain and logistics, and IT and cybersecurity, the report says.

This comes at a time when Indian enterprises have begun to adopt advanced analytics and data-driven decision making.

While there has been a significant increase in AI adoption with scalable impact in terms of returns, trends indicate that the travel and hospitality industry has reached a degree of saturation. Though the Technology, Media, Telecom as well as Healthcare and Pharmaceutical sectors have seen steady progress, they are facing certain challenges around measuring the return-on-investments, especially in the pre- and post-COVID-19 times, the survey shows.

The retail and consumer market has seen a decline in AI adoption due to a gap in the identification of potential use cases amid changing market forces and consumer behaviour, the PwC report says.

"In comparison with the other sectors, the retail and consumer industry witnessed a marginal decrease of 6% in 2022–23 as compared to 2020. This was triggered by the gap in identification of the right use cases and measuring the RoI. Use cases in this sector are primarily in sales and marketing, customer service, and supply chain and logistics with 68%, 52% and 56% of participants, respectively, reporting only marginal to no improvements," the report says.

"As organisations mature in their journey towards using AI for driving business outcomes, a three-pronged approach around identification of appropriate use cases, rigour of measuring and communicating the RoI along with driving adoption and scale at the enterprise level using the framework of responsible and explainable AI will be critical," says Sudipta Ghosh, partner and leader – data & analytics, PwC India.

Companies that are using AI to model this data are reaping the benefits of business transformation enabled by effective decision making, says Indranil Mitra, managing director and leader – Advanced Analytics, PwC India. "However, to truly differentiate themselves from the competition, leaders must also have a deep understanding of the risks around security, privacy, and accountability," Mitra says.

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