Artificial Intelligence

How 6 mid-market companies are using AI to scale

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Industry 4.0 and IoT (Internet of Things). factory automation system. AI

AI holds huge potential for mid-market companies around the world. Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Julia Devos
Head, New Champions Community, World Economic Forum
Srivani Kanthi Chatti
Growth Strategy & Business Development Lead, World Economic Forum
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  • AI is rapidly transforming businesses of all sizes worldwide and it can be especially beneficial for mid-market companies.
  • A relatively small, but well-thought-out, investment in AI can help mid-market companies rapidly develop and scale.
  • A diverse selection of mid-market company leaders from around the world share how they are using AI to expand their operations.

In today's evolving business world, using artificial intelligence (AI) is not just a trend. It's a fundamental transformation shaping the future of industries everywhere. It is rapidly changing businesses of all sizes, but it can be especially beneficial for mid-market companies.

Mid-market companies typically have more resources than small and medium enterprises, but less to invest than their larger competitors. A relatively small, but well-thought-out, investment in AI can help them rapidly develop and scale. The Deloitte Mid-Market Technology Trends Report 2023 finds mid-market private companies are "prioritizing technology investments that reduce time to value, but they’re innovating at an incredible pace — something we haven’t seen in previous surveys."

Here, we ask a diverse selection of mid-market purpose-driven company leaders what they see as the core principles that should shape an organization's AI journey and what is AI's most influential use case for them. They belong to something called the New Champions Community, which is roughly a 100+ member group where mission-driven leaders strive to make a difference in the world and play a crucial role in promoting the welfare of both society and the environment.

“AI is only as effective as the data it’s making use of”

Stanislas Bocquet, Founder & CEO, PALO IT

“AI is only as effective as the data it’s making use of. High-quality, diverse and unbiased data enables AI tools to address sustainability challenges, such as pollution monitoring and resource optimization.

“Investing in AI technologies focusing on sustainability is where progress starts and ends. Funding startups and research initiatives can drive innovation in AI solutions that have a positive impact on environmental sustainability.

“Whatever your journey, don’t go it alone. Collaboration between researchers, companies and governments is key. Informed policies and aligned technological innovations drive impactful changes on a global scale.

“We worked with a multinational luxury retail brand to rapidly estimate the carbon footprint of its digital solution used by 5,000 users, across 450 stores in 10 countries. We used our AI-powered Impact Tracker platform to assess the ESG practices of its development team and proposed a structured improvement plan, integrating carbon budget and SDG impact progress along the way.

“As an early adopter in its sector, we’ve seen the project deliver concrete success that can serve as an example for others. For carbon purposes, we’ve enabled recording user activity and intelligent use of this data to steer future actions, estimate the solution’s carbon footprint and forecast a carbon reduction plan and its ROI.

“For ESG purposes, this project equipped the business to audit internal team practices, analyze improvement scenarios and recommend action plans to move forward.”

“Organizations ideally begin their AI journey by identifying high-impact quick wins and use these as a basis to scale”

Dhruv Chopra, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer, Chalo

“AI can have far-reaching impacts across organizations - from production, supply chains and automated processes to marketing, sales, human resources, product development, technology, consumer experiences and more. Organizations should ideally begin their AI journey by identifying high-impact quick wins and use these as a basis to scale. Depending on the nature of the implementation and overall team acceptance, it may also be important to make everyone comfortable with the introduction of AI as a tool to enhance functions, as well as to define a 'responsible AI' philosophy that the company commits to.

“Chalo builds technology for public transport. We have been using machine-learning (ML) and AI tools since 2017 to power our consumer products, as well as help bus operators better plan their fleets, schedules and routes. ‘Super Saver’ travel plans have been one of our most important offerings. Using our internal AI and ML tools, we created a list of 72 unique travel plans, addressing a variety of passenger segments for Mumbai. The result was that 95% of standard monthly pass passengers switched to one of these new plans, making a significant contribution to the 55% ridership increase and 25% revenue increase for the bus operator.”

“For AI projects to be successful, organizations must start with a good understanding of the problem they are solving”

Rositsa Zaimova, Partner, Dalberg Data Insights

“In embarking on an AI journey, the success, responsibility and sustainability of the endeavour hinge on several core principles, which we at Dalberg Data Insights adhere to. Central to this is a deep understanding of the problem at hand and the appropriate application of AI technologies. This involves a thorough analysis of the problem and aligning AI solutions accordingly. Equally critical is the responsible design, development and deployment of AI. This encompasses creating systems that are accurate, safe, unbiased and transparent.

“Rigorous testing and ongoing validation are essential, and clear communication about the AI's functionality, decision-making process and limitations is key to building stakeholder trust. Sustainability and scalability are also vital in any AI initiative. This requires well-thought-out planning around human, operational and financial resources necessary for scaling the AI application, extending beyond mere technological needs to the integration of the solution within existing organizational frameworks. Emphasizing a long-term perspective, organizations should focus on how AI can contribute to their growth and evolution over time. Thus, for AI projects to be successful, organizations must start with a good understanding of the problem they are solving, think long-term and invest resources to test and experiment internally.

“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Grand Challenges Initiative focused on catalyzing equitable use of AI in LMICs, awarded Dalberg Data Insights to build an AI-enabled health analyst. The tool helps public health officials to 'talk' to the data they collect in DHIS2 or other data management systems, using a GenAI-enabled interface. Such an application can enable a public health official, for example a programme officer at the Ministry of Health, to ask a question using, for example. WhatsApp, such as: 'Are there any emerging trends or patterns in zero dose rates across a certain region in the last two years?' Access to reliable and actionable insights can be used to develop more effective public policies and programmes, assess the impact of current interventions, as well as prioritize scarce resources.”

“Organizations must ensure that their AI systems are transparent, explainable and accountable, reliable, safe and secure”

Juanjo Valderrama, Chief Food-as-a-Service Officer, Blendhub

“AI is not a fad or a trend that will disappear. It is a technology that is rapidly evolving and will continue to shape the future of businesses and industries.

“AI is a force for positive disruption and transformation. It has the potential to revolutionize the way businesses operate, improve efficiency and create new opportunities. However, it is crucial to ensure that AI is used ethically and responsibly. Organizations must ensure that their AI systems are transparent, explainable and accountable, reliable, safe and secure.

“AI must be designed to be inclusive and accessible to everyone. Organizations must ensure that their AI systems do not discriminate against any group of people based on their race, gender, religion or any other characteristic.

“Blendhub has, over the last six months, accelerated the size of several teams without adding extra costs. Our quality and food regulation areas are working twice as fast, marketing three times faster and data analysis has multiplied its efficiency by five. AI tools, such as ChatGPT, Midjourney and Copilot, have changed the way our teams work and will continue multiplying their efficiencies.”

“Implementing AI into any core business function will be redundant if there is no opportunity to increase its impact by scaling it across the business”

Laura Kakon, Group Chief Growth and Strategy Officer, Honoris United Universities

“Data governance is the starting point of any organization's AI journey. It means that the business vision is set and contains all the principles that will ensure data is collected, managed, maintained and utilized in a manner that adheres to ethics, privacy, compliance, transparency, bias mitigation and security.

“The bedrock of every AI project is the quality of its data — the crucial raw material for model training. A robust data framework must rigorously evaluate data cleansing, integrity and relevance to guarantee that all data-driven decisions and predictive models rest on a solid and reliable foundation.

“Scalability should be supported by robust data analysis and measurement to leave room for continuous learning and improvement of AI programmes and increased impact and delivery. Implementing AI into any core business function is redundant if there is no opportunity to increase its impact by scaling it across the business.

“AI has the potential to hugely impact teaching and learning. As a provider of higher education, we must ensure that our teachers are equipped with the skills and attributes necessary to maximize its potential. Change management within the organization, therefore, should be carefully planned and sustained throughout the conception and implementation of any AI model for a greater impact on the business.

“Following a successful pilot, Honoris United Universities launched a partnership with one of the world’s leading adaptive learning online medical education platforms to train tomorrow’s healthcare professionals with the latest in adaptive learning techniques. So far, over 2,000 Honoris students across Tunisia have had access to the platform with 10,000+ videos with linked quiz questions, concept pages and a clinical case question bank, provided to students in nursing, anaesthesia, physical therapy, eye care, orthoptics, medical imaging, operating room instrumentation, human nutrition, dental prosthetics and midwifery.”

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Dr. Brian Mehling, Founder and Chief Medical Officer, Blue Horizon International (BHI)

“BHI prioritizes patient safety and privacy, while always respecting patient autonomy and dignity. Transparency, fairness and accountability ensure ethical decisions. BHI navigates regulations to ensure that AI complies with HIPAA and GDPR and uses rigorous clinical validation and scientific evidence to support AI medical decision-making, diagnosis, treatment planning and drug discovery.

“BHI collaborates across diverse disciplines, including medicine, data science, computer science, bioethics and regulatory affairs, and prioritizes transparent rationales for their predictions and recommendations. BHI has robust data security measures, encryption protocols and compliance with data protection regulations to safeguard patient information. BHI monitors the performance of AI systems, gathers real-world feedback, integrates new knowledge and assesses the potential impact of AI errors, analyzes the limitations of AI algorithms and implements strategies for mitigating risks.

“BHI's most influential AI so far has been to help develop some specific consent forms and to provide lists of relevant recent research in regenerative medicine, stem cell research and home areas of biotech research to provide information on regulatory compliance for clean room and stem cell culture, to learn about international ministry of health requirements and specific countries, among others.”

Become a New Champion

The mission of the New Champions Communities is to engage leading purpose-driven mid-size companies in World Economic Forum activities and share their stories on a global stage. We are excited to uncover more stories this year and give a platform for leading change-makers to positively shape our shared future. Our annual programme focuses on impact-driven peer-to-peer exchanges, thematic engagement tracks and networking circles. To learn about the application process and check whether your business is eligible to join the New Champions network, contact us here.

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