Mr. Sujit Lahiry, Executive Director - Skilrock Technologies - Interview with World Lottery Association (WLA)
The world lottery community is a wealth of professional knowledge. As a global association, the WLA sees it as its duty to facilitate the sharing of this expertise. They have started a new initiative by launching a series of video interviews with key opinion leaders from the world lottery community. This first video interview features Mr. Sujit Lahiry, Executive Director of Skilrock Technologies, a WLA Gold Contributor. We hope you will enjoy the interview.
How can lotteries and the supplier community work together most effectively to ensure the best results for both lotteries and suppliers?
Challenging times demand innovation and there is no better partnership than operating lotteries and the suppliers. The example of how some of the lotteries quickly went digital and those who were already digital invested in better customer experience and introduced new games, this is for everyone to see how you have done it in the last couple of years.
India potentially has one of the biggest lottery markets worldwide. What lottery trends, exclusive to India, do you feel other lotteries in the world could benefit from?
India has a very unique situation, multiple states, multiple languages and multiple subcultures and in addition, it does not have monopolies so there is a huge competition that drives innovation and efficiency.
At the end of last year, the Indian supreme court ruled that lotteries were taxable under the GST act of 2017 at a rate of 28%. How has this impacted the Indian lottery market and how has Skilrock stepped up to this regulatory challenge?
It was a huge challenge for the industry as the lottery was treated like a luxury product and taxed at the rate of 28% in place of 12%. There was a time in between when lottery gameplay within the state and into another state was taxed differently.
How can global lottery suppliers help lotteries face regulatory challenges in their respective jurisdictions?
We have to first understand the source of Regulatory challenges, they originate from changing legislative environment… moral, ethical etc. Changing Social and personal settings… But what does it involve - to know, to control, to regulate? Today all this is data points driven - data analytics, AI, software-controlled models So a Supplier has far more technology at disposal these days to support operators.
What is it that you feel makes Skilrock unique among international lottery suppliers?
Skilrock is quite different, today we have a 4th generation product called INFINITI, the brief to the software architects was to design something that meets every requirement of every operator in the world. So it is a brilliant microservices-based architecture, that is flexible for developed and emerging markets alike, supports any variety of games, hardware, integrations as the operator needs. Another major difference is that we have our software labs where everyone in the world develops so we can create deep customization that a lottery operator needs.
Where do you feel that the future growth of the lottery sector lies and what opportunities for growth can lotteries anticipate?
Covid has accelerated going digital and some of the operators have gone far ahead and they are focusing on rich customer experience. At the same time, the technology is also rapidly changing - Analytics, AI, Blockchain etc. The biggest challenge for lotteries is also to come up with interesting content, which is attractive to younger people. We had one shoe fits all approach but people need regional and personal choices. So growth will come when operators start thinking out of the box and we are there to help them achieve whatever they want as technology is available today.
What can suppliers do for lotteries to encourage innovation in the industry?
Innovation has no boundaries, it can be process innovation, marketing innovation so it is not restricted to technology but technology is the enabler so if the operators are willing, they can deep dive into the current and future challenges, engage with ‘innovators’ and suggest solutions. I hope the interaction increases with ease of travel.
On the other hand, what can lotteries do to help drive more competitiveness and innovation among suppliers?
Going away from traditional thinking, if there are economies of scale, the operators can engage with more than one supplier at a time. We operate in many jurisdictions where retail POS solution is provided by supplier A and digital is provided by supplier B and say Scratch card solutions by supplier C. So the operators have to think without any artificial barriers and assume that integration between systems is something that suppliers are obligated to do. These days we mostly have API integration so it is no more a rocket science to integrate between two suppliers.
Should there be more collaboration among industry suppliers to better meet the needs of lotteries?
Yes, it is happening, we pick up the best of the POS solutions from the industry, print scratch card tickets from the best of the facilities in the world, pick up sports data feeds. We have a choice to pick up the best. There is a need to change the thinking beyond the wall. Similarly, Operators also can play a role to invite solutions that are best in the industry.
What do you feel motivates the average person to spontaneously buy a lottery ticket?
There are different classes and categories of players. Some are aspirational, some are dividend seekers, some are fun-seekers, some want everything combined. This is based on demographics, economics etc. Again there is some difference between players playing at POS and players playing digitally. So an operator who can introduce different types of products to attract different segments of players would do well and similarly, a tech provider should offer a seamless solution.
Lotteries that rely heavily on their retail channels have been challenged by COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in their respective jurisdictions. What can lotteries do to protect their retailers and to better prepare for future crises?
Going beyond the strict lockdown periods, retailers and their livelihood are very important so we have to come up with touch-free solutions that give confidence to players. In India we run payment and commercial services under a brand called “Payworld”, these retailers were considered as essential service outlets as they were used by Government for disbursement of aid. We have to expand the possibility of alternate revenue sources for retailers. We also have a solution called OLA, that provided an opportunity to engage retailers for the digital channels.
What do you feel will permanently change once pandemic lockdowns are lifted?
Many players will adopt Digital and therefore Omni Channel experience will be the key, we have to think of a common user experience, allow players to use their wallets at Retail or Mobile App interchangeably. So lots of hybrid approaches, change in the outlook of contents will be required.
Illegal and unauthorized lottery and betting operations have grown to be a global problem. How can the regulated supplier community help support state-authorized lottery and gaming organizations in their fight against illegal and unauthorized lottery and betting operations?
Three important things come to my mind, as a responsible supplier we have to stop any direct or indirect engagement with any operator or supplier in illegal and grey markets. Solutions like a second chance of winning or surprise draws can hit the illegal lotteries very hard Operators should also geo-fence themselves so that it becomes difficult to play or obtain draw results for misuse in other jurisdictions.
Online gaming continues to grow in importance for lotteries and has seen a rapid surge in the past year, owing to the various pandemic lockdowns. How does Skilrock support the lotteries it serves in its efforts to offer online gaming products that are fun, safe, and responsible?
Skilrock offers a complete suite of digital transformation services to lottery operators who have not yet gone digital. Operators who have already gone digital, offer a better customer experience involving the whole life-cycle - registration, gameplay, player engagement, support etc. We have implemented quite a few new projects during the covid time and scaled up other clients so they are very happy, we also offered better digital content to the operators so that the gameplay is interesting to the player.
What is Skilrock doing in terms of corporate social responsibility, especially in relation to diversity, the environment, and community engagement?
Our Parent Organization Sugal & Damani is very well known for their Corporate Social Responsibility. They are very specialized so we contribute through them.
It ranges from Medical care for the needy, School rebuilding projects, adoption of villages for alternate energy, awards for social caregivers to catalyze this process. Total beneficiaries are more than 2 Million.