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BAT using Natural Language Processing to tackle illicit tobacco trade and improve internal operations

BAT using tech innovation as part of business pivot.

By Edward Qualtrough

British-based tobacco multinational BAT operates in more than 180 countries and has developed a New Categories business worth £1.3bn as it pivots its business away from “combustible tobacco products”.

Director of digital and information Maria Bellini joined the management board in a newly-created role in January 2019 from her previous post as BAT’s chief information officer – to drive the digital transformation of BAT to unlock commercial value across the entire organisation.

Analysing BAT’s hiring trends, technology investments and strategy analysts GlobalData noted BAT’s focus on key tech “Themes” – in particular Big Data, artificial intelligence, and internet of things in its manufacturing operations.

In the emerging tech space, global functional CIO Beatriz Copelli and her team have been developing Natural Language Processing (NLP) and machine learning translation tools to help overcome language barriers and improve customer satisfaction and efficiency in BAT Global Business Services – a project which sees BAT recognised in the Technology Leaders Index.

It is hoped the NLP programme developed with the Information & Digital Technology function – using chatbots and working with voice and text – will come to fruition in 2021.

Copelli was previously CIO for the Americas and Sub-Saharan Africa, and with her team worked with a local Brazilian start-up using a combination of data analytics and NLP to help BAT tackle illicit trade; in parts of South America counterfeit tobacco products have accounted for more than half of the market.

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