AiThority Interview Series with Anil Kaul, CEO at Absolutdata
Know My Company
Tell us about your interaction with smart technologies like AI and Cloud-based analytics platforms.
Absolutdata teams have worked with a variety of AI and analytics platforms while building our NAVIK line of AI-based solutions. On the AI side, we’ve worked with open source technologies like TensorFlow and Kera, while developing expertise on commercial AI systems such as IBM Watson and Amazon SageMaker. Many of the more foundational cloud-based analytics platforms like Tableau and Domo have been in high demand by clients, so over the years we’ve fostered deep expertise on a wide variety of these analytics platforms as well.
The most ground breaking and original work comes from our Absolutdata Labs group—the masterminds of our AI platform. This group facilitates innovation internally with our Data Science Center of Excellence, which gives our data scientists and engineers an opportunity to share what they’ve learned through modelling and working with clients. It’s a great venue for cross-pollenating skills, ideas and the general body of knowledge here at the company.
- How did you start in this space?
Our AI journey grew organically from two inherent company aspects: our mission to help the world make better decisions, and our drive to use the latest technologies to exceed client expectations. Our heritage began in 2001 with a focus on data, research and analytics for large global brands. With the explosion of big data, open source AI components and processing power, we started to add AI models into our advanced analytics and big data projects early on. The impact we saw with clients was tremendous. Machine learning became integral to further scaling this impact across large enterprises. 5 years later, our AI Platform includes a growing line of products focused on bringing AI to sales and marketing functions, where revenue impact is real.
With this depth of experience rooted early on, we discovered an effective formula that consistently delivers scalable business impact. It’s exciting because with an AI framework like NAVIK, the initial value generated from solving a business problem keeps growing, like compound interest.
We call the formula “A.C.T.” an acronym for the components needed to generate scalable impact. The first letter, “A,” stands for “analytical framework,” which is the methodology an enterprise uses to solve a specific business problem. For example, telecom companies have an analytical framework to prevent customer churn a set of triggers they’ve identified, such as decreased usage, a comparable offer from a competitor for the same phone, etc., and ways to prevent churn with discount offers and other tactics. A successful AI solution starts with these known dynamics as an analytical framework.
“C” stands for context. Every industry—and company—has a unique specialized set of influences, vernacular and ecosystem. AI isn’t omniscient — it only knows what you tell it. These business rules are fed into the AI solution to supply context.
And finally, “T” is for technology that stitches it all together. AI solutions need technology that allows them to integrate and manage data efficiently, generate intelligent recommendations, and create effective visualizations and dashboards.
- What galvanized you to launch NAVIK ResearchAI?
Integrating AI into the long-established market research world is completely disrupting research as we know it—and this sector is ripe for disruption. Over the last 30 years, change has been incremental at best. ResearchAI has been transformational for our clients, and for Absolutdata internally. AI and machine learning are completely changing the way enterprises do market research, making it faster, more accessible, and integral to daily decision making. Seeing this difference is what inspired us to productize ResearchAI and bring it to clients.
With the traditional approach, companies with a heavy consumer focus like CPG enterprises pay consultants huge fees to take on research projects that take weeks and even months to yield a single set of data points, like packaging options. The traditional strategy is expensive, time-consuming and inherently limited. But with ResearchAI, we can create scalable impact for the enterprise by pulling all the data together to yield more insights to continuously drive action.
Because ResearchAI is self-learning, it gets smarter as enterprises add new data, and it becomes a business asset with applications beyond the specific business problem it was launched to solve. Like all NAVIK AI solutions, it creates scalable impact for the enterprise, delivering revenue increases in the short term and generating value on an ongoing basis. That’s why it will revolutionize the market research function. In five years or so, the traditional approach will be completely obsolete.
What is this new research program all about and how does it leverage Data science in its methodologies?
At a fundamental level, the purpose of research is to give enterprises the information they need to make the right decisions. NAVIK ResearchAI uses data science, machine learning and AI to remove the traditional time lapse between data collection, analysis, insight and decision making. It gets the information to decision makers quickly so they can respond to changing business conditions and opportunities faster in an economy that increasingly demands agility. It also breaks down data siloes and ensures that information empowers decision makers at all levels, from the CEO to operations. That’s critically important and one of the chief advantages a solution like NAVIK ResearchAI offers.
By leveraging data science and AI-based algorithms, NAVIK ResearchAI allows enterprises to build institutional intelligence. It persists beyond the task it was originally created to perform, and the insights it yields become part of the enterprise memory, enduring after the tenure of people involved in a particular project and adding value into the future as part of the corporate psyche. For example, one of our clients, a major food brand, had a massive amount of data, including research-generated information, but the data was siloed, so it was taking weeks if not months to pull information together to answer business questions. With NAVIK ResearchAI and IBM Watson, the client was able to integrate the data, and we created a natural language search they could use like Google to generate pertinent data, create charts, etc.
Which industries would benefit from accessing your resources?
Any large enterprise can benefit from the NAVIK AI Platform, but the industries we see adopting AI early are innovation leaders in Consumer Goods, Travel & Hospitality, Foodservice Manufacturers, Retail & Etail and Technology companies.
NAVIK ResearchAI specifically is perfect for companies that rely on market research. It’s a natural fit for any consumer-focused brand with fast moving market trends and disruptors getting in their space. Improved agility is increasingly important for these companies.
What is the state of AI for Marketing, Sales and Customer Service in 2019? How much has it evolved since the time you first started here?
We’ve witnessed an extraordinary evolution across all those sectors, and Absolutdata innovations have played a role in taking AI to the next level with a focus on sales and marketing functions. Over the past several years, AI crossed the chasm from automating repetitive tasks to providing insights and driving actions. For example, in sales, early AI tools automated data entry by populating contacts and documenting activities so salespeople could focus on selling instead of entering data. The next step in that evolution was AI solutions that generate valuable insights.
Absolutdata took it a step further by focusing on self-learning features, natural language search capabilities and purpose-built solutions that deliver true business intelligence, not just automation and insights. For example, NAVIK SalesAI goes beyond insights to provide specific recommendations that guide salespeople to generate more revenue. A customized game plan provides on-point recommendations on what to sell and to whom. NAVIK MarketingAI gives marketers hyper-personalization capabilities that achieve the holy grail of marketing: the ability to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.
Tell us more about your vision into growing AI-driven revenue opportunities.
All NAVIK solutions are designed to create scalable business impact for enterprises, so they generate immediate value in the form of higher sales, more effective promotions, faster decision making and more satisfied customers. That translates into short and long-term revenue gains as the self-learning AI solution continues to generate recommendations to improve sales, marketing and customer satisfaction.
Because scalability and agility are key, we took a platform approach to our vision. Clients have the choice to start with a point solution ResearchAI for example and easily expand to other AI capabilities when ready. Clients can also license and customize the NAVIK AI Platform to give their digital transformation initiatives a powerful engine. With the right AI solution, enterprises don’t get blindsided by trends because AI expands the data universe and enables the company to operate with more agility to meet today’s pace of change.
How do you see the raging trend of including involving AI and Machine learning in a modern CIO/ CMO’s stack budget?
Gartner estimates that about half of technology spending will focus on advanced technologies like AI and machine learning by 2022. AI is quickly becoming table stakes in the stack not a “nice to have” item but an essential part of doing business. But one interesting thing we’ve noticed is AI’s potential to bring people together for purchasing decisions.
CTOs and CIOs used to make most technology purchasing decisions, and business unit leaders had to live with those choices. As the technology became more specialized for specific functions, buying shifted to the business units, putting executives like CROs and CMOs in the driver’s seat. Solutions like the NAVIK AI Platform are bringing business units across the enterprise together to choose an AI technology that generates value throughout the organization.
The Crystal Gaze
What technologies within AI/NLP and Cloud Analytics are you interested in?
We’re most involved with open source technologies like TensorFlow and Kera, while also delivering projects on commercial AI systems such as IBM Watson, Microsoft Cognitive Toolkit and Amazon SageMaker.
As a tech leader, what industries you think would be fastest to adopting Analytics and AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets?
Consumer-facing enterprises won that race out of the gate it’s already over. Today, the race is on across companies, not industries, meaning that advanced analytics, AI and machine learning are making inroads into new business units within enterprises rather than conquering new sectors.
What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?
We created a very handy internal chatbot that answers questions for Absolutdata employees. You can ask it natural language questions like, “Where’s my W-2,” “How do I open a job req,” and “How do I apply for PTO,” and get immediate answers based on company policy.
Thank you, Anil! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Anil lead AbsolutData, a fast-growing company, that is leading the transformative movement to use AI to improve every decision that an enterprise makes, particularly in Sales & Marketing. While the world debates the potential AI has – We are already busy delivering on that vision for our clients. Our work has been called “Breakthrough Innovation” by the Chief Growth Officer of one of the largest CPG companies.
Absolutdata products and services deliver scalable business impact across the enterprise by combining cutting edge AI and ML with its heritage in analytical frameworks, business understanding and technology. Absolutdata’s NAVIK AI Platform for the enterprise blends AI, technology, data and analytics to serve as the intelligence layer for forward-thinking companies. To quickly get clients AI empowered, the NAVIK AI Platform has a suite of pre-built AI solutions, or it can be licensed and customized using Absolutdata’s deep bench of data scientists and engineers.