Sauvik Banerjjee, Vice President Digital Initiatives, Advisory to Group Co’s and CTO of Tata CLiQ at Tata Industries, is one of top six technologists globally with over 150 implementations running across the globe.
A tech evangelist and entrepreneur by heart, Sauvik has built two successful startups and sold them in the UK. Sauvik is now mentoring select startups on building successful business models. He has been responsible for disruptive innovative ideas in technology and omni-channel commerce that have earned him the distinction and title of being one of the only six people (the only person of Indian origin) in the world to have worked on all global omni-channel platforms. Sauvik also holds a robust track record in P&L roles where he has delivered over 143 percent growth, 122 percent growth across India and Europe for organisations like Infosys, Accenture, and SAP. At SAP he was the Chief of Technology for SAP Global’s Omni-channel and Digital vertical.
He continues to focus on innovation in the areas artificial intelligence, IoT and applications across industries, hover board, lunar missions, smart cities.
In a recent AMA on YSConversations, Sauvik answered questions on technology, omni channel e-commerce, leadership and more. Here’s the detailed account of YSConversation with Sauvik:
On upcoming technologies
Augmented Reality would become part of our daily lives. Usage of BOTS in mass commercial modes would become common, whether it’s online banking, online buying, or connected devices at home. Moreover, AI would play a huge role in the way we watch personalised content on our OTT platforms of entertainment.
Will Artificial Intelligence make human skills redundant someday?
No. Artificial Intelligence is a framework and it would require many new skills by humans to run AI horizontally and vertically across the industry. Yes. Governance is required but we are eons away from making humans redundant. Some skills will become redundant and newer skills will appear but the big point is re-skilling of these new skills.
India’s growth story driven by AI and IoT
India’s entire growth story is built on India becoming a product nation from a services nation. The startup revolution is built around product built organisations. IoT will play a role in making India connected: via connected parking lots, connected domestic homes, connected and measured water and electricity ecosystems and connected public transport. The role of IoT is also extremely important in making India’s industries driven by industrial internet.
Coming to AI – the role of self -learning, machine learning, deep learning, NLP will play a huge role on education, where kids would be able to learn from the remotest corner with AI tools which would help augment their learning capabilities. Health care in villages would be driven by bots, vernacular voice recognition and speech to text capabilities, crime and forensics would get impacted by neural network driven facial recognition and the use cases go on and on.
It all comes down to how quickly our tier I, II, III towns have giga fibre and we become an optic-fibre nation.
On bias towards tech in India’s startup ecosystem
I actually hate it. I would love to work with a non-tech startup. The bias is there due to the country going through a digital transformation. I am a keen endorser of non-tech startups such as a fashion startup or a health care product or a manufacturing product. I evangelise nontech startups as the country needs them as much as we need tech startups.
On tech companies (Amazon, Google, Facebook) holding a monopoly
They have and it’s the nature of a growing economy. But the giants making an impact in the market means the rest of the ecosystem is building products and organisations to compliment. Sellers and hyper local organisations are brewing up on the India-Amazon story. India’s digital marketing model is promoting newer verticals and organisations to work on Google and its products. Facebook is ensuring that a key online marketing industry is brewing up in India. Xiaomi is inspired from Apple and look at the market of Xiaomi in India now. It’s Chinese but look at how many new Kirana stores are selling Xiaomi handsets thanks to their emergence. And then you have a Zoho and a Flock and a Node and a YourStory coming up, using them, and championing the space. So, it’s good to have giants.
With FANGs (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix, and Google ) hoarding AI and ML talent, how to keep the level plan for smaller companies who do not have deep pockets?
It’s best to go to engineering institutes, work with them and attract talent. Deep learning, Machine Learning, NLP and many other technologies are actually frameworks and capabilities and are built on hundreds of tools and technologies. You cannot be an AI expert even in ten years as I keep learning every day but you can always start. Learning starts from day one and good young tech talent are hungry for learning and growth and given a reasonable salary it’s much easy to attract them. Many young engineers are pursuing to join a good start up than the FANGS.
Also, it’s not easy to get into the FANGS. I am a partner with all of them and my learnings have been that FANGS have a rigorous interview process and to crack FANG is an achievement…. India has a pool of millions. There is enough room for all.
How to build an omnichannel e-commerce platform
- Identify the brick & mortar (B&M) industry you intend to target.
- Know your market and your target audience.
- Build tech stack where the offline and online marriage is seamless.
- Build logistic efficiencies to ensure that the marriage is seamless.
Omni channel definition in India start from a smart TV, to a desktop to a mobile to a customer services to an in store. Ensure your platform or your organisation has a touch point on all the above as part of your offering.
Tata CLiQ —Vs —– Flipkart/Amazon
TataCLiQ is a physical mall’s equivalent. What you see in a physical store is what we show you. You would get it shipped from the brand store or you can click and collect. Convenience on logistics and the newest and largest range is going to be with us, as we are a brand destination and now a pure market place selling anything and everything.
The Tata group penetration is across 900 towns and 10,000 villages, so we are ensuring that we are customer obsessed and brand obsessed. We are a new organisation and learning everyday but without fail we want the B&M of retail to augment with our platform. Hence, we are different from the other e-commerce players who just have a warehouse and inventory buying model.
Advantages of being part of a legacy brand
Best part is you have a brand which is over 100 years old. You have the trust of the country and now when you launch a new age fast business, you have a huge responsibility to your customer base. You also have a major advantage on experience of knowing your country’s target audience and their behavioural patterns. You are accountable and responsible and if you deliver on your promise you have a heads up.
Good leadership and team building
Leaders are defined by how many leaders are you building and how many times your team can walk through walls for you. Leadership is all about empowering and extracting the performance without micro managing but making individuals accountable. When they fail, you pick them up and celebrate your teams success.
I am a huge follower of JRD Tata and believe that consensus of your middle management and your employees is important for a business decision.
Lastly my own mantra is – Build teams with a titan model. Be extensively choosy on picking your talent pool and when you have recruited them invest in their growth with a mission.
Most common mistakes made by startups
- Missing on attention to detail on quality assurance in tech and in services.
- Asking for funds at a seed stage without knowing the market value of your offering
- Not making the Go-To market strategy at the right time
- Rather than being greedy about equity, it’s good to have 1% of a billion than have all of nothing.
- Learning sales in the process is an absolute no. Get your sales model in the right place and invest in seasoned sales professionals or else all the effort on building a product or design is of no use.
Patents are extremely important especially if you can acquire a global patent. Even if you get an Indian patent, that’s also useful. It impacts valuation, if you ever are listed as an IPO or if you’re having an exit or acquisition. Patents play a major part on the overall value of your business.
Books and advice
I am reading Jiddu Krishnamurthy’s Flight of the Eagle and a must book I recommend every budding entrepreneur is A Lean Start Up by Eirc Ries.
Follow what your heart says and then pursue that career but be double sure what you want to and excellence will follow.
I intend to be part of a journey in India where the paradigm is shifting from services to product. I intend to play a contributory role in building new products by our next generation.
And if I start up again
If I were to startup again I would try and solve problems in three key areas:
- Farmers and their efficiency in harvesting.
- Salinisation of Water and any areas of tech which can impact it.
- Solar energy and its efficiency and affordability to the poorest.