Imagine you own four retail outlets in a city. And at the end of a business day, you need to see the sales figures for all four. All you have to do is open Flash, the business intelligence product developed by Chennai-based GeniSIGHTS, and say, “Can I see today’s sales across stores please?” Or just say “sales today”, and you will get a chart with sales figures for the day with comparative analysis with same day last year.
“We use mathematical modelling based on statistical analysis and machine learning to generate business insights,” says Parvathy Sarath, Chief Analytics Officer at GeniSIGHTS, sitting in her office at IIT-Madras Research Park.
This product startup was spun off in 2015 from Aaum Research and Analytics Private Limited, an eight-year-old services company. Aaum, standing for advanced analytics using mathematical modelling, was founded by Rajesh Kumar, an IIT-Madras alumnus, in 2010, when analytics was just beginning to gain momentum as a business proposition.
Businesses not only need data on how they are performing across brands and product lines/service offerings, but also insights on rising and falling demands for a particular brand or service, or insights on whether it is worth continuing a service offering.
When competitor data is available, it can be used to see how your business measures against them, which can help you position yourself better in the market. A predictive analysis can also be done using suitable data, for example, on a particular business segment or what to focus upon in the next quarter. This business intelligence aids informed business decision-making.
The core of the Flash product is a statistical analysis based on which a mathematical model is developed. Statistical analysis can aid in grouping data in a sophisticated manner and analysing the variance. Flash provides business analytics from available data, deep insights using mathematical modelling, and uses AI to churn out scenario forecasting using statistical analysis and time series analysis.
The unique feature of Flash is its voice recognition, similar to Google Assistant or Amazon Echo. It has an intuitive ability to customise its offering to an individual decision-maker, who is usually a top-level executive. Flash can customise results without a query after a period of interaction. “Over time, Flash is capable of understanding the decision maker’s action,” says Rajesh, Founder and Managing Director GeniSIGHTS.
For example, if a sales VP repeatedly asks for a set of queries, Flash would understand his preferences and what he generally looks for.
It can be deployed for any business, but travel and retail customers have shown a preference for Aaum’s BI services. Finance, retail and telecom are other domains Flash is targeting, while manufacturing holds great potential. Currently, it is focusing on small and medium businesses.
“During my job at Motorola in the US, I was involved in several Six Sigma projects. At Motorola, it was believed that if you don’t measure anything, it’s not right. There was a paradigm shift in data-driven initiatives in 2008,” says Rajesh. In addition, the innovation design courses that he took at IIT shaped his thinking. “Analytics was just beginning to be adopted by the industry,” he says, “Data-driven insights can be gathered from mathematical modelling of data, and businesses deriving value from those insights was my idea.” For this, collecting relevant data and analysing it is important.
Rajesh completed MBA from IIT Kanpur before moving to the US for a job. And in 2010, it was time to return to his base, Chennai, after the startup bug bit him. Aaum was incubated at the NASSCOM Warehouse at Tidel Park, as part of NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups programme, which was launched around that time in Chennai as well. Lakshmi Narayanan, former Chairman of NASSCOM and former Vice Chairman of Cognizant, was one among the judges who chose Aaum for NASSCOM’s ambitious startup programme in Chennai.
“Lakshmi has been following us from day one,” says Rajesh. Aaum then moved into the IIT-M Research Park as one of its first occupants and initially worked with the Government of India in evaluating the MNREGA programme in Tamil Nadu, and with NABARD for credit scoring. It eventually began enrolling customers for its business analytics and intelligence services. The first customer came from the travel domain, and soon, clients from the retail industry took to the startup as well.
Aaum’s USP was its ability to provide actionable insights, which requires tremendous work using rigorous mathematical modelling of data. No other BI tool matched this capability. That’s where Parvathy came into the picture. Right after completing her masters in econometrics from Madras University in 2010, she became Aaum’s first employee because of her expertise in using statistical tools, including the more complicated R tool.
The company was providing usual business analytics (available data converted into charts and reports), business intelligence (insights from data) and scenario predictions using its proprietary modelling technique, customised to each business need. It was almost like a unique product for each customer. M.M. Murugappan, Chairman of the Murugappa group, proved to be a valuable adviser for Aaum during his periodic visits to IIT-M Research Park.
After onboarding more than 50 customers, Rajesh realised that instead of “productising” each service, they could develop a product. Machine learning and AI were increasingly being deployed for big data analysis around this time. As a result, mathematical modelling, which powered Aaum’s business intelligence offering, was strengthened with an additional layer of AI.
GeniSIGHTS as formed with a view to offer a business intelligence product ‘Flash’ built on the strengths of Aaum, and with accumulated learnings from its customer base.
Lakshmi invested an undisclosed sum.
“What differentiated us from the usual business analytics tools was our ability to generate specific and deep insights,” says Rajesh. Customers were already gung-ho about Aaum and Flash as a product was beta-tested with a few existing customers. Lakshmi, investor and adviser for GeniSIGHTS, thinks data and BI are the key ingredients for business success. He sees a transition from “touch to voice” and voice interface between humans and computers as the biggest shift in future. So, in his view, “Flash provides a gateway for a future [voice-driven] that will literally put insight and intelligence at one’s command.”
Flash got a shot in the arm when an anchor customer was signed up. “We will soon make an announcement about our engagement with that brand,” says Parvathy.
Rajesh says GeniSIGHTS is looking at the US SMB market for its growth to the next level and is waiting for the right moment to raise funds. Rajesh claims that he has already spurned many offers for a merger, takeover and funding as he is clear that the product has to grow organically before other options can be looked at.