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AI Is a ‘Black Box’ with Lots of Data

Ranjit Nair

In the mid-2000s, several enterprising individuals of Indian origin, having built a successful career in the US, set their sights back home with dreams of starting-up in India. Mostly in their thirties and forties, these highly-skilled professionals began their ventures focusing on the Indian market offering a range of innovative products and services, some even giving a tough competition existing firms.

Dr. Ranjit Nair, CEO and Founder of Germin8 Solutions, a digital intelligence company, is one such example. Armed with a doctorate in Computer Science with specialization in Artificial Intelligence from the University of Southern California, he returned to India more than a decade ago to turn entrepreneur.

In 2007, he founded along with his father Raj Nair, a strategy consultant and serial entrepreneur. Backed by Kalaari Capital, Germin8 today helps many large companies across sectors like financial services; automobile, FMCG and pharmaceuticals to use the best marketing tools and become more customer-centric. In a conversation with CXOToday, Dr. Ranjit Nair explains some of the recent AI trends in the enterprise and how the technology can help decision makers build powerful brands.

CXOT: What inspired you to start an AI-focused company in 2007, when the concept itself was still pretty vague to most Indian enterprises?

Ranjit Nair: Having completed my Doctorate in Computer Science with Artificial Intelligence as my specialization, I worked on decision-making in multi-agent teams involved in collaborative tasks in uncertain environments, such as robots tasked with rescuing people after natural calamities. I worked as Senior Research Scientist at Honeywell Labs, continuing to develop algorithms for planning an decision-making when faced with imprecise and incomplete data. Soon I realized that it would be more satisfying to return home to India. The start-up ecosystem had matured in the US and I felt India was more exciting and I returned in 2006 to turn entrepreneur. We saw a big gap in decision-making across industries and launched Germin8 in 2007 to help companies make better informed decisions. Germin8 is a Big Data analytics company focused on helping companies understand and act in real time on the conversations by its stakeholders.

CXOT: While still nascent, Artificial Intelligence is already making its presence felt in India. What are the recent trends you are observing in this space?

Ranjit Nair: In 2018, companies started to get a firmer grip on the reality of what AI can and can’t do. After spending the previous few years getting their data and identifying areas where AI can bring rapid rewards, large businesses went ahead with initiatives that are proven, moving out of piloting and smooth launch to global deployment. In 2019, we see the growing certainty that this predictive technologies, bolstered by learnings, has gone beyond initial deployments and rolled out extensively through most of a business’s operations. AI has branched out into service functions like HR, marketing, supply chain and so on. By 2020 more firms – across verticals – will embrace AI since they are to comprehend the value of the data they own.

CXOT: Currently what are some the concerns faced by businesses around AI technologies in the country?

Ranjit Nair: As per a latest report by PwC, AI could add $15.7 Trillion as combined output of India and China to global economy by 2030. This technology has various applications from counter terrorism to space exploration. Yet it has many hurdles, which needs to be overcome before incorporating AI. For example, lack of people power. Without mass market use cases there has not been a great deal of money in it. As a result there are a comparatively few organizations willing to cough up money for development of talent and skill. AI is also not well-represented in industry-focused education and training curriculum. As a result there is a skills shortage – simply not enough qualified people who know how to operate machines which think and learn for themselves. Also, trust building in AI is a big issue. AI is like a black box with lot of user centric data which it uses to learn and compute. People don’t feel comfortable when they don’t know and understand how the decision was made by a system.

CXOT: Coming to the AI market, how do you think Indian brands and marketers can gain from this technology?

Ranjit Nair: The new age Indian millennial marketers are trying hard to leverage AI for strategic planning and campaign decision making. Most of them are finding AI helpful in enhancing productivity and reducing overall efforts. They have realized that AI-powered analytics tools provide better insights for campaign management, budget planning and RoI analysis. With multiple brands trying to catch the ever reducing attention span of their consumers, digital marketers are now under more pressure to demonstrate the success of content and campaigns. With AI tools utilization of potential data is very easy and effective.

CXOT: Storytelling is an essential part of most digital marketing campaign. Why it is important to understand the story behind the data?

Ranjit Nair: Stories have always been successful tools to transmit the human experience, the ones that involve data and analysis are only comparatively latest versions of them. Narration is the way we simplify and make sense of an intricate world. It provides context, insight, interpretation, each of the things which make data meaningful and analytics much more relevant and interesting. With analytics your aim is typically to change the way someone makes a decision or takes any action. You are trying to persuade, inspire and lead a change with these powerful tools. Irrespective of how remarkable your analysis is, or how top quality your data are, you are not going to induce change unless the stakeholders to your work understand what you’ve done. That might need a visual narrative or a story one, however it does require a story. Most folks cannot understand the particulars of analytics, but they do need evidence of analysis and data.

CXOT: Social media analytics is one of your key areas of specialization. Could you explain how Social media analytics help brands meet business goals?

Ranjit Nair: Social media gives businesses an unprecedented opportunity for connecting with customers and prospects and in the digital age, social media analytics is essential to test and track your results so that you can identify the most effective strategies. Studies reveal 59% of marketers are actively utilizing to support their lead generation and their business objectives. It’s difficult to find a brand that is not active on social network in some manner, shape or form. But, you may still find plenty of critics that do not see the advantages of social media from a business perspective. Social media deserves your attention today more than ever before, for Social data has the capability to uncover industry trends in real time. If you wish to know exactly what brand is doing well or similarly what consumers are complaining about, it is all out there at the start. And needless to say, your target audience’s social action and shared content may clue you in on business trends of your sector. And if you want to tap into those trends via social conversations, look no further than social listening to do the trick.

Perhaps one of the greatest social media marketing benefits is the capability to have analysis data about your competitors. By conducting a social competitive analysis, you are able to discover chances to step into a brand new lane with regards to content or advertising. By way of example, perhaps you understand that your competition is crushing it with Facebook advertisements however their Instagram existence is totally lacking. In turn, you may explore consumer or influencer advertising generated content campaigns for the sake of standing out from the crowd. With Social Media Data, you offer better customer service. Using Social Media Analytics, one can definitely increase the ability to grow to the maximum potential through social networks, gain trust and increase overall revenue by acquiring more customers.

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