LatentView Analytics Ltd. intends to capitalize on the boom in demand for data analytics technologies by deepening its presence in Europe and APAC, exploring more go-to-market partnerships, building newer capabilities in the supply chain, data engineering, and data governance, and expanding its employee base
In November 2021, Indian pure-play analytics company, LatentView Analytics made news when it went public, receiving bids worth Rs. 113,000 crore. It became the best IPO in the history of the Indian primary market, with its shares being oversubscribed 338 times. That a data analytics company has attracted heavy investor interest comes as no surprise. 2021 saw a series of D&A companies going public; like Databricks, SentinelOne, and Roblox Corp. Back home too, January 2022 saw Course5 Intelligence file its preliminary papers with SEBI, and Fractal Analytics indicating a likely move in this direction soon.
D&A has been in demand, even more so since the pandemic started, forcing companies to accelerate their digital transformation journey. In fact, such rapid digitization led to ample data being made available to companies, thus pushing them to invest in such technologies to make sense of the data. Take the Gartner 2021 Emerging Technology Product Leader Survey for instance. 50% of its survey respondents invested in D&A technologies to grow their customer base, enhance existing products and create new ones. Even back home, a study by IDC last year showed that Indian companies’ investment in big data is likely to touch US $2bn. “We are at an inflection point in terms of how data analytics is picking up steam. I still feel we are barely scratching the surface on how we are using D&A to drive innovation and growth. I’d say that next 5 to 10 years are looking good in terms of power & potential of D&A to understand human behavior,” says Rajan Sethuraman, CEO of LatentView Analytics.
Further, in this interview with Smart CEO, Rajan delves into how he plans to take the company forward post IPO, emerging technologies the company is adopting for a digital-ready future, and how he plans to take his employees, customers, and the community together in this journey going forward.
What kind of challenges did the company face when the pandemic hit, and how did you overcome them?
Firstly, getting the entire organization to work from home (for extended periods) was a new concept. But, since we’ve been operating on a cloud-based model even prior to the pandemic, the transition was easy. As a practice, we don’t bring our customers’ data into the premises. Instead, we login into the customers’ systems through technologies like VPN and perform analytics and related tasks within the customer’s firewalled environment. There were a few accounts in the financial services industry that needed more secure access and operated in more controlled environments. It took time to work with them to ramp up security while using the public internet, but even that fell in place in a brief period of time.
I would say technology, infrastructure and connectivity was the easy part. What was important was to find ways for employees to engage, motivate and collaborate internally and with customers. For instance, internally, when we are working in the office, if we have a query, we just turn around and ask our colleague, or walk into a meeting room to have a quick discussion. When we’re working remotely, it’s not so easy because the other person might be held up in a meeting, or not be available immediately. Similarly, productivity and engagement tend to come down during WFH. To address this, one of the things we did was to move all our employee engagement initiatives online. For example, we hold a Spirit of LatentView awards ceremony every quarter, where employees participate in music, dance, quizzes, and related events. Our HR team did a great job of moving this event online and sustaining it through the pandemic. On the customer front, usually, we do lead generation through in-person meetings and calls. During the pandemic, we handled new customer engagement and interaction by taking the support of event organizers who could bring together CXOs in one place for meetings and collaboration.
Do you see a difference in the way LatentView Analytics operates (internally and externally) during and post-pandemic?
There’s no substantial change in the core set of services that we bring to our clients. Our services can be classified into three buckets; analytics consulting, data engineering, and business insights analytics. The first bucket is where we focus on helping clients think through their digital transformation journey – the strategy, roadmap of initiatives, and so on. In the second bucket, we focus on architecting, designing, and building data platforms that are necessary for analysis. In the third bucket, we focus on looking ahead at diagnostic, descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics.
That being said, what we see though is companies accelerating their digital transformation journeys. They need more help from an analytics strategy and consulting standpoint. They are also particular about specific value propositions that are relevant to the niches in which they operate. So, we are working more towards generating those value propositions.
Furthermore, we are seeing that analytics initiatives are going more mainstream. Earlier, they used to be run by the business units or functional heads, and they were content with just data that was available within their silo. But today, analytics initiatives are becoming more broad-based. Companies want to make use of the holistic integrated data that is available to them not only within their company but also outside of it. They want more robust data platforms. This is why data engineering is picking up. Data science, predictive and prescriptive analytics is also starting to find a lot more niches and use cases.
What kind of technologies are seeing demand in the companies’ digital transformation journey?
A few years ago, we used to talk about SMAC – social media analytics and cloud. I believe all these technologies are relevant even today. Social media is a big competent in terms of being able to better understand what’s happening in the minds of consumers, employees, patients, citizens, and such. They are very vocal in expressing themselves on these platforms, and companies can harness all this data to derive meaningful insights.
The second component, I would say, is mobility, or penetration of mobile devices. Today, most people have access to smartphones and smart devices. And, the processing power in these devices also dramatically improving, thus making it an important medium for data transmission and collation.
The third component is, of course, the cloud. More and more data, including workloads and applications, are moving to the cloud. We are also seeing a fairly strong demand for edge devices, edge computing, and blockchain. Blockchain can help a great deal in authentication, validation, pedigree, and lineage of data.
Aside from all these, I believe analytics is right on top of that tech stack. Analytics is what helps translate all of the data from these technologies into actionable information. At the end of the day, it’s not just about bringing data together. It’s about making sense of that data and that’s where analytics comes in. Whether it is initiators around revenue enhancement, customer retention, market share, or cost reduction, analytics is starting to play an important role in the digital world. Within analytics, technologies related to data engineering are starting to find more prominence. In the early days, it was more around visualization and dashboarding tools. While these tools are still being used, in the last couple of years, companies like Snowflake have made a huge dent in this space by developing their own versions to make data assembling easier.
As the CEO, what are your top priorities today?
While becoming a public listed company has given a lot of buzz and visibility for LatentView Analytics, it has also opened up a lot of opportunities that we need to capitalize on. The market as such is growing at 18 to 20%, with some pockets within this sector growing even more rapidly. So, our first priority is to use this opportunity to accelerate our own growth. There are several initiatives we’ve already started taking on this front. Firstly, while we are heavily focused on the US market, we also have fledging practices in Europe and APAC, which we want to build on further. Our second priority is partnerships. While last year was mostly about technical partnerships, this year, we want to forge more go-to-market partnerships with companies like Databricks and Snowflake. Thirdly, we are building a strong set of core value propositions that will drive the consulting-led approach that we have. We are also looking at adjacencies we can get into. While we are a pure-play data analytics company, there are still areas within this space that we haven’t ventured into yet. For example, data governance and data operations. These are areas where we can strengthen our capabilities. Finally, we want to continue to be able to attract and retain high-quality talent. Currently, we are around 900 people on board. In the coming year, we would like to hire anywhere between 300 to 500 more employees.
Keeping in mind the growth prospects ahead of us, we want to make sure that we have fantastic programs in campus outreach or L&D, that make all of this possible.
What steps is LatentView Analytics taking to help employees stay relevant (skills-wise) in the analytics domain?
We are operating in a dynamic space. What is today a super specialty will become a specialty in no time, and a commodity skill sooner. In line with this, the tools and technologies we use are also evolving rapidly. Given this, it’s important to continuously invest in training and upskilling From the early days, we’ve had a fairly robust L&D architecture, with a combination of teaching methodologies (like simulation and gamification, and internal and external faculty) to enable employees to develop their technical, functional, math and leadership skills. We use a push and pull strategy to encourage employees to keep learning. For example, in the push model, we give them a three-year perspective of how the company will grow and motivate them to learn and build their skills accordingly. In the pull strategy, we expose our employees to upcoming opportunities and tell them what skill sets are required to get into that role. When we use a combination of these models, present all options to them and give them the budgets to learn, they decide how they want to spend and which areas they want to focus on building their knowledge.
Tell us about LatentView Analytics’ IPO roadshow during the global shutdown.
More often than not, IPO is about existing promoters diluting their stake and therefore getting more public investors into the mix. Talking specifically about the LatentView Analytics IPO journey, our entire narrative during investor roadshows was about presenting the market opportunity that lies ahead of us and showing them how the capital infusion can help us capitalize on it. That being said, the one big difference we saw was that all of this happened online. In a normal course of events, an investor roadshow literally means we travel to different locations and meet investors. But, during the pandemic, we did all this online. We traveled just once to meet an investor in the US. Hopefully, we will soon get an opening to meet and reconnect with our other investors in person.