Data Analytics : The Next Big Thing

Gone are the days when ‘Management Consulting’ was considered to be the epitome of knowledge and skills, the days when your experience and gut feeling were enough to solve complex business problems and companies were ready to pay hefty bills for your service (the 10 slide presentation at the end of the project). Today we know consultants as people who save their clients almost enough to pay their fee. I always had this idea in my mind that consulting was about answering business questions through analysis. It was supposed to be Excel sheets and models, sifting through data to discover profit and loss, and helping clients make decisions that would add the most value for themselves, and by extension, society.

Today we can see that ‘Business Analytics’ is the emerging and fastest growing technology which every organization is embracing. As per Gartner’s prediction, by 2014, 30 percent of analytic applications will use proactive, predictive and forecasting capabilities, and the software market for business intelligence, analytics and corporate performance management grew by 13.4% in 2010 to $10.5 billion and would continue to grow. It can be startling to hear how much data has been created and collected in the last few years. For instance, 15 of the top 17 industry sectors in the United States have more data stored per company than the Library of Congress (which has collected 235 terabytes of data). The growth of external, social and unstructured data has been even more rapid. In fact, 90 percent of the entire world’s data was created in the last 2 years. All the data is there, and it is useful if we can harness it in the right way to increase our collective knowledge. Big data has become the new paradigm of knowledge assets.

Now more and more organizations are embedding Analytics and just like Finance, HR, Sales, Marketing etc. organizations are creating departments for Analytics! This presents an exciting prospect for all those who are at the vanguard of this revolution, to help create functional units in companies and create systems and processes that would cut across departments and enable companies to utilize the full power of data.

The best part of Analytics as a profession is that depending on your ability and interests, you can choose to pursue a more technical based career path or a more consulting (converting data to Insights and Strategies) based career path and each of them is equally rewarding. Analytics is a sublime intersection of Science and Art, and with each progressing day, as data processing continues to get faster and faster, it offers exciting challenges and ensures that the learning curve remains steeper than ever. Just when you think that you know all about Analytics, there is always something new which comes up to take your complacence away. Just when you thought that SQL/Oracle was the way to go in data storage, newer, faster and mightier data bases like Netezza, Terra Data emerged.  ‘Hadoop’ is not a character out of Scooby Doo, but a fast emerging technique in the world of Big Data and distributed computing. Knowing Logistic regression and CHAID is no longer enough as you have ‘Random Forests’ to deal with. “Nearest Neighbor” is not the person in the cubicle next to you, but a fast emerging technique in the world of Machine Learning.

All in all the future for business analytics is bright and there is lot to explore and learn in this wide field full of new technologies and exciting roadblocks to keep your mind running at full throttle.

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Startup Job: Are you cut out for 1?

What is a Startup?……

Ahaaa found the answer!! A startup is a human institution designed to deliver a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty (so much for the literary geniuses :P). Many call it their “Baby”, and to be really honest it’s a “Baby’s Day Out” scenario in a startup, full of bumpy roads and anxiety (even at 2 in the night). As someone rightly said – “Things don’t happen automatically, you have to make them happen. You have to endure and enjoy the pain. Successful entrepreneurs know it instinctively & that’s what makes them tick.”

You need three things to create a successful startup: start with good people (like Raja Sekhar :)), to make something customers actually want (analytics as a field is roaring), and to spend as efficiently as possible (our founders know exactly how to do this). Most startups fail because they fail at one of these. A startup that does all three will probably succeed. So Affine has all these ingredients and is on the right track to succeed. Limited hierarchy and flat organization means the founders and decision makers are close to the troops at all times and when you see your boss sitting beside you doing work, it gives you a sense of belonging and pride (it also means no facebook in office :P).

In the pre-bust era of Dot Com Dominance, it used to be “cool” to say that you worked in a startup. Though much of that romance has worn off, there are still a lot of advantages to working in a startup. Let me point out a few as per my experience:

• An employee has to do a lot of multitasking. He is expected to go out of his comfort zone and take on tasks in which he has no significant experience. The employee gets exposure to various business functions and enhances his core skills with a lot of transferrable skills.

• Think carefully before joining a startup, startups are not for the weak hearted. Your offer letter will off course say 40 hrs/week, but you will be expected to be around day & night. This works to your advantage as you get to learn at a greater pace.

• Startups are best for folks who are comfortable with a degree of flexibility and autonomy. If you are a person who thrives on challenges in life, a startup environment offers it in truckloads.

• It’s important to remember that you are an important asset to the organization. Your boss/HR manager cares about your well-being and overall happiness. If there’s something wrong, they want to help. Don’t be afraid to book a coffee meeting to share your concerns.

Working for a startup is more than just a job – It is a way of life. It will transform everything from the way you think, the way you approach problems and the way you execute stuff.

The week that was!

This article is written with a lot of mixed emotions .No, no, It’s not a soap opera hangover. The week that went past was one of the most exciting and surprising one in Affine’s journey. To sum it up, it was too much hard work, chaos and running around and ‘sutta’ * 2. Let me go the consultant way (more smartly called –let me split my paragraph and tell you ‘n’ points) of explaining what all happened.

1. New office, more responsibilities

Responsibilities?  Yes, I think we are slowly reaching that point where I can picture myself in front of the mirror fitting up formals, tie and polishing shoes away to glory every single morning. Now, that’s responsibility. Just kidding, on a serious note the whole new office shifting happened over a fortnight. The entire affine team would have earned any record if it ever existed for “creating office spaces bending time and space”. Trust me, 8 days. 3 Conference rooms, electrical fittings, power back up, tables, entire shifting and god knows what not. The beauty lied in the fact that we didn’t hire a contractor to do all this stuff. We wanted to do it all by us. Well, actually our CEO is a bit worried about attrition after last week ;). By the looks and feel of how the office work was done, he thinks his employees can do things other than analytics really good too.

2. One more F-15 to the arsenal

No, it’s not a fighter plane, but something very equivalent. Affine has recruited its first senior management individual into the team, Mr. Anindya Palit. He is a IIT Kanpur and IIM Calcutta alumni and brings around 22+ years of experience across various business functions with the predominant focus being on sales & marketing. He is our EVP, Sales & Marketing. Anindya lives in Dallas, USA with his wife and daughter. Widely traveled, loves Bollywood songs, particularly the old ones, and also sings! Welcome Anindya to the Affine family.

3. More colorful feathers to the cap

Affine is about to be 1 year young in a day’s time. Yes, Valentine’s day + 1 ;). As we near that day, we have got a couple of big names as our clients. 2012 looks to be very promising with all expected targets getting covered way ahead of time. 3 Walk-ins in a span of 6 months, 2 additions to the family every month and 1 new client in every 2 months, we should say that last one year was successful for us as a startup and we are good to go for 2012.

All’s well that ends well, for us, it’s just the beginning. This 1 year was a great confidence booster for all of us trying to build things from scratch, waiting patiently for good things to happen, tackling all kinds of stress, obstacles but still coming out strong and more mature. In fact, that’s the attitude that prevails in this organization. As one of my friends (who is also one of our directors) put it, the word this company associates itself with is “Intention” and I would like to add something  and tell that “Our intentions are always fine@ Affine”…

“My 100 days in a start-up” by #8

For those of you who think the title sound like a rip off from some romcom which could be voted for “Chick flick of the year”, then you are partially correct. The inspiration:

Let me introduce myself as #8. The 8 could be anything, my rank in terms of the heaviest person in the company, the size of my shoe, or even my pay package for all you know ;). And for those ambitious beings, I might be the ticket to knowing what it is to work in a start-up. This is my experience; a page taken out of my journal to describe the ride through — what you might call a cliché — ‘The road not taken’.

P.S. This was written on one of those Fridays when work is scarce, but you’ve got to act all engaged, just because your manager is sitting right opposite you.

 

It’s MINE:

I have had some prior experience in the field of analytics, before I ventured into Affine’s territories. What was the difference I felt at first? A proud feeling that THIS COMPANY IS MINE. That sense of belongingness. That invisible bond.  Do you remember the feeling you had when you got that G.I. Joe action figure that you were eyeing for months? That’s the feeling I’m talking about. Well that also clearly indicates that #8 is a dude J. It is this profound sense of attachment that drives us “Affinites” everyday to create THAT image to our customers who choose us over our other established competitors, and it is this same feeling which pushes me beyond my limits.

We’re one small happy family:

Whenever people ask me how many people work in my company, and I reply, “15”, I see frowning eyebrows, confused stares and anything else that conveys a “Only these many people?”. My response to that, “Big is not always the best”. The bonding and sharing of good times among us transcends boundaries of our working space thereby helping us evolve into a family —  one that is genuinely concerned about your problems; one that is more than happy to give you company on night-outs, and most important, one that really knows how to have fun

Corporate Ladder. Erm… What does that even mean?

Hierarchy. Seniority. Pyramid. Ranking. Chain of command. These words have the same meaning as the words Mumbo jumbo, Meh and Floccinaucinihilipilification (Yes that actually is a word.). Till date, one of the most enriching experiences for me — a person who is at the start of his professional career — involves the chance I was given, to be up-close and personal with the people who founded the company. You get ring-side seats to see how an organisation is created from scratch and how a simple vision is transformed into something which DEFINES an entire industry. Such things are trump cards when it comes to shaping your professional career, and the earlier you get the trump card, the better it is. Added to this, I have the liberty to go to any of the founders and have heart-to-heart discussions, in which my suggestions for the betterment of the company are valued.

I have my finger in every pie:

Unlike most of the organisations, you can’t expect separate resources for IT, admin, finance and so on. As a kid, I grew up reading comics and graphic novels. So the idea of having an alter ego gives me my high J. The 100 days I’ve spent at Affine have seen me function as a Business Analyst; as someone who goes around enquiring for carpentry work, someone who searches for an office space etc…etc.. Your responsibilities don’t just end with providing high quality analytics; it also includes you contributing enough to transform the organisation from a start-up to a self-sustaining engine.

Emanations from a dreamer

STATUTORY WARNING: This article would disappoint people looking for flowery language and compelling story lines. Amen!

Day to day we get to hear stories about dreamers – dreamers who persevere for their dreams. We are in awe of them after reading about their vision and then we re-fire our dreams, don’t we?  A little story that I want to share is of a dreamer whose conduct is guided more by the image of perfection than by the real world. Once in his dreams, he was given two options by Mr. X. “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes” . The story is not about the Matrix movie, the story is about a person who dared.

He wanted to set a mark in life, to be the change and live his dreams when he graduated from college. Armed with an unending spirit and a bold emotionless face, he took the strides in career in his first company, unarguably one of the best companies in India to start a brilliant career. It was a great run, consistent, brave and the best he could run. Everything was going smooth till one fine day, when he understood something. He was living someone else’s dream.

He wasn’t living his dream. He knew it was going to be an uphill climb. He knew he couldn’t just sit back and watch the world pace. He had to do something- the urge to live his dream, as every single day counts and in reality days are numbered! It was hard to wake up from an unfinished dream, very hard to cut off the roots because he was young and the world was still new to him in many senses. But a decision was made and then there was no looking back as a human mind once shaken, is shaken forever until it finds a relief to its belief. He left his “secure” positions and traversed the path less successfully trodden. Why? Cos he was a dreamer, he saw a better dream.

90% of all fresh and new business ventures (may I call it start-ups) run out of business in a year’s time. Today, Affine with an array of global MNCs’ as its clients is taking big and strong strides 10 months into business. 10 months back it was a scratch coupon, the lucky numbers started showing up one by one. As we reach the first dawn of 2012, we would like to thank all our employees, well wishers and supporters for the tremendous success we have achieved as a “start-up”. 2012 looks to be very promising and we are good to go. Thank you, all!

So what happened to the dreamer? Well, he is a part and parcel of Affine’s growth story and is still living his dreams. Guess what? He dared, took a decision and today he is happy as he is closer and closer to his dreams in real life and that matters. This article is dedicated to all such dreamers and like Will smith says

“You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you, you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”