December 2020 | 773 words | 3-minute read
When he tells you that riding the ‘Tail of the Dragon’ — America’s number one motorcycle and sports car road measuring 11-mile-long with 318 curves — on a bike is on the top of his wish list, and in the next breath speaks about business analytics, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), you size up Yashwanth Kumar as someone who is fun-loving, loves venturing into the unknown, yet means business.
A Titan veteran, Mr Kumar has worked across varied business units in diverse functions. He joined the company as a management trainee and worked in retail, sales and as channel manager for large format stores. He then set up the Consumer Insights and Analytics function for the Watches division and now heads Analytics & Insights (A&I) at Titan Company Ltd.
“My goal at the start of my career was to explore roles and functions, before deciding on my final calling. A key reason to join Titan was to learn and grow by working in diverse roles across businesses. I eventually found my ikigai moment with analytics. It checks all the boxes for me — I am passionate about the field, understand it well, and I can make a positive contribution,” says Mr Kumar.
An IIM-Ahmedabad alumnus, he is currently engaged in making Titan a data-and-analytics led firm. He also manages campaign delivery of loyalty programmes, besides handling capability creation for AI and ML technologies through tools and platforms.
“Analytics is an evolving discipline that combines features from domains like business knowledge, computer science and mathematics. It requires continual reskilling and knowledge updating."
“We have a few ongoing AI pilots, which are leveraging a cutting-edge technology called Generative Adversarial Neural Networks in the design area. For watches, our tool, Converge, helps to create innovative designs. In jewellery, we have deployed style-transfer-based models, which load the ‘aesthetic’ from everyday objects and apply them to jewellery pieces,” he says. To drive self service capability, Titan’s network analysis tool, ThirdEye, helps retail managers identify prospective store locations.
“Customer centricity undergirds business decisions at Titan. As the world turns to digital, it is imperative to embrace A&I, a critical aspect of digital, to stay competitive and relevant. In fact, a key aspect of Titan’s transformation journey is embracing phygital — a seamless integration of offline and online customer experiences,” says Mr Kumar. His team plays a key role in identifying the right customers using propensity modelling, creating customer segmentation models and leveraging recommendation systems to suggest the right products to customers at the right time.
The A&I team at Titan, under his guidance, has explored areas such as sales and scenario planning, demand planning, promotional planning, and sourcing. The success of initial pilots led to wide ranging adoption of forecasting to deliver significant value through inventory savings, better merchandise throughputs, and optimised promotional spending among others. Using A&I, in FY2019-20, Titan has had over 700 engagements across functions such as retail and sales, merchandising, marketing, CRM, manufacturing, finance and HR, whereby it delivered attributable revenue of over 1,000 crore. “We also deliver targeted, personalised campaigns through our loyalty programme. Last year, we reached out to 1.7 lakh customers by executing over 2,500 campaigns and generated around 800 crore incremental revenue,” says Mr Kumar.
A member of NASSCOM’s Centre of Excellence for Data Science & Artificial Intelligence, Mr Kumar finds his current role as technology leader both challenging and rewarding, as he networks with specialists from academia, leading firms, vendors and partner organisations to help understand the subject from multiple perspectives and broaden his overall understanding.
“Working independently on small projects helped me get hands-on experience as well as assimilate the finer nuances of the A&I field. Of course, I had to undergo training in programming, data management, ML, etc,” says Mr Kumar whose expertise has contributed to making Titan’s businesses result oriented.
A&I: Not just a buzzword
According to him, the chief impediment in digital adoption is not having shared goals, not investing in the right people, not having a progressive culture, and heavy dependence on outsourcing. Any or even some of these factors can potentially derail the implementation process. Besides, scarce talent in the field and constant need to upgrade skills can make it more difficult. “Analytics is an evolving discipline that combines features from domains like business knowledge, computer science and mathematics. It requires continual reskilling and knowledge updating.
“In the long term, increasing demand and continual innovation will fuel demand for analytics professionals. If you think you have what it takes to become one, then research topics, learn tools, enrol in courses and try experimenting to gain the right skills and experience to make the transition,” says Mr Kumar.
No wonder, top global and national firms across sectors acknowledge analytics adoption as a critical success factor.