Featured ‘Start-up of the month’- SIBIA Analytics, Kolkata

This month, our focus has been on ‘retail analytics’, one of the fastest growing analytics deployment areas in recent years. In tandem with this theme, we bring to you Kolkata based start-up SIBIA Analytics  and Consulting Services PL, a young and highly promising firm, whose forte is retail analytics. Noted as one of 10 Emerging Analytics Start-ups in India to Watch in 2014 (Analytics India Magazine, SIBIA Analytics features as IVY “start-up of the month” for its innovative solutions in the niche area of retail analytics.

Barely 17 month old, with a people strength of 20 and growing, the start-up is already on the map of retailers wanting to deploy analytics for a business edge.

Cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru which have higher analytics usage and IT infrastructure – have already witnessed a mushrooming of analytics firms. However, the excellent talent pool at Kolkata and prospects of a huge unexploited potential has led to Kolkata becoming the city of analytics start-ups that merit a close look.

A niche start-up requires strong motivation and expertise. So we decided to ask Angshuman Bhattacharya, the CEO and co-founder of SIBIA Analytics, about what steered SIBIA and how he views the analytics potential.

Can you tell me something about the background of SIBIA Analytics – what was the inspiration behind the start-up?

I was in analytics for more than a decade working for top Analytics/ IT Service companies, serving Fortune 100 consumer brands and retailers in the US. It was a story of enterprise analytics – offered to a select few. I was not happy with this set up, as I saw a sea of opportunities which could serve the emerging markets, whether the Indian medium-to-big enterprises or the US SMBs. The world around analytics technology was also changing – with the advent of cloud computing and open source analytics software – making it possible to create a low adoption cost yet efficient technical delivery mechanism. The data landscape was changing,with more and more data in the business systems, third parties and public domain or social media. With this on mind, I embarked on creating SIBIA, with an innovative delivery model that a lean, agile, low overhead company can provide. That was around 18 months back.

When did you begin offering solutions in retail analytics?

Retail has always been our forte – the founding team and first few employees have all had a long and deep experience in retailing. We have worked with world’s top retailers and brands as well as deepest retail data systems.  We have been offering solutions to retail from the beginning – and directly to the retailers, retail management companies, logistic companies among others.

What do your services / solutions entail?

We focus on three major functions – sales, marketing and customer intelligence. We offer predictive analytics  driven decision enabling tools in all these functions. For example, our DemandPlanner,  a demand forecasting and inventory planning solution.  It can provide highly accurate daily demand predictions for each SKU across each store, and solves the challenges faced by each store/ category manager.  Mi360, a complete marketing intelligence system can predict the ROI from each marketing activity across mainstream and digital channels across markets, helping create the most efficient marketing plan. We have other solutions that we custom-implement in various client situations.

How do you perceive the role of analytics changing the retail sector in India? Where do you think analytics will be deployed the most – which aspect of retailing?

Awareness about analytics is increasing very fast in Indian retail. I knew it was coming, but the pace is amazing right now. Everyone wants to test it. The champions have already started reaping  benefits and are therefore expanding their scope. Last week I was in Mumbai in a retail technology summit – where  a whole session was dedicated to retail analytics! Retailers across formats and channels, whether large format, speciality or online; were showcasing their success stories and how they are going to adopt more.

Having said that, I feel retail analytics in India is still in a nascent stage. That is, the adoption is as yet not overwhelming, and only in a few pockets in the enterprise operations. Application of predictive analytics is largely missing – people are still investing in tools for data exploration and visualisation. This is needed of course, but true benefit can only be achieved once you deploy the predictive models – which help  take future looking decisions. The exponential value curve is important.

Kolkata lags behind other metros in analytics deployment and hiring. Any comments?

I am a true Calcuttan and this comment hurts me! Nevertheless, I am well aware of the truth. Not only in Analytics, the overall technology landscape in Kolkata, also lags behind. I feel it when I travel to other cities, and feel it more when I visit industry summits say in Silicon Valley. In fact, when I meet industry people here in Kolkata, I rarely hear of any new technology being developed or used. Analytics is a new-age technology, still lagging behind other technolgies.

In my knowledge, Analytics deployment, similarly, is lagging. A lot of this is due to lack of leadership and top level support in the enterprises. Interestingly, when I travel to Mumbai and Delhi-NCR, I see a lot of enthusiasm amongst the industry leaders about analytics. Last week in the Mumbai summit, CXO level people came and met us and booked for projects on the spot!

Besides, awareness and adoption being low, there are very few large analytics vendors in the city; the reasons for poor employment happening so far. However, the folks here at Calcutta are really talented. In fact in the entire analytics fraternity you see a high ratio of Calcuttans, unfortunately most of them placed out of Kolkata!

In your opinion, what are the life skills or interests an aspiring analytics professional should possess to make a career in retail analytics? Would you care to share a few tips?

Firstly, one needs to accept that analytics is NOT technology. So knowledge of tools can take you only a bit. A true analyst is one who can solve business problems by employing her technical knowledge (i.e., stats/ econometrics/ data mining/ machine learning) and her business acumen – technology being only a support. So any analytics aspirant must keep in mind the mix of the three.

Think it like story telling – your ability to tell the story is what would matter. Remember that your client is a  high profile decision maker, who lacks time and attention. So how short, crisp your story is, while being informative – is what matters. Learn to see the hidden pattern out of the data, and convert that into a compelling story – here is the kill.

 

SIBIA Analytics is a technology-integrated predictive analytics start up in Kolkata. It implements its products and solutions by applying econometric/ statistical/ machine learning techniques to marketing investment management and customer intelligence challenges. Its client base in retail and consumer products are spread across the US, EU and India. Hiring takes place periodically vide job portals. Mr Angshuman Bhattacharya and Krishna V. Iyer, are the brains behind SIBIA Analytics.

Mr Bhattacharya, CEO and Co-Founder, SIBIA, is a seasoned professional in marketing analytics for CPG/ FMCG, retail and banking industries. He brings to SIBIA almost a decade of experience in Customer Analytics (CPG/ Retail), Demand Analytics and more, with a strong background in marketing science and consumer behaviour.

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