“In the future, every business must run as a digital business, and data and software are the foundations,” believes Jaswinder Chadha, the CEO and president of Axtria, which offers analytics and software solutions to global companies to effectively manage and derive insights from big data. A data scientist at heart, Chadha strongly believes that the decision accuracy and velocity of a company’s growth driven by data will be the biggest competitive advantage in the future.
Keeping in view the same, Chadha recently endowed a Chair in data analytics at his alma mater IIT Delhi. In 2008, Chadha had also endowed a Chair in Operations Research at IIT Delhi and is the founder of the IIT Delhi Endowment Fund.
Analytics India Magazine caught up with Chadha to understand the trends and future of data analytics, his association with IIT Delhi and Axtria.
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Excerpts from the interview:
AIM: As an industry veteran, you have donned many hats. Walk us through your professional journey.
Jaswinder Chadha: I grew up in Punjab, India, and studied B Tech in Mechanical Engineering at IIT Delhi. In 1990, I decided to pursue post-graduate studies in the US. I attended The University of Texas at El Paso for MS and eventually pursued my PhD in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at Texas A&M.
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Every entrepreneur’s journey starts somewhere, and looking back, my aspiration to create my own company was fueled by my experiences at IIT Delhi. In 2000, I co-founded marketRx, a sales and marketing analytics solutions provider to the pharmaceutical industry. When Cognizant acquired the company, it was one of the most significant acquisitions in the space. After the acquisition, I started the data analytics practice at Cognizant for the next two years.
In 2010, I co-founded Axtria with the vision to transform the commercial function with data analytics and cloud-based software platforms. Today, Axtria is one of the industry’s fastest-growing software and data analytics companies. We help life sciences companies transform their patient and business outcomes.
And, while Axtria has achieved a lot, I cannot emphasise enough that we have only scratched the surface.
AIM: Technology is emerging at lightning speed now. Which fields do excite you the most?
Jaswinder Chadha: I am a data scientist, so I am interested in the ongoing evolution of data science and how it can be leveraged to extract business-focused insights to propel life sciences companies forward. As you can imagine, data scientists are curious.
I am always interested in learning about the rapid growth of the data science field. As computational technology continues to grow at an unprecedented pace, data analysis capabilities will also increase. From this, we will see modernised, faster data analysis algorithms and methods.
Data scientists also use other technologies I am keenly interested in — like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). AI/ML is already having a positive impact on business operations and healthcare outcomes today and will be a significant trend in the near and long term.
AIM: What drove you to the field of analytics?
Jaswinder Chadha: In the life sciences industry today, there’s a tremendous opportunity and an unmet need in the marketplace. With the computational capability of the cloud and big data technologies, the ability to manage and consume data of volume and variety has increased tremendously. There had never been such an opportunity to optimise commercial decision-making with data-driven insights at speed, sometimes even real-time.
Everyone talked about AI/ML, Big Data, Cloud, and omnichannel as the new buzzwords, but very few knew what to do with them. Despite the “wind in the sails” provided by these, there was a real gap in the ability to deliver on the vision of these trends. These trends will be the reality of tomorrow, and many are already. The answer was to provide a combination of analytical people, process, and data science technology, with deep domain experience, technical skills, and most importantly – an understanding of the industry data itself.
The approach to analytics and technology is different. Digital transformation without clean and pliable data is too inefficient. Analytics based on clean data will deliver the true transformation to achieve companies’ visions fast. Software technology will provide an unprecedented scale.
In a way, analytics is the oil needed for data-driven digital transformation, and our vision of yesterday is the reality of today.
AIM: How is Axtria creating value for its customers using data analytics?
Jaswinder Chadha: Axtria is a global provider of award-winning cloud software and data analytics to the life sciences industry. Axtria’s solutions digitally transform the entire product commercialisation process, drive sales growth, and improve healthcare outcomes for patients. Our focus is to deliver solutions that help customers complete the journey from Data-to-Insights-to-Action and get superior ROI.
Axtria offers a robust suite of AI-powered platforms – Axtria DataMAx™ for data management, Axtria InsightsMAx™ for analytics, and Axtria SalesIQ™ and Axtria CustomerIQ™ for omnichannel commercial operations.
Our portfolio of customers provides therapies to approximately 60 per cent of cancer patients globally and produces 85 per cent of the world’s vaccines. Axtrians are genuinely proud of our contribution and work in bringing these lifesaving therapies to patients globally.
Axtria’s cloud platforms are modular and built on Force.com and AWS while utilising modern technology such as AI/ML, NLP, and advanced analytics. We have made our offerings to remove the clutter in commercial operations so companies can do what they do best – service their customers to deliver on-time patient care and manage their sales and marketing operations.
AIM: What are Axtria’s major future plans?
Jaswinder Chadha: With the life sciences and healthcare industries undergoing a significant acceleration in data-driven digital transformation, there is a solid push to effectively leverage software technology and AI to scale global commercial operations effectively. More than ever, companies are looking to replace archaic systems with digital data enablement, analytics at scale, and omnichannel software to deliver an improved customer experience. Serving this impending need, Axtria offers a robust suite of AI-powered platforms.
We have rapidly increased our investments in product development over the past couple of years. These investments were our biggest bets yet, with a potential to disrupt and even jeopardise our core business. But thankfully, our strategy worked well. It is evident in the success of Axtria SalesIQ™, which is now considered the most comprehensive and innovative product in its category. Axtria recently received funding, accelerating our investments in enterprise software products, with close to $100 million planned to build four category-leading products in the next five years. Additionally, this investment will help us rapidly expand into new accounts and scale our top customers.
AIM: What is your advice for people starting their careers in AI and analytics?
Jaswinder Chadha: When deciding what path you want to take, think about what kinds of problems you are interested in solving and what type of work you like doing (programming, theorising, working with real-world data, etc.). This will help you focus on the area you are most interested in.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket or chase after the hottest AI/analytics trends. Keep in mind, the latest trend today will soon be replaced with tomorrow’s new one. This is why it is essential to learn the basics of data analytics and create a strong knowledge foundation.
Finally, don’t obsess over having everything exactly how you envision it. You must be flexible and expect your plans to change and evolve continuously.
AIM: You helped establish a Chair in data analytics at IIT Delhi. You are often counted among the influential alumnus of the premier. Tell us more about your association with IIT Delhi.
Jaswinder Chadha: Yes, I am a proud alumnus of IIT Delhi, and my education at IIT Delhi has shaped my perspective and career.
But, the more inspiring story is that of my mother, Dr Tarvinder Kaur Chadha. She was the first woman to get a PhD in Mathematics from IIT Delhi in 1968. When I graduated in 1990, it made her and me the first parent-child graduates of IIT Delhi.
Our family history with IIT Delhi is one that we are most proud of, and it brings me joy to give back to such an extraordinary institution. In 2008, I endowed a Chair in Operations Research. I am also a founder of the IIT Delhi Endowment Fund, and most recently, I endowed a Chair in Data Analytics. It is a great honour to have the data analytics chair named after my mother and me, “Jaswinder and Tarvinder Chadha Chair in Data Analytics.” IIT Delhi awarded me the Distinguished Alumni Service Award in 2008.