Interview – Ajay Kelkar, Co-Founder and COO at Hansa Cequity

Ajay Kelkar of Hansa Cequity is speaking at The Fifth Elephant on the topic of ‘Telling stories with data’. In an exclusive interview with Analytics India Magazine, Ajay talks about the topic, Hansa Cequity and analytics industry as a whole. 

Analytics India Magazine: Could you tell us more about the topic that you are speaking on at The Fifth Elephant? 

Ajay Kelkar: The discipline of “Analytics” is often interpreted in many different ways. Almost as if it were like the story about the “blind man & the elephant”. Analytics is most impactful when it is about “taking effective decisions rather than sexy insight”. That is my perspective. To make effective decisions you need to influence people with insight & therefore Analytics folk must become “storytellers with data”. While technical aspects of Analytics are important, the value can be realized only if these “storytellers” influence key decisions within a company. This insight is going to be at the heart of my presentation.

AIM: How was Hansa Cequity incepted, how has it evolved over the years and what is the next step?  

AK: I was earlier the CMO at HDFC bank & my partner Swamy ran a WPP agency called I Contract, India’s largest Direct marketing agency. We always saw a yawning gap between companies “having customer data” & having “skills to monetize that data”. We partnered with the Hansa group & created this venture to address this “need gap” in the market. So by definition, we haven’t conceptualized ourselves as a pure-play analytics company. We are a company that has analytics & technology at its heart & we use this building block to create CRM programs that make a business impact for our clients. We have grown well & have created a unique niche.

AIM: Though you would be speaking about it in your talk, can you briefly provide an overview of why is it hard to extract meaningful business value from data?

AK: It is hard because Analytics requires an intersection of skill sets from technology, Business & statistics. Such an intersection is hard to create & conditions for it to flourish may not exist everywhere. Without this intersection, Analytics can become boring. 

AIM: A brief overview on what are the elements that must come together to extract value from data?

AK: At Hansa Cequity, our model is unique because it tries to integrate very contrasting dimensions into one entity where the sum is larger than the parts! Having a designer’s sense with data may contrast with a statistician’s dry look at numbers! We seek “intersection” skills-intersection of Creative, technology, data & business! Not easy to do with highly talented people & we are attempting it! 

AIM: You have formulated the term ‘Information Journalists & Filmstars’. What do you mean by this?

AK: “Information journalists” are really journalists who recognize that a picture can tell a far better story than words.  The interesting thing is that journalism is getting far savvier with data! I see visual data based story telling in the New York Times that is absolutely mind boggling. Even here in India, I see some lovely data visualization in the Mint!

Storytelling with Data is becoming much more common today because of both vast amounts of data being available in the public space & also the emergence of a newer breed of younger, more “social” professionals who consume such data with far more ease! But is the corporate world looking at data like this? Are analytics teams creating powerful data visualizations to tell their stories! Can they afford not to?

AIM: Do you think that companies today are using analytics widely to make decisions?

AK: Companies are using analytics now pretty widely. Some industries are more penetrated than others. Critical for CEO  & CXO to recognize the criticality of this & drive such adoption. Acquisition mindsets are the norm in hugely growing markets where business is a lot like “land grabbing”. But a more mature economy with higher competitive intensity seeks adoption of analytics at a far higher pace. [divider top=”1″]


Ajay Kelkar, Co-Founder & COO of Hansa Cequity, has over 20 years of experience in customer-driven marketing across a wide range of industries like Soft goods, Banking & Financial services & Retail. He has had exposure to a wide variety of business styles & cultures across Procter & Gamble, Britannia, Marico, Shopper’ Stop & HDFC bank.

He was the head of marketing for HDFC Bank, a leading private sector bank in India. He was responsible for building world-class analytical marketing capability for the bank across the country. He led the bank’s marketing team on a pioneering path of data-led marketing & analytics.

Ajay holds a Chemical engineering degree from UDCT Mumbai and an MBA from one of India’s premier business schools, Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT).

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