When an organisation is in its infancy, it’s the founders who build it ground up, their vision that is directly reflected in decisions. Perhaps it’s because the tactic works well when the universe of decision-making can still be personally overseen. But with growth comes complexity. You can’t rely solely on your own convictions, or broadly speaking, purely on human instincts anymore. Decision-making that factors in the many moving parts of this burgeoning organism, requires hard facts and insights on what the facts entail. This is where a sound Analytics Division plays an indispensable role.
Big data is certainly not an unheard of concept any longer. Much has been said and written of how organisations can make informed decisions and be future-ready by investing in analytics. But it’s one thing to enter into it as a ‘nice-to-have’ and another ballgame to create an entire analytics group and engage in it as a must-have.
At the Piramal Group, a global conglomerate with interests as varied as pharma, financial services, information management, glass packing and real estate, the management strongly believed in the latter, i.e. in the merits that a strong Analytics Function would bring. Earlier this year, the Division was set up. It is expected that a robust set up, in the hands of seasoned risk and analytics professionals, will serve as a compass to the organisation.
Building a fully functional analytics team from scratch
With such a diverse portfolio, spread across the globe, data is bound to be generated in large amounts. To make sense of this data and convert it into added value for the business, the Piramal Group is actively working to bringing data analytics into the day-to-day flow of operations.
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For instance, Piramal Glass is trying to generate sensor-based data, which will keep a track of the overall production efficiency. The number of bottles produced is being monitored, with attention to every step of the production process. Diving deep into this data, the company aims to figure out if there is a loss in efficiency and what the course correction can be.
Going forward, the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) aspect of it is an area of opportunity.
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Analytics is still a recent development for the Group and it may be some time before the advantages start coming to the forefront. But once they start trickling in, the benefits will be undeniable. The large volume of data, analysed appropriately, can reap many benefits. Here are a few examples across the Piramal Group’s businesses:
Applying analytics and predictive modelling, the Financial Services division is building a first generation, credit and fraud risk rule engine, so that Home Loans and Loans against Property are sanctioned within a few minutes.
Using data sourced from the approx. 2200 territory sales officers pan India, the Group’s Consumer Products Division aims to optimise the functioning of the salesforce and stay ahead of the competition.
The Over-the-Counter (OTC) segment, which the Consumer Products Division caters to, is a very dynamic business and generates high volumes of potentially valuable data. Through sound analytics, the division can glean a good amount of customer-level insights. These insights will in-turn help in creating cross-sell models, further improving the efficiency of the business.
Here, having a single customer level view, where the business can view the Customer Life Cycle at an individual level, remains its Everest. Though it’s no cakewalk, it will be a smart and immensely rewarding use of data.
Challenges to adopting analytics
While the benefits of big data continue to be extolled in popular discourse, any organisation investing in an Analytics Function should counsel relevant staff about it too, as part of the launch process. Employees whose functioning will come to be increasingly influenced by the results of data analytics, rather than hitherto used instinct, need to be familiarised to view the system as an aid to improve efficiency and not a threat.
Once staff are wholeheartedly on-board, technical aspects can be resolved, relatively easily.
Is Piramal looking forward to technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)?
The Group is keen to explore the viability of AI and ML, provided that it enhances efficiency, decision-making and translates into enhanced growth, over and above the benefits already provided by analytics and predictive modelling.
Asking the right questions
The adoption of analytics has been slow to pick-up in India. A cause could be that many organisations treat analytics, AI and ML as an end in themselves, rather than the means to an end. For instance, if an organisation wants to increase its return on investment on a marketing campaign, that’s a business objective. The question should be, ‘How can we achieve this – do we need AI and ML for that, or not?’ Adopting a technology simply because a competitor uses it, will be an ill-conceived exercise.
Moreover, the insights a company gets need to be actionable. The Analytics Division may provide an excellent aid in decision-making, but it takes decision-makers from the business end to step-in and implement recommendations, to complete the cycle of action and insights.
The Piramal Group’s foray into analytics has been a result of being diligent with the questions and desirous of translating insights into action.
Hiring analytical talent
The Piramal Group’s nascent Analytics Function is on the lookout for seasoned professionals, with 2 to 8 years of hand-on experience in analytics and logical reasoning and an exposure to data science tools, predictive sciences, machine learning, big data and others. Proficiency in either ‘R’ or Python is a must.