1. Please tell us about the organization, weaving your journey alongside.
The story of how TO THE NEW was born is quite interesting. TO THE NEW Ventures, a then leading Singapore based Internet products and services company, acquired Delhi-based Intelligrape Software in December 2011. I was the co-founder and CEO of Intelligrape, a niche technology company that developed web and mobile applications using cutting-edge technologies. In 2015, TO THE NEW Ventures consolidated its different business entities in technology, analytics, content and digital marketing to create TO THE NEW, which had extended service offerings in Digital Transformation to enable next-gen digital enterprises. The consolidation was a strategic move to get a competitive edge and a bigger play-field with over 200 clients across the globe.
In last few years, TO THE NEW has grown from a few employees to 750+ tech evangelists, who demonstrate expertise in delivering unparalleled value to many global clients. Today, we are a preferred product engineering partner for various ISVs and Fortune 500 companies for building cloud-native products and applications. We place Customer Experience at the center of every solution that we design and develop for our clients.
During these 9 years of leading IntelliGrape/TO THE NEW from a very small & niche technology player to a full-service digital transformation and product engineering company, I have also evolved tremendously as a leader; from being a doer to an enabler; and from being a time teller to a clock builder; from measuring and monitoring everything to measuring only a handful of essential KPIs that represent the health of the business. Last but not the least, I have become comfortable with ambiguity and change; and I feel comfortable starting long-term initiatives which take years to yield results.
2. Could you elaborate on customer experience (CX), the need and importance and how it’s linked to revenue?
Customer behavior is changing rapidly, and they are taking full control of how they want to interact with a brand. Digitally evolved customers ask for information anytime, anywhere and on a channel of their choice. Multi-channel contextual experience has become the new normal. With rising expectations, CX has become more important than ever. If customer expectations aren’t met, they will turn to competitors. To put it into perspective, if your website takes more than 3 seconds to load, you stand to lose 40% of your potential customers! In fact, poor customer experience can result in larger problems of customer retention and customer churn ultimately impacting revenues. Providing a seamless customer experience is no longer optional for brands.
3. How are brands reshaping CX? Please provide some examples.
Companies are investing a lot of time and effort to gain insights into customer behavior, key satisfiers, and market segments. Some companies are building digital products to interact with customers online whereas some others are enhancing the customer service by undertaking digital initiatives. Companies want to provide a seamless digital experience and build trust and advocacy among customers. Some of the top ways brands are improving customer experience include (a.) Being consistent in behavior across touchpoints and channels (b.) Streamlining and automating internal operations (c.) Leveraging technologies such as IoT, Big Data, Virtual Augmentation (d.) Personalizing content and communication basis previous behavior
For example, in the new IKEA catalog, customers can try out products virtually and see if they like them. Customers can scan the back page of IKEA’s catalog and see what’s in vogue. Such digital initiatives increase customer engagement to a great extent. In another example, we are working with a large mutual fund house for a comprehensive technology roadmap and digital transformation strategy. They found it challenging to deal with a large number of distributors and investors and provide a superior experience through their existing portal. We could overcome this challenge with a UX led, scalable distributor and investor portal for both web and mobile.
4. The Services Industry in India is matured, what are some of the challenges faced by this sector? Any specific asks from the government / NASSCOM?
The IT services industry in India is a mature industry having witnessed significant growth over the last three decades. Major global developments in the last couple of years have however stunted growth in the industry. Political changes in major markets, anti-globalization tendencies and rising protectionism and Brexit vote are some of the challenges facing the industry.
On the other hand, the emergence of advanced technologies has widened the horizon, providing more opportunities for growth.
5. What are your perspectives on talent, organization culture, any specific initiatives that drive culture? Please share these inputs specific to your organization.
We are witnessing a serious lack of talent for cutting-edge digital technologies; which are still not mainstream and are still being incubated. However, we have tackled this by designing our own comprehensive in-house training programs (we call them “bootcamp”) on various technologies and frameworks, which could last from few weeks to few months.
At TO THE NEW, we believe in learning and innovating continuously. Continuous learning is an integral part of our culture; and we support it by various means such as weekly brown-bag sessions, monthly workshops, regular hackathons, organizing and participating in meetups and conferences and contribution to various open-source initiatives.
We have dedicated COE (we call them competency centers) for various emerging technologies such as Data Engineering, Smart TV, React, Angular & DevOps in addition to mainstream technologies such as Java, Spring, Android, iOS, Node.js, Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, etc.
6. Any specific technology (eg AI / IoT etc) that you think has a great future ahead, and why?
There are multiple game-changing technologies such as Blockchain, IoT, AI, ML, AR and VR that are reshaping industries and transforming businesses. Augmented reality is already having multiple use cases in retail enabling customers to try products virtually. Data and analytics as we all know are main pillars of superior customer experience. Companies are using predictive algorithms, recommendation engines, filters and much more to segment data for a personalized experience.
7. What is your leadership mantra?
I read tons of stuff on leadership and have been influenced by many business leaders. I don’t think that I’ve one single mantra that I can share. Instead of following a particular leadership style, I make sure that I’m always authentic & honest with my team.
I also tend to look for opportunity in every situation. Whenever I face an adverse or tough situation — the first question that I ask myself is — What is the opportunity here?
“It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do-not care who gets the credit” is one of my favorite business quotes. When it comes to delegation, I prefer sharing the long-term vision and the big picture and igniting excitement around whatever I’m trying to get done, instead of delegating specific tasks.
Keeping a fine balance between long-term vision and strategy and day-to-day operations and tactics is something that I’m still learning.
8. What are any future pivots that you are planning?
We are not looking at any big pivots in the near future. However, we find ourselves continuously evolving and taking smaller steps based on industry trends and clients’ needs.
For example, some of the areas in which we are increasing our investment are Blockchain, AI, ML, and Data Engineering.
We are also looking at launching some industry-specific digital solutions based on our experience of working with clients in eCommerce, Travel, Media & Entertainment, and BFSI industries, we are looking at launching some industry-specific solutions & accelerators to reduce time to market as well cost for our clients.
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