Converting ‘Data’ into ‘Qlik’ with Souma Das

Souma Das Qlik India
Souma Das, Managing Director, Qlik India

Big Data is precisely rejigging the volume of attention digital transformation pops for today’s businesses. 2016 was an exciting year for big data with organizations developing real-world solutions with big data analytics. So far, 2017 has also lauded Big Data as it gets smarter through integrating deep learning and AI.  In a candid chat with BIS Infotech, Souma Das, Managing Director, Qlik India prudently added fuel to the wild fire of Big Data. The data analytics heavyweight has perennially changed the course of how we realize the potential of big data in the global scenario. Forbye, Qlik has recently stolen many headlines by its impeccable journey of upskilling India on data. Edited Excerpts. 

How is your company shaping the future of Big Data?

At Qlik, we believe that big data will become less about size and more about combinations. With more fragmentation of data and most of it created externally in the cloud, there will be a cost impact to hoarding data without a clear purpose. That means we’ll move towards a model where businesses have to quickly combine their big data with small data, so they can gain insights and context to get value from it as quickly as possible.

Qlik is already preparing for unparalleled access to massive quantities of information with our vision to develop a big data indexing engine. The aim is to develop the capability to index and analyse big data as part of the associative engine, including the ability to analyse resident data in data lakes and sources such as Hadoop in a way that enables fast, interactive discovery while still providing access to underlying detailed data.

Qlik’s associative technology means that every piece of data is dynamically associated with every other piece of data. This means that when a user sees a chart, for example sales by region, that chart is surrounded by interactive list boxes that contain contextual information such as date, location, customer, product, sales history etc. Any time the user makes a selection in any of the list boxes, all the other list boxes and all other charts are instantly updated with the user’s selections. This unique capability enabled by Qlik makes it incredibly easy for a business user to focus on a particular product in a particular geography sold to a particular customer and see only the data that is relevant.

The usefulness of these associations is even more apparent where there might be hundreds or thousands of products, customers, geographies, etc. Extremely large datasets can be sliced with a few clicks rather than scrolling through thousands of items. With Qlik, context and relevance go hand in hand to make Big Data into something that is quite manageable, without the need for advanced programming or visualization skills.

India is today a global house for startups and budding entrepreneurs. What benefits will big data bring to their business?

Making data-driven decisions is no longer a trend but an essential part of competing in the marketplace. All organisations need to leverage big data analytics in order to grow and scale their business operations, irrespective of their size. This holds particularly true for ventures operating in the highly-competitive and disruptive start-up ecosystem. With limited resources available at their disposal, be it in terms of human or operational capital, start-ups need to ensure that every decision they take generates optimal dividends.

Business analytics can help start-ups achieve this position. A small online business with only 5-6 people based in India can be operational in multiple international markets, generating massive volumes of complex data. By leveraging analytics to extract relevant insights from this data, start-ups can help in increasing the productivity and output for different functions such as product, sales, marketing, customer service, research & innovation etc. This ensures that they not only stay ahead of their current competition, but also continually grow and succeed to remain competitive even against the larger and more established industry players.

Which sectors do you see as early adopters of this technology and benefits been leveraged to their businesses?

Although data analytics is finding rapid adoption and delivering benefits across all industry segments, we are witnessing exponential demand for cutting-edge analytics solutions in sectors such as banking and finance, manufacturing, healthcare, and retail. The push for a digital-first infrastructure under the ‘Digital India’ initiative has also led several government departments into adopting data analytics services for managing, measuring, and monitoring data. The focus is on deriving insights through business intelligence generated from data collected from multiple sources like embedded, machine data, social media, or mobile.

The benefits of leveraging data analytics are multifarious, as can be seen in the results generated by businesses which have leveraged Qlik’s visual analytics platform. For example, HDFC Life has grown by 17% over the last two years and has saved operational costs to the tune of $400,000, which it attributes to better decision-making and improved customer response times enabled by Qlik. Jewellery retailer Thangamayil also achieved better budgeting and stock optimization by leveraging our services, leading to drastic cost savings across more than 30 stores.

Are Indian organizations aware on how data can become a profitable business decision making?

The Indian start-up ecosystem has registered exponential growth over the last decade or so, indicating just how open to innovation the country is, as a market. The flood of data that the economy has witnessed across sectors is driving more and more organisations to adopt data analytics services.

Visual analytics, in particular, has received tremendous response, thanks to its intuitive approach which allows businesses and individuals to readily identify the insights in their data sets and make better and faster decisions. With organisations from several industry segments leveraging Qlik’s innovative data analytics platform, it is safe to say that Indian businesses are aware of the difference that analytics can make for them.

What are the key trends expected in Big Data and what will be the impact in Indian enterprises?

Gartner estimates there are currently 8.4 billion interconnected devices in use, a number which could increase to 20 billion by the end of this decade. These devices range from smartphones, computers, and tablets to wearable tech and smart sensors in homes, electronic equipment, cars etc. The sheer magnitude of data generated by these devices on a daily basis is unparalleled in history. As such, there is a definitive movement towards IoT-led solutions in data analytics. Retail and manufacturing sectors are at the forefront of this adoption, using data-driven insights to optimise their manufacturing, product design, marketing, product placement, and after-sales processes. Other sectors, such as telecom, are also registering a growing demand for IoT-led data analytics services.

As more and more organisations become more proficient in managing and measuring their data, and as the cost of storing data increases, we can also expect big data to become less about the magnitude of information available and more about finding the relevant combinations. Businesses will look to adopt data analytics models which allow them to combine their big data with small data to generate meaningful, contextual, value-driven insights as quickly as possible. The accuracy of analytics will improve as a result, as businesses learn to filter out the data white noise to arrive at the most-relevant information.

Cloud Based Analytics is said to be catching fire in Big Data market. What kind of impact do your expect in Indian market?

2017 is already turning into a good year for cloud-based data analytics. With a growing number of businesses looking to transform digitally, we are already witnessing an accelerated migration onto the cloud, at a global level. However, since Indian businesses have traditionally relied on on-premise storage solutions, business data in the country is saved across multiple platforms and environments. As a result, we already see hybrid cloud and multi-platform data analytics models emerging to address the specific needs of the Indian market, with data workloads and publishing happening across cloud-based and on-premise frameworks. These solutions will allow businesses in the country to translate raw data into business-relevant information, assisting them in taking swift and accurate decisions to drive their growth and scale.

Big data demands are sought to be getting more sophisticated, do you think this technology needs a holistic approach and what critical bottlenecks today exist in the development of the data ecosystem?

Yes, there is definitely an urgent need to look at the way we approach data analytics. Traditional data analytics projects consume significant IT resources. They also require complex planning around the data architecture and how users want to navigate and ask questions of the data. This makes the process of defining the linkages between various data sets and enabling greater transparency across multiple data sources challenging, time-consuming, and expensive. Moreover, many data analytics tools require specific expertise from users; this prevents novice users to self-service data and hinders innovation in the organisation. The biggest challenge, therefore, lies in getting the data in the hands of business users.

We, at Qlik, have been ceaselessly working towards addressing these data-related concerns for businesses through our platform. Qlik’s proprietary associative technology has the unique ability to map data in a similar way that the mind works. Unlike the typical structured, linear query-based analytical tools that ultimately create blind spots in understanding, our patented Qlik Associative Indexing Engine integrates data from multiple disparate sources, maps it, and automatically maintains associations in the data. Each time the user clicks, it instantly recalculates all analytics based on the new context and highlights data relationships as selected, associated, or unrelated. This speed-of-thought feedback encourages users to think of the next question and continue exploring their individual ideas to discovery in a simple, timely, and intuitive manner. This not only drives innovations and discoveries within an organisation, but also enables business users to make accurate and contextual decisions to support the growth of their businesses. Moreover, it ensures centralised data security and governance, while enabling organisations to manage their data better.

Lastly, at what pace do you think the Indian market to mature for adopting Big Data technologies?

India is expected to have more than 700 million smartphone users by 2020, and will be one of the most prominent markets for big data in the near future. The country is rapidly moving onto a digitally-led medium. With the growth of IoT and smart devices, this will generate massive volumes of data, providing businesses with unparalleled access to information from multiple sources. With data analytics expected to drive $430 billion in productivity gains, organisations across multiple sectors will seek to rapidly adopt state-of-the-art big data technologies like Qlik into their operations.

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Niloy Banerjee

A generic movie-buff, passionate and professional with print journalism, serving editorial verticals on Technical and B2B segments, crude rover and writer on business happenings, spare time playing physical and digital forms of games; a love with philosophy is perennial as trying to archive pebbles from the ocean of literature. Lastly, a connoisseur in making and eating palatable cuisines.