Blend a pinch of technology in retail and see the magic happening in no time. Looking at the influence of digital gadgets on consumers, the retail fraternity has surely accepted the metal of technology in retail. Infusioning technology in a retail business is not just about connecting a web page to the inventory. This is just the tip of the iceberg. The real dive comes while driving traffic to the website, hooking users with the products and providing a seamless shopping experience.
Over the past couple of years we have seen a rigorous splurge in inception of technology solution providers aiding the retail and eretail landscape. Incessant innovation and disruption has brought in a tremendous renovation in the industry at large and is touted to grow in the years to come.
Regarding the same, Sahil from Retailer Media caught up with Karthik Bettadapura, CEO & Co-Founder, DataWeave to know more about the dynamics of technology and how it’s bringing the revolution with retail intelligence and brand analytics.
Please share your background. Your education and whether entrepreneurship was something you always wanted to do?
Prior to starting DataWeave, I worked as a Lead Programmer at Web18 Software Services Ltd for over 3 years. Before that I completed my Masters in Technology from International Institute of Informational Technology in Information Retrieval, Advanced Databases, and Distributed Systems
How was the idea of your Start-up conceptualized? What is the need you are addressing in the market?
During our (Vikrant and I) previous stint at Web18, we realized the importance of ‘alternate data’ or ‘publicly available data’ in analysing external factors that impact businesses. As there is a lot of noise in this data, this results in ‘the right data not being available in the right form at the right time’. We saw various problems that could potentially be solved by building a platform like DataWeave.
DataWeave was started with the idea of democratizing access to information and providing businesses with actionable insights using these data points. At DataWeave we build data products by aggregating and analysing publicly available data on the Web.
How is technology helping traditional retailers fulfil their true potential?
Technology is deeply embedded in the retail businesses. Whether it is operations, merchandising, or marketing technology has made a significant impact. We have chosen to focus on specific aspects which we believe we can disrupt disproportionately using our expertise in aggregating public domain data.
DataWeave's range of products delivers real-time actionable insights to retailers and brands. The Retail Intelligence platform provides Pricing, Promotions and Assortment Intelligence thereby providing a deep understanding of product availability and pricing. The Brand Analytics platform helps brands in Pricing Analysis of products, as well as to understand the momentum of products across brands.
How outsourcing technological operations is better than having it in house?
I do not believe there is a simple answer to this question. It actually depends on multiple aspects. Some of the questions which would need to be answered are:
i. How hard is the technical problem to solve?
ii. How core is the system to operations for the retailer?
iii. How long would it take to build the system and scale it? Does the organization have the core expertise to build, manage and improve the system?
It is not always as simple as a build vs. buy question.
We often are faced with these conversations and we believe that the platform we have built will be hard to develop in house. The platform requires very specific skill sets, and with the evolving nature of both technology and the web it requires a specific focus to develop, maintain and keep relevant. This essentially, requires a specialised skill-set which is what we bring to the table. What also often gets discounted is the time, effort and cost involved in maintenance of the system, which can turn out to be a serious issue later on.
What solutions do you provide and how it makes retail operations seamless?
Businesses are demanding more actionable insights from analytics and tie it to business outcomes. Simplified (easily consumable and actionable) analytics that is timely and accurate will be the need of the hour. Data from across channels is going to be integrated and analyzed in a near real-time fashion.
Retail Intelligence & Brand Analytics provides both retailers and brands with "outside-in" analysis on how customers perceive them vis-a-vis other competitors. It provides them with actionable insights on executing their pricing and assortment opportunities, and strategies while preserving their brand equity.
Have you raised any funding so far? What are your plans to use this funding for?
In 2013, we raised seed funding from Blume Ventures, TLabs (Times Internet*), 5ideas Startup Superfuel, Meta Studio Advisors and a group of angels: Rajan Anandan, Pankaj Jain, Bharathram Thothadri, Krishna Mehra and Abhishek Gupta.
We have primarily invested our funding on expanding our technology, teams, and infrastructure.
What has been your A-ha Moment in the business? (The high)
Various use-cases of external/trans-firewall data is one of them. We once were contacted by a crop insurance agency to check if we had weather data specific to a certain village in India. They were interested in the data as they had crop damage claims from a few individuals and they wanted to cross verify this.
This opened our eyes on the various possibilities/ use-cases that having ‘external & trans-firewall data in the right form at the right time’.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How are you addressing it?
When we started out with DataWeave, we had to spend a lot of time with clients creating awareness on the power of augmenting internal information with trans-firewall information. Our approach helps clients get a much better understanding of the external functions that impact their business. The kind of insights that marrying the two provides is phenomenal.
Internally, we had to learn to manage the scale associated with aggregating all this information. One of our largest learnings was to deal with varying levels of data quality across geographies, as well as working with multiple languages.
The retail industry comprises of different players offering different product and services at a competitive pricing. We have seen companies globally that offer services similar to ours, but one of our key differentiators is our human in the loop process. This process helps us provide a higher level of accuracy while scaling and improving our algorithms. This accuracy ensures our clients are able to use us with more confidence and embed us more deeply in their processes and systems.
How do you see growth scenario is this business? What are your future scale-up plans?
Our enterprise product is specific to retailers and brands. This product is being used by large retailers, ecommerce companies, and global brands.
Our data feeds can also be used by aggregator websites, price matching engines, and developers. In fact, we provide a free demo access to our APIs. Additionally, we have partnerships with consulting firms, data aggregator firms and large PE funds as well.
DataWeave’s technology platform is built for a significant amount of scale as well as being language- and-geography agnostic. We already serve clients in more than 10 countries with many being served in their native language even if it is in non-English script. We are using a combination of partnerships and building out our own teams to drive geography and vertical expansion. For instance, we have recently entered into a partnership with Capillary and Aucfan, a Japanese firm-listed on the Tokyo stock exchange. These are examples where we are working closely with partners to drive geography expansion. We are also hiring significantly in the US to drive our expansion into that market.
How do you see the technological dependency in retailers in tier II and III cities of the country?
Dependency on technology is only going to increase, as these retailers have to scale. As of now, the dependency is limited to a few core technologies like MS Office, Website Dev, Customer Support to name a few.