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MarTech Interview with Rohan Thambrahalli, Founder & President at Upstartworks

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“We’re a big RPA house and we use it effectively in many areas of our business. We have built AI Models that can predict the impact on sales if customer reviews increase by 25% or if traffic increases by 60%.”

Hi Rohan, tell us about the major milestones in your career as a Tech leader?

My focus was never purely technology as I have always believed that human problems must have human solutions.

Technology allows us to implement those solutions at scale cost effectively.  This simple idea has been my guiding principle as it relates to technology, which also gave rise to the idea of starting a company that provides people solutions to people problems and uses technology to scale those solutions cost effectively – starting UpstartWorks was one of those milestones.

What is UpstartWorks and what does your Ideal Customer Profile look like?

At UpstartWorks, we focus on empowering people and brands by providing expertise, speed to revenue, and scalable technology.  We typically target managers and directors in the sales and marketing departments, but we also work with executives who are more hands-on with their ecommerce strategy. In terms of revenue, our ideal business partners are privately held with under $500 million in annual revenue – that gives them room to grow with us as they expand their Amazon presence. Since the online sales ecosystem is now global, we focus more on industries and categories than we do on particular regions. Right now, we’re bullish on home and outdoors, tools and industrial equipment, and the home improvement/automotive sectors.

We saw some of the biggest M&As in martech and adtech in 2019. What cue did you take from these tech M&As to build a roadmap at UpstartWorks for 2020-2024?

For us, consolidation translates to opportunities.  For example, several of our current clients are PE owned and as they buy additional companies, they reach out to us for help.

How much have Marketing practices evolved through the internet, dotcom and now social media and AI era?

Over the years, marketing has changed from “Mass” to “Me.”  Dotcom, SM, and AI are just tools that allow us to better understand the individual we’re marketing to.  What hasn’t changed is the ideal of “relevancy”.  Whatever tools you use, the message has to be relevant and must solve a real problem.

What roles have Google, Amazon and Facebook played in this transformation?

We like to think about it like this: Amazon provides an endless catalog of product assortments, while Google drives online traffic to these products, as does Facebook, which also serves a platform for brands to interact with their customer community and reinforce the sales cycle. Given the effectiveness of this system and how easy it is for most consumers to access, traditional marketing is doomed to obsolescence.

Which tools and technologies do you currently use for Marketing, Sales and Support? Which of these are must-haves for a modern marketer/ Ecommerce marketing team?

uCrawl: A data/information crawler that gathers valuable information on Amazon detail pages in search.

UpstartWorks AMS Platform: enhanced Amazon Advertising platform that provides smart recommendations and superior reporting capabilities, all tied into Amazon Advertising’s back end so that changes can be made real time.

Forecasting Platform: considers historical sales data like most conventional forecasting models. However, its main purpose is to take data points major etailers consider essential to the selling life cycle, and allow them to be manipulated for a simulated forecast. Example data points: promotions, ad spend, etc…

Natural Language Processing Model: identifies the most effective keywords to include on a detail page and advertisements for products based on data pulled for the product’s category.

Most of the tools we use are built in-house.  There just isn’t a suite of tools/technology that allows us to do the type of targeting at product level and then present it to the most relevant customers.  And do this real time across millions of products.

We hear that Amazon and Facebook are almost unbeatable in the advertising industry. Google (though its Search and YouTube) recently announced its revenue break-down. How are these tech giants impacting your business and changing the nature of consumer behavior across physical stores, mobile and online shopping platforms?

These platforms are making brands realize that customer relevancy is really what matters.  Too often large and small brands have ignored this fact.  Amazon for example has done an excellent job leveraging customer shopping (relevancy) data to server up ads and make their vendors pay for it.  Amazon’s ad business is now worth $15 billion – If you consider the traditional in-store or catalog based shopping models, consumers have historically been limited to a finite amount of products on offer from the seller. Amazon’s endless catalog of products and never-ending additional growth provides a vastly more diverse product offering to consumers.

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Facebook then applies its social influence to products or brands, and Google’s powerful search capabilities ensure consumers will find what they are looking for (usually linking them to Amazon detail pages). As it relates to our business, we know the mechanisms that are in place for our Vendor clients to find consumers and we have seen these mechanisms prove successful time and time again. So, one of our top priorities is to successfully help our vendors to operate those mechanisms correctly and complete the selling life cycle as a result.

Above all else, this platform has given more power to the individual consumer than ever before.

We’re seeing a rampant adoption of AI, Blockchain, and RPA in the Voice and related tech businesses. What approach do you take in digitally transforming your ecommerce operations with AI ML and RPA techniques? Have they borne you satisfactory results? 

We’re a big RPA house and we use it effectively in many areas of our business.  For example, we use RPA to respond to customer reviews in real time.  We’re using AI to forecast and plan.

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For example, we have built AI Models that can predict the impact on sales if customer reviews increase by 25% or if traffic increases by 60%, and finally what would happen to sales if there is a Global Pandemic.

What are your predictions for “Customer Loyalty Technologies” for 2020-2024? How do you prepare yourself and your marketing team for these events?

More than customer loyalty, I am more focused on customer centricity and customer relevancy.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a Business Leader?

With AI, most people only talk about the customer facing aspect.  As a Business Leader, I am more worried about having a sustainable infrastructure to support reliance on AI.  This will have become ever more important given the Global Pandemic – we’re evaluating multiple people and infrastructure options.  From a customer perspective, AI must be seamlessly integrated – when it’s working at its best, no one should know it’s there.

This Is How I Work

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

By insisting that technology, most often, is not the solution it’s only a tool.  Too often companies present technology as the solution for problem problems and this results in lower adaption.

One word that best describes how you work.

Grit.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Ripple

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

Mentally disciplines, ability to think multi dimensionally, and ability to handle stress better than others.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read.

Malcom Gladwell

Thank you Rohan, for answering all our questions!!!

Founder and President of UpstartWorks, Rohan Thambrahalli has made it his goal to develop a culture that embodies the builder who delivers best-in-class value to customers and partners. UpstartWorks is Rohan’s greatest personal and professional achievement, it was his vision from the beginning to start a company that could provide vendors the reach, technology, scale, and capabilities to compete with the best brands in the world.

Rohan holds a bachelor’s degree in MIS and Economics from Depaul University. In his free time, Rohan enjoys reading business journals and articles.

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Propelling your business through proprietary technologies and intelligent insights in the e-commerce domain.

With expertise in product development, supply chain management, marketing, e-commerce solutions and go to market strategy, we are uniquely qualified to guide brands as they look to grow, and dominate, on Amazon or any of the world’s other leading marketplaces.

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