TechBytes with Rohan Chandran, CPO at Infogroup
Hi Rohan. Please tell us how you prepare yourself for the disruptive world of technology.
You either disrupt or you get disrupted. You can’t have a perfect plan for disruption because you never know what’s going to hit you. Fundamentally you need to stay on the balls of your feet and be prepared to adapt. It’s really about mindset more than anything else.
The key to that mindset is to understand that you’re trying to bring value by solving a problem or leveraging an opportunity for your customer. Always be aware and abreast of what’s possible, but don’t solve from technology outwards. Rather, you need to be continuously laser-focused on how you’re adding value for the customer. That spares you from the executive ADHD that can make you jump at each new shiny object. Disruption doesn’t have to be about using the latest technology. It’s about how you use things in pursuit of a business goal.
From your vantage point, what have been the most impressive and important changes to advertising techniques, and how have they changed the way you work?
Advertising hasn’t changed at a fundamental level. It’s always been about the right person, right time, and right place. When we talk about things like targeting, personalization, and context awareness, these aren’t new. They’re operating in new ways via new technologies, but it’s the same basic goals we’ve always been trying to achieve.
What’s really changed is the capacity to understand an audience and how they engage in real-time, and the ability to respond to that in real-time. We all now need to operate in that living ecosystem, rather than the stagnant one of the past. You don’t want to be the person in 2040 who’s trying to sell a gasoline-powered car versus an electric vehicle.
At Infogroup, this all boils down to our ability to handle and manipulate data in real-time, and that’s an area where we’re putting great emphasis. We’re making sure we stay on the pulse of what’s happening in the market so companies aren’t relying on old data to make decisions.
Google and Facebook lead in disrupting the advertising and analytics industry. How does Infogroup enable customers to stay on top of these disruptive forces?
At Infogroup, we’re not trying to outdo Google, Facebook, or Bing at what they do best. We’re here to help companies figure out who they should be trying to reach and how they can best reach them—whether that’s by email, phone, mail, social media, or some other mechanism. Very rarely does a single touch win a customer.
Infogroup provides a foundational platform and understanding of who and what is out there that will enable you to use all your other tools a whole lot more effectively. We provide the basis on which advertisers can build their strategies, which often encompass touches via Google, Facebook, Bing, and others.
AI, Blockchain, low-code DevOps, and RPA techniques are making a huge impact on the current AdTech markets. Where is the overall AI-ML market heading in the next 4 years?
These are all great buzzwords, but there is tremendous potential impact, as you suggest. Low-code, for example, serves to reduce barriers to entry and participation in the marketplace. That spurs competition, which will push all of us to be better.
Any technology advancement that can allow our human capital to be redeployed against higher-order problems is a win. In other words, technology can solve baseline problems, and people can then think about where they’re really adding value rather than just executing the process. Ideally, we want to be employing all of these technologies in a way that gets our human intelligence focused on business problems while the technology handles the process problem.
Tell us more about the team you work with. What kind of skills and abilities does one need to be part of your product development team?
Certain technical skills are a given, but you also need to be someone who’s looking forward two to three years rather than back. Everyone in the organization needs to be a leader. I don’t like this notion that the leader is just the person at the top. Every person should be taking the initiative and looking at how they’re transforming outcomes and not just executing on tasks.
That concept circles back to the prior question in terms of how AI is going to increasingly remove some of the rote roles within industries. Empathy is becoming an increasingly important characteristic for every person in an organization. If you’re slowly elevating out of just performing tasks, you now need to really comprehend who your system, process, tool, or solution is working for and what impact it needs to have on them. If you can’t put yourself in their shoes, you’re not going to be able to point the robot or the algorithm in the right direction, and then you’re doomed to mediocrity.
Courage is important too. You can’t be afraid to get it wrong on the path to getting it right. If you’re not getting it wrong, then you’re playing it safe and not pushing the boundaries.
Apart from selling AI-as-a-Service to customers, what other ways do you think Advertising businesses should leverage AI and Intelligent Automation to sustain growth in data markets?
First off, as we’ve discussed, businesses should be leveraging AI to gain all the operational efficiencies they can. That’s where a lot of Robotic Process Automations (RPAs) come in.
In addition, when it comes to modeling and extrapolating, companies can also use AI to help them make decisions based on less information than you might normally need. You can take a smaller set of information and extrapolate out from there using models. That allows you to have much faster iteration cycles. And the faster you iterate, the faster you ultimately converge on success.
Apart from AI in Adtech, which other technologies are you keenly following to sustain business goals?
Some several intelligent apps and systems provide automated ways to support sales, customer service, call centers, and other labor-intensive roles. There are systems, like Conversica, that can take leads that come in via something like a webinar and start conversations with people without having to assign every individual to a salesperson, who then has to write an email or call these people. There are a number of startups doing AI-based customer support that can take over, say, 80 percent of the emails that people are responding to. That’s an interesting world.
Technologies around DevOps and infrastructure—continuous integration, continuous deployment, and the strides people are making there—are going to be interesting to watch as well. Any tool that’s getting engineers focused on delivering business outcomes rather than just the mechanics of deploying code or distributing it is going to be a win.
Under the current circumstances, with the global pandemic, I also think Augmented Reality is an interesting space to watch. It’s always been the “next big thing.” But given that we’re all stuck at home, and could be for a while, AR could be a world that really takes off. You can’t go to a furniture store or a clothing store right now, and AR might offer some interesting new solutions and experiences in the future.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
I’d like to hear from someone I don’t know at all: Jana Eggers, the CEO at Nara Logics. What they’re doing is intriguing, taking a heavily neuro-science based approach, and I love that they are resolutely focused on decision making as the outcome they’re looking to assist.
As Chief Product Officer, Rohan oversees Infogroup’s products, platform, and databases with a view on creating increasingly valuable solutions for our clients and partners. His teams are responsible for product management, design, development, and operations as he leads the evolution of Infogroup’s product suite.
Prior to Infogroup, he served as the Chief Product and Technology Officer at Shopkick. In his time there he led the introduction of new product lines and the development of a new platform, helping drive over 50% growth in revenues leading to an acquisition by Trax Retail.
Previously he held executive roles at Telenav, where he ran the global consumer and mobile business unit; and at YP, where he headed up the digital product team. In both of those roles, Rohan was a customer of Infogroup. He has also served as the CEO of Tech Rocket, an online technology education startup, and Collient, a B2B2C broadcast video monetization startup that he co-founded.
Earlier in his career he was part of the founding team at CricInfo, which is now part of the ESPN family, and held product and engineering leadership roles at Infonox, Yahoo!, and Experian Interactive. Rohan holds a BS and MS in Computer Science, and a BA in Economics, all from Stanford University.
Infogroup is a leading provider of data and data-driven marketing solutions for salespeople, marketers, and professionals. The company’s solutions are powered by its proprietary business and consumer databases and supplemented by client and third party data. Clients range from Fortune 500 enterprises and local businesses to not-for-profit and political organizations. Infogroup’s cloud-based Data Axle technology allows for real-time updates to its business and consumer data files, and also provides clients with a real-time API delivery platform for the most accurate and up-to-date information to support their marketing and business needs. Infogroup has 45+ years of history creating its own data and makes 24+ million verification calls per year to ensure data quality.