The new field of Data Science / Analytics
Data Science / Analytics industry is at a very nascent stage right now. However, ranges of its applications are increasing everyday and in coming years will impact each and every part of our life. Have you ever wondered how social networking sites like Facebook and Linkedin suggest friends to you ? Or How can Google use its search query data to identify areas under pandemic influence? How do you think Wal-Mart identifies its customer preferences on a regional basis and stocks its branch locations accordingly?
All of these are examples of analytics at work in real-time. And this is just the beginning and opens up a whole new level of possibilities to explore. With growing data and complexity, data analytics will become a competitive advantage for companies doing it well. With increasing usage of mobile devices and digitization across the globe, advantages of investing in cutting edge analytics are unlimited.
Data Science industry is riding on three fundamental forces:
- The cost of generating data through sensors has come down drastically and it will continue to do so: Mere ten years ago, only the privileged institutes or defense professionals had the luxury to see GPS devices. Today they are everywhere!
- Storage of the data is dirt cheap now. So, companies don’t need to invest a fortune in storing this data. You can store terabytes of data for a few dollars today.
- Cost of performing Computations has gone down significantly. Today, we can run our computation on the same servers, which are used by Amazon / Google / Microsoft for a few dollars / hour!
What this means is that now you are not only in condition to generate more and more data, but are also able to store that data easily and run heavy computations on it at a very low-cost. Data science as an industry is expected to grow at 30% YoY for the next few years.
Pioneers to spearhead Data Science / Analytics in India
Kunal Jain is a post-graduate from IIT Bombay in Aerospace Engineering and has worked with Capital One (among top 10 bank in the US) and Aviva Life Insurance. Kunal’s entire work experience has been in data science industry. Tavish Srivastava, another IIT Madras graduate, has worked at Aviva and Citibank GDM.The two met while at Aviva where Kunal managed a young Tavish, fresh out of college, for about 18 months.
Kunal has spent more than 6 years in field of Business Analytics while at Capital One which has one of the best data science communities because of its focus on data based decision-making process. However, when Kunal came back to India, he figured out that there was no such place for the wider data science community across the globe.
He realized that ‘if you are stuck with a problem, where you have little experience or you want to try a new set of algorithms to solve a problem, you were pretty much on your own. Similarly, there were lakhs of students, who aspired to be a data scientist, but had no one to guide them’. The desire to solve these problems eventually led Kunal and Tavish to co-found Analytics Vidhya.
About Analytics Vidhya
“Analytics Vidhya” is composed of two words: Analytics + Vidhya. Kunal in his interview with Techstory explains that ‘Analytics’ can be defined as the science of extracting insights from raw data. The spectrum of analytics starts from capturing data and evolves into using insights / trends from this data to make informed decisions. ‘Vidhya’ on the other hand is a Sanskrit noun meaning ‘Knowledge’ or ‘Clarity on a subject’- Knowledge, which has been gained through reading literature or through self practice / experimentation.
Analytics Vidhya aims to become a one stop shop for any career need of a data scientist / analyst. Analytics Vidhya today is one of the most widely read blogs around the globe about this topic, has a highly engaging discussion portal, placement services and a platform to compare various data science trainings available in the market. The company started blogging on the subject since April 2013, but the company actually commenced operations only in early 2014.
Any knowledge driven industry needs a thriving community. For example, there is stack overflow for coders, MOZ for SEO professionals. Sadly, there was no such place for data scientists. As per recent industry estimates, data science is a $100 billion marketplace, growing 30 percent annually. A huge chunk of this marketplace, can be shifted to a platform like Analytics Vidhya.
The company has built a thriving community of data science professionals over last 2 years. It gets more than 200,000 visits on web portal month on month and has built a database of more than 50,000 analytics professionals. “We rely on network effects to create a competitive advantage. For example, it will take less than half a day to get a meaningful answer for more than 90% of questions posted on our portal. With our database, we can also provide a highly targeted list of data professionals, which fit any job mandate in the industry in a matter of few minutes.On any other portal, this will take days!” Kunal brags!
Developing a community is never an easy thing. We work with a mindset, where we add value to people, without thinking about what we will get back from it. That is the only way we can build a community.
One of the questions firm faced regularly in its initial days was “How big is the market and opportunity?” “And to be honest, w did not know! We just knew that this excited us and we were filling a gap in market. When I left my job, we were getting 8000 visits p.m. at our site and I thought getting to 32,000 visits p.m. in 12 months would be great. We ended up growing 10x in 12 months. So, because of the uniqueness of what we are doing, we don’t know a lot of answers, but we figure them out on the way!” Kunal smiles.
Talking about the lessons Kunal has learnt, he begins by saying that ‘to be honest, there is a lot to share here’. He believes that every moment is exciting in its own terms – getting the first comment on site, the first subscriber, the first mention in list of popular blogs to testing the outcome of some revenue tests – all of these are special. He recalls one of the moments which he remembers vividly about 4-5 months back. He was in my home town (Indore) at that time. In the data science industry today, Indore is not at all prominent. Kunal was spending his day with his family and all of a sudden a group of students came to him and mentioned that they follow his blog regularly and have benefitted hugely in their placements because of it. For Kunal, it was a great feeling to hear about the impact from people / place he never expected to know!
In terms of learning, here are a few things, which Kunal shares:
- Always be clear of what problem you are solving and then about how are you solving it. There are a lot of short-term opportunities, which might come your way, but they would cost you the larger objective. Make sure you get your priorities right. Consultancy and training were such opportunities for Analytics Vidhya.
- If you really want to develop a community, just do whatever you can to help people, without thinking of what you are getting back. Over the last couple of years, Kunal would have personally counseled thousands of people. Some of them never come back, but the ones you do, contribute back to the community so that others can benefit.
- Be clear about what you have to finish in the day
Journey so far!
Kunal feels that the journey so far has been phenomenal from both the perspective – external endorsements and a sense of self-fulfillment. The firm gets more than 200,000 visits on its portal month on month. So, in essence, in a fraction of time, it has achieved scale similar to what some of the best knowledge communities across the globe have done in past. And the company continues to grow 20% organically month on month.
Analytics Vidhya is currently a team of 5 people and is supported by a lot of volunteers and analytics professionals helping them part-time.
In terms of geographical spread, it is a global platform and gets visited by people from across the globe. Moreover, the company conducts data science ‘hackathons’ across Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and Kolkata to build this community further. There are plans to conduct similar events in the US.
“At this stage, the main aim is to grow the community and add value to data science professionals. We have tested and proven a few revenue streams, but the focus is on community building” Kunal explains.
The company will continue to scale its community further. The company has a better sense on number of data scientists across the globe today and there is a significant gap between its current stats and that number. The aim is to fill the gap. On the way, it will be working on various products for the community. Kunal believes that some of these products should make it big.
Also, the company will be looking to raise a round of funding later this year. This will primarily be required to invest in the tech team and infrastructure to build the products it has tested!