“Challenging the status quo is never easy, but people are becoming more aware of the value of data and what it can do for business.”
Bharat Kathuria has worked in analytics for the last nine years, helping clients across a range of industries to do more with their data. Here he tells us about the impact data science is having today – and how he’d like to see it used in the future.
From undergrad to data scientist
Like all of our data scientists, Bharat has always had a love of number-crunching, which meant when the time came to join higher education his area of study was a no-brainer.
“I did BA in Statistics followed by a Master’s degree in Operations Research at The University of Delhi,” he says. “That took five years, and after that I properly set foot into the world of analytics.”
Fast forward to today, Bharat has been putting these skills to use for over nine years, combining his knowledge of advanced mathematics with the latest statistical techniques to solve business problems for some of The Smart Cube’s biggest clients.
This work has seen him deployed across a range of industries, but for Bharat, it’s always the business goal – and the numbers – he focuses on.
“At the core of this work is driving value for our clients, regardless of their industry,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re working in telecoms, retail or insurance, the concepts are the same: retain customers, improve efficiencies, and identify new opportunities.”
Taking the lead in our relationships
Today, Bharat’s work at The Smart Cube sees him combine his knowledge of analytics with a relationship management role, something he sees as essential in helping people understand the true value of data science.
“Challenging the status quo is always difficult,” he says. “Every business has a clear mindset and established way of doing things, so we need to convince the business users that data science can make a worthwhile difference.”
This process of illustrating value starts at the very top, with Bharat meeting key stakeholders to understand their business challenges before designing solutions to meet those challenges, carrying out the analytics work and, finally, showcasing the impact of his solution.
It’s not always easy persuading people to surrender entrenched approaches to work, but Bharat has seen a notable shift in attitudes over the last few years.
“People are definitely becoming a lot more aware of the value of data,” he says. “We’re seeing a lot more analysis in place of surveys and focus groups.”
Every day is different
Some of Bharat’s most recent data projects have been for one of the UK’s best loved consumer brands.
The work has seen him use complex statistical models and sentiment analysis to maximise engagement from the company’s highest value customers. He’s also been using data to discover the best mix of products – and specific placement of those products – in physical stores.
The client has already seen measurable returns from this approach, but as Bharat points out, good analytics projects are rarely a one-time engagement.
“This kind of work is an ongoing process,” he says. “Markets change, market penetration will change, customer demands will change – our clients need to move on when their customers do, and we can help them do that.”
The upshot of this ever-shifting landscape is that for Bharat, no two days are ever the same.
“There’s a new business problem all the time,” he says. “Which is great. One day I might be working on where to launch a product across certain stores, the next I’ll be assessing the performance of a particular game – it keeps me excited.”
And if you needed any more proof that Bharat enjoys his job, you need look no further than the fact he still does it.
“If something gets boring, I tend to try and find something new,” he says. “And I’ve been doing this now for almost a decade.”
Time to embrace the facts
Over a nine-year period, Bharat has seen data science go from a somewhat misunderstood and hugely undervalued practice, to something that businesses are beginning to rely on. But he thinks there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
“The value of data as a tool is now widely known,” he says. “But the investment in effectively using it is still not where it could be.”
The obvious question then, is why not?
“Cost is a big factor,” Bharat says. “It takes a lot to set up the appropriate infrastructure and architecture. And when you’ve done that, there’s also a skills gap – not many people have the talent in house to run complex data projects.”
Filling that skills gap is a part of what Bharat and his team at The Smart Cube do. But the extent of what they’re able to achieve will always be dictated by the client.
“We have all the capabilities here,” he says. “We can do incredible things and create all sorts of bespoke dashboards, but if our clients just want to use Excel spreadsheets then that’s what we have to work with. I’d really love it if more businesses would fully embrace what’s possible.”
Creating the customer experience of the future
It’s surely only a matter of time before businesses become more comfortable with the world of data science and relinquish their spreadsheets to the past. But what will that mean for the future of analytics?
Going forwards, Bharat thinks that data science will have some of its biggest impacts in creating better customer experiences.
“Customer loyalty is dissipating day by day, with more products and more competition entering the market,” he says. “I think analytics will become a lot more about customer value management – how can you create stress-free, simple yet personalised experiences?”
It’s a difficult balance. Personalisation requires customer interaction, but there’s a fine line between interacting with customers and bothering them.
“That’s something I think we’re getting really good at,” says Bharat. “Finding the balance between engaging people but not pushing them away with thousands of emails.
“It may sound like a small thing, but in increasingly competitive industries like retail it can make all the difference.”
Want to learn more about our data scientists? Meet some more of the team.