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The future is Blockchain

Always up to demanding work that requires innovations, Shiva S, Founder & CEO, PowerupCloud focuses on challenges to learn and evolve. Alongside their cloud and artificial intelligence products, PowerupCloud plans to focus on the responsibility that comes with being AWS premier partners – and mark the road ahead with innovative technologies like Blockchain.

  1. How are you enabling your enterprise clients to transform digitally through your cloud solutions? Please provide few statistics on your clients’ achievements?
Shiva S, Founder & CEO, PowerupCloud

When it comes to digitization, it is probably used in the way it needs to be used. Most people think that using the cloud is a part of digitization, but that’s not the whole thing. Digitization is about using technology to improve the processes that customers have. How can you improve efficiency, how can you bring down dependencies on humans and improve them on the machine side, because that’s how humans don’t need to do mundane stuff, they get to do something exciting, something new. That’s always the bottom line of whatever we do today. When we started approaching customers’ problems with respect to infrastructure or for any other Data analytics etc, we always had a close eye on automation.  We always encouraged automation of processes and implement the same, because from the business perspective when you do automation deployment, your margins increase. That is all our focus.

Number two, when we bring value to customers by implementing data analytics and AI, because we are solving a critical problem, we are saving them a lot of money over a period of time using automatic systems. That’s what we do, that’s what our approach is, towards digital transformation.

  1. How large is the customer demand for machine learning, AI and Big Data solutions over the cloud?

We believe we are at least a year early into this.Awareness is not that much about ML or AI. I’ve had instances when they call up and say why don’tyou build me a Jarvis, from the kind of stuff they see in Ironman. We explain to them, we cannot do that, I can explain to him that if I have to build you Jarvis, I will have to leave my wife at home and come and sit with you in a dark room, to give a voice over. Because there are movies on one side and there is reality on another side.

So we are working on that right now- educating customers. We first try and understand what actually they need, and what really they have and then build on the demand.

So very often when they call us to ask to build an AI and ML system, we actually end up staring to build a Data Lake system. Then get into machine learning and Deep learning, that’s what the life cycle is.

They think they can put up an AI system in 3 months and have budgeted accordingly, but we convince them that whatever you are looking to achieve in 10-12 months, you will need to start with Data lake and big data systems right now.

That’s what’s happening today.

The demand is definitely going to be evident in 12 months from now. Right now it’s more about bridging the gap between their understanding of AI and ML, versus what’s reality.  Once CIOs and CDOs realize that,  that’s when magic happens.

Today, the company has over 130 people, growing every day. 105 are engineers, the rest 25 are support. Consulting team is about 60, between cloud, data and AI, cloud is 25, data is 10 and rest is AI. The AI team is as big as cloud team because that’s the fastest growing vertical for us in the last two quarters.

  1. You have cloud solutions from AWS, Microsoft Azure as well as Google. What is your strategy to target customers for each of these platforms?

The products that we build started from Amazon, we started the first few on AWS, while we are strong AWS partners, keeping the customers’ interests in mind, we made these software platforms adopt to the other platforms over a period of time. While our platform of choice is Amazon, we also know that customers would need multiple platforms.

From our side we ensure they adopt the cloudplatform.

  1. Could you elaborate a bit around your enterprise chatbots platform IRA? How would you differentiate these from the crowded chatbots market?

So, as I said earlier, we started this services company but we realized that IPs are necessary for us to get recognized in the market. We don’t have to search anywhere to build our first product, because in the business that we do, a lot of amazing ideas come from customers, all we had to do was to pick a problem and build a solution on top of it. That’s usually our product development strategy. We build and deploy a solution for one of ourcustomers, when they ask for it, and have the solution built into a template so we can deploy faster.

When one hundred customers ask for it we know, that’s when you decide its good enough to build a product. That’s what happened to IRA. We started building this as a service as a project for an insurance company in India but then we realized there are more such asks coming in from other customers as well. That is how we ended up building IRA as a full-fledged platform, not domain specific – for insurance, banks. It is not domain-specific.

The advantage is, we have 100 plus companies using this platform. Right now there are millions of chats happening on a day to day basis. The idea was not just to build a platform which will help customers build chatbots, it’s about what happens after that. Are you tracking the interaction between your bot and your customers on a continuous basis? Are you makingdecisions based on the inputs that the bots pick up?

That is key for us here. We created several models and then built this into a full-fledged chatbots platform that enterprise companies can use. Startups and mid-level companies, to some extent, care less about what happens to customers. But for enterprise customers, it’s very important because one bad customer interaction, there will be lot of customers who have a say. So that’s the reason we built this so the engine picks anomalies, or any wrong messages coming out.That’s how we built this bot, the backend takes care of the anomalies and all that.

Over the last two years the chatbots market had grown a lot, from when we were building IRA in 2015, within a year of inception of the company, it has evolved a lot. We have won some major projects against some top brands for chatbots in the world.

The reason is that we took sponsors- customers, in their initial development phase, and we built the platform with them, understanding the pains they go through managing the bot and the whole process.  Today the biggest advantage we have as a platform is that we are able to take it as enterprise software and are able to deploy in customers’ BPC account, so the customer doesn’t have to worry about privacy or data.Learning, decision-making engine- that’s the code we push to customer’s account on a continuous basis, in patch upgrades. But otherwise the whole software runs from customers’ account, so they don’t have to worry about updatesor data. Since it runs on Amazon, we don’t have to worry about the compliance demands of large companies.

Most of the competitors sell SaaS-based chatbots, so customers are not too keen on sharing their data with a SaaS-based partner.

This is something we have believed from day one, and we are looking at establishing a much bigger enterprise platform.

  1. Could you elaborate on your intelligent campaign platform- Recomind

It’s the same concept. We built this as a solution for a bank that runs on Amazon. And all of a sudden within a week we had ten requests coming in, and then it went up to a hundred requests and we thought that’s a product. That’s when we built it. Honestly, my heart is closer more to IRA, but Recomind grew faster than that. Customers running Amazon using a service called Amazon Simple Email Service (SES), used to send bulk emails. But they were facing a problem with respect to the quality of emails being sent. Because when they send bad emails, Amazon ACS will block them because they were not able to filter our bad emails, junk etc.

We built a wrapper on top of it to ensure the campaign email quality is much higher. But then one thing led to another, customers came back to ask us for more features and we ended up building a full-fledged product as good as any other mass marketing platform. It provided lead scoring, automated follow-ups, and schedulingemails for best time when people open emails. The engine records the time mail is opened and continuously learns.

Even after sending the mails to you at 8 am in the morning and if you don’t read it, within 4 hours the engine will follow up with you through an SMS and if you don’t react to it, it will still follow up. You can schedule up to 5 follow up, and each will give you the best possible time probability.

So we tried building that automation into it.

About Chanak:The bottom-line we have here is that humans should always have the highly skilled job and the machine should do the mundane jobs. The idea was, how can we use neural based, decision making AI engines to read the alerts coming in from applications and infrastructure and take a call on it – to work on it or ignore it. So today, in every industry there is a stream of L0 support engineers that do that. They are the front line soldiers, they read the alert, they analyze various aspects, decide to work on it or not. That’s something we are eliminating because we want the L0 engineers to do as much meaningful work as L1 or L2 engineers by actually fixing issues, and it’s not humanly possible to go and see a hundred systems and take a call quickly, but a machine can do that. That’s where this whole idea, ofChanakstarted coming from. And since we already have expertise in building decision making AI engines through our other service lines, we thought why don’t we marry these two and build our product.That’s what we are doing today.

The modules are under development, two modules are out, we are launching it officially by the end of the year because it’s a SaaS platform, but as an enterprise software platform it will be available much earlier.

  1. What advantages does the cloud ensure for analytics-based marketing services in the cloud?

Recomind is one such example where we are using the data that we collect from you, based on when you open your mail, and SMS, and we are able to target campaign timings accordingly, so that it has a higher hit rate. This is a superb example of how analytics is used today on the marketing side.

The same can be applied to other marketing services aswell, but as far as Recomind is concerned, this is the closest product we have.

  1. What are your top focus areas over the next 2-3 years? What role does your current vendor partnershipplay in your future plans?

Next year, hands down Blockchain.

As a company we have always said a YES to any demanding work because that’s how we also learn and evolve. From that perspective we got the opportunity to work on a very interesting Blockchain project and that’s how we got introduced to the world of Blockchain. It’s amazing to see the potential it has.

Currently we are building a real-time analytics platform for a crypt currency hedge fund based out of Chicago. The hedge funds in cryptocurrency, where they are not controlled by any country, their value keeps changing by second, by the minute.

So it’s a fascinating market to work.Not like your regular financial market which runs morning to evening and Monday to Friday. Crypto currency is run 24 by 7, 365 days.

So building an analytics platform to understand and track the trend, and then advise high net worth individuals and other large companies to invest by, is a superb market and interesting market to play around. We are doing that, we have started building smart contracts for our customers as well as Blockchain technology. So definitely Blockchain is a key area our focus is going to go into.

On the cloud side our focus will continue into containerless computing by adopting containerization and infrastructure processes that are the two areas we are going to focus on.

AI, we are already doing, and deep learning along with AI will continue to grow.  But our future investments will be into these two new technologies.

  1. Last year you got recognition from AWS. Can you share something about that?

Premier consulting partner is the topmost space that one can achieve with AWS in the partner space. From day one when we started, that was our goal. It is pretty interesting that we never encouraged any investment interest that came in, until we became a premier partner. We would have had at least 20 conversations from mid to large companies, but our goal was to get a premier partner and then look for investment.

That is because if you look for investment before, it’s like you are trying to get investment for something you have not achieved. So while throughout this period, we did go through cash flow issues, and other ups and downs that never pushed us towrads taking partnerships. But now we are there. We are not yet a partnership, but in a month’s time there will be news.

The moment we became premier partners, things changed.Last 5 months we spent so much time on this, that I am more of an investment banker than a CEO!

Right now the focus is on growth. Premier partner is more like a responsibility, if you are one, not just other partners, but the customer and the Amazon community look up to you. We have done some cool stuff, 100 customers, and 130people over the last few years. We need to see how we can take it to the global markets. We have recently had some big global wins- Singapore and India. In India we won a large annual contract with a digital insurance company, we built their data center ground up. We are doing ML and Big Data projects for them, the idea for them was to accept and approve an insurance claim within a minute. That’s their requirement they have and for us to accept that we need to build a strong decision-making engine which can allow this.

That’s a massive win for us.

The second one is a large payment company, we migrated them to Amazon, about a year back, and now almost 80% of the applications are on Amazon, and now we are signing up a huge contract with them. This is a customerbrand name among the largest in the world.

These are two notable events in terms of size.

We have a few in Singapore as well where we have built platforms to manage chatbots for them for a company called Capitaland. We are able to cross-sell, whichever customer Amazon lands us in, if they don’t like the first 5 offerings we have, and they actually get into the sixth one.

So that’s the balance we are able to manage so far. Our focus is how do we manage the contracts so far and also grow.

  1. What are your learnings from this year’s AWS Summit?

This Summit has been great. I always love summits, and am happy to see that the Amazon Summit India is growing faster and I always compare with their own event which happens in Vegas.I keep telling the team when we can have much more fanfare in India as well? We can invest more and have more fun here as well, because that’s why we are investing in this event as a sponsor -not because we want to close leads. It’s for us to showcase whatever we have done. We enjoy being here but we want to have more fun next year, showcase more IoT and AI products but we need to make it much more appealing.

We’ve had a great turnout this year, I cannot complain because we had the longest queue this year.

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