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Blog1: tete-a-tete with Dr. Murthy on our foray into the South American market

Dr. Sreerama K Murthy, Ph. D.

I started studying Artificial Intelligence in 1987. I did a bachelors thesis in expert systems, and a master’s thesis on AI from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology. My PhD from the Johns Hopkins University focused on inventing a new Decision Tree algorithm for solving a massive image classification problem on the Hubble Telescope. After PhD, I spent the past 23 years in AI and then on Big Data (8 years), while also sharpening my entrepreneurial skills. We built five different successful entities in the areas of AI, Big Data and Machine Learning. 21 patent applications and dozens of global publications later, I still simply love doing hands-on research in AI – there is so much more to be done! I also thoroughly enjoy mentoring and training students at all levels, building large teams from scratch to solve real-world problems using these powerful new technologies.

These are indeed exciting times; we have only just begun to scratch the surface of the immensity of AI! In not so distant future, every part of day-to-day personal and professional lives will be influenced and enriched by Big Data & AI systems. This will immensely increase the quality of life for people at all levels, in terms of productivity, peace and leisure.

From India to Colombia…

I spent over a decade in North America but never really knew much about South America. When I arrived in Colombia, I was pleasantly surprised by the interest in modern technologies. It was also very impressive that business leaders here had the ability to recognize where and how these technologies could be applied, to achieve rapid returns on investment. I have had many intellectually stimulating conversations with CXOs from a variety of industries, including Banking and Financial Services, Retail, Energy, Pharmaceutical, Education, IT services and even Fitness and Advertising. The willingness and enthusiasm that these businesses had regarding AI, Big Data and new Data Science technologies, as well as their ability to see the ROI potential, was second to none globally.

At a personal level, Colombia has really touched me. Since I started working with BDIHub, I probably spent more time in Colombia than I did in India! I can truly say that I have only had positive interactions with people in Colombia. Very few business people in India, let alone common citizens, know much about Colombia. Even I came with the same ignorance. But everyone I met here showed such genuine openness to working together, such warmth, courtesy and respect, that my experience here has truly been heartwarming. I now tell my family that I want a home in Colombia! Our BDIHub team itself is a notable example of this. Each member of the team, all of whom we hired and trained locally here, is warm, honest, intellectually curious, confident, hardworking and very communicative. I really value these traits of our team. From their interactions with the Colombian counterparts, our Quadratyx India teams are learning multiple valuable things!

One the best moments I have had in Colombia was seeing the enthusiasm in embracing the innovative technologies of Big Data, AI, Advanced Analytics and Data Science. I really felt this one day when BDIHub conducted a symposium in Pereira, thinking that around 100 people would show up. To our surprise, we had over 800 registrations and needed a whole auditorium to conduct the symposium! Another uplifting moment was when I saw the largest companies in South America, in retail and energy, welcome our interventions with a completely open mind, fully welcoming of our disruptive ideas. I learnt then that neither language nor distance will stand as a barrier when mutual trust is established. This was very humbling and enlightening for me. The willingness of some of the excellent organizations here to take the Big Data & AI journey, to build long-term success-based collaboration models with us, to leap-frog much farther than their counterparts in the developed world, showed me that the level of market maturity and opportunity present in Colombia are second to none in the world today. This is the reason Quadratyx is 100% committed to this geography, and it is a crucial and strategic priority for us.

All the opportunity in Colombia for Big Data has shown us that we ought to get ready with pipelines for hiring and training the right personnel, at scale. It is mandatory for us that a large part of the solutions delivery in Colombia and South America happens locally, rather than from far-away, offshore locations like India. We are focused on empowering and growing the local workforce, to deliver and to compete on a global scale. There is a growing realization in South America, and to certain extent in Colombia, that Big Data & AI will be vital to staying competitive and even staying afloat. China is rapidly growing in South America; multiple industries like Retail, Construction and Transportation are already impacted. One way to safeguard local industry is to bring in operational efficiencies through AI & Optimization; to compete in expanded markets through Big Data-based marketing and sales; and to train & empower local people and communities with lucrative new skills. This is at the heart of what BDIHub is all about.

Another lesson we learned is that, with prospective clients, there would initially be a chicken-and-egg problem, which consequently makes sales cycles longer here. Companies are very interested in our innovative solutions, but they want to first see how we helped other Colombian companies in similar situations. Luckily, BDIHub got a good start with our engagements with Camara de Comercio Bogota and some well-respected companies in the Pereira region, which enabled us to prove our delivery abilities and swiftly establish confidence and trust.

In just a few years, Big Data and AI are certain to affect every realm of decision-making that involves data. From vertical sectors (industrial areas) to horizontal departments (HR, Marketing, Operations), everything and everyone will be impacted by AI and Big Data. This revolution is not optional; not something you can side-step or ignore. It is also happening faster than expected, globally. The sooner Colombia’s industries equip themselves with AI & Big Data, the larger their benefits will be. Equally importantly, Colombia’s geographic location offers a unique advantage; there is a substantial dearth of AI and Data Science professionals in the United States and in Canada; Colombia’s large youth segment can be trained and leveraged for this incredible opportunity. This is an objective of BDIHub.

The keys to success for BDIHub in Colombia and South America are: creating a capable local work force; establishing a globally integrated delivery process; and rapidly acquiring abilities to roll out locally useful data science solutions. Local strengths are so important for us that even in India, we are training our teams in Colombian and South American languages, market realities and work culture, in order to establish streamlined, well-integrated, seamless global teams and processes for highly agile and competitive delivery.

Blog2: Quadratyx and thought leadership…

At Quadratyx, we strive hard to remain thought leaders. We encourage our team members to collaborate without borders – a team in Hyderabad may be working with a team in Montreal; team members from Colombia may be collaborating with Frankfurt. Quadratyx has educated Trilateral Commission members in Artificial Intelligence last year in Tokyo and Singapore. Trilateral Commission, established by David Rockefeller, involves high-level policy makers from dozens of countries in North America, European Union and the Asia Pacific. Quadratyx also advises Governmental thinktanks on how to design policies to face the AI Revolution. At Quadratyx, we feel that it is not just enough to build a profitable company in AI, but that we must also care about AI being done right around the Globe. Quadratyx and BDIHub teams give their time to publish articles, to speak to different people about the promise and risks of Big Data and AI, and to mentor youngsters to have the right mindsets on these powerful recent technologies. It is because of such thought leadership exhibited by Quadratyx, that behemoths like Accenture, IBM, Cap Gemini, Microsoft and NEC work closely with us globally.

To prospective students, I say this: Big Data, AI and Data Science are the most exciting things happening in the tech world today! Every major enterprise has AI, Big Data and Machine Learning as its strategic priorities. We welcome students from all diverse backgrounds, in fact any student with basic data and computer savviness, to join this incredible career track. If you care about solving current problems of this world, about building agile and efficient businesses, if you are excited about the possibilities of cognitive machines, I strongly recommend Big Data and AI as a career option for you. In India, over the last 8 years, we witnessed a tremendous leap in student interest in this area, with impressive salary increases!

My personal hero? Albert Einstein. In 1900, when everyone thought that there was hardly anything left to be discovered in Physics, Albert Einstein single-handedly generated a whole new set of ideas, which continue to shape our thinking and remain exciting even today. Albert Einstein was not only brilliant but also wise and humble, which I truly admire. Colombia and South America produce so many brilliant Physics, Mathematics and Science graduates; I look forward to channelizing at least some of their strengths towards the exciting field of Artificial Intelligence.