Sramana: When did IBM buy out RedPill and what was the reason behind that acquisition?
Suresh Shankar: In late 2008 they came calling because they were looking for an analytical play. It was a rigorous buyout process and that was a question I kept asking them. They were interested in our high end analytical work. We created value out of data. The work we were doing was something that not a lot of people in IBM were doing.
Sramana: I cover IBM on a quarterly basis and I follow their acquisition strategy closely. They acquire for technology or geography. I think you were at the cusp of both. When you talk about high end predictive work, what specifically were you doing?
Suresh Shankar: We would look at an entire banks customer lifecycle and build out models to tell them what types of customers they should acquire. The whole idea was to look at data and analysis from a different perspective. Even if you exclude the quality of the data, you will find that it is not biased. That is why we could build models for acquisition, churn and other key business processes.
Sramana: You delivered this solution on a service basis, correct?
Suresh Shankar: The models were ours, but yes we did a lot of services. That is actually something that we are trying to do differently this time. We did some work for a telecom and we ended up actually helped them do a month to month churn reduction which saved them 30 million dollars. We made one of our banking customers 80 million dollars of revenue the very first year we worked with them. They got a 90x ROI on the work that we did for them.
The kind of work we did was extremely quantifiable. We could sit down and identify the number of people we targeted, and what the results of that targeted campaign were. We could identify how much money was made from that customer and when it was made. I find all of this a bit funny. I avoided math on my journey through college. I did not do very well at statistics and today that is all we do.
Sramana: You sound like someone who has an affinity for math and statistics.
Suresh Shankar: It was hard. At school I was one of the people who sat in the back row. I do love the usage of math but I have never been that good at sitting down and doing it. I can read an Excel sheet easily, but I probably am not the person that is going to make them. I am not a mathametician.
Sramana: The ability to look at data and synthesize it is very much a skill that is missing.
Suresh Shankar: I could not agree with you more. We do need right brained people and that is my strength.