Brief History of Analytics in India

Business Analytics as it used to be called before it became branded as data science has two decade long history in India. It’s roots were in outsourcing, as associate divisions of large Information Technology firms

The setting up of business analytics in the 1990s was done by two centres- McKinsey Knowledge Centre (1998) ( by the global McKinsey consulting company) and GE Analytics ( by GE corporation).

GE Analytics (1998) was a separate company headed by an XIMB Professor Shrikant Dash https://www.linkedin.com/in/sdash1 which was then merged with GECIS to be a division called ACOE analytics centre of excellence.  In 2005 GECIS was spun off by GE to become GENPACT. ( The author worked briefly for Dash, GE , GECIS  )

Among the people helping set up McKinsey Knowledge center were Neeraj Bhargava and his team. Neeraj later became CEO at WNS Global (2002) and helped take WNS to it’s IPO. Assorted McKinsey alumni helped to boot up WNS especially in it’s analytics division called Knowledge Services. ( The author worked briefly for WNS Knowledge Services)

Business research was primarily pioneered by Evalueserve founded in 2000  by IBM as well as McKinsey alumni. They also may have been responsible for popularizing the term KPO ( Knowledge Process Outsourcing) as a differential brand from BPO ( Business Process Outsourcing). Evaluserve expanded from Business research to financial research, market research but was not so succesful in efforts to establish itself as a leading analytics player.

From Captive Centres to Third Party Offshoring was the next big shift in outsourcing that affected analytics. In the meantime American Express had the largest captive centre (for analytics primarily at parent company).

GENPACT and WNS were and remained leaders in BPO but were joined by EXL (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EXL )  in adding Analytics as an added service to its offshoring portfolio.

In June 2006: EXL acquired Inductis, a Analytics firm that had been a pioneer till then in being a pure play analytics company. There were other smaller companies that got similarly acquired ( Adventity by Sutherland Global , Marketics by WNS, marketRX by Cognizant, Symphony by GENPACT)

The leading IT and software services companies in INDIA like Infosys, TCS and in particular WIPRO did start their own analytics divisions but they were primarily aimed at cross selling analytics to existing clients.

GENPACT was listed in 2007 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genpact) and its revenue from analytics is not known though it is generally considered to be one of the premium priced analytics company. As of 2012 it’s analytics revenue were said to be $250 million.

The confused strategy, premium pricing, cross-selling outsourcing with analytics  of all these players led to a gap that was exploited by Mu SIgma. Founded by Dhiraj Rajaram in 2004, Mu Sigma (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mu_Sigma_Inc. ) expanded rapidly to be the first pure play analytics company above 5000 employees. Dhiraj was brilliantly assisted by his wife Ambika, who played a role similar to what Sudha Murthy did at Infosys.Ambiga continues to works for Mu Sigma and has played multiple roles. This probably makes her the most influential  woman in data science as a service in India ( and given’s Mu Sigma size, probably the world )

( The author briefly met them when Mu-Sigma was 200 member and then 600 member strong)

In February 2013, Mu Sigma received an investment of $45 million from MasterCard, which placed the company over the $1 billion unicorn milestone. It also marked a vindication in the model of treating analytics separately and distinct from offshoring services

Fractal Analytics was founded in 2000 and managed to survive both the acquisition binge by the big players as well as the cyclical turns in the offshoring business. It is another pure play analytics company with both a long history, a comparatively early focus on pure play analytics as distinct from outsourcing and comparatively recent focus on venture fund-raising efforts. Fractal continues to grow rapidly, and has attracted multiple rounds of investment.

(The author has briefly met and interacted with the CEO of Fractal, where he also once trained in R)

In 2014, the people calling in analytics industry in India started calling themselves data scientists and they all lived happily ever after 😉 .*

( This is a brief article- it is a continuous work in progress that is trying to chronicle how an industry grew and flourished)

*the Big Data as well as Data Science movements have led to tremendous growth opportunities as well as risks for Indian analytics companies who now have to compete with Silicon Valley startups for analytics  as a product than as a commoditized service.

Author: Ajay Ohri

http://about.me/ajayohri

2 thoughts on “Brief History of Analytics in India”

  1. Ajay – A small correction. Ambiga’s role is more than Mrs. Sudha Murthy, who never actually worked in Infosys. Ambiga works for Mu Sigma and has played multiple roles.

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