RADHA RAJAPPA, CHAIRPERSON OF FLUTURA - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
RADHA RAJAPPA, EXECUTIVE CHAIRPERSON OF FLUTURA HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021. THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
Radha currently serves as the Executive Chairperson with Flutura Decision Sciences & Analytics; an Industrial AI start up that impacts Yield, Uptime and Sustainability outcomes for large scale industrial facilities.
She is also engaged as an External Advisor to Bain & Company, consulting with firms in the Private equity and Technology space working on Strategy, Market acceleration by crafting the right offerings and go-to-market, Value creation and in navigating the nuances of Digital transformation. Radha serves on the board as an Independent Director in two public firms, Zensar Technologies in the Information Technology industry and in BATA India, the iconic brand company. Radha has had the great opportunity to work for the global Big Tech companies IBM and Microsoft during her career, as well as for a nascent start-up Mindtree that phenomenally scaled globally to over a Billion dollars. Till 2019, Radha was leading Digital and Services in Microsoft India. As a member of the India Leadership team, she was driving the transformation; adoption for customers to the Cloud and Digital world.
For a large part of her career, she was a key member of the Executive Leadership team at Mindtree where she conceptualized, built, and scaled the “Digital business” for Mindtree in the early years, when “Digital” in the industry was still a fuzzy term. She was instrumental in establishing Mindtree as a significant partner for Global clients to “Make Digital Real” for their businesses. This business became one of the signature strengths of Mindtree contributing to over 40% of Mindtree and growing at 2X the pace of the company.
Radha is an ardent believer in building and nurturing high performance teams, driving towards a transformational vision. She is excited about carving business opportunities with leading edge Digital, AI and Cloud technologies in the ever-changing tech world.
Radha is also a certified executive coach. She has been engaged in preparing and mentoring people to sharpen their innate potential. She has helped them to deal with change and succeed as professionals, and leaders to drive their firms to market leadership. Her passion for building businesses along with serving customers also led to her being featured in the “Top Women in Technology” list for Dataquest Magazine. She was recognized as one of the most influential Artificial Intelligence leaders by Analytics India Magazine ‘Women in AI leadership 2021’.
The Intrinsic passion to conceptualize, build and scale businesses in the transformative and ever-changing world has kept her going strong for three decades in the industry. She has been working towards inspiring and motivating women to carve their identity in the Technology Industry, sustain in the workforce and strive to take leadership positions. She brings an authentic, infectious energy, and a fiercely passionate and inspirational leadership style. She is a natural when it comes to bringing out the best in the people around her.
Tell us about some of the key successes that have been achieved under your leadership in the last 12 months.
Flutura, as a start-up in a nuanced and deep area of impacting operational excellence in the industrial world, has many challenges. The Industrial engineers are deeply entrenched in their domain in the Industrial world with years of experience and intuition backing them. They are not the easy ones to surrender to a transformation that relies on the completely new-age world of Data Science prescribing or predicting what is going to happen on the operations floor.
Understanding this reality, we at Flutura invented our Data Science product “Cerebra” with the sole purpose of delivering measurable impactful outcomes. The industrial engineers needed a proven product; hence we took our best Talent and effort to build a ruggedized product. We got on to our team, mechanical, chemical, and industrial engineers of varied experiences to ensure we were not just another technology company, but a fusion or confluence of technology and domain. That has been the heart of who we are and how we are differentiated. Designing the product for the right impact with extreme reliability and scalability to meet the global spread of our clients was crucial. In the last twelve months, the pandemic which is a grave reality for the world, brought tremendous challenges for us and the industries we serve. There was a silver lining because industries across the world have been hard pressed to pay attention to transforming operations. Flutura is blessed with a deeply talented team, dedicated, and focused to rise to the challenges of our customers, we moved with agility to re-orient ourselves.
Customers in the Industrial sector had to swiftly think of tightening operations, maximizing yield while powering on the most requisite heavy equipment and being agile to accommodate what the next day brings! Cerebra stepped in to easily guide them with insights and the digital assistants to make decisions effectively driven by data and the realities of the day. As a start-up, we had our initial pivot on the Energy and Resources industry, but quickly realized the immense value we were bringing to heavy engineering, process - manufacturing and pharma industries. This has been a great focus for us in the last twelve months with huge success.
The pandemic also kindled in us and in the industry the need for sustainable living. Hence, we put our thoughts along with reputed industry experts and advisors on how to take the first
few steps towards enabling companies towards sustainable circular economies. We are seeing a lot of traction in this area where industry and nations as a whole commit to make the world livable for our future generations. My role has also been in the last year to keep the morale of our teams and leaders vibrant, amidst the personal challenges - the agony of losing many of our friends and family. A great deal of compassion and accepting each other has evolved across as empathy takes center stage in the corporate world, which to me is a much-needed gift the pandemic has indirectly brought to the human species.
"Whilst AI and ML technologies bring great value and impact, there are practical realities to solve. There are several tectonic shifts happening simultaneously around the world affecting every single industry on the planet."
Talk to us about innovation at Flutura.
The quintessential purpose of a start-up is to bring innovation or an innovative way to serve the customers’ need. Whilst AI and ML technologies bring great value and impact, there are practical realities to solve. There are several tectonic shifts happening simultaneously around the world affecting every single industry on the planet. However, these industries are still challenged with a significant gap as far as availability of technologies which can help make real time decisions and even foresee potential disruptions to their overall operations.
The complexity and dynamicity of the operations are mind boggling. The operations require technologies to help solve system level problems, most importantly empowering the industrial engineers who operate these plants on a day-to-day basis. These problems open a multitude of opportunities to innovate and influence outcomes on a large scale.
At the core to solving these problems is to identify the interplay of outcomes and causations at a system level. Data hence takes center-stage to understand this complex interplay. We have also concluded that empowering industrial engineers is the only way to solve these higher order operational and business problems!
The biggest hurdle towards this is the vast linguistic barrier which exists between the Industrial and Data Science worlds. The industrial game changer for the world. We embarked on a journey to demolish this barrier. We asked ourselves:
What if we democratize Industrial AI where an electro-mechanical engineer with no knowledge of data science can gain deeper understanding into their fast-paced operations?
What if we can reskill 100,000 electromechanical engineers and address the human capital lacunae that industries are going to experience in the next decade?
What if we can deliver impact in 3 days instead of 3 months?
These trigger questions set us on a journey which has resulted in Flutura creating a new category in Industrial AI towards “Mimicking Thought” to aid Industrial engineers. This vision inspired us to create the world’s first cognitive workbench with the largest portfolio of data driven engineering analysis tools to help automate mundane data preparation tasks, smart data enrichment, advanced pattern discovery, automated inference, and narrative engines to help deploy and industrialize outcome centric digital assistants within industrial facilities.
"Before we christened the name for the company, we decided Trust and Transformation as the core guiding principles on which we would lay the foundation for the company."
From the perspective of your customers, what service values and advantages make Flutura stand out in the market?
Before we christened the name for the company, we decided Trust and Transformation as the core guiding principle on which we would lay the foundation for the company. Flutura’s first investor was also a past customer of ours who used to work for Unilever. We truly believe Trust is the highest form of human motivation and brings out the very best of human values in people and drives us to bring transformation into the lives of the people we touch as a company. It defines our character and intent to deliver impactful outcomes with immense competence and thought leadership. This is what our customers and partners experience and have on ALL occasions unequivocally endorsed. Flutura has been trusted by marquee category leaders such as Shell, ABB, and TechnipFMC to name a few. Flutura has delivered over $300m USD to its customers helping them unlock the best performance from their industrial facilities. Our ambition is to be recognized as The Undisputed Leader in Industrial AI. Towards this we have set ourselves an ambitious vision to deliver 1 billion USD of business impact to our customers and empower 100,000 Industrial Engineers by 2024.
Tell us about sustainability at Flutura.
We believe a big area of impact, in a post pandemic world and towards addressing climate change challenges, is that of human capital development. The adoption of advanced technologies would further expedite the addressing of several challenges in front of us. Hence human capital development to empower and ensure a smooth transition towards a new normal will see increased thrust.
Flutura is contributing to this via facilitating skill development programs in partnership with universities and other partners. Every year Flutura through its Knowledge Wave Initiative provides opportunities to hundreds of students to work on real life projects and help gain exposure on some of the advanced technological areas. We have also included this objective in our vision statement to empower 100,000 industrial engineers by 2024. Flutura also contributes to programs embarked upon by the Science for Society Forum. Flutura is also investing in repurposing some of its core technology to address Net Zero initiatives specifically to address Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions.
What improvements do you desire to see in your industry and how are you contributing to realizing them?
Our industry is at a cusp of deploying artificial intelligence technologies in several traditional sectors. There are several start-ups and small and medium business enterprises which have invented cutting edge technologies which can be adopted by some of these large players in several industrial sectors. A key challenge for start-ups especially in the Industrial sector is availability of good labs and R&D facilities
(which are capital intensive but are available with large corporations) to test their innovations to achieve product market fit in a short period of time. We hope to see some of these large corporations providing test facilities to encourage some of these new age inventions or even including supporting start-ups as part of their CSR initiatives.
Another challenge which many companies and start-ups have is in terms of access to global markets in a short period of time especially when start-ups have limited resources at early stages of growth. Reverse globalization mindsets in several countries would make this even more challenging. Formalizing the ecosystem needed for early-stage companies worldwide would be of immense benefit given that the sustenance of the global economy would only be possible if a vibrant small and medium business enterprise segment thrives.
"The essence of a good leader is to be Authentic, leading people with Trust and Empathy as the foundation to evolve a common Purpose, Vision, and the right Ambition."
What makes a good leader?
The essence of a good leader is to be authentic, leading people with trust and empathy as the foundation to evolve a common purpose, vision, and the right ambition. My experiences have instilled in me the belief that as a leader you seed the imagination that propels the vision, instil courage, and bring out the best in the teams to achieve the impossible. As a leader, creating the right culture or as Prof. Sumatra Ghosal said, the right “Smell of the place” is truly critical and the underlying aspect of achievement. The sense of purpose and the feel of belongingness that the leader creates decides how people and teams feel not just motivated to achieve the impossible but are also genuinely happy doing what they do.
The great debates of work-life balance or is work an integral part of our lives is driven by the culture of openness, authenticity, and the freedom to imagine, act, experiment and learn. The patient, non-judgmental relationship of trust with executives to coach, mentor and help succeed creates followership. As a leader, I believe in challenging the status-quo. Being driven by results, laying super focus on flawless EXECUTION is key to any sustained success. A dream idea can bloom into an initial business success but scaling the business and bringing consistency is all about the rigor of Execution.
Find out more: www.flutura.com