Data Analytics

By Meenakshi Shivram

In a very insightful, lively conversation – Dr.Lakshmi simplifies the concept that has been taking the world by storm – Data Analytics. Delve into the Whats, the Whys and the Hows through the edited excerpts below:

Meenakshi: Tell us about your journey to where you are today.

Dr. Lakshmi: I started my career in 2008 as a Management Trainee in a manufacturing company, after I completed my Masters in International Business. After that, I moved on to several industries including Pharma, Trading & Manufacturing. I hail from an entrepreneurial family, so I actually had wanted to be an entrepreneur. Keeping that in mind, I pursued my Masters in International Business because I was interested in exports and imports. While working, I decided the Masters was not enough, so I enrolled myself for a doctorate program. Why I chose my PhD in HR? As a management trainee, I noticed a lot of people management issues, and this prompted me to choose HR as my stream. However, while working across various industries, I realised that there was a common issue: nobody was delving into the root cause of any problems! I studied the issue, the company and discussed with my family – especially my brothers, who all are in the analytical field. That’s when I realised that data plays a very important role in business – whether it is small, medium or large-sized!

Then I started with Google analytics to understand how to explore data to bring out results. I started data analytics parallely, since I was working on something else, purely out of curiosity. In 2018, I completed my Google analytics certification and understood how important it was to have data analysis insights for a business. Fuelled by this, I moved completely into data analysis and joined CWN as the Head of Analytics. 

Meenakshi: That’s a very interesting journey! But your journey definitely highlights how important data is and how it plays a crucial role. As part of your role as Head-Analytics at Cappitall Want Network, can you tell us a bit more about what you do here? What does a day in your life look like?

Dr. Lakshmi: I’m here as the Head of Data Analytics. Cappitall Want Network focuses a lot of financial management, risk management and working capital optimization. There’s actually a saying – I’m not sure how many are aware of it – “We are surrounded by data, but starved for insights”. Why am I quoting this? In between, I started my journey in academics as well during my PhD. When I was teaching, I realised that when whenever we wanted someone to understand something, it was useful to have a quote handy. (laughs)

Many insights are required for MSME management & leadership, since they may not have the time or resources to look at multiple aspects of their business. They do not have patience or bandwidth to go through lengthy reports – a dashboard of snapshot of key business metrics will be very useful instead. Time is a precious commodity! Data insights can help them as a brief on their current standing. Here, at CWN, I help with reports and dashboards to channel insights out of data points, revolving around working capital, cash flow, etc.

Meenakshi: Speaking of MSMEs, how will your reports or dashboards help the business?

Dr. Lakshmi: Basically, the business-owner thinks about their financial management. Let me give an example of a household so it’s easy to correlate. At the end of the day, it’s important to know how much you have saved, how much you have spent: this gives an idea on how to run the show at home. A similar concept is applicable to a business. If the business owner knows their position at the end of the day or month, it can give direction on where they need to go, and what action needs to be taken.

Meenakshi: Can you elaborate on the role of analytics in decision-making, please?

Dr. Lakshmi: It all depends on the insights & the data used. See, if the profit is lesser than expected, then the owner can think of other ways of cutting costs. Everyone wants increased revenue with exponential or increasing growth – but only the insights will help them understand drivers, leakages and blocks. It’ll show them where to cut costs, invest more to get the desired return. On that basis, decisions on funding and expansion can also be taken. 

Meenakshi: For MSMEs, what are some good sources of data through which meaningful analytics can be derived?

Dr. Lakshmi: Earlier, they used to use Excel. Now several have started using Tally and other ERPs to keep books of accounts. “Garbage in, Garbage out” – is a key motto for data analytics. However good the data is, that’s how good the insights will be. At scratch level, data needs to be maintained properly in whatever source: Excel, ERP, etc. Data maintainence needs to be consistent. 

Meenakshi: Because of you’re significant expertise in HR, I’d also like to ask you a couple of questions in HR! How important is it for an MSME to have HR process notes, documentation and strong practices in place – especially given the smaller team size?

Dr. Lakshmi: Again, I’d like to start with a quote – “Human Resource is not a thing we do, it is the thing that runs the business.” Just as it’s important to run the business, all of it must be documented. Whether it is taking a small pen, it needs to be documented. If an employee suddenly quits, it needs to be documented. Employees are the asset, and assets cannot just be left: accountability needs to be there. There’s another saying, “When people are financially invested, they want a return. But when they are emotionally invested, they will contribute.”

Meenakshi: Can you give a few pieces of advice on running a strong HR Department?

Dr. Lakshmi: Co-ordination & Co-operation. This is applicable not only for HR, but across departments. I’ll give you a small story to highlight this – there was a rock in the middle of the road. There are ten people and they all wanted to push the rock to the side of the road, so they could move smoothly. Everyone cooperated, but there was no coordination on which side it had to be moved to. Some pushed to the right, some to the left: if only they had discussed before moving! Similarly, across different functions and departments, there needs to be coordination and cooperation.