'Data must be contextual and easy to consume': Sanket Atal

'Data must be contextual and easy to consume': Sanket Atal

Customer relationship management (CRM) solutions provider Salesforce has seen its headcount in the country double over the past 18 months, and expects to move from 5000 to 6500 employees by January 31, 2022. The company is betting heavily on India for its product development capabilities and not just to augment its global centres. In an interview, Sanket Atal, senior vice president and managing director, sites, Salesforce India, talked about the latest trends in the CRM space, India's startup ecosystem and more. Edited excerpts: 

What technology trends excite you the most currently from a CRM perspective?

For me the technologies that are most useful and practical are the most exciting. Artificial intelligence (AI) is being talked about everywhere, but how can you have the execution of AI as part of your strategy to make it accessible to everybody? For example, our AI bot, Einstein, helps salespersons with suggestions and projections, which is a good practical use case. Machine learning (ML) becomes an imperative for anything that you would like to do. We are big on analytics and AI, which go hand-in-hand.

How is the $27.7 billion acquisition of Slack playing out in the current work scenario?

No matter where you are at, you should have access to enterprise technologies in an easy-to-use manner. Towards that, we are leveraging Slack quite heavily. We are releasing products integrated with Slack and becoming a Slack-first company. The big thing that we are all looking at is for companies to become digital first, and to have digitial headquarters. Now, if work is something you do and not a place you go to, the accessibility to the technologies of the digital headquarters in the fingertips becomes important. 

How do you think data will be consumed and used differently in the future? How is it going to be different from the way it’s being utilised today?

The consumption of data is a journey and what matters is the knowledge derived from it. Data has existed with most companies forever, who try to run an analytics application, and derive insights through correlating them. It would be great to have contextual information and intelligence from that data. So data has to be contextual and be provided in an easily consumable manner.

Users will be able to understand the insights, rather than derive the insights themselves, or needing a data scientist to tell you that x,y,z is going to happen. This will democratize the use of data. As far as data is concerned, it should be a foundation, on top of which we have various tools such as analytics, to provide recommendations in a contextual and easy to consume manner.

You doubled your headcount in the past 18 months, what type of growth are you expecting in India moving forward?

Over the past few years, we have been growing at 28% year-over-over. We have about 5000 employees currently, and by January 31, we will have upwards of 6500 employees. There is a high degree of ownership that happens in India, as opposed to an augmentation strategy. Salesforce India is way up in the maturity model. Product development takes place completely out of here. We have representations of all aspects of creating particular components out of here. The Indian centre is a peer of the centres in the United States.