[Q&A] To Digital and Beyond – In conversation with Satya Rao

Digital device

by Nikhil Rudrappa

As consumers become more digitally aware and express themselves online, big brands are witnessing tectonic shifts in their businesses. I spoke to Satya Rao, the Founder and CEO of Axiom, about the evolving landscape in consumer focussed businesses.

Satya’s is primarily focused on driving Strategic Customer Partnerships, spearheading Axiom’s Digital Innovation Initiatives and actively working with Startup and Incubation ecosystems to unlock disruptive innovation opportunities. He spearheads open innovation and collaboration activities in these areas to create value for Axiom’s clients.

 Here is an excerpt from our conversation:

What are some of the trends shaping consumer choice and behaviour today?

Four broad trends are starting to emerge: 

Snackifying of Life

– In a brilliant HBR podcast, Phil Libin the CEO of Evernote refers to the snackifying of life. This is a great metaphor for how we live our lives today. We live our lives in these smaller and smaller parcels. It’s a powerful concept in terms of framing and understanding the choices consumers make across the product experience landscape from foods to technology.

Digital and Disruption

are here to stay – We know that as consumers, we’ve already crossed the digital divide. We express, collaborate, perceive and buy ‘more’ online than offline. The online channel makes it possible for small niche neighbourhood and regional brands to sell products to customers worldwide and carve out market share from Big Brands. ‘I’m a Big Brand’ and have broader last mile market reach is less relevant today than ever before. If I’m a discerning buyer and I have specific niche choices, I no longer need to settle for what’s available– it’s highly likely that I’ll find someone who sells exactly what I need. Disruption is here to stay.

Industry Convergence

– An IBM report ‘Redefining Boundaries’ cites how CxO’s are most worried about industry convergence i.e. your next competitor may not be from your vertical or industry cluster. This means consumers have more choices to work with.

2 is the new 5

– My colleague uses this phrase to imply that a 2 year horizon is now equivalent to a 5 year window.  This again is a powerful truth to embrace. With the virality of the net, trends catch on or slide rapidly. Trends that would historically take a decade to change can now swing in a very short window. One just has to see how quickly IOT has moved from being a buzzword to finding its way into several billion products. In such a scenario, finding quick ways of extracting critical insights and responding to them is business critical. The luxury to run lengthy on-field programs to research consumer behavior maybe a thing of the past.

What is the role of technology in this context?

Well, Technology is enabling the rapid dissemination of ideas. Collaboration is almost instantaneous today and ideas can be brought to life rapidly. Three broad technology trends are shaping consumer choice:


– Mobility has been a game changer. Mobility is not just about smart phones but also about access to content, products and services on demand. To the consumer, the ability to share, learn and acquire at the push of a few buttons is enormously empowering and gratifying.

Data is king

– With the proliferation of platforms and technologies that enable data gathering and analysis, informed decision making is becoming instantaneous. Consumers can make informed buying decisions. Decision makers on the other hand can quickly assess the impact of their decisions and alter or modify messaging, pricing strategies and a host of other things. Technologies such as IOT are making it easier to gather and analyse data real time. Specifically, Axiom is experimenting with IOT technology for gathering and analysing supply chain data.

Cloud as enabler

– As the cloud becomes ubiquitous, there’s been a proliferation of platforms that enable vertical start-up of businesses. Platforms such as ‘Shopify’ have transformed the online landscape for e-commerce startups. Various subscription based services allow startups to distribute their spend and reduce their spending on assets. Digital marketing platforms allow young businesses to target consumers and alter the messaging as needed. These are powerful enabling tools that almost instantly make startups players in the market.

How does Axiom propose to help its customers navigate this evolving landscape?

The good news is, the technology to respond to these challenges has made a giant leap. Whether its improving a real or virtual shopper experience or capturing data real time to understand supply chain conditions, all of these are eminently possible. The key is to be agile and run multiple fast cycle experiments. This is where we can help our customers.

What are some key initiatives that Axiom is undertaking in this context?

There are 3 broad areas where we’re directing our energies:

Under our ‘Digital Highway’ vision, we’re investing in technologies across the consumer to supply chain continuum. Key among them are our Digital Research Practice aimed at researching and understanding the online consumer community and VEOL our path breaking Virtualization solution to model supply chain and distribution problems.

Venture Incubation Support

– Through our Incubation Initiatives in Cincinnati and Bangalore, we’re actively working and collaborating with Greater Cincinnati and Bangalore to support the entrepreneur ecosystem. These are exciting times as we see a wide array of products and solutions from social media ethnography, mobile research to augmented reality, collaboration platforms and consumer products.

Fast Cycle Experimentation

– We’re running active experiments with our clients in one or more of these areas to drive mutual benefit and strategic value.

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