After cloud, is Big Data the next big opportunity for Indian IT service providers? If you look at statistics or research by independent firms, then there is every reason to believe that ‘Big Data’ is a huge and colossal opportunity. Consider these facts: A joint study by NASSCOM and CRISIL Global Research & Analytics suggests that by 2015, Big Data is expected to become a USD 25 billion industry. The report estimates that the Indian Big Data industry will grow from USD 200 million in 2012 to USD 1 billion in 2015 at a CAGR in excess of 83 percent.
While the domestic market is still nascent, the opportunity for Indian IT service providers to offer Big Data implementation and analytics outsourcing services is huge. This includes IT services such as Big Data technology implementation, including data collection, integration and designing of Big Data architecture.
INVESTING IN CREATING IP
Understanding the importance of creating IP and frameworks, Indian IT service providers are investing considerable amount of time and money to create a robust Big Data portfolio.
Infosys has created a Big Data platform called BigDataEdge, which enables real-time discovery of data across both internal systems and external sources. The platform includes a rich visual interface with more than 50 customizable dashboards and 250 built-in algorithms. These algorithms, a set of reusable business rules both function and industry-specific, enable business teams to self-serve the process of building insights while minimizing the need for technical intervention. It also has over 50 data source connectors, which allow easy access to structured and unstructured data residing across enterprise and external sources. This enables acceleration of discovery of relevant information from existing underutilized data. The Big Data platform also includes out-of-the-box applications for specific industry needs such as fraud detection and prevention, predictive analytics and monitoring, and customer micro-segmentation that deliver faster returns on investment.
Explaining his firm’s strategy in the Big Data space, Rajeev Nayar, Associate Vice President & Head, Big Data Practice, Infosys, says, “In Infosys, we started the Big Data journey back in early 2010 when the term Big Data was not even coined. We worked with some global companies in the industry to create their strategy around Big Data technologies to transform their IT and business at much lower cost at that point of time. At the same time, we also spotted the need and opportunity to create our own IP around the gaps in the Big Data technology space, which eventually we launched as our solution ‘BigDataEdge’ in February 2013. To keep up the momentum, our strategy going forward is to tap the Big Data Space in two ways — mass scale enablement of our talent pool in Big Data and related technologies and churning out more IP.” Infosys currently has over 50 engagements in the Big Data space across industry segments and the firm says that the number of engagements and projects are close to doubling every year.
“Our strategy is to tap the Big Data Space in two ways — mass scale enablement of our talent pool in Big Data and related technologies and churning out more IP”
Rajeev Nayar, Associate Vice President & Head, Big Data Practice, Infosys
Similarly, Wipro has developed a Big Data adoption framework, christened ‘3B framework’, and has identified several system integration patterns for Big Data adoption to enable faster processing of data, reduction in development time and cost of processing. Wipro has also taken a more strategic approach by taking a minority position in Opera Solutions, LLC, a leading global Big Data science company. This strategic partnership will enable Wipro to create industry-specific Big Data analytics solutions like 720 degree customer analytics solution by combining Wipro’s domain and technology expertise with Opera Solutions’ machine learning expertise, pre-discovered predictive signals and algorithms.
To capitalize on the rapidly growing machine-to-machine market, Wipro has also entered into a strategic partnership and invested for a minority position at Axeda Corporation, a leading provider of cloud-based service and software for managing connected products and delivering machine-to-machine (M2M) applications. Explaining the vision for Big Data, KR Sanjiv, Global Head and Senior Vice President for Analytics & Information Management business unit, Wipro Technologies, says, “Big Data represents an unprecedented opportunity for business value creation but many enterprises do not have the right business justification, technology and the data science capabilities to access its power. Wipro believes Big Data needs to be approached from a business perspective, not from technology perspective.”
Sanjiv says that Big Data presents the greatest transformative and business opportunities in discovering hidden insights, in preventing failures by leveraging machine and device data analytics, enhancing fraud and surveillance capabilities and in reducing total cost of IT by leveraging open source.
“We at Wipro believe that Big Data needs to be approached from a business perspective, and not from a technology perspective”
KR Sanjiv, Global Head & Senior VP, Analytics & Information Management business unit, Wipro Technologies
Another Indian firm, HCL Technologies, is following a two-prong strategy for Big Data. “We have followed a two-prong strategy for Big Data: Technology Up and Consulting Down. We have Centers of Excellence (CoE) as per different streams of Big Data: Programming Languages, Application Data Stores, Data Computing Appliance with OLAP, Pan-Enterprise Search and Data Science. These CoEs help us create the capability, capacity and proof of concept as per customer Big Data use cases,” says Naresh Nagarajan, Senior VP, Enterprise Transformation Services, HCL Technologies.
Nagarajan says that the strategy of ‘Consulting Down’ helps in handholding the customer on identified business service lines where it has invested in creating solutions and frameworks related to Big Data for different industry verticals such as healthcare and financial services.
Besides the big firms, mid-sized firms like Happiest Minds are also bullish on the opportunity in the Big Data space. “Happiest Minds ventured into Big Data less than two years ago, and has had a promising start by associating with key customers like large retailers and publishing houses. There are more than half a dozen projects and project discussions in progress,” states Venkatesh Subramanya, VP for Business Intelligence, Big Data & Analytics Practice at Happiest Minds.
DELIVERING ON BIG DATA
Understanding the importance of creating success stories in a technology that is on the verge of becoming a big market, every major IT firm is showcasing select Big Data projects where it can show the ability to deal with the level of complexity and the benefits delivered.
Infosys, for example, did a Big Data project for one of the largest retailers in North America. For its online business the retailer needed to build the ability to crawl competitor websites and change its product pricing based on the crawl information. Infosys designed a solution that reduced the same crawls that took over 2 hours to 2 minutes — translating into a performance improvement of over 6,000 percent. The business benefit from this was the ability for the company to crawl additional retailers, thus helping to converge on the most competitive price for their product.
Infosys also did a project with one of the largest manufacturers in North America, which had a problem with exponentially growing data. “The data volume was expected to reach 10 petabytes by 2014. The cost of infrastructure to support this growth using the traditional solutions was extremely high. Infosys defined and implemented a Big Data solution, which resulted in cost savings of over 600 percent for the customer,” says Nayar.
Infosys also did a project with one of the largest consortium of pharma companies, which was looking to build a platform that could increase collaboration between its clients to reduce the time and cost of drug discovery. Infosys implemented a common platform that can be used to publish the different datasets while encouraging collaboration.
IT major Wipro has done a Big Data project for a large media company. Wipro helped enhance revenues by 16 percent on a pay-per view platform by building an ad recommendation engine. The firm built optimal ad placement statistical models for processing several years of device and log data to identify patterns and build recommendation engines. The financial services space is another huge market for Big Data.
“We are helping large financial services firms by setting up joint innovation councils for identifying appropriate Big Data analytics use cases and improve existing business processes like mortgage,” states Sanjiv of Wipro. The firm is also building a Big Data platform for a large consumer goods manufacturer that will enable capture and analysis of usage data from various devices and provide recommendations, and enable fraud detection by using techniques like machine learning.
Similarly, HCL Technologies is working on several Big Data projects. “We are using predictive analytics to identify customer segments with higher propensity to buy for cross-sell and up-sell. We are also using sentiment analysis by considering enterprise data and social unstructured data to understand the voice of the customer. Other projects include using voice analytics to interpret sentiments and channel analytics to evaluate the reasons for performance of sales,” says Nagarajan.
Happiest Minds is incubating a solution in Big Data Search space using technologies like HBase and ElasticSearch. Happiest Minds is also incubating a solution on predictive analytics on real-time stream data, which has won accolades in major international conferences. “We are working on a project where Happiest Minds is building real- time analytics pipeline using technologies like Kafka (Distributed Messaging system), Storm (Distributed Parallel Processing Engine on Stream Data), NoSQL solutions and Elastic Map Reduce (EMR). The complete infrastructure will be built in Amazon Cloud and will help the customer to capture, transform, store and predict certain patterns at real time. A huge volume of messages needs to be processed in real time — estimated at nearly 100,000 per second,” explains Subramanya.
“We are working on a project where a huge volume of messages needs to be processed in real time — estimated at nearly 100,000 per second”
Venkatesh Subramanya, VP – BI, Big Data & Analytics Practice, Happiest Minds
While the Big Data opportunity is massive, the shortage of talent is a significant challenge. This is because Big Data needs a different breed of professionals who have deep expertise in statistics, machine learning and analytics. According to McKinsey, the U.S. alone faces a shortage of 140,000–190,000 analysts and 1.5 million managers who can analyze Big Data.
Against this context, in terms of choice of destinations, India is favorably placed and is just behind the U.S. in terms of talent availability and the intention of service providers to build talent. For example, India churns out more than 2.5 million university graduates and about 7,50,000 post graduates every year, of which 7,00,000 students are graduates in mathematics and science.
This is supplemented by efforts from IT majors such as EMC, Oracle and IBM, which have been tying up with universities in India to introduce courses in various areas of Big Data. India also has seen the emergence of a huge number of specialized startups, which are focused only on Big Data. While these efforts are comparatively small, market observers believe that every effort or initiative will help in building a strong foundation for delivering Big Data solutions out of India.