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The Story of Data, with Wasim Basir

Wasim Basir, Consultant with Topline Marketing and ex Director – Integrated Marketing Communications with Coca-Cola MENA spoke with Infinite Analytics about AI, the past, present and the future

What is the best application of AI you have seen in India or globally, across sectors? Could you share your viewpoint about AI application in Indian marketing vis-a-vis global marketing?

One of the biggest example of a company ditching a tech giant to boost its D2C approach is that of Nike opting out of its contract with Amazon in 2019. They did so by acquiring predictive analytics startup Celect. Nike’s mobile app was integrated with Celect’s cloud-based platform, to obtain data which would help them in inventory optimization once they know their hyper-local demand, and know which customers want what and when.

The love affair between AI and marketing has just begun to bloom.

It’s most obvious in the digital media space, from click buys to personalized web experiences. For marketing, the AI journey has just kick-started, while in the tech sector it has been applied for a while now. We are still at an early stage where inroads are being made into AI content via chatbots and even some explanatory content creation but what will make anyone jump up and embrace it is when we will start seeing a lot of mainstream content being created by AI.

The science of AI is in place while the emotive part is amiss. Currently one can create songs, draw or paint using AI, but the emotion is still missing. In India, I see a lot of hesitant desire and that doesn’t lead to major changes; it mostly leads to a pilot. I also find Indian CEO’s wanting to move fast and embrace this cutting-edge technology, the second layer is not very willing. That said it is hard to pinpoint their mental block.

Having worked with the Coca Cola system, what are your key takeaways about application of AI in that sector? What about the sports sectors and immersive experiences at the World Expo?

Experiential marketing will be one of the biggest shows, and will explain the advantages of AI, whether it’s the immersive sports experience like e-gaming or just good old expositions like the world expo.

Tech will power many real-world interactions that will help us create memorable brand experiences. Brands will be rolling out more immersive, more personal, and experiential marketing ideas in the future.

Over the past decade what kind of changes have you observed vis-a-vis conversions with the use of AI? And where do you think we will be 10 years from now?

Different viewpoints always existed in the offline model. For example, two different newspapers would be carrying different points-of-view for their readers. The same conversation has now moved online.

Like aforementioned, AI is limited to media and basic content. The fun will kick in when creative content starts to get generated through AI. Hold your breath and wait for it. It’s coming! These days, there are AI enabled video editing tools in YouTube and even Adobe has made some wonderful efforts with Photoshop, moving away from the tedious editing process of the past.

How do you see IA changing the marketing landscape for brands?

What I love about the IA insights lab is that they are data-driven. They are probably the only data-storytellers out there. I think their story, when presented to the world, will carry a chapter on how they spent so much time perfecting their tech and therefore they can hit the ground running faster than anyone else. More importantly, they are very nice guys to work with.

To my mind, IA is making clients realize that there is much more to digital marketing than cute posts and paying an agency 5-8% media commission. I am not sure about the industry’s readiness for the oncoming IA revolution.

What roadmap would you suggest for getting reluctant marketers to be comfortable with IA?

I would think, asking your current agency for insights about your business and asking IA for the same will help. Compare and make your decision.

IA does not come cheap, be warned. But once you see the difference in insights, you will not mind putting your money for better returns.

What are some of the tools of IA that you think are best applied to digital marketing?

IA starts in the real world. So the genius lies in mixing location intel with other relevant data sets and make their insights incomparable. I love the way Akash (Co Founder, Infinite Analytics) described to me about their work. He said they find data-based answers for all kinds of business problems. If you can articulate your problem, they will find an answer for you. If this isn’t supercharging marketing and business then I don’t know what is.

From the marketing PoV, what do you see as some major disadvantages of AI?

There is this huge debate about privacy issues. I believe AI is only trying to make our lives simpler. What AI does is it creates a profile of a person and his likes and dislikes. So the next time I put in a search, because of my existing profile being already mapped, I get shown customised and better results. Some jobs that are repetitive are being automated, and hence there are bound to be some job losses, but then marketing was never a high skilled job. It has been continuously evolving and the best way to stay ahead of the curve is to up-skill and re-skill.

Check here for our blog on the top AI trends in AI in 2021.

Video editing and film-making

If you have ever been in the business of video editing, especially when a famous celebrity was involved, and no matter how much you try to salvage the video, you cannot; deepfakes will help with that clip and your video will be made uninterrupted. Earlier, movie directors would spend millions on creating the perfect location for their movies. This is now achievable with a far lesser sum using deepfake and AI. Deepfakes can be real game-changers in film-making. Imagine new movies starring Charlie Chaplin opening to full houses. This, ofcourse, after all the copyright issues are taken into consideration..

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wasim basir

marketing, board member

It’s most obvious in the digital media space, from click buys to personalized web experiences. For marketing, the AI journey has just kick-started, while in the tech sector it has been applied for a while now. We are still at an early stage where inroads are being made into AI content via chatbots and even some explanatory content creation but what will make anyone jump up and embrace it is when we will start seeing a lot of mainstream content being created by AI.

rich arnold

board member

Prior to joining Infinite Analytics, Richard served as the CFO of CrowdFlower, COO and CFO of Phoenix Technologies, as a member of the board of directors and chairman of the Audit Committee at Intellisync, and previously as CFO and executive vice president strategy and corporate development at Charles Schwab.

pravin gandhi

board member

Pravin Gandhi has over 50 years of entrepreneurial operational and investing experience in the IT industry in India. He was a founding partner of the first early stage fund India - INFINITY. Subsequently a founding partner in Seedfund I & II. With over 18 years of investing experience, he is extensively well networked in investment and entrepreneurial scene and is an active early stage angel investor in tech & impact space. Pravin holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Cornell University, and serves on the board of several private corporations in India. He is on the board of SINE, IIT Mumbai Incubator.

Purushotham Botla

co-founder & cto

Puru has his Masters in Engineering and Management from MIT. Prior to MIT, he worked with Fidelity Investments building electronic trading products and high volume market data processing applications. He has completed his BE from VJTI, Mumbai.


Deb Roy

Executive Director, MIT Media Lab

Deb Roy is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT where he directs the MIT Center for Constructive Communication, and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He leads research in applied machine learning and human-machine interaction with applications in designing systems for learning and constructive dialogue, and for mapping and analyzing large scale media ecosystems. Deb is also co-founder and Chair of Cortico, a nonprofit social technology company that develops and operates the Local Voices Network to surface underheard voices and bridge divides.

Roy served as Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab from 2019-2021. He was co-founder and CEO of Bluefin Labs, a media analytics company that analyzed the interactions between television and social media at scale. Bluefin was acquired by Twitter in 2013, Twitter’s largest acquisition of the time. From 2013-2017 Roy served as Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist.

Erik Brynjolfsson

Board Member

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI), and Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. He also is the Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Professor by Courtesy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Department of Economics, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Akash Bhatia

Co-Founder and CEO

Akash co-founded IA while studying for his MBA from MIT. Prior to MIT Sloan, he co-founded Zoonga. Before this, Akash was an engineer with Oracle in Silicon Valley. He has completed his M.S from University of Cincinnati and B.E from the College of Engineering, Pune.