Info-tech

Breaking code to make data narrate stories

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 17, 2018 Published on August 01, 2016

Neerav Parekh, founder and Director, vPhrase

vPhrase uses artificial intelligence to analyse data and communicate the insights in words

The long train journeys from south Mumbai to the suburb was the only time Neerav Parekh, who dropped out of engineering college, could learn his pet subject, coding.

It helped lay the foundation for his artificial intelligence-enabled data analytics firm vPhrase Analytics, which examines unstructured data.

“Every day, I used to travel between Churchgate and Kandivali by train. In the morning, I would read coding books, and in the evening, I used to write code on pieces of paper. On reaching home, I would type it on my computer so that I wouldn’t forget. We didn’t have tablets in those days,” says Parekh, reminiscing about the early days.

The daily commute ensured Parekh had ample time with his coding books, the raison d’être for his existence, which helped him chuck his job as an investment banker.

“While I was studying for my graduation, I got a campus placement with Citibank. I was a wealth advisor for one-and-a-half years, helping high networth clients park their money. It was there I realised I wanted to learn coding.”

Branded by his family as “insane and mad for throwing away a fantastic career”, Parekh moved out in 2008, and co-founded a payroll start-up called eVetan. “I helped code the application for the website, which is an online payroll app for SMEs, and is still live. Currently, the website covers its own cost, but it did not go as planned. Around the same time, I learned digital marketing,” says the 35-year-old.

The additional knowledge helped Parekh incubate the digital marketing business of Iksula, a provider of e-commerce solutions, in 2011. “It is an e-commerce services company that creates websites. As is the norm, performance reports need to be sent over to clients. While at Iksula, it dawned on me that my account manager would spend half a day to make weekly reports, and then the client would ask him to come over and explain it since they couldn’t interpret it,” says Parekh.

That insight led to the germination of a new idea: an application that could convert structured data into a narrative.

“I made a rough prototype of the application that we currently have, over one weekend. Then I started thinking of its potential use,” says Parekh, speaking about the application that helps optimise time management by streamlining the understanding process of raw data.

Parekh quit his job at Iksula in April 2015, to form his own company vPhrase Analytics. It has a roster of top private banks, BPOs, and insurance, broking, pharma and engineering companies using the application.

Data-heavy

Making sense of jargon is what excites Parekh, the son of a textile merchant, who is clearly not cut from the same cloth.

Noting that companies are essentially drowning in data, and tend to use dashboards and visualisations to make sense of data, Parekh adds: “Visualisations are not insight, you need to interpret visualisations to draw insights from them. Our platform helps companies convert data into insightful and actionable stories. Basically, it helps data tell its story, in words, like a human being. It analyses, and writes a narrative, in a language that can be understood by humans.”

Parekh goes on to add that the application can write in multiple languages and help companies make reports that can be easily understood by their employees and customers. “Sales teams in each company visit distributors and retailers, and send their reports, which are just numbers. The numbers need to generate insights that help with decision-making,” says the IIM Ahmedabad alumnus.

The company has received funding of around ₹1.5 crore, and is partially funded by the Centre for Innovation Incubation and Entrepreneurship at IIM-Ahmedabad. Terming his firm a growth start-up, Parekh adds it was also funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

The company gathered speed at Zone Startups India accelerator programme, wherein Ryerson Futures Inc and Chokhani Family Office co-invested in it. The investment from Zone Startups India will help the firm soft-land in the North American market.

Speaking about the first co-investment in a start-up accelerated through Zone Startups India, Ajay Ramasubramaniam, Director, Zone Startups India, noted vPhrase “has built a technology which has use-cases across industries”.

Krishna Chokhani from Zone Startups India Fund added that vPhrase has been solving problems for several industries such as financial services, consumer internet and other enterprise needs. “Technologies like these will be a game-changer, and set an example of sustainable start-ups, where growth would be achieved based on pure technology play and not by marketing or incurring other customer-acquisition costs.”

vPhrase was recently named among the top 100 innovators in the world by the Royal Academy of Engineering, London, under its Leaders in Innovation Fellowship.

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Published on August 01, 2016
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