Decoding the Data-Driven Journey: Insights from Paisabazaar’s CEO 

Nitika Sharma 01 Dec, 2023 • 4 min read

Introduction

In this episode of Leading with Data, Kunal Jain engages in a conversation with Naveen Kukreja, CEO of Paisabazaar. Unveil the secrets behind Naveen’s remarkable career, from navigating the banking and financial services domains to pioneering data-centric strategies in India’s evolving digital landscape. Join us as we decode the transformative power of data in business through Naveen’s experiences and leadership at Paisabazaar.

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Key Insights

  • Embracing a data-centric business model is challenging yet essential for modern decision-making.
  • Business growth hinges on adapting to digital transformations and leveraging initiatives like India Stack.
  • The significance of data science amplifies as businesses scale, particularly in tailoring products/services to consumer needs.
  • Public listing instills discipline and transparency and influences a balanced approach to growth and profitability.
  • Effective leadership in a data-driven organization requires a harmonious blend of intuition and data-backed decision-making.
  • The future of business is shaped by the profound influence of AI and ML, emphasizing the need for flexibility and upskilling.
  • Transitioning into data analytics demands hands-on experience and a robust technical team.
  • Personal interests and continuous learning contribute to a fresh perspective, fostering professional growth.

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Can you share How you got into Banking, Financial Services, and Analytics?

I accidentally stumbled into banking and financial services during campus placements at IIM Calcutta. My interest was in consumer behavior and marketing, but Citibank changed my career trajectory. My real introduction to analytics came at Capital One in the UK, where data-driven decision-making was integral to the business, a stark contrast to the developing digital landscape of India in the early 2000s.

How did you Adapt to a Data-centric Environment at Capital One?

The transition was challenging but invaluable. I moved from Citibank to Capital One to deepen my understanding of the credit card business and learn new skills in a digitally mature market. Managing a team of analysts without a background in data analytics was tough. Still, it honed my decision-making abilities and taught me the importance of data in driving business outcomes.

What Prompted your Return to India and your Move into the Insurance Industry?

The global financial crisis of 2007 and 2009 made me reconsider my career path. Capital One faced tough times, and I saw an opportunity in India’s growing insurance sector. At Aviva, I set up the cross-sell and analytics functions from scratch, which was exciting and aligned with my strengths.

How did your experience at Aviva lead to the Creation of Paisabazaar?

Digital was becoming a significant force in India, and while leading Aviva’s digital business, I partnered with Policybazaar, a key player in our growth. The potential of a financial marketplace in India, similar to mature markets like the UK, was evident. I joined Policybazaar to establish Paisabazaar as a leading credit marketplace.

Can you describe the Journey of Scaling Paisabazaar to over 4000 Employees from Scratch?

It’s been a humbling and gratifying experience. Our success is rooted in the Indian consumer’s need to compare products and make informed decisions. The digital revolution, government initiatives like India Stack, and our leadership team’s stability have been pivotal. We’ve also benefited from the right partnerships and a focus on providing unbiased financial advice.

How has the Decision to go Public Influenced Paisabazaar’s Growth?

Going public has brought discipline and transparency to our operations. It has shifted our focus towards balancing growth with profitability and has unburdened us from worrying about data sharing. The public listing is a testament to the sustainability of our business model.

When did you Start Integrating Explicit Data Science Practices at Paisabazaar?

About a year and a half into our journey, we recognized the need for advanced data analytics to match consumers with suitable lenders. The launch of our free credit score product further amplified the need for robust data infrastructure as we dealt with massive amounts of data.

What Impact has Data Science had on Paisabazaar’s Operations?

Data science has been instrumental in improving our efficiency and effectiveness. It has helped us understand consumer behavior, optimize our associate-customer interactions, and develop tailored financial products. We’re now exploring machine learning to analyze voice data from customer interactions, which holds immense potential for insights and fraud detection.

How has your Leadership Style Evolved with the Growth of Paisabazaar?

My leadership style has always been consumer-centric, but my exposure to data analytics at Capital One has been a game-changer. I encourage a data-driven approach to decision-making and conflict resolution. Even in areas like brand marketing, we’ve successfully integrated data analytics to measure the impact of our campaigns in real time.

Data-Driven Journey

With the Rapid Advancements in AI and ML, what are your Thoughts on the Future of Data in Business?

The AI and ML revolution could be as transformative as the iPhone was for smartphones. Flexibility, upskilling, and attracting talent to leverage these technologies are crucial. While big tech currently dominates the AI space, partnerships with companies like Microsoft on Azure are helping us prepare for the future.

What Advice do you have for Professionals Transitioning into Data Analytics or Business Leadership Roles?

For those aiming to become analytics leaders, there’s no substitute for getting your hands dirty with coding and data. Surround yourself with technically proficient team members to fill any gaps. For business leaders, understanding and utilizing data is no longer optional—it’s imperative for staying competitive.

Outside of Work, What Do You Enjoy Doing?

As a spectator and participant, I’m a sports enthusiast, currently working on improving my golf game. I also enjoy mentoring young entrepreneurs and startup enthusiasts, which is mutually beneficial. Reading—or listening to audiobooks on Audible—is another way I like to broaden my perspective on various topics.

Summing Up

Naveen Kukreja’s journey is a beacon for aspiring leaders and data enthusiasts. From the pivotal role of data science in scaling Paisabazaar to the profound impact of going public on business operations, Naveen shares invaluable insights. Explore the fusion of leadership, technology, and consumer-centricity, proving that the future of business lies in the seamless integration of AI and ML. 

For more engaging sessions on AI, data science, and GenAI, stay tuned with us on Leading with Data.

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Nitika Sharma 01 Dec 2023

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