We talked to Angam Parashar on how ParellelDots is an image recognition company for perfect retail execution, and this is what he had to say.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Angam Parashar: Thanks for the question. Everyone is doing well, and we have been safe so far. One silver-lining from Covid was that I could work from home, so I got to spend more time with my family.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded ParellelDots?
Angam Parashar: I have an engineering background. I started my career at an analytics consulting company, where I got the idea of starting my own business in a similar domain. I got together with two of my friends, and we put a solid and well-rounded founding team in place. As a team, we had expertise in machine learning (or you can call it AI), the company’s core DNA. We let the market needs to guide us, and today we are a B2B SaaS company that caters to the consumer goods industry.
How does ParellelDots innovate?
Angam Parashar: Our product is an image recognition software for retail that helps consumer goods companies achieve perfect retail execution. Through image recognition, we identify whether all the client’s essential products are present, whether they are present in the right quantity and also placed at the right locations. Unlike manual analysis, automation through AI makes the process fast, accurate, and scalable. The company’s key innovation and differentiator is around how we make AI learn with less training data. We have a talented data-science team that has done a lot of original peer-reviewed research in this area.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Angam Parashar: Honestly, just when the pandemic spread, things were very tough for us. Field-visits drive our usage volumes by consumer goods companies to retail stores. But in the early pandemic lockdowns, this activity was severely restricted. Even after the lockdowns were lifted, field visits were still affected. The pandemic affected us in two ways – 1) A hit to existing revenue, 2) Conversations with new clients were paused.
But when I look back, this event also had two positive aspects: A) the Work-from-home phenomenon helped our sales team, B) We made significant internal improvements. Let me expand on each of them. On point A, work-from-home has made the world much flatter. In the past, if we had to speak with a prospect in Canada, we had to fly down, arrange a road-show and meet the people in-person. But since everyone is working from home now, it doesn’t matter where I am taking the calls. This made our sales organization more productive and also helped us get more prospects. After the initial worries due to Covid, we came back strongly on new client sign-ups’ strength. On point B, we used the downtime in lockdown to make significant improvements to our product and processes. Working from home has made the organization more KPI driven and flexible. I believe that the future of work is ‘asynchronous,’ and we are much closer to that vision today.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Angam Parashar: Of course. There were many difficult choices. The market conditions forced us to consider various scenarios, including downsizing specific teams, pay-cuts, etc., to bring down our expenses. I am very proud that we managed to weather the storm without laying off our employees in what could have been a tough time for everyone. We made various scenarios keeping in mind how the pandemic may pan out. We also focused a lot more on our existing customers to ensure that we could provide the necessary support as everyone was going through tough times. Now that the lockdowns have lifted, the business outlook has improved. We prepared for the worst while putting efforts for the best. We focused on our control, made life easy for our customers and our employees. Facing such uncertainties helped us grow as entrepreneurs.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and ParellelDots in the future?
Angam Parashar: Over time, I would say I have better handling of stress and anxiety. Part of the reason is the experience of handling uncertainty for an extended period. Having two other co-founders with you surely helps, as you don’t have to handle all the stress yourself. And finally, India now has a good tech eco-system, and thankfully, experienced people are always ready to lend a helping hand.
I would say 2020 was a surprisingly successful year. Yes, we could not achieve the growth that we were expecting, but we continued to build a solid foundation that brought us closer to our targets on the strength of new clients we brought in.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Angam Parashar: Our competitors include a big player, a unicorn today, and some smaller start-ups. The key idea is always to know the gaps in the market. Our robust data science and research capability also lend us a competitive advantage. The market we are serving is big and under-penetrated, so we are pumped about our prospects.
Your final thoughts?
Angam Parashar: I would say for new SaaS start-ups, Covid has been a blessing as it has made the world flatter. If you have managed to do well in 2020, it speaks a lot about your resilience, and you should feel good about it. The saying, “Every crisis is an opportunity in disguise,” used to feel like jargon to be applied in the corporate or self-improvement circles. But I am a firm believer now.
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