Now is the Right Time to Hire, Especially when Big Techs are Laying Off: says Vikram Bhandari

Vikram Bhandari, Founder and CEO of Yantra Inc., delves into AI's role in retail transformation and innovative hiring strategies in India. Discover how Yantra navigates the dynamic retail sector and plans to invest in Gen AI.

Punam Singh
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Vikram Bhandari, Founder and CEO of Yantra Inc.

In an exclusive interview with Vikram Bhandari, Founder and CEO of Yantra Inc. shedding light on the convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI), retail transformation, and innovative hiring strategies in the Indian landscape. 


In this discussion, Yantra's key executives unravel the intricate tapestry of AI's impact on revolutionizing retail operations and propelling India's burgeoning technological ecosystem forward. He discussed how Yantra navigates the dynamic retail sector, harnessing AI to drive efficiency, optimize processes, and unlock new avenues for growth. Additionally, giving valuable insights into Yantra's forward-thinking approach to talent acquisition amidst global industry shifts, as they unveil their vision for shaping the future of business in India.


DQ: What role does Yantra play in streamlining and optimizing processes for businesses?


Vikram: Our core operations revolve around the principles of optimization and strategizing. Optimization encompasses a range of activities, including the implementation of systems, utilization of AI tools, and enhancement of efficiencies through comprehensive reporting mechanisms. Conversely, on the strategic front, we collaborate with enterprises pursuing initial public offerings (IPOs), offering support in IPO readiness and facilitating expansions into diverse geographical markets. In essence, we operate within dual realms, focusing on strategic planning and operational optimization.

DQ: Yantra is committed to investing around 100 crore in India to develop Gen AI. Can you elaborate on the specific areas within AI that Yantra is planning to focus on?

Vikram: If you notice, everyone's talking about AI, but it's funny because even those who understand AI often mix it up with RPA, Gen AI, APIs, and everything else into one bucket as AI. Historically, AI has been the fastest-adopted business technology in the history of technology, spanning 50 years. And now, Gen AI is compelling leaders to reassess all aspects of their businesses despite the significant unknowns in the AI industry today. People are uncertain about how AI will work for them and how it will help, but Gen AI is a game-changer, opening new avenues for improving experiences, delivering new value streams, and building efficiencies. We're witnessing rapid growth in these areas.


Yantra has committed to investing 100 crores in India over the next two years, split into two major initiatives. First, we're establishing a center of excellence for AI to better serve our existing customers. Second, we're developing products for financials or CFOs on existing ERPs, enabling them to generate planning models and financial models using Gen AI.

If you look across the board, everyone's focused on Gen AI for marketing, customer services, and emails, mostly on the customer service side of things. Not many companies have delved into finance, which is a bit challenging due to security and data privacy concerns. We're aiming to address that area.


DQ: Yantra is planning to hire 500 employees in the next 2 years. However, we are currently witnessing global layoffs by major tech companies. So, amid this situation, how does Yantra plan to approach hiring and talent acquisition?

Vikram: If you look at it, this is the right time to hire. When the big players on the block are laying off staff – whether it's Google, Facebook, Microsoft, or even mid-sized companies – due to the economy not performing so well. However, our growth trajectory is quite high, and we plan to double our workforce in two years. Currently, we have close to 500 employees, and we aim to reach 1000 in two years, with the majority focused on Gen AI growth.

Our hiring strategy typically involves 30 percent of our hires in America and 70 percent in India. That's the balance we maintain in our resource model, and that's the model we'll stick to. Fortunately, we're finding good talent available. We're attracting individuals who want to tackle complex problems and who understand technology. Our task is to align and groom them so they can start thinking from a product standpoint and a technology standpoint.


When we hire someone, they need to transition from being just a technologist to also understanding product requirements and industry needs. For instance, we might hire a Python developer who's excellent at Python, but they might not yet be a product or industry expert. That's where we come in with industry problems and expertise, and these individuals help build products for us. 

DQ: India's retail landscape is undergoing a significant digital transformation. What unique challenges and opportunities do you foresee for Indian retailers?

Vikram: Retail has six or seven components. Retail starts with the consumer. Then there is the assortment they sell. There is purchasing they have to do, then there are allocations, then they have to replenish their stock, they have to do fulfillments and pricing, and then it goes back to a consumer coming in and buying. I think the retail industry in the US went through a major transition close to the COVID-19 time zone. I think India is now going through what the US went through a few years ago. We are seeing a lot of changes, and India has an advantage actually because the transformation India is undergoing at this point is happening with the introduction of AI. When the transformation of the US retail industry happened, AI did not exist, so they had to transform, and now they are incorporating AI into their existing transformation layer. India, while it's transforming, has AI and is going to take advantage of it.


For example, the basic problem with Indian retail is the cost of inventory holding. AI can exactly tell you when to expand or shrink assortments, what's the maximum profitability, and what's the best inventory holding cost. All of those are automatically calculated. When you purchase, AI can calculate the ideal quantities to purchase. It can automatically generate POs and send them to the retail channels. When you fulfill orders, they are optimized, and the fulfillment software is powered by advanced analytics and AI. For example, if I get a hundred orders a day, 20 go to Delhi. Now, I can fulfill those 20 boxes reaching Delhi in one place and then distribute them from there instead of sending them to different addresses. So all of this is being done or will be done using AI, and I think India has an advantage in this transformation because AI is available, which other countries that transformed a few years ago did not have.

DQ: Can you elaborate on the technological advancements introduced by Yantra that have made a significant impact on industries?

Vikram: In retail, if you look at the landscape, the typical scenario is, for example, you go to and make a purchase. There is inventory sitting in a warehouse. When you buy something, the order goes to the warehouse, it gets shipped, and then it enters the financial system. So there's reconciliation that needs to happen between four or five systems, each used by different companies, which can be a nightmare. To address this, we've developed a product called Retail Recon, which automatically reconciles all four systems and generates an exception report. For example, it might flag an order that wasn't shipped, an order where payment wasn't received, or even an order where the wrong product was shipped. Our AI tool does this automatically, whereas humans would take hours. 


In the distribution or manufacturing industry, we've developed products that optimize the usage of raw materials. For instance, we can determine the optimum usage of a particular raw material to manufacture products like bags. We're actively working on AI-based products that will drive this transformation.

DQ: How are organizations incorporating green solutions within their digital transformation initiatives?

Vikram: Based on what I've observed and with a team that manages such initiatives, AI solutions are also being designed to be energy-efficient. This means reducing carbon emissions and environmental footprints, thereby supporting a cleaner environment. These aspects are integral to our approach. We're currently developing a framework that addresses two critical aspects in collaboration with the US administration: sustainability and privacy. Sustainability, along with privacy, safety, and security, are key pillars of our framework. By integrating these elements, we aim to create a reliable and integrated system. Sustainability is paramount as it ensures scalability at a rapid pace.  It's evident that sustainability is increasingly becoming a focal point within the technology landscape.

Concluding note from Vikram 

Vikram: AI is poised to be India's next wave, with the local Modi government actively supporting its development. I recently attended a government-sponsored conference in Delhi, where I sensed a great deal of energy and excitement surrounding AI initiatives under this administration. When we apply this enthusiasm to industries like retail, we see an opportunity for significant transformation. The retail sector has largely moved from manual to computerized processes over the years, but true transformation has yet to occur. While tasks like financial automation and reporting have been streamlined, the industry as a whole has not undergone a complete overhaul.

This is where India can capitalize on AI. As the country undergoes widespread transformation, AI offers the potential to lead the charge. With its speed, efficiency, and applicability across various business functions, AI can revolutionize not only retail but all sectors.

In our surveys, CFOs were asked whether AI is hype or reality. Interestingly, 72% of them considered it a reality and expressed a desire to leverage AI in their operations. While 28% remained skeptical, the majority saw AI as an opportunity rather than a passing trend. Additionally, many CFOs noted a gap in AI adoption within the financial sector, with most attention focused on marketing and consumer services. This presents a significant opportunity for companies like ours that specialize in solving complex problems.