Looking back to the success on its 10th anniversary, Ashu Kajekar, an entrepreneur and Managing Director of 7EDGE, opens up on his journey from a techno-marketer to Managing Director. In a special tête-à-tête with MobileAppDaily, he imparts some valuable insights on custom app development and the rapidly strengthening digital ecosystem in India while providing a word of advice to the emerging app development firms out there.
1) Congratulations to 7EDGE for completing its 10th anniversary. Give us a primer on its foundation, the experiences of the past year and your journey as the Managing Director of the company.
“Thanks a lot for your wishes. It’s been a fantastic and action-packed decade. On this occasion, I would love to thank my teammates, past, and current.
You’d be surprised to know that by qualification, I am a Mechanical Engineer. Right from my college days, technological changes fascinated me a lot. Among them all, it was the Internet that caught my fancy the most. I was quite sure back in those days, and I am talking about the Internet’s days of infancy, that this is what would create and power infinite possibilities for individuals, and businesses. Looking back, guess I was not wrong! Anyway, after college, I ventured to follow my passion to discover more about the latest in web technology and digital marketing.
Over a short duration of time, that resulted in the beginning of our long journey. Passion for technology and leveraging it for the growth of businesses brought us all together as a team. And that’s how 7EDGE was founded in 2010 that started out as a strategic business consulting company. In the last decade, we have been fortunate to have collaborated with a wide range of clientele including Facebook, Diageo, Accenture, SAP, and many more. At 7EDGE we took each project as a challenge by thinking differently and working together as a team. We were able to bring out the best in each one of us, and hence deliver the best to our clients consistently.
My team’s burning passion to learn, grow and deliver the intended is one of the key reasons for our success in the last decade. Also, the team’s desire to stay one step ahead has helped us deliver amazing results to each of our clients has amazed me then, and even now. Most importantly, I firmly believe that the team’s wholehearted commitment to the power of the internet and digital technologies, as such, the primary reason for our past 10 years of success.
My team believes that each project we come across is an opportunity to learn and grow. And all I got to say about the experience with 7EDGE as the founder and Managing Director is - it’s great, has always been so, and as days go by, my agile team is only going to grow stronger to take on newer challenges and together we will emerge even more successful.”
2) You have an interesting clientele with names like Facebook, Sapient, General Electric, Infosys, etc. What is your approach to deal with different industries? Which is the most complex project/client you ever faced?
“Requirements vary between clients and projects. And so do the challenges that we came across. We consider each client as unique. Yet, at most times, our solution methodology stays firm on three pillars. They are strategic planning, problem-solving approaches, and scalability of results.
Facebook reached out to us for running an ad campaign. At the same time, Wipro came for intent-driven account-based marketing campaigns, while Infosys needed software to manage their clients. All had different requirements and we worked along parallel lines to meet their demands. This is something we always do to manage and deliver the best to our clients.
We get projects from various industries. At certain times, the entire domain would be new for us. This is where our experienced team spends time learning about the new industry and sees how the IT-based solutions we plan to deliver will work for them. So, dealing with different businesses happens through a combined effort of our experience and expertise.
Complexity is often a debated concept. In my viewpoint, understanding the exact output in the way clients see it or need it opens up the room for untangling the intricacies of any complex project. Once, the requirement is thoroughly understood, any complex project could be broken down into interconnected small tasks that need to be worked upon. When it comes to difficulties that arise within the tasks, our 10 years of industry experience help us. Alongside this, our multicultural team is crammed with a multitude of latest technological expertise and takes projects to successful closures.”
3) What are the crucial challenges that 7EDGE currently facing and how does it plan to take them head-on?
"I believe the more the challenges we face, the better we learn and therefore the better we grow. We as a team have been able to get over all of them successfully over the last many years. Yet, certain common challenges that occur frequently for technologists do occur such as shortage of niche skill sets within a team at times of surprise requirements or adoption to the fast-changing technology landscape that sometimes needs more time and effort. For those matters technologies that are emerging day-by-day on the other side of the world demand extensive planning to catch up with, which involves a lot of research.
What helped me sustain all these years successfully in the digital race have been two things- planning and a very strong team. Learning about emerging technologies and tools in advance prepared us to get the best out of the upcoming market. And to attain maximum productivity, we have always reached out to discover the latest skill sets. Also, we adopt the latest technologies and keep our team ready so as to address the needs of clients anytime.
4) App development has become a huge market now. How does 7EDGE take competitors’ threats? Why should a prospective business opt for your company over its adversaries?
“App development has a huge market and it's rapidly growing in India, especially in big metro cities like Bangalore. Nowadays, companies are either modernizing their applications or migrating to serverless architectures with the help of emerging technologies.
As far as competition goes, I feel that custom application development companies have grown equally dominant. Microservices architecture plus DevOps have made possible Continuous Integration and Continuous Development (CICD). Start-ups and mid-level companies are leveraging these advanced tools and technologies to deliver compelling user experiences within their applications.
Firstly, all firms look at a firm footing in their respective markets. To win in our domain, we have to run ahead of time with expertise in technologies that will dominate the future. For instance, say AI and automation. Long before those became buzzwords in prominent marketing platforms, we were ready with automation tools to work for our upcoming projects. Our ability to plan well ahead has always given us an edge and has helped us gain a competitive advantage every single time.
Secondly, we preserve expertise within our cross-cultural workforce by continuously training them and exposing them to the latest tools and technologies. We never hold back when it comes to adding new talents to our resource pool. All these factors help us to stay on top of the game in the digital world."
5) Your company bio states you as a ‘techno-marketer, a serial entrepreneur and an internet visionary’. How do you fit yourself into different roles or do you perceive them as one?
"I began my career as a techno-marketer. Back in those days, I was busy imparting the importance of digitalization to one of my clients, and that’s when an idea struck me. It was based on one simple and common occurrence.
Back then, a decade back, web development stood on its own and so did paid marketing. Google ads campaign results were considered deterministic by nature because they couldn’t deliver consistent results as intent-based marketing was not a prominent strategy back then.
So, I thought to myself- “what if I could bring everything that can transform a brand digitally under one roof?”. Based on that, our business model combined marketing technology, programmatic advertising technology, and application development which led to the birth of 7EDGE. And I became an entrepreneur.
What followed later were days of proposals, daily meetings, and a lot of hard work. The team resonated with the idea in the highest of spirits and some wonderful ideas reached us from all. We all felt as if we held a baton for digital transformation and began empowering our clientele with the power of the latest technologies on the internet. 7EDGE established itself as one of the most recommended business consultants in Bangalore. We partnered with some of the big names on the internet, including Hubspot, AWS, Puppet, and Bombora.
About the role of an internet visionary, I feel it comes naturally when one dedicates to the art of problem-solving in the digital world. The more we got involved with the business challenges our clients faced, the better we became at solving them. Our team grew intuitive about possible challenges that would arise in the future for our clients, and we became digital ambassadors. We were able to foresee solutions with the help of the very best talent and ideas in our team, who would always be on top of the latest advancements in IT.
But yes, the different roles that I live through are not entirely the same and are not profoundly different. My team says that when working around projects, I keep switching between all these roles.
Bringing in all these roles takes a lot of personal, social, and intellectual effort. My cumulative experience is helping me a lot to find a firm footing at the intersecting point of these three roles for the benefit and growth of 7EDGE."
6) What is the digital ecosystem in India like? How different is it from the west?
Digital India is like the Phoenix bird. We as a nation are undoubtedly moving towards being on par with standards seen in developed nations. The Indian economy is expanding with cashless transactions and recent actions by the Indian Government have reduced the number of cash transaction based trade through by close to over half.
Also, when the government started leveraging possibilities of digitalization in their offices, citizens felt more reassured about cashless transactions. Rural parts of our country that remained obscure from the touch of technological advancements since independence now use the internet and payment applications like PayTM, Google Pay, and PhonePe among a host of others. The growing trust among people has inspired Indian entrepreneurs to undertake more initiatives to come up with digital innovations and technologies that are making our daily lives better. And consider this- it perhaps explains why India is the nation with the maximum number of young entrepreneurs with a median age of 32!
When we talk of growth, be it India, the west or almost everywhere in the world, the growth trend of digital ecosystems is almost identical. While Silicon Valley is where internet giants such as Google and Microsoft come up with emerging technologies with advanced infrastructure, and other companies adopt their technologies and put them into effective use within the country’s digital ecosystem. So, in many ways, technology and digital growth are mutual by nature and definitely, it’s a global phenomenon.
Coming back to India, the digital ecosystem here is likely to hit a strength of 1 billion by the end of this financial year. Start-ups, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are contributing more to its expansion. In the West, developments in Cloud technology and serverless architecture could be considered as one of the major driving factors. And companies in India are also now focusing on migrating to Cloud. Beyond being a current buzzword for IT businesses in India, the bottom line is that the digital ecosystem in India and around the world will only grow more agile with time."
7) With frameworks such as Flutter, Ionic and React Native gaining precedence, how do you think these platforms have revolutionized the app development process?
"Native mobile apps are developed using native development language and tools specific to a platform. A native iOS app would be written either in Swift or Objective-C and compiled using Xcode. Native Android applications are developed using Kotlin or Java and are compiled using Android Studio.
Native apps are developed using the default tools of the respective platforms. Developers would be able to leverage device capabilities like sensors and a user's address book for the hassle-free operation of the application. Also, they would have complete access to all of the native user interface (UI) layouts and tools.
The challenging aspect is that Android apps run only on Android platforms and devices, while iOS apps run only on iOS platforms and devices. With native apps, cross-platform operations are not possible.
And the trouble with native apps does not end here. The so-called app-store gatekeepers can remove any app from their stores anytime overnight, claiming a breach of regulations. To avoid revenue loss and other related risks, developers grow their solutions as web applications.
We are still far away from a complete solution since web applications are entirely dependent on the capabilities of mobile browsers. When these try to access Android's built-in features like the user's address book incompatibilities arise. Hence, web applications cannot gain full access to a user’s device. While apps can access Google Maps, camera, audio, and basic functionalities of devices, web apps have limited access to most of the mobile apps developed on Android or iOS platforms.
Hybrid apps and technologies such as React Native, Flutter, and Ionic became big words due to a single development procedure, whereby one can create an app that runs on both Android and iOS platforms with full functionalities.
A hybrid app with the same traditional web application code and different native application wrappers can run on both of these platforms. It is truly revolutionary in the sense that developers do not have to spend time creating separate codes for an application, but can instead gather it for enriching the UI to deliver a compelling user experience."
8) A report projected that by this year 85% of the customer interactions will be handled by chatbots? Do you see this as a justified trend or a bane?
"More and more businesses are implementing chatbots to make their websites interactive and more helpful for their visitors. It’s no wonder that 85% of conversations in web applications would involve a chatbot. In my opinion, many businesses have implemented it, and even many of the remaining web applications will begin to feature them.
Now, the emergence of conversational marketing could be one of the major factors resulting in the popularity of chatbots in the digital world. Survey outcomes shared by digital marketing experts today prove it and say that almost 95% percent of users loved to stay on websites where they can chat to get immediate solutions.
Chatbots also become crucial when it comes to creating a good first impression of a website for new visitors. Users have been reported as saying that they feel more curious and feel that a website feels livelier when a chatbot welcomes them. Also, essential data chatbots that collect data during their conversation with visitors helps entrepreneurs effectively tune their website content and generate better inbound leads. Insights from a chatbot's conversational histories can also be used as a reference for gaining a better understanding of user needs and buyer personas.
At 7EDGE, we pay close attention to conversational marketing. Most of our clients’ applications have eye-catching chatbots as their hosts. Our partnership with drift.com has helped us tremendously to better understand and ride on conversational marketing. Considering the current and emerging importance of conversational marketing, we are working hard to enable customers to leverage intelligent interactions."
9) Business Insider recently published an article that said Google’s DeepMind AI outplayed medics in diagnosing breast cancer from X-ray images. How do you foresee the dominance of AI in this decade?
AI and Machine Learning will forever be an area of interest for the digital world. Machine learning is revolutionizing chatbot-human interactions to make it feel like our own one-on-one conversations. Chatbots are learning to do so with very little human help. Currently, machines are actively suggesting to visitors the next step to be taken when they are on a website. Even the many so-so chatbots can walk a customer through almost 80 percent of a sales cycle. AI can change the way we see technology and it's happening extensively in every sphere of our lives. With the automation of repeated tasks, we save a lot of human effort and time every day. With predictive analytics and reporting, marketers sort out their target audiences with next-level precision.
I believe automation and AI are making businesses and the technologies powering them a lot better on the whole.
Google uses machine learning technology to make our search experience better. Entrepreneurs rely on AI-powered Business Intelligence tools to stay ahead of the curve.
I view AI as helping us a lot in making intelligent business decisions, and I am confident that in the future, we will get a lot more from it."
10) The market for 5G is slowly unfolding. How can start-ups and mid-level companies leverage it?
"5G is the next generation of mobile connectivity. It promises to assure very high speeds and greater reliability. While it will, of course, connect humans, it will also help interconnect and control machines, objects, and devices. 5G technology can bring about faster collaboration within the Internet of Things (IoT) that will help it grow at a faster rate. It will deliver new levels of efficiency and performance.
5G will add more muscle to today's mobile broadband services. It will interconnect and redefine a wide range of industries including retail, transportation, entertainment, and many more. The digital world sees 5G technology as transformative as automobiles and electricity.
In fact, we are almost there with the debut of 5G technology, expected to take place in mid-2020. Companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, and Ericsson are testing new advances in signal processing, chips, and antenna technology to enable it.
Due to these, 5G will open up an all-new array of business opportunities for start-ups and almost every other kind of organization. Since it is the future of wireless networks, we can expect the rise and dominance of Interactive Television, High-definition 3D Video, Social Gaming, Augmented Reality (AD), Virtual Reality (VD), Robotics, and a lot more.
Companies also can utilize the upcoming technological readiness to deliver never thought of user experiences for their customers. Along with these, new levels of advancements can happen in Cloud technology and application development. In the future, codes written should not be applicable for just mobile-to-mobile connectivity alone, but also for mobile-to-machine and machine-to-machine connectedness.”
Even as we speak, companies are investing in learning more about new possibilities and resources to adopt and confidently enter the age of 5G."
11) Lastly, any word of advice for emerging app development firms out there?
What I have to say to emerging app development companies is for them to focus on two important aspects: scalability and sustainability. As mentioned earlier, it’s only a matter of time before 5G will bring about a big change. And the very perception of the world about the internet is bound to change. Entrepreneurs who have adopted the latest flexible technology into their tech stack will deliver the best solutions and remain right at the top. So please, always have an eye out for emerging technologies, and very importantly, please invest in learning about new tools and techniques in the market.
Workspaces are evolving every day with new trends influencing a whole lot of things. Application development is happening in agile environments where we need a talented workforce with the latest and updated skills. With the advent of Cloud technology, things have changed a lot. Now industries around the world are on the run to migrate to serverless architectures. App modernization is the latest buzzword in the digital universe. Entrepreneurs who have been following this trend, and have moved forward with related tools and the latest technologies are on the path of growth and will always be in demand. So, don't forget to follow the flow and always embrace the changes happening around us. I wish you the very best!"
- Strategic planning, problem-solving approaches, and scalability of results are the prominent pillars of 7EDGE.
- 7EDGE believes in working along parallel lines to deliver the best to its clients.
- According to Ashu, what helped him and EDGE sustain all these years successfully in the digital race have been two things- planning and a very strong team.
- Nowadays, companies in India are either modernizing their applications or migrating to serverless architectures with the help of emerging technologies.
- According to Ashu, custom application development companies have grown equally dominant today.
- In Ashu’s opinion, the role of an internet visionary comes naturally when one dedicates to the art of problem-solving in the digital world.
- The digital ecosystem in India is likely to hit a strength of 1 billion by the end of the 2020 financial year.
- Ashu believes the hybrid approach to app development to be truly revolutionary in the sense that developers do not have to spend time creating separate codes for an application, but can instead gather it for enriching the UI to deliver a compelling user experience.
- In Ashu’s opinion, many businesses have implemented chatbots, and even many of the remaining web applications will begin to feature them.
- 7EDGE pays close attention to conversational marketing.
- Emerging app development companies today should focus on two important aspects: scalability and sustainability.
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