Letting Go of the Old | Nitin Kumar at Appnomic

In part one of our conversation with Nitin, he talked to us about his company Appnomic and their product, “Heal,” which aims to heal enterprise level systems using AI.

In this second part of our conversation, Nitin talks about some of the common mistakes people make when innovating, and the holistic philosophy he employs to connect all the pieces of his business. He also offers some key advice on how businesses can effectively position themselves in these challenging times.

More information:

Nitin Kumar is a seasoned C-level operating executive and management consultant in the TMT sector. His 20+ year professional story has unfolded in the Silicon Valley, the epicenter of innovation, disruption and opportunities. 

Currently the CEO of Appnomic, he has led organizations ranging from start-ups through multi-billion-dollar companies in Regional, National and Global roles. Notable exec roles include HP, Deloitte, PwC, FTI etc. Held P/L (>$1b), led teams (>1000 people) and experienced 90 countries.

Nitin has played a variety of hands-on executive roles ranging from Start-up CEO, Product Management, Chief Growth Officer, Chief Transformation Officer, M&A Integration/Separation Leader, BU Leader and Management Consulting Partner focused on top-line growth across corporate and private equity portfolio companies.

His functional expertise includes Sales, Marketing, Products, Service, Pricing, and Customer Experience driving top-line growth. Nitin has received multiple global awards for innovation and is an internationally recognized thought leader in the areas of business model design, transformation, and M&A.

DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Nitin Kumar 0:00
Invest in only things that do three very, very good outcomes grow revenue, cut cost increase valuation towards the pivot. Right. Everything else is secondary.

Alexander Ferguson 0:19
In part one of our conversation with Nitin, he talked to us about his company Appnomic and their product heel, which aims to heal enterprise level systems using AI. In the second part of our conversation, Nitin talks about some of the common mistakes people make when innovating, and the holistic philosophy he employs to connect all the pieces of his business, he also offers some key advice on how businesses can effectively position themselves in these challenging times. From the many years of experience, whether it’s this company of the past year or so, or previous experiences, can you share a difficulty that you were able to overcome, that other entrepreneurs and leaders can can learn from? And a lot of this probably can come around from the recent title of an article, you’re in a Masters a pivot, so being able to pivot in a situation overcome a challenge, that maybe stagnation and can’t move forward? What would you share?

Nitin Kumar 1:13
Look, I mean, these problems manifest themselves in different ways. And I will give you some real life examples from my world, as opposed to looking at it from a generic standpoint, right? There are four or five things that you need to look at. One of them is that when you pivot, you’re looking at a future horizon, and you’re catching on to something new. And there’s usually an underlying reason behind that there’s either too much competition in the market, it’s crowded, there’s a lot of messaging that is contaminating the market, or giving mixed messages. Your product is not selling at the velocity and volume that you wanted, or you’re just hitting the wrong customer segments and persona, right. So there’s a number of different reasons you do that your number one challenge here is that when you do something new, you need to really let go the old has the tendency, older assets older thinking that will tend to cannibalize the new, you need to be very clear on that, right. And in today’s world, you don’t have infinite capital that you can fund for. typically think about you as an investor or an entrepreneur, you need to cut your losses in a to start investing in B, there is going to be a period of pain, but you got to live that and have faith in your vision and execution that you can actually move. And typically what people do is that they change the product and say, Oh, I made a pivot or they go to vertical a go to financial services versus media and say, Oh, I made a pivot doesn’t work that way, you need to think about it very holistically, right? Correct your financial posture corrector commercial posture, make sure your operations are aligned with it, make sure your product is the right one with the right features and functionality, invest in only things that do three very, very good outcomes grow revenue, cut cost, increase valuation towards the pivot, right, everything else is secondary. If you do all right, look at the pivot holistically. You will land not with may not be with 100% accuracy. But you will land in a place where you are 80% Correct. And the remaining you can course correct and learn everything is a learning. Don’t look for 100% Perfection doesn’t happen in today’s world. 70% Perfection, get the tailwind in the trajectory, you can always correct the next 30%

Alexander Ferguson 3:24
Look for 100% Perfection. And don’t let fear hold you back. I love that. That concept of people wanting to hold on. And then the challenges you say of existing team. They’ll call you a heretic or whatever if you’re trying to get killed clients or product features or change the brand. But keep focus and move forward. Thank you for that that insight. You’re doing that right now with this company pivoting and moving forward? What going forward challenges or hurdles? Do you see to you’re going to need to overcome to be able to realize this vision?

Nitin Kumar 3:56
No, I think we have a myriad of challenges. Obviously. Now we have the corona grenade on us, right, which was planned for the uncertainty uncertain and you plan for your plan B. Right? Yes. Always. You need to plan the work, then you can work the plan. Right. So you plan to work now. I think we have two challenges one very quickly to adapt to the new world order. Right. Having said that there’s a myriad of opportunity in this because the workloads on certain parts of the economy are unprecedented, right? So we have that opportunity. How do we quickly pivot our posture to serve those? I think number two is that the word digital and the word AI Ops is fast becoming the most abused word in the industry, right? Everybody says is digital here AI ops. So how do you cut through the noise and reach the right people with the right message and make sure that your value proposition is not cluttered? Right, it needs to be very clear resonate with the market. And it’s not about writing 100 pitch deck right. If you can say it in five minutes, you’ll never say

Alexander Ferguson 4:55
any quick takeaways of recommendations on how would one position In this type of environment, to, to stay relevant. Look,

Nitin Kumar 5:05
I mean, there’s pieces of the economy or parts of the economy that are hurting, right. I mean, luckily travel and hospitality, they’re going through a very, very difficult time at the moment. I think we have the traditional industries, which are not conducive to work from home or work remotely, or having trouble there. But manufacturing, I think your Ubers Lyfts, or your micro mobility companies with the scooters, they’re all for a tough time. And we feel for them right now, hopefully, while this is behind us, and we come out of the situation, having said that, there’s also part of the economy that’s actually under a terrific amount of boom, right? Think about our telecommunications industry, unprecedented levels of bandwidth, right? Somebody had put a put out a report that 75% increase just in gaming traffic, you have media content consumption, you have 100% of 100% of the company workforces working from home, the workload and bandwidth is immensely challenging for them to handle. Go back into media content consumption is at an all time high, right. And given the sports industry is extremely challenged, there’s a whole bunch of users migrating their time into that unprecedented workloads and challenges there. We also look at online grocery, online essentials and girl and retail and consumer, I think you have a big interesting shift there. Because there is a ratio between the total users who are sign up active users who come in, sort of browse around but don’t shop and then the buying users and that ratio is disrupted when that ratio kind of gets disrupted, there is a huge amount of burden on the infrastructure and applications, right. So you need to take a look at that healthcare is spending at an all time high. And you know, any relief that you can give manual labor there or manual intensive work, to autonomous ation will be highly appreciated, governments are scrambling. So there are parts of the economy that aren’t actually doing well and require a lot of help. So smaller businesses need to quickly move there, right? And you need to look at your capital posture and understand what you can do and what you cannot do. It’s easy to say go serve healthcare and government but there are one time costs and compliant costs. Play they’re so what’s your capital structure, understand which segment is easier? Which segment is more difficult? What is the posture of your current assets? Can you make a bigger leap to small incremental changes, versus going and throwing a whole bunch of money that is going to overhaul the product?

Alexander Ferguson 7:27
AI is just a marketing term that people are becoming immune to? How do you then either shift or modify to be able to cut through the noise?

Nitin Kumar 7:40
So it’s a very simple thing to me don’t sell AI? Okay, so this is like selling the internet in the 90s. Ai is going to be just embedded into everything that you do, it’s just going to be a way of life, right? I mean, in the 90s, you don’t go and sell the internet. But people need to think about that your value proposition may be enhanced to enrich differentiated scale through AI. But that’s not your leading proposition anymore. I’m sorry. It’s like the internet, right? It belongs to nobody. It’s not one thing. So people need to understand what their value proposition is. And AI is only an amplifier or a or a capitalist in that so focus on your value proposition AI to me is a given in the future.

Alexander Ferguson 8:23
How are you innovating and growing? What books or podcasts or audio books are you reading and ingesting, or in the past year that has helped you in growing?

Nitin Kumar 8:34
So I think this is a very different answer you’re going to get from me, which probably is slightly different than what you’re used to hearing. So in today’s world, things are changing so quickly. You just cannot read a book or a podcast and say I learned this thing, right? So I over the last three years have completely changed the way I learn. And think about it. When I wanted to learn blockchain, I took one of those, you know, there’s those things come on LinkedIn with 102 100 logos, right? These are the people. So is it Oh, I know a lot of these people. And I know how to get to the other part of the people, right other part of the ecosystem. So I started speaking to 5060. Guys, by the time you have those 20 conversations, eight, these people have all vetted the market right or wrong in some session from right to you start seeing patterns. Three, you start seeing things that they don’t see, where’s the value chain? Who can partner with whom? Where is the gap who’s doing what, by the time you had those 50 conversations in some size, shape and form URL, right? And it’s not theory, it’s coming from the field, you create insights, you package them, then go and read one or two books to just polish or validate it. But I think the body of knowledge, and the insights and the execution all three have got separated in this era of fast paced growth. I did the same thing with autonomous driving, by the way. I mean, I don’t claim to be a super expert, but I know a lot by talking to a lot of these people now. Right? Wow.

Alexander Ferguson 9:56
So have conversations with people who have already spend the effort and time to do the research, enter in it and have enough of them 20 3050 people, those conversations you’ll, you’ll get the insight and see theme. I’ll end with this this final question, as you have probably already had tons of these conversations and you’ve seen the themes. What kind of tech innovations? do you predict that we’ll see both in the near term and long term? So near term next year, too, and long term? The next 10 years?

Nitin Kumar 10:24
Okay, so there is obviously a number of different things right, that that are coming on the horizon, I believe that the digital business model is going to be real, and people are going to consume that. And very quickly, learning from the corona people are going to move out from digitizing just assets and business processes and focus on that business model. I definitely think that the technologies are not one thing. So you’re going to see the combination of AR and VR with AI, you’re going to see a combination of IoT with autonomous driving, you’re going to see technologies come together and be coherent, right. Today, people are looking at it is more as these things in isolation, I am IoT or am I gonna do reality or things like that. So the coherence is going to get much more real today. I think we’re also in an era of conflicts, right? Because the trends are conflicting. Do I centralize with an SD van is the thing or do I decentralize with Blockchain? Right, the guys are monetizing data, go monetize voice, the voice guys monetize data. I think people will start looking at the governance and the conflict and saying, Okay, there’s a pattern here, right? Robotics and 3d printing. They’re not necessarily different things. Are they an IoT thing? Yes. So is an IoT business model applicable to that? So I think the convergence is going to scale a lot of things. I see robotics scaling. I see autonomous everything scaling. I mean, you see autonomous today, very, very quickly, people go into cars, right? Autonomous nation is the next journey from automation. You’re going to find autonomous education, you’re going to find autonomous drones, you’re going to find autonomous robots, autonomous systems, autonomous banking, and all of that. So you have automation. In between, you have the hybrid AI assisted human and then you have the full auto autonomous ation. So AI assisted human is going to happen very quickly in the next few years. full autonomy position is a different path for different industries based on the use cases. And I think people are going to start thinking that and think backwards now.

Alexander Ferguson 12:18
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