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How firms like Sportingmindz, IBM, Mu Sigma, Activecubes helping cricketers win matches, predict crime and track spurious drugs

In front of a frenzied crowd in the flood-lit Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, Royal Challengers captain Anil Kumble made a bold move. In the final match of the second season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 Championship, Kumble, a leg spinner, bowled the first ball of the match, a task normally undertaken by a fast bowler.

And when he uprooted the wicket of star batsman Adam Gilchrist in the third ball of the first over, what seemed like a bold gamble on his part had paid off. But Kumble, himself an engineer, relied on more than just instinct. He had roped in a small start-up in Bangalore, Sportingmindz, to analyse Gilchrist's batting style. Using data analytics technology, the start-up had honed in on the Australian batsman's achilles heel - spin bowling. "From then on, it became a trend to attack Gilchrist with spin bowlers," said Sandeep Kannambadi, co-founder of Sportingmindz.

From developing strategies for cricket teams to detecting spurious drugs and even predicting a crime, India data scientists are building specialised systems that can chew through billions of bits of data, analyse them via self-learning algorithms and package the insights for immediate use.


Sportingmindz has captured and collected terabytes of cricket videos and data in its central server, enough to store millions of books, photographs and songs. Customers include South African, New Zealand and IPL cricket teams and the information is kept strictly confidential.

"Surprisingly, one of our data scientists is even travelling to Gulbarga in Karnataka to do analytics for a school cricket team, who is also our client," said Kannambadi, who added that Microsoft's start-up platform BizSpark helped them to get software tools and connected with industry players. Kannambadi, along with Sanjay Rao, quit their jobs at India's third-biggest software services provider Wipro in 2006 and joined hands with former Indian cricketer Vijay R Bharadwaj to start Sportingmindz. Besides cricket teams, the start-up is tapping other sports as well, such as hockey, tennis and table tennis.


Crime fighting has also found an ally in big data analytics. The Tom Cruisestarrer 'Minority Report', set in 2054, showed prediction of crime. Data scientists at the India laboratories of IBM have brought that future to the present. "We predict the chances of a person committing a crime, based on jail records," said Vishwanath Narayan, IBM's chief technology officer for Industry Solutions Architecture. IBM India has deployed this analytics for the police departments of New York and Chicago and is now working with an Indian state police agency.

IBM also delivers traffic prediction in cities such as London and Stockholm, for which the prediction algorithms are done out of India. The traffic prediction is based on real-time information that helps IBM identify the patterns of how a particular roadway is getting congested and traffic and transport authorities of these cities are able to change the pricing of tolls accordingly.


Bangalore-based data analytics startup Activecubes is analysing huge chunks of data to detect spurious drugs in the country. The firm has developed a product where customers can send a unique code, available on the drug at the time of purchase, by text message to a common number. The message comes to the Activecubes database, which responds back in a few seconds about the authenticity of the drug and provides other miscellaneous information.

Activecubes is betting on a huge opportunity in combating counterfeit drugs, valued at $75 billion worldwide. In India, around 30% of the drugs sold in the market are spurious. It has pinched the nerves of many pharma companies whose key brands have lost almost 30% share of the market in India because of spurious drugs. "My son was not well and the medication was not working. First thing I told my wife was I don't know whether that was a spurious drug," said Rajesh Varrier, CEO and co-founder of Activecubes, who is tying up with a few pharma companies to implement the product.


Data analytics is also being used to understand customer choices. One of world's premium chocolatiers, a renowned 160-year-old Swiss brand, commissioned social media analytics startup Salorix to analyse conversations on all popular social media channels. Salorix, founded by Santanu Bhattacharya collected and semantically analysed more than 100,000 conversations, including that of competitor brands, over a period of four weeks. The chocolatier's brand managers were able to participate in these conversations, raising the visibility of the brand during a crucial holiday season.

US-based food and pharmacy retail major Haggen tur ned to Bangalore-based retail analytics firm Manthan Systems to get a better view of customer. Their meat section was running promotions on steaks and high-end meat cuts on the assumption that these meats attract customers. But after deploying Manthan's technology, the company realised it was in fact the cheaper ground beef that was drawing in the customers and started running promotions on this product.

Similarly their in-store sushi deli made fresh sushi every morning. With the analytics solution, Haggen managers realised that most sushi sales happened post-5pm. The managers made labour-saving changes like making sushi only in the afternoon.

Another Bangalore-based data analytics firm Mu Sigma analyses facial expressions of customers, eye gaze and body language across supermarkets and shopping malls to understand customer behaviour. They crunch thousands of hours of video footage captured by small cameras embedded at retail point of sale locations. It then sends the information to the retailers to help them understand the mood, attitude and actual behaviour of consumers and help companies to better position their products.

"Planets are aligned. This is a golden era of analytics, it will give birth to new stars," said Atul Jalan, founder and CEO of Manthan Systems, which analyses consumer behaviour for brands like Carrefour, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Crocs, and is expecting to touch $100 million revenue by next year.
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