As part of the International Women’s Day theme, we speak to women data and analytics leaders to understand their role and their contributions to the data science field in India. At a time when AI and analytics skills as specialisation have gained significant prominence, we find a hardened gender gap in the analytics and AI industry talent pool.
Analytics India Magazine caught up with Akanksha Dhamija, Director, Customer Centricity and Analytic, at OLX, one of the leading e-classifieds platform in India and a Naspers Group owned company to understand her pivot to the data and analytics field, how she’s building a customer-focused brand at OLX and to understand why women are less likely to be positioned in senior leadership roles in India.
Over the last seven years, Dhamija has built a formidable career in technology, transitioning from her consulting role at McKinsey to heading Growth Strategy and Analytics at OLX and gradually moving up the ranks at the product-centric company. Talking about her role, Dhamija shared, “I am leading Customer Centricity at the organisation and analytics and strategy forms one arm, business intelligence is another arm and then there’s customer support. So, this is basically a role where everything is cross-functional and my role involves leveraging data and making the consumer’s experience on OLX better and seamless”.
In this high-growth classifieds startup space, where competition abounds, technology forms the backbone of OLX, across all the business functions. “OLX is, in essence, a product and tech organisation. We are a peer-to-peer marketplace where people come to sell their products and then there are people who are looking to buy these products. And in certain categories like Cars and Mobiles OLX is the leading platform while for we are seeing an upswing in categories like Real Estate,” said Dhamija.
In her current role, Dhamija and her team apply a set of machine learning algorithms to check what kind of content goes online and filter it accordingly before it is live on the platform. Customer-centricity plays a key role since as a peer-to-peer marketplace, it is essential to improve the content further. “So, this is like a multifaceted cross-functional project which we are running and is not a short-term one,” she said. The team looks at the images users post to rule out duplicity on the platform. Customer-centricity and better user experience is a significant driver in ensuring sellers get maximum traction on the platform.
Analysing users’ behaviour plays a key role in product development and at OLX, analytics is at the heart of operations. “We track the user behaviour on the platform and once we have the data, we segment it further to understand what users are actually talking about, for example, any particular categories they are looking for, any problem being highlighted. We gain all these insights by digging into the data,” she shared.
Like any other technology major, OLX has a robust tech stack. The data warehouse works on AWS and the company uses Python, R and C to make these decisions faster. SQL is a standard language which works for all organisations and on top of it, they use R and Python depending need on the project or other needs. Talking about OLX as a marketplace, Dhamija explains how the peer-to-peer classifieds marketplace differs from company differs from leading e-commerce marketplaces like Amazon and Flipkart. “OLX is a peer-to-peer marketplace, we are very different from Amazon and Flipkart which basically means we don’t own the inventory ourselves,” she said.
Gender Gap In Analytics And AI Talent Pool
While AI skills are the fastest growing specialisations according to a LinkedIn report, women representation in this talent pool is fairly low. This is a story that holds true for India as well, where we find there is a significant gender gap in the AI and analytics industry. We spoke to Dhamija about the skewed representation of women in the senior leadership teams. On the one end, women in middle management roles in data and analytics have progressed significantly, we find a gender gap at the senior management level. According to Dhamija, there’s a combination of factors at play here — family priorities and age may lead men and women in the analytics jobs market to have different career trajectories. Another perspective is that when we visit engineering institutions for hiring, we find the percentage of women is extremely low and that eventually affecting employment force overall, shared Dhamija.
Is mentorship the answer to help women rise to senior leadership roles? Mentorship can play a critical role in increasing gender diversity at workplaces. “Irrespective of the gender, I believe everybody requires mentorship. What the workforce should do is figure out the development areas are,” she said. While a special women-focused mentorship will help, however, one also needs to factor in relevant competencies and skillset to ensure one is on the right professional path.