ai:sight > Annual Volume 2023 > The heart of Fractal’s billion-dollar focus – Client-centricity

The heart of Fractal’s billion-dollar focus – Client-centricity

Growing up in 1980s India, I never imagined myself as an entrepreneur. My middle-class upbringing and my father’s belief that ‘an honest businessman is an oxymoron’ led me to assume I would work for a large corporation after completing my studies.

But life had other plans. Enrolling in a business ethics course during my MBA changed everything. Guest speakers, including Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, opened my eyes to the possibilities. Infosys had recently gone public, was already generating $50 million in revenue, and was known for its high standard of ethics.

Listening to Murthy, I realized that India of the late 90s differed greatly from my upbringing. It became clear that being an honest businessman was not impossible.

At the same time, I saw friends venturing into various businesses and raising capital. Venture capital providers emerged, further dispelling my belief that large sums of personal capital were a prerequisite to starting a business. The entrepreneurial spirit and financial support I saw fuelled my ambition.

By 2000, I was determined to embark on my entrepreneurial journey. Alongside classmates from business school, we took our first steps. We made mistakes, turned down funding, and had a failed dotcom venture.

But we learned from those experiences. We adapted, persevered, and refined our strategies. Each obstacle made us stronger and more attuned to the business landscape.

After six months, we embarked on a journey of meaning that led us to a significant realization. While I had always been drawn to mathematics, I had also developed a passion for understanding human behavior through psychology.

It was at this intersection of math and psychology that we found our sweet spot. We decided to utilize these disciplines to delve into consumer behavior, enabling companies to make more informed decisions with a consumer-centric approach.

Our initial focus was building models for banks to predict credit card defaults. Soon, we expanded our scope and started collaborating with retailers and consumer goods companies, providing data analysis and insights into consumer behavior.

During the challenging times of the 2001 recession, we truly understood the power of data. As people tightened their belts and became more sensitive to promotions, we realized how valuable our data-driven approach could be. We not only predicted consumer behavior but also had the potential to shape it.

In addition to our innovative ideas, we were fortunate to attract exceptional talent. Although a startup, we had a clear vision of the kind of individuals we wanted to bring on board. This clarity played a vital role in assembling a team of brilliant minds. Our ambitious and exciting goals attracted smart professionals eager to contribute to our mission.

However, our journey was not without its challenges. Our egos sometimes got the best of us.  We are set apart by our commitment to our clients. We were proud of our excellent work, and “client centricity” became a mantra adorning our walls. Therefore, it was a shock when a renowned business coach pointed out that our business lacked client-friendliness. It was humbling, forcing me to re-evaluate our approach and embrace constructive feedback.

Shrikant Gupta, the coach who enlightened me, played a pivotal role in our transformation. After a few sessions with him, he wanted to observe our company’s operations for a few days. His insights highlighted a critical aspect: 

We were craft-centric, obsessing over analytics and its potential to revolutionize businesses. However, being craft-centric didn’t automatically make us client-centric.

We must question our dedication to our client’s success and confront our self-obsession.

This realization became a turning point for us. We recognized the need for change and made a bold decision. We took the courageous step of not going after new deals for that year. Instead, we focused on serving our existing clients better, becoming problem-solvers committed to their success. This shift helped us understand how to put our existing clients in the center, propelling our business to new heights.  

Another significant change we implemented was adopting the Net Promoter Score (NPS) as a metric to gauge our progress. We believed this indicator reflected our growth more accurately than revenue or profits. 

Our NPS quickly climbed to 30, then 50, and eventually surpassed 60. In the past couple of years, our NPS has consistently remained at 70 or higher. This remarkable growth speaks volumes about how far we have come.

Through introspection, guidance, and a genuine commitment to our clients, we have undergone a remarkable transformation. Our focus on serving clients and embracing their success as our own has driven our progress and cultivated long-lasting relationships. 

Today, I take immense pride in stating that we have become truly client-centric. To us, this means measuring our success by the success of our clients. It entails understanding their needs and desires and then delivering solutions that align with them rather than simply selling what we have.

Being client-centric also entails investing and innovating on behalf of our clients. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos once highlighted that customers are perpetually dissatisfied, and it is our duty to listen attentively to their feedback to improve and meet their evolving expectations. 

We strive to deeply understand our clients’ requirements and build solutions that precisely address those needs. As a result, we allocate approximately 12.5% of our revenues to research and development, anticipating what our clients will need in the future.

This approach sets us apart in two significant ways. Firstly, we have shifted our perspective on the market.

Our peers are no longer seen as competitors but as collaborators. By working alongside industry giants, we create a collaborative ecosystem that ultimately brings exceptional value to our clients. Our commitment to driving client success has been instrumental in our remarkable growth.

With a solid foundation in place, we now focus on the future. The current advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) are fascinating and indicate what lies ahead. We are looking at a future where every company needs to adopt AI.

At Fractal, we are uniquely positioned to make this future a reality. We recognize that successfully implementing AI within large, successful organizations is a complex process beyond what most people realize. 

We firmly believe in three crucial equations that enterprises must adapt and align to drive decisions at scale. AI can deliver remarkable results when these equations are correctly understood and applied. Conversely, failure to grasp these equations can lead to catastrophic consequences.

What drives results @ scale? R = AI * E2 * D2

The first equation emphasizes that the outcomes of AI systems are directly proportional to smart algorithms but even more so to exceptional engineering and thoughtful design. 

Achieving outstanding AI problem-solving requires adopting a user-centric decision-backward approach rather than a technology-centric data-forward approach.

To illustrate this equation, let me share a personal example. In 2015, as I reflected on my life’s purpose, my father’s untimely passing due to a misdiagnosed pneumonia condition when I was 24 still haunted me. This fuelled my desire to create an impact and help others facing similar challenges. came out of this time. is a healthcare imaging AI startup empowering radiologists and doctors to make better diagnostic decisions.

At, we developed an AI system that analyses X-ray images and generates reports for up to 30 abnormalities. Initially intended as pre-reads for doctors, we faced resistance from those hesitant to rely solely on an AI algorithm.

Our breakthrough came when we applied the system to detecting tuberculosis, a disease with significant mortality rates in emerging countries. Unlike traditional programs that involved slow mobile screening vans and manual X-ray screenings, our technology allowed patients to be diagnosed within minutes, receiving life-saving treatment immediately.

This example exemplifies how our approach combines AI, engineering, and design, creating a recipe for scalable problem-solving. Our AI algorithms match or surpass human performance in various cognitive tasks. Exceptional engineering ensures seamless data pipeline connectivity and real-time automated decisions. And through design thinking, we identify and address problems by deeply understanding human behavior.

We can deliver transformative solutions that address complex challenges by integrating these three crucial elements—smart algorithms, exceptional engineering, and thoughtful design. 

Reducing error 1/e = d * c* t

The second equation puts a lens on reducing error by bringing in more data, higher computational power, and better technique. Let’s illustrate this with an example. 

In October 2011, Apple introduced Siri, its virtual assistant. However, at that time, Siri’s performance was far from satisfactory. Users reported significant issues with its ability to comprehend accents, understand questions, and accurately interpret user intent. The error rates were alarmingly high.

But over the following four years, everything changed. Adoption of Siri soared, and error rates plummeted. The key to this remarkable reduction in error lay in the combination of several factors. First, more data became available, allowing Siri to learn from a broader range of inputs. Second, computing power increased, enabling faster and more complex calculations. Lastly, there were advancements in the techniques employed to train and refine Siri’s algorithms.

The confluence of these factors led to a substantial improvement in Siri’s performance. At the organizational level, to reduce error rates, there must be a culture where mistakes are celebrated. In the world of AI, one can learn only when there is an error.

Organizational effectiveness OE = T*C*G

The final equation we adhere to defines the effectiveness of organizations utilizing AI as a function of talent, culture, and governance. Remarkable AI companies understand that exceptional talent yields significantly higher productivity than average talent. This phenomenon is observed in professional sports, where top players earn five to seven times more than their counterparts. In the fast-paced AI landscape, where knowledge quickly becomes outdated, top talent capable of adapting and embracing new methods and techniques can outperform their peers by a wide margin.

Moreover, it is crucial to acknowledge the immense power of great AI. Ensuring its safety, human-centeredness, and ethical implementation drives organizational effectiveness. Organizations that successfully combine talent, culture, and governance not only achieve outstanding AI success within their walls but also contribute to positive advancements on a global scale.

At the heart of this equation lies the understanding that investing in exceptional talent yields exponential returns. Organizations can drive innovation, push boundaries, and consistently outperform their competition by attracting and nurturing top talent. Recognizing the value of great talent is key to staying ahead in the rapidly evolving AI landscape.

Furthermore, fostering a culture that embraces adaptability, collaboration, and continuous learning is paramount. In an environment where the pace of change is relentless, a culture that encourages experimentation, knowledge sharing, and embracing new approaches becomes a competitive advantage. Through a strong organizational culture, talented individuals’ collective potential can be harnessed to achieve remarkable results.

Lastly, governance is crucial in ensuring AI’s responsible and ethical application. Organizations must prioritize the well-being of individuals and society, proactively addressing privacy, bias, and transparency concerns. By integrating ethical considerations into every stage of AI development and deployment, organizations can build trust, foster long-term relationships, and positively impact the world.

By understanding and optimizing the equation of talent, culture, and governance, organizations can unleash the full potential of AI. They can drive internal success and contribute to shaping a future where AI benefits humanity. At Fractal, we continue to build a talented team, nurture a progressive culture, and prioritize ethical practices as we drive meaningful AI innovation.

The road forward

Unwavering morality and ethics drive our dedication to delivering value to clients and society. Doing what’s right for them is the essence of true success, fostering trust and enduring partnerships.

Strategic mergers have played a vital role in our growth journey, granting access to exceptional talent, new markets, and cutting-edge technologies. The powerful integration of AI, engineering, and design lies at the core of our value proposition, enabling us to redefine industries and empower our clients’ businesses.

Our unwavering commitment to ethics will be as important as the harmonious convergence of AI, engineering, and design in everything we do. Fractal is determined to be a trusted partner on our clients’ transformative journey as we continue shaping the future and achieving extraordinary outcomes in an ever-evolving world.

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Srikanth Velamakanni

Co-founder, Group Chief Executive & Vice-Chairman, Fractal

In his role as Group CEO, Srikanth leads the Fractal group of companies which includes the core business, along with other distinct entities such as,, and other product companies. Srikanth believes in extreme client centricity and taking a long-term view of business. He is also the Co-founder and Trustee of Plaksha University, a collective philanthropic effort to reimagine technology education and research.
Srikanth graduated from IIT Delhi and IIM Ahmedabad. He considers himself a lifelong student of AI, mathematics, and the behavioral sciences.

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