This article is a narration of co-creating an AI product with a domain expert. While writing this article, there were several parallel streams of thought that were playing in my head and I just could not push them aside. Instead, I’ve to let them gel into the content of this article.
Hence, I forewarn you that this article also includes few of my reflections on the political economy!
A few months back, I had several set of discussions with a domain expert on Digital Marketing. His institute’s brand is reputed throughout India. He has trained several hundreds of students in Digital Marketing and almost all of them are well-placed in organizations within and outside India.
During our discussions, he felt a need for building a platform to engage: a) potential, b) existing and c) past students towards life-long sharing of knowledge and skills. And, he asked me, if AI could be of any help in building such a platform together.
His solicitation triggered a couple of quick questions in my head:
- Who will buy the platform?
- And, is he looking forward to a life-long career in upgrading his knowledge and skills specific to his domain?
The first question was answered by the potential number of his existing or past students (employees) who could subscribe to our SaaS platform.
However, the second question is more of a commitment by the domain expert. And, as the question was posed by him, the answer was obvious.
This led me to another question:
- What does it take for the domain expert to think and act like a life-long knowledge partner or companion to the students (or past students who are now employees in various organizations) in their hour of need – 24×7?
While a partner or a companion sounds more condescending or altruistic, nevertheless, the expert should get paid for his time and efforts. Also, he should spend time in honing his own knowledge and skills related to the domain. And, finally he should be in a position to sustain this entire partnership with current and future students.
The uncertainty around the word, should, as highlighted in the above respective phrases has become vivid and is possible with an institutional mechanism of his current business!
The current situation of his business:
- He has a registered firm that is a legal entity by all means of doing a business legally in India
- The business has a very good website that explains what they do and where they are located along with the list of courses that they offer
- The business has subscribed to Intercom chat product that is integrated to their website to answer questions from potential students and site visitors
- Additionally, his business’s WhatsApp # is shared on their website to talk to him or his admin manager.
If one thinks like a typical Indian of yesteryears – who is not ambitious and is complacent of his achievements thus far, the above business model of running his institute augers well – as long as there is steady footfall of students who are signing-up for the courses offered by his institute.
But, by the very constitution of the process of wealth creation through the means of private capital, a business environment is never static. And, it never attains a state of equilibrium for the businesses to be in a state of complacency!
If not the self-interest of the private owners who aim to maximize profits, the market forces could also play a decisive role in ensuring that the very nature of the business environment stays dynamic or in a state of unstable equilibrium!
How else can one explain the busts and bubbles in a Capitalist system that expands and contracts the demand for the products and services produced by freemen of a nation?
Further, the market forces could be as simple as other competitors (which in the context of our article, it could be other Industry experts), or, they could be the buyers with their ever changing/ shifting motivations or preferences that are entropic!
This is a typical predicament of not just the domain expert that I was talking of, but, of most of the business owners – whether small or a big corporation.
In this context, I recollect a quote from the famous management guru – Peter Drucker – who famously said that the purpose of a business is to gain/retain customers!
So essentially, as I see, the question boils down to:
- What is the cost of new customer acquisition of the business?
- What is the customer life cycle value?
As I see, the entire costs of doing business in hiring and maintaining sales/business development personnel with the associated marketing collateral, including advertising, can be summed-up to the above two metrics.
Further I see that the first metric is more quantitative, which is proportional to the number of sales/marketing resources that a business can deploy – including men and material.
I personally do not like this first metric as human beings are counted as chicken heads or diminished in terms of “head” count, which as a word, we seem to have inherited from the age-old military branch of army called as “Infantry”. The word sounds so-medieval, where rulers are interested in the number of their subjects (not freemen) being part of the infantry who could fight a war walking on foot for miles together – often crossing geographies that are thousands of miles apart!
The second metric, as I see, is more of qualitative nature and is proportional to the quality of engagement of the post-sales process in the business. In other words, this metric defines the brand-loyalty or long-term relationship between the business and the customers.
Coming back to our article, the question is:
- How does our domain expert engage in long-term relationship with his potential, existing and also, the past students?
After several hours of discussions, we’ve rounded off on an AI/NLP based platform that could be launched with Proxzar as the engine behind the platform and the front-end looks similar to what the initial users are accustomed to – which is a simple user interface like a Chat interface or a mobile application. Though the interface looks simple, it can be both scaled-up and scaled-out (as the platform is cloud hosted) easily by building several downstream products that past students can subscribe to and start engaging with the domain expert or his proxy 24×7.