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ZINNOV PODCAST   |   Business Resilience

The ‘Crowd’ing Glory in an Enterprise’s Talent Arsenal

Sumit Kaushik
Sumit Kaushik SVP & Head of Technology, Media & Telecommunications, Americas (West Coast) Virtusa

Crowdsourcing as a model for building resilient, antifragile organizations is not a new trend. However, the pandemic seems to have affected the way this model is being employed. Sumit Kaushik, SVP, and Head of Technology, Media and Telecom Business, West Coast for Virtusa discusses the past, present, and future of the crowdsourcing model with Amit Kulkarni, Principal at Zinnov.

Sumit also elaborates on how enterprises are now focused on building a culture around innovation and agility with the help of crowdsourcing platforms. Especially in a post-pandemic world, organizations are leveraging crowdsourcing as a model to engage, collaborate, and have multiple teams work on solving a common problem. He also touches upon the external and internal lens on crowdsourcing and how certain industry verticals are early adopters of the model to bring innovation and agility to the organization.


Amit: Hello everyone, and welcome to our all new Zinnov Podcast, as part of our Business Resilience series.

I am Amit Kulkarni, principal Zinnov and I’ll be your host for today.

Over the last 15 months, we’ve seen organizations build resilience, build antifragile organizations by leveraging crowdsourcing, as one of the most important aspects. To shed light on the subject I have with me today, Sumit Kaushik, SVP, and Head of Technology, Media and Telecom business, West Coast for Virtusa. He has over two decades of experience and has been instrumental in creating large accounts and partnerships. In his current role, Sumit is responsible for the overall P & L management, business goals strategy, and execution.

Welcome Sumit. Great to have you with us today.

Sumit: Thanks, Amit. Happy and excited to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.

Amit: What is the Genesis of the crowdsourcing model?

Sumit: So, Amit just to give some perspective out here, this is not a newer model per se. It’s been in existence for over a decade, and it’s seen a resurgence, or it has seen a growth post pandemic. But the Genesis has been primarily more to do with solving large problems with human intelligence.

What we’ve seen is when you’re looking at content, when you’re looking at trying to ideate on certain problems, that’s where in this crowdsourcing model has been very prevalent. And that stems from the need of enterprises to look outward for either a validation on some of the products that they’re about to launch or to improve the quality of the product. So, pretty age old, I would say a model, but which has a fairly significant growth and maturity in the past decade.

Amit: Although crowdsourcing as a concept has been around for a long time. The way organizations leverage it has evolved. With the pandemic, giving it a shot in the arm as well. How have organizations typically used crowdsourcing? How has it changed now, given the pandemic and the shift in organizational priorities?

Sumit: Absolutely. Let me take a step back and pretty much first talk about what it was pre-pandemic.

A lot of the enterprises on a crowdsource platform would pretty much go in for small quantum of work and that would typically involve things around doing either a small mobile app development, or it could be in terms of testing a particular product in be geography where they internally would not have resources. So, they would go on certain platforms like, Amazon Mechanical Turks right, a very important and a very prevalent model from Amazon, which people would go in and outsource that particular task to a pool of workers, which pretty much are working in in a gig economy, if I may. So, they are doing certain part-time work. They are involved in doing this piece of work in their off hours to have a dual income. So that’s the kind of model which typically would happen in the past, fast-forwarded to now, in terms of post COVID.

COVID situation just, was unfathomable for a lot of enterprises. A lot of customers didn’t actually have VCPs ready when it came to, such a calamity. The most important thing that became was how do they service their customers and how do they service even their employees, when it comes to remoting. And because of this particular phenomenon, you could see customers looking at different models and different options to still get their job done. Primary focus being on the customers. And that’s where in you suddenly saw a resurgence, as far as the platform is concerned and task around those platforms evolved to pretty much giving more customer success-based projects. You would see testing of products, be it hardware, or be it software, which started getting outsourced as far as the platforms are concerned.

And even when you look at industry maturity curve, when it comes to AI and ML, has significantly contributed a lot towards the adoption, as far as the platform goes. So interesting times when it comes to post COVID and the growth factor when it comes to this platform. Especially around enterprises, adopting remoting as one of the key drivers to get their job done.

Amit: Got it. And any example or any such area which you would have worked on in the last 15 months, where in you’ve made a clear-cut impact, by leveraging this particular model.

Sumit: We do have Amit a platform which focuses on gig workers, as well as focuses on the crowdsourced model.

We have been working with one of our customers, it’s been over, I would say a four-year old relationship on the project. Where post COVID, we pretty much moved our workforce as well as got in newer gig workers, on that platform to pretty much look at improving the Ads quality. And that was launched for 14 countries. And we’ve got close to around 1000 people within this particular workflow, that currently support different ratings, as far as Ads with the primary goal of improving the Ads quality.

So, we continue to build, as far as this particular model in different geographies and the 14 countries I’m talking about are mainly within Europe.

Amit: Got it. That’s very interesting, right. And now continuing to what you mentioned in terms of how companies are looking at servicing their customers, also, they’re looking at how do they service their internal employees, right.

How do you think outsourcing is different from an internal vs. external lens? And how are each of these linked to business values?

Sumit: So, two different aspects as we talked about, when people are looking or maybe enterprises. When you look at enterprises looking at the internal function. The most important part when they’re looking at crowdsourcing is more around innovation, more around ideation, the intrinsic value or the business value that pretty much is derived around it, is to build a culture around innovation, agility, having flexibility to do, validating your hypothesis, validating your approach towards certain solutions, validating a product within a geographical space. It all drives from actually this particular piece.

Post COVID, there’s a major emphasis by our customers on the employee well-being, especially their employees, which are spread across geographies and global enterprises. They are using this platform to engage, to collaborate, and have multiple teams, work on solving a common problem. Every enterprise has pockets of excellence and pockets of expertise, and to get all that together, you pretty much are using more of a crowdsourced platform, to derive and engage their employees together. So that’s, that’s one-way enterprises are looking at an internal business value.

From an external side, it’s always around organizations, having an obsession to improve their quality of the product. We typically have seen, how enterprises now are looking at especially products, which are meant for global scale. What you do to actually improve the quality? There are certain products as an example where, if you need to actually test in an emerging country, which is more around looking into their infrastructure, looking into their 3G networks or even their Wi-Fi, you pretty much are trying to have these products tested in region. You’re getting a feedback from the consumers firsthand, so that you can improve your products. And that’s golden. Happy customers lead to higher revenue, higher bottom line. So that’s how companies are pretty much looking at more from an external standpoint.

Amit: Got it. Perfect. You also mentioned that you have at Virtusa, a crowdsourcing platform, right? So how are you positioning your current platform or crowdsourcing offering? And how are you articulating the value proposition to your customers?

Sumit: Yeah, Amit. For us, when we look at crowdsourcing as a model post COVID, companies like us, services players, pretty much always look at innovating business model. Now crowdsourcing as a model, is its pitch more from an outcome-based model. Where customers are pretty much having needs around either a spurt or a spike, when it comes to completing a particular task. And especially when you have a large geographical presence that is needed to deliver on that task. So, we use this platform to drive outcomes and deliver these outcomes in a global scaled operation. So that’s something that we do.

The way that we have looked and the vision that we have for this platform is more around creating virtual delivery centers for our customers. It still has to go to that maturity curve, but the way that we’ve built it is more around getting in an open talent on this platform via certified partner networks. So pretty much we have and continue to certify certain partners on to the platform, to get in workers of different expertise; not necessarily just purely around technical, but Product Management, UX, Test engineering, playing a very important role. The most important model or the way for crowdsourcing to work is to have varied talent pool on your platform, so that you can actually deliver for a customer ask, in different shape and form. Be it in Sales, Marketing, or an Engineering function.

So, we built this platform to pretty much look at certain AI-based quality controls, which have been put in. We put in gamification so that the productivity and the gig workers are engaged continuously, which is leading to obviously a faster turnaround time for customers to get their tasks completed. And since its outcome based, it has a flex pool; you could actually have a core pool of workers working on your particular task. It’s also more cost-effective for customers, because they’re paying for mainly the outcomes vs. the worker.

Amit: Got it. Now, we’ve spoken about, the kind of aspects to crowdsourcing. Now what are the underlying factors that you’re seeing driving companies to adopt this? Is there a particular industry where you’re seeing a lot more adoption rather? And is the style of leadership or the structure of the organization also influencing crowdsourcing decisions?

Sumit: Typically, Amit, we’ve seen start-ups do a good job at it. Primarily because they have a shortage of resources to pretty much get their tasks done. So traditionally it’s been always the start-ups and smaller to mid-size companies, which have embarked on crowdsourcing as a model, with varying degree of success in their minds. But of late, in industries, it spreads across right from Hi-Tech to Telco to Media, but we’ve had early adopters in enterprises like GE, Procter & Gamble, General Motors, has used crowdsourcing as a model for some time now. And where you have over multimillion-dollar initiatives from an innovation standpoint, on crowd sourced platform. So, we seeing enterprises actually getting into this model, trying to explore it, with different needs within their enterprises.

But most importantly, what drivers that we are seeing is with AI and ML becoming more commercialized where enterprises are adopting to this model. We starting to see even the decoding that is being happening, which is more around soft coding, which is more about an input being provided through data. Which is helping companies adopt this model far more prevalently, because today for data, you require data curation. For a data scientist, you require a curated data to train their AI ML models, to drive intelligence for the enterprises. So that’s one driver that we’re seeing very prevalent.

The second is if you look at the mobile app market overall is growing in, by 2026, it’s going to be close to around 400-odd Billion and growing at a CAGR of 18.4%. What that means is there’s going to be more mobile apps in the marketplace. And these mobile apps are going to be more global in nature targeted towards a particular demographic within certain countries, which would require more testing of these applications, so that the consumers have a much better product. And that’s leading to a lot of crowdsourcing on usability testing, functional testing, on this platform.

And finally, I think it’s mainly around the macro trends that we’re seeing currently in the industry which is post COVID, which is more around digital workspaces, remote working.

These are very important aspects because enterprises do realize now that remoting as a function can still help them in meeting their goals without compromising on productivity or quality. And they’ve seen that internally and that’s all that is helping us drive the adoption when it comes to crowdsourcing.

Structurally, what we’ve seen, maybe from an organization and a leadership standpoint. Organization and enterprises, which are highly agile, which are obsessed with quality of products. Which have an open inclination to get in and work with certain open talent workers. And contribute and explore options around how gig workers are going to help them fuel their growth within their enterprise. We see if an organization has those, I would say value adds within them. They have contributed significantly as far as the adoption of crowdsourcing.

Amit: Great, so they are very profound thoughts, which you just shared. I will just go to my final question, very quick. Where do you think this model is heading right? How will unlock impact this model? And what are your views on the future of such model?

Sumit: I will also talk about some criticism Amit, that this model actually has, and you will see critics talking about this far more. And, there’s always the other side to the coin, which can be used from a benefit of an enterprise.

The first criticism is, you cannot actually have large projects on this particular crowdsourced platform. The second is, the minute you build complexity into a project, your cost is going to increase. The third is, the crowd or the gig workers are not that good in terms of following up on certain task, which requires either a rewrite, or it requires a documentation or requires a maintenance. These are some of these naysayers in the industry and critics, which have for the crowdsourced model. All valid points in my mind for this to become and successfully adopted across enterprises and have a, have it working as a scaled model for the enterprises, multiple things have to happen.

One is, obviously the maturity curve of the gig workers on the platform has to increase. What I mean by that is there has to be a sense of ownership that has to come in from the gig workers. The mix of workers on the platform has to significantly change and we’re seeing that growth, especially post COVID. So, I think it’s trending in the right direction, but that has to happen.

Standardization is also important when it comes to crowdsourcing, there are different platforms that exist in the marketplace, each doing work differently. Building feature sets is very important on these platforms to support both the customers, as well as the gig workers. So that’s why some amount of standardization is very important.

And lastly, in my mind, an industry policy will have to come in, especially when it comes to certain issues around gig workers and co- employment issues. I think that that’s something that would help for the adoption of this model to be at a scaled nature over a period of time.

Amit: Well, that was an extremely insightful conversation, Sumit. I think your views on crowdsourcing, partnerships, and alliances are spot on. And the way Virtusa is enabling its customers to address challenges around the same was interesting to hear as well. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, Sumit.

Sumit: Thanks. Thanks Amit. Pleasure is all mine.

Amit: Thank you everyone for tuning into this episode of the Zinnov podcast, Businesses Resilience series. We’ll be back with a new episode with another eminent leader soon. Till then, take care, and stay safe.

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