"Everything that can be automated will be automated," says Vargha Moayed, the Chief Strategy Officer of UiPath, as he talks to Praveen Bhadada, Managing Partner, Zinnov about his vision for UiPath, and his perspectives on the future of Automation, in this latest episode of the Zinnov Podcast – Hyper Intelligent Automation series. Vargha gives us a glimpse of his three-decades-long career, from his first job all the way to his current role at UiPath. And post the success of UiPath’s IPO at the NYSE, he also shares his vision for the newly minted public company, as they scale even more over the next few years.
Vargha goes on to explain the concept of Full Automation and how enterprises can leverage it to become fully automated enterprises, while also laying down the four fundamentals that enterprises need to be aware of while choosing an Automation partner. He also shares a book recommendation in the end, which left an impact on him.
Praveen: Hello everyone, and welcome back to another exciting episode of the Zinnov Podcast - Hyper-Intelligent Automation series, the most revered destination to listen to the who’s who of the global automation industry. It is our endeavor at Zinnov to bring you the unique perspectives of leading automation experts, and innovators, and hear about the technology’s evolution, their own journey, and what the future holds for the automation space.
I am Praveen, Managing Partner at Zinnov, and I’m glad to be your host today.
Today, we have with us, Vargha Moayed, the Chief Strategy Officer of UiPath, which as you all know, is fresh off a very successful IPO. Sitting out of the beautiful country of Spain today, Vargha has been leading one of the most successful automation companies of our time. Vargha has been on the professional scene for over 30 years now and has seen and done it all. In this episode, we will be learning a lot more about him, his vision for UiPath, and his perspectives on the future of automation.
Praveen: It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Vargha, today.
Vargha: Thank you, Praveen. It’s a pleasure to be with you guys. Thank you for having me.
Praveen: Awesome. We’ve tried to track a journey over the last three decades from being a founder to many start-ups, to being a consultant with reputed firms. And most recently as the Chief Strategy Officer of UiPath, some three years ago. It definitely seems like a journey full of vast and varied experiences. It’ll be great if you can give us a rundown of your journey so far, right from the time you began to the current role at UiPath.
Vargha: Okay. I’ll try to summarize 30 years of experience. If you try to look at it from the outside, it looks like a bit of a schizophrenic career because I did that between a very entrepreneurial ventures as well as was working for a large corporation either directly or as a consultant. But I always find the two sides fascinating. I’m also one of those people who believes that you can do it all in life, just not concurrently, but you can lead your life in two chapters. So, to cut a relatively long story short, I started the first job that I took, was fresh out of business school. I decided to actually be a salesperson at Canon. That was an odd choice, which was not the traditional choice for most of my colleagues. And I always believe that you need to know how to sell. And indeed, it was a great experience of resilience and humility.
Soon after that, I started my first company with a pharmacist and a developer, where we created a company to automate work in pharmacies. After that, I went and did an MBA in the US, and then joined McKinsey & Company, where I was fortunate enough to be in telecom. The industry was really going through a lot of changes. So, it was an exciting time to head back to the large corporations to figure out this very related environment and the rise of the Internet. So, some really interesting strategic work there.
Then when I left McKinsey to join a Fortune 500 company called First Data, already at the time as the Chief Strategy Officer and corporate development with the mandate to figure out the Internet for First Data, which actually spun off an interesting company in itself. After that, we went back to a little bit of, again, an entrepreneurial route and started an incubator with Goldman Sachs as the lead. And we launched 12 start-ups and that was the boom and bust of the Internet. Went back to more corporate with, helping restructure and privatize the largest oil company in Romania. And then joined the EY as the Consulting Partner. Literally, I would say the first month I joined EY, it just happened that I stumbled upon UiPath and Daniel Dines, whose office is literally two blocks away from mine, in Bucharest.
I started having an informal relationship with Daniel when we would speak. And I was very impressed by the product as well as by Daniel’s personality, and the ability to change and learn. And then started with the results of the UiPath practice, really the UI, which then morphed into the EMEA Center of Excellence. And almost three and a half years ago, decided to jump ship. I actually joined UiPath full-time, as UiPath was about to become a unicorn. And I think the rest, I’m not going to say it’s history, because we’re far from finished, but we’ve been able to take a relatively unknown Romanian company, public.
Praveen: So great. This seems awesome, Vargha. The last three decades packaged together in a variety of experiences that you’ve had. I’m particularly intrigued about your experiences in the RPA world and the fact that you met Daniel in 2015. What was your sense of the automation market at that point? Did you ever envision this to become as large as it has become today? What was your take on this market five years ago, when you first met Daniel in Romania?
Vargha: Obviously, it will be a lie to say that in 2015, we couldn’t fully comprehend what this market was going to be about. And probably even today, we still don’t fully comprehend what this market is going to be about, because in a way we’re creating it as we go. But one thing that struck me and the reason I believed in the technology in general and in UiPath in particular, I had this experience as an incubator before, and I was very close to my customers. So, it struck me immediately that, indeed, if a technology was capable of emulating what people are doing based on the user interface - that was a truly valuable value proposition. All the applications for my clients being obviously in the Banking sector, in the Finance sector, and HR.
Then we tried to involve one of our early clients in Romania, which was a bank - to test whether UiPath technology was really what it was meant to be. Because at the time, the reason I discovered RPA was through Blue Prism. One of my consultants had been loaned from Romania to our British colleagues and had one of the very first RPA implementations for an insurance company using Blue Prism. And when he came back, I said, I wonder if there is another company that does something similar. We literally discovered UiPath Googling it and then realized it was a Romanian company.
So, from the get go, I was very much a believer that it was a truly useful thing for the clients. And then as time went on, I started realizing how large of an opportunity it is, obviously. And also, based on our own roadmap, we have increased that, if you will, our total addressable market by adding I think a platform perspective and adding adjacent technology to what we do.
Praveen: Awesome. And from that point in 2015 to today, where UiPath is already a public listed company. And you had a massive IPO last month. And many congratulations to you and your entire team, Vargha.
We came across some really cool pictures, from the day on social media. And of course, you were present in person to witness this historic moment. Tell us a little bit about what was going through your head. What were the emotions like, being part of such a momentous occasion?
Vargha: Well, I think the first one was pride. Pride at the personal level and pride at the company level. Pride of indeed taking a relatively unknown company from a relatively unknown location - Romania; may remind you that perhaps with the exception of a company outside of Romania, in the security market, there has never been really a globally successful Romanian firm. So, this notion of having taken something that’s an underdog and making it a global leader, is a matter of very high collective pride for all of us at UiPath. And pride of having played a role, obviously it’s a team effort.
And I’m not going to say that being listed in the New York Stock Exchange is the destination, but it is definitely a milestone moment for the journey. It’s the day that sometimes I say, when you take a private company public, is like the day where you become an adult. The parallel that I make is which the Jewish faith, is the day of your Bar Mitzvah. You’re no longer a kid, now you’re an adult. So, it was a mixture of all of that - pride for what we have done. And at the same time, immediately, the sense of responsibility of what is left to be done.
Praveen: Absolutely. And now that UiPath has turned into adulthood, let’s talk a little bit more about the journey from this point. And we clearly see that since your IPO days, you started promoting the concept of Full Automation for an enterprise. I remember when we were talking to you about this concept at our last call, you had given us an early preview of what this could mean for an enterprise.
So, for the benefit of our audience on the podcast today, it’ll be great if you can give a view in terms of what really is Full Automation and how is UiPath going about it in the market?
Vargha: The concept of Full Automation starts with what we believe now, that the technology has arrived to a point where anything that can be automated will be automated within an enterprise. Until now, there was always this difficulty of automating, I would say, the last mile. Witness the entire BPO industry where humans were basically in essence, using swivel chair integration tools. And the difficulty was because there was not a technology that was agile enough, cost effective enough, fast enough to allow to actually do that last mile of Automation.
We believe today that, with a platform such as the one we have built, you can actually do that. Because you can do it for multiple reasons, because we are combining basically four essential features. One is the user interface integration, which allows for a lot of versatility. The second is the Low Code. I always hesitate to use the word No Code because I don’t think it exists yet. So Low Code, in the sense that, to be able to automate you’ll have to democratize it. More people can be part of building the Automation. It will become a co-production between IT and business, which takes away some of the barriers of the ROI. You no longer need just the very expensive specialized talents to do it. The third is scalability. We can actually now do it at scale. We can have thousands and thousands of hundred thousands processes simultaneously being automated. And the fourth is this platform notion. We are integrating not only UI-based integration, but also API management, also injecting Artificial Intelligence (AI) where it matters. So, bringing it all under one roof. So one roof, scalable, democratization, and UI-based integration.
And if you put it all together, we’re finally, from a technological standpoint, have arrived at a point where companies can simultaneously integrate complex processes as well as simple tasks, and then connect all of it under seemingly one platform and help the notion of Full Automation. Everything that can be automated will be automated and can be cost effectively and relatively easily automated now.
Praveen: Truly love it. I think the whole concept of Full Automation pertaining to the fact that everything that’s automatable will be automated in a cost effective, efficient, progressive way. I think it seems like the mantra of how the Automation technology will evolve in itself.
And, if we turn to how enterprises and small businesses are looking at Automation as a key business driver, specifically since the time of the pandemic, where the needs of Automation have even become a lot more prominent - what are you observing as the top two or three changes in the way enterprises are approaching Automation? And in the same vein, are there things that they’re not doing right, to be able to derive the maximum benefits of their Automation initiatives?
Vargha: I think, yes, there are two things. What the pandemic has done, and I’ve seen some jokes at the time - they said, who is your Chief Digital Officer? And then, this cartoon says it’s COVID-19. So, I think what the pandemic has done, it has shown the urgency to do things. It has shown that companies will be faced with the necessity to automate according to workflows. In the case of the hospitality industry, the workflow of cancellation. Same thing for the airlines. In the hospitals, the workflow of being able to do in a rapid and cost effective way, all the administration that is related with providing vaccination to people and reporting to some sort of a central administration. All of a sudden, they realized that they needed a tool where you can automate according to a workflow, very fast and leveraging legacy system. So, they realize something that we knew for a long time. That digital debt these days are created in a matter of months, not in a matter of years. And then the solution to these constantly being requiring to digitize a workflow cannot be a full stack of applications that requires months and months of development and deployment, cannot be only API-based either. But it’s a continuum. You need a tool in the middle that’s combined UI-based digitization and API-based digitization so that you can quickly automate according to the workflow. So, the sense of urgency, and realizing how many of those you actually have within the company - that’s what the pandemic was able to bring about.
Now, once you’ve done that, what is still missing, or rather the journey on which clients are going is to realize, ‘oh my God, this is not something that I only need in case of a pandemic. Actually, this notion that I will constantly need to invent and reinvent digitization according to the workflow - it is something that is a constant.’ In other words, rapid change is a constant. So, I need a tool and this is extremely, in fact, a strategic tool, because that is the tool that allow me to indeed reach this Full Automation, that I was mentioning before.
So, from the famous low-hanging fruit, from this, having answered in a very agile way, something that was thrusted upon them because of the pandemic. The more proactive clients are now moving into getting organized, to be able to systematically automate everything that can be automated with a combination of a bottom-up approach for task automation and a top-down approach for more complex automation. Working together to actually building literally an Automation roadmap, workflow after workflow, major processes after major processes. So, going from being just reactive to now being proactive about it, that is the next challenge for all the large organizations.
Praveen: Yeah. I think you make a very good point, Vargha, in terms of being proactive instead of reactive. And since the time we have been tracking this industry, we have seen that a large part of its evolution centered around companies or enterprises, really getting fascinated about the potential of the tools that are out there in the market, be it UiPath or any of your other peers in the market. Only to realize that a tool-based approach may not deliver the best outcome or the total outcomes that enterprises are really looking for.
As they think of this proactive approach, we are observing that enterprises are taking a process-first approach, instead of a tool-first approach. And when they look at process, they think of efficiencies, and as a downstream of that, they think of the tools that might be relevant. So, one, I want to get your reaction, whether that’s the trend you’re observing, and if that’s the case, then is Automation in the views of enterprises - are they moving on to think of automation, only as RPA, versus looking at all kinds of other technologies and convergence of that at some level, to be able to derive the maximum benefits from it? What’s your take on those scenarios?
Vargha: Well, reality is messy, right? And people come at it from very different vantage points. Some people still have a tool approach. Some people have more of a process approach. Some people have a mixture, starting with the tool and went through the process. So, in reality, we see a mixture of all of it. Some people understand it as a personal productivity because RPA allows to automate tasks.
And again, you’re right, there is RPA and what we’re trying to do is also within a larger trend that I mentioned earlier, which is kind of this general Automation of workflow, thanks to Low Code tools. If you look at it in a bigger way, it’s a larger trend. And so, some people are looking at it through the RPA angle and are following our evolution. That is what we are becoming and building as we go. So, we have acquired recently an API management platform and merging the two. Others are looking at it from a little bit of a more complex approach, which is this Low Code workflow Automation tools. And obviously, we’re going to see a convergence of these two markets and probably most, very large organizations will have an array of tools and will deploy them depending on the case.
Praveen: Sure. And that’s one big question that we oftentimes get from our customers and the enterprise customers as well, Vargha. The fact that there are about 1500 odd Automation platforms claiming to have different capabilities to support a customer’s journey on Automation. It makes it a very difficult task for enterprise customers to find the right tool, really navigate this labyrinth of choices that they have at their disposal today. So, what’s your advice to companies? This might go beyond just UiPath as a tool, but as a strategic recommendation to customers, once they’ve made up their mind on Automation being the focus area for them, how should they go about selecting the right technology?
Vargha: Well, obviously my answer is going to be tainted by our vision of the market. So, I’m sure everybody will understand that. I do believe that there is this necessity of taking a tool that is scalable and secure. That’s kind of a base. Second, I do believe a lot in this notion of democratization, that you need to have a tool that is not something that only a limited number of IT professionals can use. Because with that you will never get to Full Automation. ROI doesn’t work, the bandwidth - you won’t have enough people. So, you need a tool that really democratizes Automation.
And the third, I think it is extremely difficult to do UI integration at the level at which we have done it at UiPath. Because scratching the surface of UI integration seems easy. And a lot of people pretend to do it or do it in a limited fashion. But being able to do it in a resilient way, using Computer Vision, being able to do it for green screens, for legacy system. So, whatever tool you choose, you have to make sure that UI capabilities is really top notch as well as scalability, as well as democratization in the development. And finally, as well as seamless integration of Artificial Intelligence, where it matters. So, these are really four fundamentals. And I must say that I don’t think that many vendors can actually check all these boxes today, properly.
Praveen: Sure. And we know that you have a major release announcement coming up this Thursday, Vargha. If possible, I think if we can talk to the audience about what to expect in the short term, and more importantly, how will the next five years of UiPath going to be very different from the last five years? If we can touch upon that, that’ll be awesome too.
Vargha: I think for the release, there will be the UI path live where it’s going to be talked in much detail by our Chief Product Officer. And we continue on our path to integrate seamlessly more and more elements of the platform whether it is for Process Discovery; as you know, we acquired again, 18 months ago, a Process Discovery tool. So that it’s actually a journey where people can do Process Mining, we introduced now Task Mining, which allows our clients to actually discover what it is that they want to automate all the way to the apps experience, which we are pushing even further. We’re also integrating the entire test Automation, because the journey of building you want to make the testing also easy and seamless. And then all the way into the product we call Insight, which is basically a business intelligence tool that is able to monitor and see whether your Automation is performing according to your initial objective. So, this notion of integrating more and more, the elements of the platform, this is what you are going to see with the new release, as well as some really neat, new features such as Task Mining.
Generally speaking, if we look forward, it is this notion of providing democratization. Everyone talks about Low Code/No Code, but in reality, I don’t think anybody delivers truly No Code. This is something that I’m dreaming of. And I think it will be my kind of prediction that No Code will become a reality, perhaps even sooner than five years, where you could literally say to a ‘robot, please observe what I'm doing,’ and then literally push a button now to automate what I’ve just done. If you think all the technological pieces are there, but it will take time together. We have the ability to record. We have Machine Learning. So, you could imagine that eventually, we’ll have what I call self-scripting, and then we would truly, truly have No Code. And then we will truly, truly automate everything that can be automated.
So, that’s something that obviously is at the crossroad of Automation and Artificial Intelligence and data capture - that is very exciting to think about going forward. And then, seamlessly bringing all of these elements of the technology that participate into Automation, from Task Mining, Process Mining, through development, through the utilization of apps, which again democratizes, even more, the development of Automation - that is, I think for the moment where we’re heading in what I think will bring the most value for our customers.
Praveen: I think, I can’t wait to see the updates that you announce and how UiPath in its new chapter and its new avatar, unfolds over the next several years and truly takes the position of the bellwether in the industry and continue to dominate the market.
I think before we let you go, Vargha, one of the things I like to do with my participants on this podcast is to get one quick recommendation from them. This recommendation could be a recent book that you might have read, a new cuisine that you might have tried, now that you are in Spain. What is that one thing that the audience can take as a recommendation from you, as part of the podcast?
Vargha: You kind of surprise me with this question, but I think one book that I’ve read that I really enjoyed, is called Range. And it’s a very good book and it spoke a lot to me because basically, this gentleman in his book chose the importance of being able to have basically range, in the world where more and more, we need hyper specialists. Every endeavor has become so complex and there is also a very important role to be played by, for the lack of a better word, I’m going to call it a hyper generalist. And this obviously spoke dearly to me as I kind of recognize myself. But being able to see the big picture and connect the dots between many things - it’s a skillset and a mindset that is going to be very precious, particularly in the world of technology, when we think of reinventing the way people work. It’s very important to simultaneously understand technology, how people work and have a very wide perspective on things in addition to being supported by really specialists. So, it’s a book that I highly recommend to everyone.
Praveen: Amazing, totally love it. I think Range is one of my favorite books as well. Absolutely love the book and absolutely agree to your points of views on that book.
Vargha, this was a truly delightful session with you. Not only did we learn more about you as a leader, but also a lot on your points of views on the future of Automation. We hope that our listeners found the session, as interesting and insightful as we did.
Thank you everyone for tuning into this episode of the Zinnov Podcast, Hyper-Intelligent Automation series. Have a fantastic time ahead and we’ll be back with another episode very, very soon. Thank you so much. Thanks, Vargha.
Vargha: Thank you for having me.
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