Simmi Bajaj

Former head of CRM
ODEON Cinemas UK and Ireland

Path to power

A degree in Management Science (applying the science of maths and stats to optimise business goals) led me to my first job as a data analyst at a boutique marketing consultancy where I was responsible for analysing large databases and building predictive models.

I then had various roles managing analyst teams at Sky, 3 and then O2, which trusted me to move outside of my analytics box to take on a data-driven commercial role. I loved having a commercial target and using customer decisioning tools to maximise revenue and retention for inbound marketing.

In 2007, I had a personal ambition to work in India and was serendipitously offered a role to build the CRM capabilities at Vodafone India. I was in data heaven (with a population of 1.3 billion, you can imagine the volumes of data held in companies like Vodafone) and thrived on the opportunities this presented in terms of optimisation of marketing operations.

Coming back to the UK, I took a CRM role at Playfish (a mobile gaming company taken over by Electronic Arts) where the data was completely different to any organisation I had previously worked for. Tons of data, but only a small percentage of customers contribute to revenue (the Pareto principle is exaggerated in gaming), so the smallest change in strategy results in significant revenue uplift.

Since Playfish, I have been working as a CRM consultant and thoroughly enjoy bringing my love of data and data-driven marketing to every client I work with.

What has been the highlight of your career in the industry to date?

Definitely getting my break at O2 and moving from an analyst role into a data-driven commercial role. I was so grateful to O2 for trusting me to take this role to another level. Every subsequent role I have had has been about using data to leverage commercial opportunities and my analytical background has always helped me to unearth and maximise data opportunities.

What do you expect 2018 to be like for the data and analytics industry?

Clearly, GDPR is having a huge impact on how organisations collect, hold and manage their data, and also how they communicate the reasons for collecting data with their customers. 2018 will enable many organisations to start from a clean slate, with active and engaged customers who are willing to share their data with organisations they trust.

I am also really interested in how the digital world merges with the physical world and how this translates into the data and tech world. It will be really interesting to see how retail companies with a digital presence track customer behaviours both offline and online (eg, Amazon and Whole Foods). I find this fusion of the online and offline world very exciting from a data perspective.

So - why did you choose data?

It was a natural fit for my degree and love of numbers. After my first job, I quickly saw the benefits that data analysis could bring to any business and each role I have taken has made me a stronger advocate for the capture and use of data at every touch point of every organisation. I am passionate about making people realise the value of the data we have and to be data-driven at the core of everything we do.

What is the best thing about working in the data industry?

The opportunities data gives you in terms of insight and then using the insight to build strategies which optimise revenue and growth. Anyone who knows me will often hear me saying how much I love data! It is so powerful when you know firstly how to get it, use it, understand it and then apply it to business strategies.

If you were granted one wish to change something about the data industry, what would it be?

Every established organisation has challenges and legacies with data and data infrastructure. I would love for the challenges of building powerful platforms simply to go away so that we can “plug and play” and tap into the benefits of using data.

What advice would you give to somebody thinking of a career in this sector?

Be inquisitive and keep digging. Sometimes, the top layer of data or insights doesn’t tell you everything. You have to dig deeper, slice the data in other ways and understand the context of your business to find real nuggets, which could be gold in your business strategy.



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