Editor’s Note: The following interview features a GreenBook Future List honoree, Sumit Aneja. The GreenBook Future List recognizes leadership, professional growth, personal integrity, passion, and excellence in the next generation of consumer insights and marketing professionals within the first 10 years of their careers.
Introducing Sumit Aneja
Sumit is the CEO of Voxco, a leading actionable insights platform that is trusted by 450+ clients in 40+ countries. Sumit brings strong leadership to Voxco, with his experience founding companies and working at the International Monetary Fund, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, and Houlihan Lokey. Throughout his career, he’s worked at the intersection of technology, finance, and data. Sumit’s mission at Voxco is building the next-gen, AI-powered experience management platform to unlock the growth potential of medium-sized enterprises. He holds an MBA from the Yale School of Management, an MS in Financial Engineering from the Claremont Colleges Consortium, and a BE in Electrical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College.
What is something you’ve recently learned from insights?
Insights is a 50 billion dollar plus opportunity and it’s right at the heart of the technology revolution we are seeing in the world. Whether it’s customer, product, or employee experience, organizations need insights to sustain and thrive – especially in the post-Covid world as we see big changes across all three.
Insights are no longer a ‘nice have’ to showcase in meetings – acting on insights is the key differentiator separating the average company from the great. We see digital disruption happening everywhere. You see a small start-up scaling exponentially and challenging the market leader. It’s not because the market leader didn’t have tools to extract insights, but because it either failed to prioritize which insights were the most significant or it didn’t have a system in place to make those insights actionable.
I see tremendous value in making insights actionable and accessible to companies. Gathering data from all channels, forming a single source of truth layered with powerful analytics, breaking down organizational silos by sharing insights across departments, and enabling action on them are key elements in all this.
One platform to listen, measure, understand, and act on insights helps. This is what our team is building at Voxco.
What would you like the insights industry to understand about marketers, and what marketers are looking for?
With increasing digital acceleration, customer interactions with brands have increased. As a result, marketers are looking to get a complete overview of their customers by anticipating their needs, understanding their journeys, and tracking their experience with product interactions and customer satisfaction across every touchpoint. They need this information to optimize customer experience by mitigating pain points, to identify opportunities to cross-sell or upsell, to reduce customer churn, and to improve customer lifetime value.
Marketers play a key role in combining customer feedback with operational data and acting on the insights which emerge from this exercise. In order to accomplish this, what they need is a real-time inflow of customer feedback, customer interactions across various touchpoints, and operational data from multiple data sources like CRM or social media in one single platform, forming a single source of truth.
There is no dearth of data and initiatives that marketers can take based on data. The actual challenge for them is figuring out which are the most high-impact actions that they can take which actually result in more revenue, higher growth, and less churn. Quantification of benefits using Predictive analytics and ML models can help understand the best course of action to drive growth, retention, and improve revenue.
What do you consider to be key characteristics or qualities of a leader? How does this play into market research?
#1 Leading by example
This takes courage, because as a leader you will take total ownership of your actions. No excuses!
#2 Being in touch with reality
Leaders seek feedback from the world and from those around them to understand how the world works. You may stumble on a goldmine once, but sustainable success takes a nuanced understanding of how the world works.
#3 Possessing a tremendous drive for learning and self-improvement
Leaders are always trying to learn from the past and anticipate the future. Learning solely from one’s own success and failure is a rather hard road to wisdom. Leaders learn from the experiences of others and uncover time-tested principles which are relevant for the future. They are receptive and continually strive to perceive the world more accurately.
#4 Being ethical
If you cut corners when it comes to treating others fairly in all your dealings, Karma will eventually catch up with you. Leaders that I admire rank high on empathy and have a desire to contribute positively to the world.
Great market research requires one to understand how the world works, staying objective (repeatedly checking whether one’s ideas match the real world and how accurately by following an iterative process), sticking to ethical standards (you can’t cut corners), and courage (stick to what the data tells you and follow through on the insights uncovered).
Do you have a mentor or role model who has made a large impact on your career? If so, who? In what way did they make an impact?
Yes, my family’s been my inspiration in more ways than one. I saw my uncle start a business after he retired. I played a small role in that venture but I saw how difficult, and yet thrilling, it was. My father loved being a banker all his life, which is what I was doing too. My grandfather, on the other hand, is an agricultural businessman and entrepreneur, so that’s the path I wanted to go on. I knew after investment banking, at some point in time, I would like to be in the driver’s chair and, based on my skill set, I decided that I’d like to start a company. I had a startup at Yale – a luxury shaving startup – but as you can imagine, it required a lot of working capital. I see these as key moments that led to the ultimate big decision of quitting my job and starting my investment firm later on.
What sets you apart from your peers? Is there a specific trait that you attribute much of your success to? (For example, resiliency, grit, capacity for risk, etc.)
I believe I have a decent capacity for risk-taking. I believe no great goal can be achieved without putting something on the line – having skin in the game so to speak. Once I decide on a goal, I am biased towards action when it comes to figuring out how to achieve it. With every step that you take towards or even away from the goal (mistakenly), you learn and that insight cannot be arrived at through mere thought. You have to act, learn, and reassess how things are progressing.
I’ve had peers who were and are smarter than me, but they simply don’t take the first step towards their goals because there’s inertia. To summarize – dreaming big, not letting thought get in the way beyond a point, and having a bias for action are my strengths. At some point, one has to realize that there are trade-offs for every choice you make (including not choosing) and you must go after your dreams or life will get boring.
What’s next on the horizon for you? Are there areas where you’re looking to level up? A company you want to launch? A new milestone you want to reach?
We are building the next-gen AI-powered experience management platform. In fact, we’ve just acquired an AI and data analytics company – Actify Data Labs – to accelerate Voxco’s vision of becoming a leading actionable insights company. Our mission at Voxco is to transform the actionable insights industry and remove the technological barriers for professionals to enable a seamless research technology experience. Combining forces with Actify will create a perfect mix of capabilities to fuel the future of experiences for companies.
Is there a particular failure that you’ve experienced that has shaped your career and/or decisions?
I would like to mention a challenge here instead of a failure. I came to California from a Tier 2 city in India in 2007 and faced the same challenges as all immigrant students at the time: very little money and visa issues while trying to find an initial job. All of this was intensified because of the financial crisis of 2008. I had to work hard and hustle endlessly to make ends meet. I was fortunate to land an opportunity at the International Monetary Fund, where I conducted macroeconomic research with some of the brightest minds in the world to assist countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and many others in the European Union in finding solutions to the financial crisis. The lesson here is that you may have made well-laid plans, but the world can change at any moment. You cannot take anything for granted and you must create your own opportunities.