An AI Backed Talent Intelligence Platform Making A Difference In The Employment Industry:

Sarabjeet Kaur from BW CIO recently conversed with Kamal Ahluwalia, President at, on how the company is leveraging AI and machine learning for talent management. Kamal also narrates the tale of the inception of the organization. Excerpts:

Kamal Ahluwalia, President at

It all began when two experts on machine learning with an extensive experience from Google and Facebook came together to apply their knowledge on the areas suffering the most for the lack of appropriate technology use. Varun Kacholia, one of the two founders of and its CTO, is a leader when it comes to search, ranking and machine-learning. He was instrumental in building the News Feed at Facebook and the YouTube Search and Recommendations at Google. Whereas, Ashutosh Garg, the other co-founder and CEO, has more than 6000 research citations, 50+ patents, 35+ peer reviewed research publications and received the Outstanding Thesis Award from University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign for his PhD thesis in Machine Learning. He lead Search and Personalization efforts at both Google and IBM Research.

When they came out of Google and Facebook, they realized that they needed to apply their skills in areas where technology is either struggling or is really defined. When they were looking after what market to go for, they found that the areas where people are not spending enough time in building the right kind of algorithms or applying the right kind of AI and ML technology was really in the area of talent management and talent acquisition. As there specialty is search, recommendation and personalization, they knew that there are a number of AI and ML applications that can be put into use.

When one talks about scanning millions of resumes, it requires a perfect application of AI and ML because if you look at the whole amalgamation of the data, you have got millions of characters and words in resumes. Going manually through all of that is a painful and never ending process. Then extracting a meaningful interpretation out of that gigantic pile of data is where the true AI capabilities come into place. Ashutosh and Varun found a lot of people struggling with the distressing cycle of applying for jobs and getting no response. That’s where the idea of hit them. They discovered that this is probably one of the best use cases for applying what they are really good at and capable of building. 

The two scientists from Google and Facebook built Talent Intelligence Platform for enterprises that leverages artificial intelligence to hire, engage and nurture talent. Talent centric Applications built on this platform enable enterprises to manage the entire lifecycle from prospect to candidate to alumni.

BW CIO: What is the interpretation of the name ‘’?

Kamal: Eightfold was named after the Buddhist philosophy of “eight fold path” that talks about empowering the individual to choose the path they want to follow. It talks about unlearning and learning. We were inspired by this simple and profound principle and it aligns very well with our mission.

BW CIO: What is the growing importance of an Intelligence Platform in hiring and recruitment space? 

Kamal: Work is changing and workers are changing which is leading to a lot of flux in the workplace.  While unemployment is lowest in decades, there is a major talent gap which is lack of people with the right skills in the right roles. While we all spend billions of dollars in acquiring new talent – 80% of the jobs created in the market are due to attrition. So if companies can do a better job of holding onto their good people – and 1-2 years of investment has already gone into training them to be successful in your company – reduce attrition – then you ease the burden on the talent acquisition side. If you are not good at convincing people to stay in your company for a longer period and you know each other well, then how good are you at convincing others to join when there is no relationship or trust in place?

Our platform is built for both talent acquisition and talent management. Our TIP (Talent Intelligence Platform) allows companies to create a talent platform for all available talent for their company people who have applied in past and were almost hired, current employees, past employees, partners and customers.  So right away your reach is 150 times your current employee base. For any open job you can cast a wide net and then be very precise in matching available talent to your requirements. Our customers are seeing 80-90% acceleration in time to hire, 40-60% in cost of hire, and more importantly finding qualified candidates right away.

BW CIO:  How is making a difference in the recruitment space? 

Kamal: The key difference is that we can predict ‘what’s next’. We believe no one leaves a current job to do the same thing in the next job. Sometimes, it is a linear career progression – I am an individual contributor, how do I become a Manager, Director, VP, etc.? Or, I have great customer facing skills so how do I change direction from an internal focused role to a sales or customer success role? We look at not just resumes but capabilities and they are sub-par, incomplete anyways. 

We marry the internally available data about an individual with all externally available data to create a rich, complete and current profile. Then we compare an individual’s profile with others in similar roles, and companies. This results into having the ability to match highly qualified candidates to your job descriptions. For cases like biasness such as conscious and sub-conscious, women fare 10% worse than men in initial filtering and 35% worse in interviews. Same capabilitie but conscious or sub-conscious biasness exists. Our platform provides transparency into these biases and then – how to make the course corrections. 

BW CIO: What are some of the challenges that you face very commonly? 

Kamal: Most common challenge is the change management. Who owns Talent Management – is it HR? Line of Business? CEO? CFO? Who is accountable for delays in hiring key positions? Who is accountable for losing key talent? How many times have we heard that once a person resigns, the company scrambles to make compelling offers to keep them? The sensible question is that why didn’t you do this earlier and save months of productivity while that person was looking for a job outside?

CEO’s talk about “people are our biggest asset” but in reality they do very little for the people. We can now improve employee engagement; deliberately invest in their careers by either finding the best next role or helping them fill the skills gap that is preventing them from moving up and to the right. This is all education, having numbers and business case to support the change, and then finding the forward thinking executives who will show how it is done.

BW CIO: What kind of feedback are you receiving from the India market? 

Kamal: India was slow to Internet adoption, better with cloud adoption and now a lot more interested in AI adoption. I think over the past decade, Indian businesses have been competing more and more on a global scale, so they appreciate the need for speed versus just hanging onto a large manual workforce. 

BW CIO: Do you have any government synergies or do you plan to form any in the coming future? 

Kamal: Yes. There is a talent gap and at a country level you cannot fix that in a couple of months or years. You need to have a strategic outlook and ensure that policies are put in place to setup India for success for the next 10-15 years. A key understanding should be rewarding research and innovation. Just like when a sportsperson wins a medal in a big event like Commonwealth, Asian Games or Olympics, then the state and central government awards them. Instead, why not invest in the infrastructure so that you have a whole bunch of medal winners at every event. 

AI presents open running room for any country that wants to play the long game.

BW CIO: What is your go-to market strategy in India and does it differ from the global scenario? Do you plan to expand your business and services in India?

Kamal: It’s the same. We want to grow with partners, we want partners who have trusting relationships with the customers, and if they have domain then it is even better. We are investing in channel enablement and will be working with good local brands who have the same values as ours to expand our reach and in ensuring customer success.

We definitely plan to expand our business in India. India is a big supplier of talent for all of our customers so we naturally need to be where the talent is. We already have customers here and we are building our capabilities across all functions – sales, customer success and development.

BW CIO: What is your strategic roadmap for the year ahead? 

Kamal: Customer Success is the key, a very metrics based approach to drive adoption and deliver quantified success and personalization for every job and every candidate. You will see this in coming quarters. 

BW CIO: How do you think is the Indian market progressing in terms of understanding the value of AI and analytics; and actually putting it in use?           

Kamal: India has come a long way now and progressing but I would suggest having schools here create the largest pool of data science, machine learning and AI experts. We should leverage our strength in math to get ready to ride the next wave. We have not been very creative (and “jugaad” is a different kind of creativity) or innovative here. So let’s change that. That is what we need to learn. 

BW CIO: What do you think would be the future of AI, ML and analytics in this and other industries as well? 

Kamal: Analytics is looking in the rear view mirror; which is useful but not always in time and not always preventive. Machine Learning is about looking ahead and avoiding mistakes ahead. Whereas AI is here to assist us. We have already experienced it in our lives. One instance is of my own personal experience of a 3.5 hour daily commute with a driver assist in my car. In bumper to bumper traffic, I sit back and let the car go through the start and stop traffic. So when technology is here to help you – take the help. 

I strongly believe that AI will drive a lot of innovation and re-thinking in all of our industries. We all will have the opportunity to determine if we want to compete against AI powered solutions or have them do the tasks that we don’t want to do and focus our bandwidth on higher value tasks. And that brings up the key question, what can I learn that will make my talent indispensable in coming years?


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