By Omar Saeed
TenX is an award-winning global artificial intelligence, data analytics, and software development consultancy with an interesting mix of clients, empowering them to drive growth, improve their operational efficiency, and unlock their full business potential. Since the start of its operations in Pakistan 11 years ago it has been helping businesses from across a broad spectrum from the perspective of their size and industry.
It is working with large to small organisations. It’s also assisting start-ups in industries like agriculture, sports, and healthcare. From the industry perspective, there’s also a wide variety as it’s working with telecoms, banks, insurance, and manufacturing enterprises. It also has worked a bit with the government as well.
Geographically, the company has expanded into the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Now it plans to set up another offshore delivery centre, like the one it has in Pakistan, in Estonia. “We are also looking at the Middle East market, especially Saudi Arabia since it’s among the top three places in the world where technology is happening right now,”
Qazafi Qayyum, Chief Executive Officer, TenX, who has been heading the firm for the past four years, said in an interview. With its headquarters moved to the US four years back, the company has 90 percent of its tech and support workforce based in Pakistan.
“We brand ourselves as an AI company because we are all about using data to get strategic insights and leverage those for our clients,” shares Qazafi, who prior to joining TenX worked at Teradata, a US data and AI company operating in multiple countries, for 15 years. “It’s an established fact that enterprises with the power to leverage their data are the ones that will be ahead of the game regardless of their size. In this age, the size of the businesses doesn’t matter (in their success) as much as their agility around decision-making and that is where TenX helps the businesses leverage the power of data.”
Qazafi insists many companies are talking about AI as a concept but the ones showing something how it is bringing benefit and creating value in the real world for the customers are very few.
“When we say TenX is primarily an AI company it’s because of the sort of work we do with our customers across the globe. We’ve an actual team of data scientists. We’ve 200 tech consultants and data scientists in Pakistan working across the globe with AI leaders and businesses. We’ve been recognised as leaders in the AI space at different forums, both for our customers who have won awards using our AI industry.”
Citing the example of their collaboration with Arccos Golf, one of the TenX clients from the US, which is disrupting the market in the golf industry, he states that Arccos has revolutionised the industry by putting sensors on the golf clubs to track the game of golfers.
“We collaborated with them to develop models of AI machines based on data they are generating. And we came up with the concept of the world’s first AI caddy. It’s on the mobile phones that the golfers carry. This is something that has disrupted the industry and is recognised by the likes of the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and Forbes. “We have a lot of real world examples why we make this claim that we are the natural leaders in AI. This year, we were recognised as a leading AI company in Pakistan by the Global Digital Conference.”
Qazafi, whose area of expertise has primarily been business consulting, strategic management and professional services, especially in the data analytic space, says TenX had also collaborated with an American biotech start-up that is revolutionising the food value chain. “They are a group of scientists from Yale University trying to detect contaminants and pathogens in food at early stages using AI.
The conventional methods take several days for food samples to reach laboratories and get tested. In this case they’ve made a device to test food… you get a food sample and put it in that device to take microscopic imagery and our AI algorithms use that imagery to identify the presence or absence of pathogens, classify and count them. So we have brought the whole process down to a couple of hours from several days.
It would not have been possible to scale it across the US with conventional methods. But with this device, you can scale across the US as well as globally,” the TenX boss with 23 years of experience working with various manufacturing concerns, telecoms, and government financial services, goes on.
“The same way we recently worked with another company that comes under self-driving. The concept is to assist cars without self-driving features. They would give those cars the required features through their phones to spot abrupt lane changing, identify pedestrians in front of the cars, control speed, detect driver drowsiness, etc. “That data they are generating is being monetised in different ways.
They are solving the initial problem but now they are selling this data to the insurance companies so that they, using that data, would enhance their products, and charge higher or lower premiums according to the risk profile of the drivers.”
With a tech background, Qazafi who transitioned to the business side almost 10 years ago, contends that his company’s objective is to grow their team in Pakistan and offer them opportunities to work in areas where they can make a difference globally. “At the same time, we want to provide them with the potential to expand their career in or outside Pakistan so that they’re able to be recognised as the top people in their field.
TenX is providing its staff opportunities to establish themselves deeper in their particular niches, work in different industries, and even settle outside Pakistan without having to leave the company.
“The kind of work we are doing, we want them to remain with us even if they want to build careers outside Pakistan. So with us expanding our operations outside Pakistan we offer them a chance to pursue careers aligned to their specific goals and, at the same time, affords us the opportunity to retain top talent. We feel the talent we’ve as part of our team is unparalleled in terms of skill set. This is something our customers have vouched for.”
Elaborating on data analytics, the TenX CEO underlines that it’s all about how organisations – be they in the financial, government, telecom, or any other sector – can use the wealth of data that exists within their systems or even outside, and leverage it to drive their decision-making for increasing revenue generation, cost optimization, risk reduction, etc.
“Today, every business generates digital data with many insights in it. For instance, if you are selling certain products it will inform you about the sale trends in particular regions, popular product or service and target population segments, customer preference, and so on.
All answers exist inside data. You’ve only to apply the answers or insights to improve your business decision-making rather than relying on your gut feelings or raw experiences. This helps you exploit the opportunities that you may miss out on if you do not use the insights from your data.”
What is AI and how is it different from Data Analytics
AI is the next technology trend data analytics is branching out into, he explains. “While data analytics draw out insights from data and feed them to the organisations, AI informs them if human factors can be eliminated from or augmented in their processes. If Bots or automated machines can replace people sitting in a call centre and interact in a human-like manner with the customers?
The second element is the augmentation of the human element. In healthcare, for example, doctors are using AI techniques to detect cancer. The imagery – be it scans or MIRs or mammograms – work with AI algorithms. AI sees if a body has potential cancerous content or not and informs doctors of its opinion. Doctor then matches it with his opinion and draws conclusions.
The facts and data show that if you see success patterns of AI machines or doctors in isolation they are almost at par. But when you club the two together, the success ratio of predicting accurately is far better. This is what we call Augmented Intelligence.”
Will AI take over the world?
“The general rule of thumb in AI says that any decision which humans can make in three seconds or less is a very strong candidate for being replaced with a machine. If you relate this back to self-driving cars – a man driving a car makes all decisions like pressing the brake, turning left or right or accelerating in three seconds or less. That is why it is becoming a very popular area where AI is taking over,” Qazafi explains.
“AI is making disruptions in every other field. Some jobs will be lost But this impression that AI will take over the world, or all jobs will be lost, is more fiction than fact because AI cannot mimic the human way of thinking and creativity. So where strategic and complex decision-making is concerned, AI won’t be able to take over in the near future. It will support us in an augmented way and I think that’s a good thing.
Facts and data have started proving that where AI is making certain jobs obsolete it is also creating new ones. So it is also a case of maybe finding new areas where humans can start taking over or working with augmented assistance.”
AI acceptance level in Pakistan
“AI is a reality; I think the acceptance is there. The businesses are realising that if they want to get value for their investment they need to adopt AI in different facets to start getting the true value of technological trends and capability. So that awareness does exist. “Currently, there is more hype about AI in Pakistan rather than actual understanding for using it to improve the businesses.
Like if I’m a bank I want to know how I can use AI to improve revenue and reduce costs. This awareness does not exist yet. One reason for that is many AI use cases are unproven – not tried by any business until now.
“So AI, at this point in time, is also an investment and experiment for organisations. It’s very difficult for them to prove a case if they invest for six months and may invest thousands of dollars while they might not generate any business value at all. Not every organisation can handle this. Only forward-looking enterprises with the understanding that even if they fail they’d gain experience and they’d pivot to a different area which will generate profits.
So I think it will take time. Some industries in Pakistan like telecoms which are entirely technology based will be the leaders. Others like manufacturing, retail, banking, etc, they will be followers. They’ll wait for others to prove the value and then they will just adopt that.”