Executive Espresso with Vice President of Analytics at Swiggy, David Zakkam

It’s said that a company without analytics is one that walks deaf and blind. And for an organization such as Swiggy, the compounding real-time data renders meaningless, unless someone analyzes and makes sense of them, that too at hyper-speed. This is where Vice President of Analytics at Swiggy, David Zakkam, and his squad of Analysts come into the picture. What makes him tick inside the office and outside work? Read ahead to find out.


You are closing in on your first year at Swiggy. How has the journey been so far and how different has it been as compared to your earlier work experiences?

I am extremely excited to be in Swiggy. The ambition we have is amazing! A month before I stepped in, Swiggy had taken four years to hit 17 cities. By the time I was in, we were in 35 cities, and now, as I speak we are crossing the 150 mark. There is no other company in this world where you can experience that level of ambition and that makes me very excited to be a part of the Swiggy growth story.

The other unique aspect is the high focus on people. Our people are at the core of what Swiggy stands for today, and a lot of things we do here are driven to make sure that people stay happy. That leads to employees doing great work, which in turn creates great consumer experiences.

The ambition and the people focus are two big differences that I have experienced here. I have inherited a very good team here and thanks to that strength, Swiggy has made major strides on the analytics front over the past few years. However, there is also a lot more work to be done which is a big motivation for me.

There have been some changes on the life front as well. In my previous job, my work involved multiple clients, which effectively meant that I had multiple bosses. This meant that the complexity of execution was very high and my work schedule was not under my control. That has definitely changed here. Firstly, I have far fewer bosses (laughs) and secondly, I am able to plan my day better. At work I get enough time to think about the really important problems as opposed to trying to manage the daily execution complexities. In addition to work, I am able to exercise better, eat better, sleep better and am able to plan quality time with my family.

If data is the new oil, analytics becomes the combustion engine. And you are at the driver’s seat in that picture for Swiggy. Tell us a bit more about your work in this space.

I feel like a supercharged W16 engine. Really excited about the kind of work that we are doing! As you may be aware Swiggy is a three-way marketplace involving hyperlocal logistics between the customer, the restaurant and the delivery partner, enabled through the app. Our work touches all these different parts – consumers, restaurants, kitchens, delivery operations, the app, discounts, call centers, trust and safety, the list goes on! I could talk for hours about all the work we do!

Our team is helping Swiggy identify ways to attract new users onto the app, help our consumers discover and buy what they need. We help them understand the value of our features like Swiggy Super and POP. We are also becoming smarter about enabling discounts, while ensuring the consumer expectations and needs are adequately met.

We also want to ensure that our restaurant partners are successful on the platform. We provide restaurants with a wealth of insights that aid them in making organic changes that help them grow. We also look out for consumers when we look at restaurants – Which cities should we launch in? Which cuisines should we focus on? What do people love to eat in those cities? Which are the right restaurants that should be on boarded? There’s a lot of intelligence that goes into making those choices and decisions.

Operations, our arms and legs, is another key area where Analytics play a huge role. How can we deliver good food from restaurants to consumers in the fastest possible time, while also keeping the overall experience in check? And of course cost becomes a huge aspect of this legwork, so we are continuously exploring ways to drive efficiency on that front. We have more than 1,50,000 delivery partners. We are constantly looking for ways to ensure that they also love Swiggy. One tough question that we answered last quarter was “How do we increase the earnings per week for our delivery executives while lowering cost per delivery for Swiggy?”

That’s all the usual problems. In addition, we are also looking to redefine how data-driven decision making happens in the company. How do we ensure that it is democratised? How can we automate insights? Can we think of decision support as a product? We have lots of initiatives on that front also. One initiative that we are working on is to have a smart speaker in our conference rooms that you can use to ask advanced business questions. Imagine a world where you get a correct response within seconds! Now, that would change how analytics is done. It would drastically improve the speed and quality of decisions. And less of those unproductive meetings (laughs).

On one hand we are looking at the micro elements, ensuring continuous improvement in hyperlocal convenience. On the other hand, we are making giant leaps through bold steps, disrupting the way we operate in the three-way-marketplace. That get us pumped up, every minute, every day.  And there is no such thing as a dull day in my life at the moment.

What projects, other than core analytics, are you involved in at work?

An important aspect that we are touching upon through our efforts is also finding ways to reduce food wastage in the ecosystem. Sustainability is a huge step we have taken and currently we are in partnership with organizations, with whom our operations team collaborates to minimize wastage of return deliveries, to feed the hungry. You will hear more efforts from these initiatives, shortly. So keep an eye out for that, and see how we are truly driving efforts to be the Hunger Saviors for India.

How different is the David at work from the David outside office? Let us in a bit on your other side.

While I am the numbers guy in the office, I am more of an arts guy outside of work. I love music, and if I ever get a moment to relax, you would hear music in the background. I claim to play the guitar, drums and do a bit of singing. If you YouTube my name, you might just bump into something [laughs]. I speak 5 languages and have played sports like Basketball, Volleyball, Squash and athletics at the college level. I also have a latent desire to be a writer and might take up writing after I retire. Outside that, my wife and I are big foodies. We enjoy trying different kinds of cuisines. She loves to travel and my daughter and I tag along. We have been to more than 20 countries already. That said, I am a boring person, if given a chance to be by myself, I would happily turn into a vegetable.

If you are to eat only one dish for the rest of your life, and you don’t have a choice, what would that be, and why?

I know a lot of folks struggle with this question. The answer is pretty simple for me. It’s Biryani — be it breakfast, lunch or dinner, bring it on and I’ll be more than happy to oblige. I like my routines, and Biryani is one of them. I can speak at length about it.

In my taste and experience, the Bangalore-Hyderabadi is the best. I’ve had the original version in Hyderabad, and my taste buds swing more towards the spicier ones you get in Bangalore. I have a few favorite spots within the city, especially those that prepare the Biryani on wood fire.

I’ve tried pretty much all the biryani varieties in the country and the ones down south definitely top the chart in my list. I can go on and on about this. Maybe we should do an exclusive feature, just around this topic [laughs].

Any message that you would like to share with the world about what it takes to be a Swiggster?

There are four things that are must, in my definition.

One, is to be naturally curious. Which means, one must be able to view patterns, ask ‘Why is this occurring?’, ask the right questions and strive to solve them.

Secondly, as an organization, we always have the consumer lens on in the way we make decisions and act. So consumer-first thinking is a must! Everything done in Analytics has to be thought of and solved from that perspective.

One should also be able to take ownership over situations and move fast. So bias for action is another key ingredient in being a Swiggster, and being inherently driven is a necessary quality.

And on top of all that, being humble is crucial. At Swiggy, humility is a trait that is evident at all levels; from our founders, to leadership, to even someone who has been here for just a few months. That sanctity is something which no one should disturb.

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