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The unvarnished truth about Big Data

Debarati Roy | May 23, 2013
There are plenty who believe that beneath big data’s shiny exterior, companies will find a hollow ring of tin plating. Will big data reveal itself to be just another IT fad?

Gartner's definition focuses more on the overall management of data. Forrester's, on the other hand, lays more emphasis on the ability to extract actionable intelligence from large data sets. Forrester's VP and Country Manager, India, Manish Bahl defines big data as the, "techniques and technologies that make capturing value from data at an extreme scale economical." Bahl is quick to add that big data is about a set of different technologies and does not equal Hadoop and certainly not in-memory computing like some vendors suggest.

More recently, vendors like IBM have added another V to the equation: Veracity.

Most Indian CIOs we spoke to agree that big data is characterized by the 3Vs. When a company has to manage huge volumes of data, which are moving in and out of its systems at extremely high velocity, and these data sets originate from a large variety of disparate sources (social media, for instance), then a company has a big data problem and opportunity.

Deshpande says it's not necessary for an organization to be battling all the three Vs to have a big data problem. "Any company that's struggling with either one or two of the three Vs and can't solve the problem using their existing infrastructure and technology set can be classified as an organization with a big data problem," he says.

By that definition, MTS certainly has a big data challenge. MTS India, the mobile telecom service brand of SSTL, has over 10 million customers across nine circles and generates about 100 TB of data everyday. For Rajeev Batra, CIO, MTS, just dealing with the volume and velocity of the data the company's systems produce is a gargantuan task. "Data is constantly being generated from the call records of our customers, their usage pattern, location-based services, billing and Internet usage," says Batra.

Batra has already found ways to use that data downpour to create offerings that give MTS competitive advantage. Using data streams from different sources, MTS started a program it calls m-bonus that offers customers freebies like discounted call rates--in real time--with the aim of increasing customer loyalty. "If, for example, a customer has made five calls to a specific number in the span of an hour, we could possibly offer them a 20 percent off on the next call, thereby creating that customer delight," says Batra.

Batra also uses feeds from MTS' social media platforms to figure out how happy customers are with MTS' products. This information, he says, is used by marketing, sales and customer service to figure how they can improve service levels and customer satisfaction. "The time taken to set the wheels rolling to improve or tweak products and services based on customer feedback has been reduced by 40-50 percent," says Batra.


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