Competitive Intelligence Spotlight: Abhishek Shukla

Hello Abhishek, it is great speaking with you today. Before we jump into the questions, could you please tell us a bit about your background?

As an Associate Vice President at Evalueserve, I lead the research and advisory practice focused on the energy and natural resources sector. I am primarily responsible for overseeing problem identification and solution roadmap development for our clients.

My team caters to leading energy companies, top oilfield services providers, and mining & metals majors. We deliver business-relevant, actionable advisories to support clients with their overall strategy, innovation, value chain partner identification, product launches, and go-to-market strategy.

I have close to 15 years of experience across the strategy, corporate affairs, business planning, and marketing functions. I have worked with clients across North America, Europe, Scandinavia, the Middle East, and South East Asia. At Evalueserve, my key focus has been to help companies stay ahead of the disruption curve, prepare futureproof product and business strategies, and accelerate their decarbonization and energy transition strategies. I have also led Evalueserve’s operations for automotive and industrial sector clients.

Before joining Evalueserve, I worked with Indian Oil Corporation in its refinery and marketing division and with Cairn India Ltd in its business planning team. I did my chemical engineering degree from the Indian Institute of Technology and MBA in business strategy from SBS.

How has the rise of innovation affected the way that companies strategize and think about the future?

Innovation has always been the key driver for new services and products. But now the pace of business innovation has gone into overdrive, particularly due to the democratization of information technology, handheld devices, and ease of connectivity.

Technology and software that were earlier confined to research labs and critical business missions have proliferated boardrooms and are increasingly at the center of business and strategy workshops. Machine learning, augmented reality, and neural networks for business decision-making were unheard of a decade back, but now are fairly mainstream. Use cases have also evolved from process optimization to more customer- and sales-oriented outcomes. Generally speaking, the speed at which information is generated and consumed is driving the need for more cohesive business strategies centered around data.

One of the many things we realized during the COVID-19 pandemic was the need for robust intelligence infrastructure, seamless connectivity, secure information processing, and a completely digital decision system. The pandemic has had a lasting impact on the way businesses are conducted, altering customer needs irreversibly. This trend is expected to continue accelerating the digitalization of physical flows.

Looking into the future, leaders across segments will capitalize on the digital and information dividend and build robust data-driven strategies to innovate at pace, commercialize with purpose, and create sustainable business advantages.

What are some ways companies are improving and growing their strategies?

New-age corporates do not differentiate between strategy and innovation. In fact, industry leaders consider innovation a precursor to strategy; hence, an effective innovation lifecycle dovetails strategy.

Product launches, market testing, and partner identification are becoming more scientific, well researched, and battle tested than ever before. All this is backed by structured and unstructured intelligence and highly actionable research and analytics on critical success factors.

I see companies looking at innovation with a different perspective; product, business, and digital innovation are the new focus areas. They are accelerating digital transformation to secure a sustainable competitive advantage, achieve market growth, quickly react to dynamic market conditions, and achieve operational efficiency. This in turn is enabling strategy teams to stay on top of competition activities and market developments at a faster pace – something that is only possible with next-generation intelligent solutions. 

In addition, corporates are updating their business models according to the changing dynamics to gain market advantage. While the basics are fairly simple, implementation strategy is the key. It involves:

  • Leveraging technology to effectively ingest and assimilate external intelligence with internal knowledge
  • Automating the market opportunity funnel filtering the exciting targets
  • Setting up a trigger-based opportunity notification
  • Evaluating shifting customer needs and position themselves to cater to them
  • Creating idea studios and innovation enablement processes to feed the product innovation line

Digital workflows are at the heart of this strategy. I firmly believe a seamless information handshake between processes and functions, elimination of digital gaps, and a scalable decision-making system will prove to be the key differentiator between the winners and laggards.



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How does the Strategy Radar play a role in this?

Institutionalization of business strategy development is a major pain point for companies. While strategy development and yearly refreshes is an industry wide common practice, a continuous funnel approach towards strategy as an ‘always on’ business practice is largely missing in implementation. Even the most focused and organized strategy functions prioritize yearly refreshes and management-led priorities ahead of the ground-up market signals or emerging signals. They miss deploying a continuous program approach towards Strategy.

Evalueserve’s Strategy Radar combines the power of research and analytics in a lifecycle approach to business strategy. It takes strategy teams through their journey of strategy discovery and formulation, offering them options to set up intelligence, pull analysis, and request bespoke insights, and combine the power of external analytics with their in-house knowledge.

A project-oriented mindset often crowds out the disciplined, continuous, and systematic approach required to create and sustain an opportunity assembly line. Businesses fail to commit to this mindset. Moreover, the lack of an ‘always on’ approach towards strategy and associated business innovation puts organizations at risk of getting only sub-optimal outcomes from their strategic endeavors.

To enable it, Strategy Radar combines various dimensions of strategy and innovation required for an informed course of action, which can be absorbed and implemented by strategy teams in their business or product lifecycle. Our customized frameworks and AI-enabled engines are designed to cater to the ever-demanding needs of companies for multiple datatype ingestion, layering of external intelligence over internal insights, on-the-go data, and to-the-point analyses. We enable strategy teams to deliver actionable insights that directly impact decision-making.

What advice would you give to teams looking to re-strategize for the coming year?

The answer largely depends on two factors – the ability of companies to 1) recalibrate their response to the graded economic recovery across their key markets and 2) Pivot or realign their business models to chase growth in the post-pandemic world. Businesses must not be shy in borrowing adjacencies,  adopting frugal innovation, and acquiring capabilities by turning competition into partnerships.

For the majority of the companies, 2021 will be about sustaining their core business, reducing debt, and conserving cash. For others, it will be about placing strategic bets on growth. Whatever the case, teams across functions will need processes that enable them to re-jig strategies and pave the way to growth.

I think the key enabler for companies will be information monetization and new-age decision-making systems founded on fact-based strategies. Companies must work towards setting up effective and responsive management information systems, decision support engines, and centralized intelligence platforms that would give them visibility into their industry disruptors, markets, competitions, value chain, and customer dynamics at a faster pace. Decision support engines must be able to marry externally curated insights with an internal transaction, registry, and customer data to generate timely insights on business retention and expansion.

Before we conclude the interview, what are you looking forward to in the near future?

I am excited about working with our larger group of clients on implementing AI-enabled solutions covering various business critical dimensions such as decarbonization, digital acceleration, intelligent competitive monitoring, value chain deep dives, business risks, trigger-based prospect generation, sales enablement programs, account-based marketing, and automated marketing funnels for business expansion.

Our technology-driven solution frameworks, which incorporate our Mind+Machine philosophy, are supporting and solving strategy teams’ daily challenges related to targeted information acquisition, processing, and contextualization. At Evalueserve, our team of highly skilled analysts bring the relevant Mind element on the table with highly targeted analysis covering new investment opportunities, inorganic growth, hotspots, and materiality scores of each opportunity.

Abhishek Shukla
Associate Vice President, Oils & Gas, Natural Resources Posts

Abhishek is the Upstream Oil & Gas sector leader at Evalueserve and has 14 years of experience in providing consulting and strategic advisory to clients in the Oil & Gas and Natural Resources sector. He brings a cross functional exposure in the oil and gas business and has worked with Indian Oil Corporation and Cairn India Limited before joining Evalueserve.

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