Being one of the first companies to combine knowledge engineering – a classical method of AI, with data-driven machine learning models, Intuit is digitally encoding business logic and compliance rules to simplify and create highly personalized experiences at scale. Intuit’s ecosystem of financial management solutions serves approximately 50 million customers worldwide.
Intuit India’s engineering team is doing end-to-end product development at the India Development Center and delivers key innovations for products with design thinking models, cloud innovation, knowledge engineering and AI. The engineering team has built solutions in a short span of time to support small businesses to deal with the evolving financial landscape during the pandemic.
Sanket Atal, MD, Intuit India and Aminish Sharma, Director – Technology Futures, share with us, their opinion on some of the biggest opportunities in the Indian market, and how India is playing a vital role in Intuit’s global plans
Some edited excerpts from the interview:
For small businesses, what is the biggest value that Intuit can provide? Please explain with the help of some examples
Intuit has always adopted new technology in search of new and better ways to serve customers. We are now embracing A.I. to drive breakthrough innovations, scaling our open, trusted platform so that it connects customers with experts, either us or our partners, to solve their most important problems. By accelerating our application of AI, which progressively learns from the rich data sets across the platform, we will combine technology and people and be able to deliver the benefits customers seek with speed.
To further empower businesses, we are guided by our core innovations principles of: Customer Driven Innovation (CDI) where technology is leveraged to solve for a customer’s unsolved business problems, and Design for Delight (D4D) which is going beyond customer expectations in delivering ease and benefits. We are also deeply invested in the growth of SMBs and the startups in the country. Apart from our products and solutions, we also have a virtual community platform called Intuit Circles that strives to help facilitate survival rate and growth for startups by leveraging Intuit’s smart-tech and expertise of 35+ years serving small businesses globally.
Further to this, Intuit QuickBooks also launched a program called Consult an Expert to support small businesses and accountants in India during the COVID-19 pandemic. The program provided free, timely, relevant and virtual advice from a pool of experts to small businesses and accountants in the country.
What are some of the key differentiators for Intuit over traditional well entrenched competitors?
Sanket: Intuit is dedicated towards powering prosperity for our customers by improving their financial futures. We believe that customer-focused innovation and technology can unlock true problem-solving potential and create true customer delight. We have always adopted new technology in search of new and better ways to serve our customers because it’s about falling in love with the customers problem and not your solution. We have been successful over the years because we’re never afraid to disrupt ourselves – and over our history have transformed from DOS to the web, to mobile, to the cloud – all in service to ensuring our customers are powered with technology they need to prosper.
In fact, we were one of the first companies to combine knowledge engineering with data driven machine learning models. We believe in exploring new ways to constantly innovate in software development, such as open source, aiding us in giving back to the community and solving for our customers’ most pressing financial problems with speed and agility.
Aminish: Diving deeper into our knowledge engineering expertise, we are digitally encoding business logic and compliance rules into knowledge graphs that can simplify and create highly personalized experiences at scale. And through our knowledge engine, we can create personalized user experiences that are fully customized to our customers’ situations by asking them the minimal set of missing information without sacrificing accuracy or violating compliance requirements. For example, through our Tax Knowledge Engine we receive about 30M returns every year, each containing a very rich set of data points about demographic, economic and social trends that characterize our customers’ financial lives. This is on top of the thousands of pages of tax code changes that are published every year. Thanks to our knowledge engine, we are able to provide a tailored and accurate user experience that helps our users accurately use our technology to file their taxes.
Furthermore, Intuit has long been a consumer and beneficiary of great open source projects, especially in the last decade which has seen an explosion of enterprise-ready and developer-friendly open source projects. By tapping into the collective knowledge of developers, we prioritize innovation, and encourage creative problem-solving by including developers from different industries and with diverse backgrounds.
What are some of the huge opportunities that Intuit sees in the Indian market?
Sanket: The coronavirus crisis has accelerated digital adoption, pushing tech entrepreneurs to adapt and innovate. India is home to a huge number of fast-changing tech companies who are driving change and progress. The pandemic has shown that India backed by its large talent pool, entrepreneurial mindset and ability to use technology for good, makes us resilient and agile. The government has taken several steps over the last few years to open up the economy, improve the ease of doing business and make the nation more competitive on a global playing field. As a result, A 2019 report by the World Bank suggested that India had jumped 14 places to 63rd rank in 2019 (from 77th rank in 2018) in its ranking among 190 countries for ease of doing business. The recent mission ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ is aimed at further enabling an ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship to thrive. Programs like Make in India, Startup India and Digital India have taken on new rigour and meaning.
The future is an accelerating shift to a virtual world and the increase in online presence for businesses around the world. The focus for us at Intuit is how to use the resources we have at hand and apply it to our customer focused approach, backed by our technology expertise and do this in a safe and secure manner.
With its strengths in innovation and tech as well as an ease of doing business, India offers everything a startup or established firm needs to grow and scale. From access to the right policy makers, growth capital, infrastructure, world-class universities and talent, there are lots of opportunities for Indian tech companies in India.
Please specify the role of India in developing some of Intuit’s global products?
Sanket: At Intuit India, we are focused on developing technology and products that will help our customers world over. The India office is a Centre of Excellence for product development, technology & engineering innovation across Intuit products and services to help improve the financial lives of over 50 million global customers. Our engineering teams here are focused on delivering end-to-end product development and key innovations for products with design thinking models, cloud innovation, knowledge engineering and AI. India plays a very crucial role in bringing alive our innovations and has a plethora of opportunities for us.
Our teams here are building products and being taught important and marketable skills like design thinking which will spark innovations that can solve both India specific and global challenges. We currently have over 1000 engineers, and we’re continuing to grow and look for technologists who would love to join our mission of powering prosperity around the world.
Aminish: We believe our technologists in India are entrepreneurs, empowered to experiment. A few examples of our work include, Intuit Aid Assist that acts as a free estimator that helps small businesses in the US get government relief and other such inclusions. Our Knowledge Engineering team, distributed across the USA and India, built aid-assist using the home-grown Knowledge Engineering platform to translate complex compliance rules into easy to understand interview-like experience for small businesses in just 6 weeks. The Consult an Expert programme is another example. The teams worked on enabling our TurboTax Live customers to connect with experts virtually through our Virtual Expert Platform technology, an offering that gives them an opportunity to get the right kind of help in the present challenging situation. Also, the team worked on creating the Intuit QuickBooks Paycheck Protection Program to provide an easy way for small business owners, self-employed individuals, and other eligible applicants to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan.