Prashanth Palakurthi is the Founder and CEO of Reflexis Systems, pioneering the new category of Retail Execution Management in 2001. He has spent over 25 years with enterprises in Europe, Asia, Caribbean and the USA – advising them on Alignment of Business and IT Strategies. Prashanth is a double graduate with Masters in Mathematics and Management Studies from the Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani.
Prashanth serves as an Advisor to the Board of the Giving Back Foundation spending time on Autism research and is a frequent contributor to educational programs at his University.
Prashanth's fantasy is to become a world-class Bridge player and hopes to find time to learn it well.
What are the major challenges in the retail space that Reflexis tries to address?
Retailers run sprawling enterprises with their store-estate spanning countries, states, cultures, trends, products etc. Manning these stores is a highly mobile, shifting workforce. Across these differences, they need to ensure consistency in execution. Using Reflexis platform, retailers are able to drive such consistency and generate higher sales, better customer service with a happier labor force.
What are the core competencies of Reflexis that differentiates it in this space?
Great understanding of retail, exceptional engineering prowess and most importantly, a customer-care culture that has been recognized as the best for the last six years.
Data analytics seems to be perceived as the new area with a lot of entrepreneurial opportunities. What big opportunities do you see in this field?
Retailers, like other enterprises, have invested billions of dollars in collecting massive amounts of data on almost all aspects of business. However, they struggle to collate/co-relate it meaningfully. Reflexis has filed for patents in an area called 'Intelligent Direction'. We are stating that even if meaningful collation does occur, it will yield suboptimal returns unless the reports lead to action - people actually doing things differently and more profitably.
As you look at your life's journey, what aspects do you think contributed the most to your becoming a successful entrepreneur?
I have been lucky to have an outstanding team around me, always. My father once asked me - "Why is everyone in your company smarter and more intelligent than you?"
What advice would you have for young entrepreneurs? What risks should they be aware of especially in this down economy?
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone. Even if you have 'what-it-takes' very few are lucky. I firmly believe that luck has a significant (a fact often not conceded) part in success of an enterprise. I would recommend that would-be entrepreneurs read "Drunkard's walk" by Leonard Mlodinow.
I think a down economy is best for starting a business. Buyers are more conscious of value and if your product/service can offer it go ahead - make your day.
What are traits of a successful entrepreneur?
a) Passion and Compassion as my friend Raghupathy said.
b) Never give up. But know when to change - the product/service, process, or people. Timing is very important
c) Luck. Large dollops of it (like Napoleon once said about the key characteristic he looked for in a General).
Could you tell us a little about Giving Back Foundation(GBF) ?
GBF is an organization that helps public figures (especially in arts and sports) contribute to the cause they believe passionately in. While these great folks have their hearts in the right place, the challenges of managing a cause-based foundation are daunting and sometimes a majority of the monies collected are not put to the cause but 'administration' costs. The actors/sports stars do not have the time to know. GBF ensures that the administration costs are rationalized across different foundations - leading to a very small, fixed (and publicized) sum of money going towards non-cause expenses. Marc Pollick runs an outstanding organization and I am very proud to be associated with GBF for the last decade. In short, GBF ensures that most of the money is spent towards the cause and is managed exceptionally well.
Why do you think it is important to support that cause?
Because star power leads to exponential fundraising. And application of the funds to a cause - professionally managed and meticulously audited - rather than on administration charges is doubly beneficial.
Could you tell us a little about your interest in Bridge? Who is your idol in this space? What are you doing to train?
I used to play bridge in college and like many other team games, once we left college I stopped. Internet magic allowed me to play bridge with some of the best players in the world online. In early 2000's I hired myself a coach from St Petersburg, Russia (who was a member of an outstanding Russian team) and re-learnt the sport for a couple of years - got a bit better. I had a team (with Bulgarian, Romanian and an Indian partner) at Spingold in Atlanta where we did creditably. But it took a lot of effort and my wife (and colleagues at work!) threatened to leave me if I did not stop spending all my time thinking of Viking Precision. I promised to restart after I retire.
Anything message for our readers?
Sharing is more fun than hoarding.
Thank you for your time.