How Pranay Vasani Turned Passion into Leadership at WhizAI
In the early days of WhizAI, employees identified themselves by the number of people on the team when they joined. Pranay Vasani, Director of Client Solutions, is number four.
He attended college with WhizAI co-founder Rohit Vashisht. He also worked with co-founder Amitabh Patil shortly after he graduated from college, and Amitabh mentored him. Pranay went on to do post-graduate work and began his career, but when he heard they had started their own company to develop a user-friendly AI platform for life science company users, he wanted to be a part of it.
Pranay helped the startup grow from the earliest days when everyone worked as a single team, but even then, he leaned toward working on the implementation side. After about a year, his job description was set.
“My role is to marry data and technology to provide solutions to customers to address their business problems,” he explains.
Turning Passion into Solutions
Pranay contributed to the development of some of the features that WhizAI users find most valuable. “One of our first customers had an interesting problem,” he says. “They had a few hundred salespeople who weren’t data- or tech-savvy. They couldn’t get the insights they need from complex charts. They needed to quickly access data.”
With a hybrid natural language processing (NLP) engine, WhizAI allows users to ask questions conversationally – not spend hours learning to use analytics dashboards, keywords, or how to format queries.
Pranay adds, “We allowed them to interact with the platform with SMS. Users just texted questions, such as, ‘What were the sales for the last six months for this customer?’ It’s as easy as chatting with a friend. Then the platform would send them a text message or graphic image with the information they need.”
“Everyone who used the solution was very happy with it,” he comments.
Pranay also recalls the success of providing a solution to WhizAI’s first top-five U.S. pharmaceutical company customer. “In spite of being a startup, we were able to grow the company and expand the product that’s now used by almost 5,000 people there. That’s by no means a small feat. I’m proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” he says.
Turning Passion into Leadership
Pranay now leads the WhizAI team in India. “But I still solve problems on the ground,” he says. “That’s where the fun lies for me.” He’s also discovered that following his passion has made him a better leader. “It always helps to roll up my sleeves when required, and when my team sees me work with them, they trust me more as a leader.”
Pranay has also grown into his leadership role by building the India team. “In addition to technical skills, I look for accountability and ownership,” he says “In a startup where growth happens at a tremendous pace, our team members need agency. They have to be self-starters. You need to pull things to yourself rather than people pushing things to you.”
“We have been lucky to have people on our team who are super talented and show a high degree of ownership,” he comments.
He and his team have also risen to many challenges. “Most of our growth took place from 2019 to 2021. Right before COVID, we had 18 people. Now we have 80 in India and more than 100 globally. Working remotely was new – no one was prepared for that.”
“But that challenge has helped me learn empathy for my team members as well as how to onboard remote employees and ensure that they’re productive,” he comments.
“Challenges can come from all angles, from customer problems to building new features and keeping the team on track through a pandemic,” he says. “When I look back to where I was in 2018 and where I am as a leader now, I can see positive change, for sure.”
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