Rahul Khurana Of KIT Global: How AI Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Cynthia Corsetti
Authority Magazine

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Focus on a dual approach to upskilling — not only advancing my capabilities but also ensuring the entire team undergoes a similar enhancement. By upskilling the entire office, we aim to create a collaborative and knowledgeable environment that thrives on innovation and efficiency. Simultaneously, proactively identify areas where our expertise can be leveraged to assist customers, fostering mutually beneficial relationships and contributing to overall business growth.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rahul Khurana.

Rahul Khurana brings extensive experience and a unique blend of strategic, creative, and operational abilities.

He spent more than a decade at WPP, the largest media conglomerate, where he spearheaded multimillion-dollar accounts spanning India and Southwest Asia, which included prominent brands such as The Coca-Cola Company, Philips, Dyson, Castrol, and Ciena.

With a rich background in performance marketing and a history of spearheading initiatives for renowned brands, Rahul is recognized for his innovative approach to navigating the evolving digital landscape. His expertise spans various sectors, including travel, tech, FMCG, telecom, and more.

Rahul has graced prestigious platforms as a speaker at platforms like India Affiliate Summit 2023, The Economic Times What’s New Summit, IIT Kanpur, IIM Bangalore, and various B2B conferences, sharing invaluable insights on topics ranging from media and leadership to technology and digital advertising.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I grew up in New Delhi, India, surrounded by the vibrant performances of Ram-Leela (Street plays depicting the Indian epic, Ramayana) fueled by inspiration from Indian cinema. Following an MBA in Marketing, my path naturally led me towards Media and Advertising. I honed my skills in Media and Advertising during my 13-year tenure at WPP.

The introduction of KIT Global into my life coincided with my search for a fresh challenge — one that could provide a broader sense of purpose. It feels like the culmination of everything I’ve gathered along the way.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

At KIT Global, we specialize in crafting customized solutions tailored to a diverse range of websites and clientele. What sets us apart is our seamless integration and linkages across our services.

One key distinction is our forward-thinking approach to website, mobile, e-commerce development, and more. Unlike the common practice of relying on open-source platforms for immediate cost benefits, we pride ourselves on foreseeing and mitigating long-term challenges. Our expertise lies in navigating the digital landscape, particularly excelling in the realm of performance marketing.

Within this space, KIT Global shines in harnessing the transformative power of AI and machine learning. The focus here is on addressing the inherent opacity of major platforms such as Google and Facebook, typically treated as black boxes by marketers. We can predict the performance of specific campaigns, identify high-impact creatives, pinpoint target audiences likely to respond and establish clear KPIs for our campaigns.

This strategic foresight is where KIT Global truly excels, enabling our clients to navigate the ever-evolving landscape of performance marketing with confidence and success.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Entrepreneurial Mindset: Throughout my career, cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset has been crucial for connecting with startup founders and facilitating rapid scaling. One notable success involved partnering with a startup facing challenges, aligning our mindsets, and contributing valuable insights. This collaborative risk-taking approach led to a successful scaling initiative.

Patient Restlessness: In the face of setbacks, my patient restlessness has guided me to acknowledge mistakes promptly and embrace a solution-oriented mindset. This resilience not only overcame immediate challenges but also fostered a culture of continuous improvement within the team. Balancing determination and adaptability has been instrumental in achieving long-term success.

Beginner’s Approach: Embracing a beginner’s approach has played a crucial role in navigating a rapidly evolving business landscape. Proactively pursuing knowledge through continuous learning initiatives, enrolling in diverse courses, and staying updated on the latest trends have provided innovative solutions to complex challenges. A beginner’s mindset is key to fostering adaptability and sustaining success in a dynamic environment.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

AI’s disruption in our industry is undeniable, prompting initial investments in research & development (R&D) that may strain our immediate finances. However, the long-term benefits are substantial, as AI is not just a tool but a force reshaping our industry dynamics.

In our tech-centric realm, aligning with a tech-ready partner is imperative, offering operational efficiency and the potential for a superior bottom line. This symbiosis positions us as a top contender in our industry. As AI evolves, we envision a shift from trial-and-error to sophisticated testing methodologies. AI’s ability to make systems smarter enables effective internal testing, identifying optimal configurations for superior performance. Even marginal improvements, especially in sectors like BFSI, can significantly impact client outcomes. The potential to enhance KPIs underscores AI’s positive influence on operational efficiency and client results.

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

Automated journalism, predictive analysis, and AI adoption, including tools like ChatGPT, are transforming our industry. Automated journalism challenges content creators to maintain authenticity amid algorithm-generated content. Predictive analysis empowers proactive decision-making, anticipating market shifts and consumer behaviors. The user-friendly interface of tools like ChatGPT showcases AI’s integration into everyday life, reshaping how individuals interact with technology.

In our industry, hyper-personalization is a crucial aspect, but we shouldn’t overlook the impact of other facets, such as product recommendations For instance, while chatbots are integral, I envision a future where creators can predict the success of a product before its Go-To-Market (GTM).

Currently, AI hasn’t fully reshaped the performance marketing industry. I’m looking toward AI technologies that continually get smarter with each iteration, understanding unique configurations within individual profiles across platforms and configurations. This nuanced understanding is crucial for attributing specific results to audience segments.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

In 2018, AI emerged as a prominent topic in India, and any application integrating it garnered global attention. AI was a pervasive trend, and every solution provider attempted to incorporate some AI aspect into their offerings. However, the initial enthusiasm has settled, leaving only serious players in the market. In retrospect, 2018 had everyone eagerly listening to discussions about AI. As we navigate the evolving tech terrain, the resonance of those discussions echoes in the serious and impactful strides we see today. The launch of ChatGPT became the tipping point, facilitating mass adoption. Looking into 2024, a notable shift is observed, with even smaller businesses embracing automation more readily than before.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

I foresee a broader integration of AI across various functions within organizations. Every facet of the business will explore simplified implementations through AI, focusing on automating processes and optimizing efficiency. This shift highlights the significance of data scientists who possess the ability to predict outcomes, create intricate models, and attribute value within the system. The era ahead holds immense promise for individuals adept at modeling and predicting outcomes through advanced data science techniques.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

In my view, everyone must delve into Marketech and stay updated on its dynamic developments. The pace of change is so rapid that it’s practically impossible to grasp everything. Hence, cultivating a mindset where one comprehends the fundamentals becomes imperative. Even in the realm of artificial intelligence, which is continually evolving into more intricate and sophisticated applications each day, having a foundational understanding is essential.

Having a solid grasp of the basics, and understanding what AI and Marketech can offer, is key. Cultivating a mindset geared toward automation and problem-solving enhances our ability to navigate these transformative landscapes. When these attributes become ingrained in our approach, engaging in and contributing to conversations around these technologies becomes not just achievable but a natural part of our professional journey.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

Ethical considerations are paramount in my perspective, particularly when it comes to the pervasive issue of deepfakes, a concern shared by many. I personally also find the experience of seeing a video personalized by AI creepy. Wherever I go, the conversation revolves around the crucial topic of responsible AI. It has become a significant agenda that I am actively promoting in various forums.

Generative AI tools and capabilities thrive on vast amounts of data, which can be a treasure for marketers. However, our top priority should be data protection, and implementing rigorous security measures to collect and store data securely. Obtaining explicit consent for data usage and adhering to robust data protection regulations are essential practices that cannot be compromised. As such, AI-driven marketing ensures that human-centric decision-making prevails.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

1. Focus on a dual approach to upskilling — not only advancing my capabilities but also ensuring the entire team undergoes a similar enhancement. By upskilling the entire office, we aim to create a collaborative and knowledgeable environment that thrives on innovation and efficiency. Simultaneously, proactively identify areas where our expertise can be leveraged to assist customers, fostering mutually beneficial relationships and contributing to overall business growth.

2 . Responsible AI Practices — Returning to the notion of responsible AI usage, I often encounter instances where individuals, especially younger generations, overly rely on artificial intelligence for tasks like composing emails. It’s essential to recognize AI as a tool, not a shortcut. Striking a balance is crucial to avoid complacency and ensure thoughtful engagement.

3 . Nuances of Command Prompts — In my extensive interactions with ChatGPT, I’ve come to appreciate the significance of understanding command prompts. Crafting smarter prompts is essential for effective communication with AI tools. This insight enhances the quality of interactions and ensures optimal engagement.

4 . Contemplating Automation — Embracing automation in various aspects of our work is a fundamental human trait. As we consider the potential replacement of mundane tasks, including those in sales, with Artificial Intelligence, it prompts us to reflect on the changing nature of our roles in the workforce.

5 . Future Human Roles — With the shift towards automation, a crucial question arises — what will people do when certain tasks become automated? This prompts us to envision a future where human efforts are redirected towards more meaningful pursuits, potentially contributing to sustainability and environmental betterment. Despite these realms lacking glamor currently, they hold immense significance for our collective future.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

Addressing the misconception around AI, it’s important to dispel the notion that AI is exclusively for those already deeply entrenched in the field. AI is a pervasive force that necessitates a thoughtful approach in various domains, including human resources, marketing, and even creative functions. The disruption caused by AI in content creation and other realms is a reality one needs to be prepared for.

Another prevalent misconception revolves around the fear that AI will replace human jobs. Contrary to this belief, history has shown that technological advancements, including the information technology age, have not only preserved but created more jobs. The key lies in understanding and embracing what artificial intelligence brings to the table. When approached with awareness and preparation, it becomes evident that the original intelligence will always guide and harness the potential of artificial intelligence.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that is changing quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking any risks” by Mark Zuckerberg

I consulted a startup that recently raised Series A funding. Instead of the frugal route, I advised a bold move: full-scale investment in branding based on deep consumer insights, defying industry data and norms. This strategy was akin to purchasing a business-class ticket when funds were short. So this risk did pay off remarkably well for the founders, earning us their enduring trust and their next round of funding.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Team Motivation — A crucial aspect of my daily decision-making lies in building a motivated team. This involves establishing clear goals, breaking them down into achievable milestones, and fostering effective communication. Additionally, regular recognition and appreciation are essential for maintaining a motivated and engaged team, ensuring that everyone is aligned with the overarching objectives.

Product Enhancements — Emphasizing efficiency in my daily decisions regarding product development is crucial. My mantra here is automation and continual optimization. Anything that can be automated should be, streamlining processes and freeing up resources for more strategic endeavors. Each step in the product enhancement journey should be scrutinized for optimization opportunities, ensuring a progressive and efficient product development cycle.

Results — The daily decision-making process should prioritize initiatives that produce tangible and preferably immediate results. Whether it’s a project, task, or strategy, focusing on efforts that deliver measurable outcomes ensures that resources are directed toward impactful endeavors. Anything that doesn’t contribute to at least deferred outcomes can be deferred or reconsidered at a later stage, allowing for a more strategic allocation of time and resources.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Expressing apprehension about the perils of unethical AI, particularly deepfakes, I advocate for the creation of an International Responsible AI Day to foster global awareness. A call to the UN: Are you tuned in?

How can our readers further follow you online?

Readers can follow my regular professional updates on LinkedIn and obtain new offering insights from KIT Global India. Alternatively, I can be reached via Facebook, Instagram or X.

Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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