Sachin Katira, CEO and Director at Zoomin

Covid-19 has disrupted the way businesses and consumers think and communicate with each other. The new normal has compelled customers to embrace digital technologies at a pace like no one envisioned a few years back. For businesses, the challenge is to reinvent their strategies to make customers’ buying experience intuitive, uncomplicated, secure, and personalized across all touchpoints.

With so much data at their disposal and growing competition, fostering continuous innovation and crafting unique experiences is the heart of competitive differentiation for any business. In an exclusive interaction with Jatinder Singh of CTO Forum,  Sachin Katira, CEO and Director at Zoomin, a personalized gifting and photo company, shares how the company is harnessing tech for driving innovation and delivering exceptional user experiences. 

Founded in 2008, Mumbai-based Zoomin is one of India’s very first app that allowed customers to upload their precious photographs [from their smart devices or PC] on its cloud platform and select the product or a photo album on which they desired to get it printed and order from the convenience of their home anywhere in India.  Excerpts from the interview.

CTO Forum: The recent outbreak made every enterprise realize the need to champion digital ways to mitigate such scenarios in the future. How are you harnessing technology to innovate and deliver exceptional user experiences?

Sachin Katira: Zoomin has millions of users using our services to upload photos and edit them using our editing tools. Which are then printed in forms like a photobook, different types of prints, onto photo frames, home decors, and more. We use technology extensively in every part of our operations. The technology pegs that we use most effectively are: 

  • Client facing AI tools: to make the creation process far more straightforward and more accessible for customers, both on our app and the website
  • Cloud Infrastructure: to store and transform images to create the perfect print-ready files, the latest web and app technologies to provide access to the customers and help in their creation process We use Cloud infrastructure and Analytics to ensure that the users are served with relevant designs and products, as per their choice
  • Automated workflow: to ensure that orders are printed fast and make no room for any data mix-up. Offers users complete automation to manage personalization at a scale. We have an end-to-end automated production workflow to ensure that we can print and ship at the fastest possible time with no glitches when an order is placed.

CTO Forum: How has the global health crisis impacted your business operations?

Sachin Katira: Conveying the need for gifting sentiments, promoting more thoughtful gifting ideas and products that reflect the right emotion for any occasion. An uncertain pause on celebrations during the lockdown, of course, led to a drastic dip in users, but we could recover from it quickly. From a technology perspective, while most of our infrastructure is on the cloud and we could manage that remotely, ensuring that our production team and the logistics system worked smoothly without any let-up was a challenge. Guaranteeing the uptime of the printing production systems was another more significant challenge for us.

CTO Forum: What is your view as the best way to plug the gap between the business and the IT department of a digital services company? 

Sachin Katira: These are usually a combination of a lot of small steps like:

  • Involving the tech team in our product strategy meetings
  • Getting the technical team to speak to customers to understand their issues first-hand 
  • Keep ego at the door and learn to think about the problem. Business people tend to believe that tech work is trivial, and tech people tend to obfuscate at times to ensure that the result looks more than what it is. So these seemingly minor but consequential issues can be kept at bay by developing a problem-solving attitude
  • Set realistic timelines with predefined milestones and regular status

CTO Forum: What are some of the innovations you are working upon to drive technological transformation?

Sachin Katira: Technically, we have been moving all of our API infrastructure and processing workloads to serverless – to manage spikes, reduce costs and be more efficient. On our Zooboo storybook brand, we are working on using AR to push book personalization to another level. 

CTO Forum: Can you share some of the technology trends you foresee in 2022 and your tech implementation plans for 2022?

Sachin Katira: A few trends we already see are:

Seamless buying from social: Pre-stored addresses and stored payment methods make the users’ shopping experience more uncomplicated than ever before. Multiple tedious steps have been cut down to a few simple clicks.

Use of AR for purchase: Using AR to visualize before purchasing helps consumers make the perfect selection. For instance, one of our best selling products – the Framed. Prints can be better purchased when the user can check out through AR exactly where he wants to place it in the house and how it will look.

Mobile payments and 5G: Mobile is the first point of access today for entertainment or news for most people in India. With UPI becoming ubiquitous and more and more companies building cross-platform experiences, this group will increasingly migrate to buying on the phone. With 5G, mobile might replace most other digital devices. 

Intelligent digital marketing: AI-backed advertising can become the most niche direct marketing we have seen. With a mobile phone that knows what you like, where you travel, and your options for different services, we can guide users to experience the best of personalization in a holistic sense.

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