Adi Chhabra has established himself as a successful high-tech entrepreneur since completing his MBA from Lancaster University Management School.
After graduating in 2011, he co-founded PollPlug, a digital platform providing polls, surveys, and quizzes to companies backed by advanced big data analytics. In just nine months of full-time operation, PollPlug attracted more than 370 clients, including FTSE 250 companies and Accenture’s French consultancy arm.
Adi sold PollPlug to a data analytics company in New York last year. Now, he’s moved on to his next venture E-Junkies.com, a shopping cart solution that helps people sell digital products online.
Alongside his entrepreneurial interests, Adi is a product manager at Vodafone UK, working on the introduction of new Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies.
BusinessBecause caught up with Adi to find out more about his Lancaster MBA experience, entrepreneurship, tech startups, and the future of AI.
What are your predictions for the future of AI?
In terms of business opportunities, the future of AI is remarkable. The automation opportunities are immense.
Now that we have access to large computing power, we can easily process large amounts of data and make decision-making processing faster and more data-driven rather than depending on intuition. At the same time, repetitive organizational processes will become redundant and easily handled by a simple algorithm.
The future of AI is both grim and bright at the same time, depending on through which lens you view it. Across business processes, many systems will become redundant along with the people who are directly involved in supporting those systems. So, expect huge layoffs in next five years, especially in the case of large businesses.
Where did the idea for PollPlug come from?
The idea came about from research I was doing with other Lancaster grads around social betting. Many companies were struggling with comments and social media because of trolls and some decided to shut down comment systems or have moderated sections. I wanted a way where companies could gain insights and at the same time users could voice opinions.
After running alpha and beta versions for more than a year, we pivoted towards small and medium enterprises. It became a tool that they used to poll, survey or quiz employees and customers on the same platform and get advanced analytics including income groups, gender, votes by location, social behaviour.
How has your MBA helped you achieve your entrepreneurial goals?
The MBA gave me an understanding on all the elements of a business. Now, in board meetings, whenever I have to present my business plans I can speak everybody's language. I can get down to the technical details and explain how a product would function, or I can talk with the finance director about the internal rate of return, for example.
Similarly, I’m more effective in my pitches. I’ve done discounted flow modelling myself and I have a clear understanding that of how to raise capital and how I want equity shares to work.
All in all, an MBA helped me progress to the next level. I have moved from fashion to e-commerce and now to AI. I am incredibly lucky to have worked with people who helped me make these transitions.
What made you decide on Lancaster?
There were three main reasons why Lancaster. The first was the three live consultancy projects which meant I would be learning in a live environment. I had never worked for a large corporate. So, this was a great opportunity to learn fast and at the same time make a lot of mistakes so I can learn better.
The second was the huge alumni network. Lancaster attracts working professionals who have more than four years of experience and this was extremely important as I knew we’d be spending most of our time together.
The final reason was the mindful manager focus. It was great to see a university focus on ethics and morals. I have always run my teams and startups with honesty and integrity and this was really important.
What advice do you have for anyone considering an MBA?
It’s ok to not know what you want to do after the MBA. You need to explore everything so you can find out where it is you want to go.
Make as many mistakes as possible. It’s not always easy to learn from other people’s mistakes and experiences. You have put yourself in uncomfortable situations and try different things. There are amazing people to guide you on your MBA and, in the end, you’ll learn more about yourself.