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Thamzi and Big Data

Have you ever read an autobiography and felt that the bugger is almost living your dream?

One such book I read was “Don’t ask any old bloke for directions” by Palden Gyatso Tenzing. Some 200 odd pages full of what I have always dreamt of doing.

This book is by an IAS officer who gave up his cozy job, something which he had anyways hated for 20 long years. Fed up with being “a round peg in a square hole”, while in the service, he decided to go out and seek his round hole. He gave up his job. Bought a Thunderbird. Packed up two tees and a jeans in his backpack. And left on a 25000 Km journey across India for some nine months. Without any prior plans and preparation.

Apart from the sheer romanticism involved, there was something the author talked about which stayed with me. Tenzing talks a lot about Thamzi. Thamzi is a word from the Bhutia language of Sikkim which roughly translates into “the sacred bond”… between people and all things sentient.

If we ponder on it, Thamzi is what we are trying to find out at Crayon, aren’t we? Wading through exabytes of data to find out the Thamzi which influences our decisions and moulds our behavior.

A decade ago, to state that we can predict what people would like would have been laughable at the best. But today we sit on vast amount of context rich data. People today interact, share their feelings and desires on SNSes like never before. A plethora of digital sensors track and record almost every thing we do. What we eat, how much we exercise, where we sleep, what we like to watch and what do we talk about, to name a few. Quite an invasion of personal privacy I must say (but that’s a debate for another day).

If analysed properly, this data can help model an individual’s likes and dislikes. And his propensity to invest his resources, time or money, into something. “Analysed properly” being the key here. Lots have been written about how data from our Social Media profiles and our interaction with different digital gadgets can help us do it. Sounds achievable and not very futuristic, doesn’t it?

To achieve this ultimate goal of finding the Thamzi, some of us sat together and dreamt of a product. This product would marry various technologies to provide simpler choices to the user. We moonlighted through the past couple of months to realize this dream. A lot of sleepless nights have been spent writing and rewriting code, re-factoring algorithms and refining functionalities.

Today, when we looked at our working prototype, all of us had ‘that’ look of satisfaction. We all knew that we have got to go miles before we sleep. But to see every little piece of the puzzle falling in place was simply a moment to pause and look proudly at what we had achieved.

It may not look much today and some of you may discount it as being too naive. But believe you me, in a couple of months with more data and fine tuned algorithms in place, this would be a product you and I could be proud of.

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Paritosh Gunjan