Datacast Episode 4: AI in Retail with Saurabh Bhatnagar

I’m creating a new podcast about Data Science called Datacast! The 4th episode is my conversation with Saurabh Bhatnagar, first data scientist at both Barnes & Noble and Rent The Runway. Listen to learn about his insights on AI applications in the retail space, how he scaled machine learning to a billion dollar at RTR, his advice for data scientists who want to pursue the entrepreneurial route and start their own ventures, and many more.

Guest Bio

Saurabh Bhatnagar is the ex-Principal Data Scientist at Rent The Runway. He created the big-data analytics and recommendation platforms at RTR and scaled it to 30m users. RTR is now valued at $800m.

He was involved in many personalization incentives as well as back-end fulfillment algorithms that power the business. He also pioneered AI products at RTR like image search and recommendations.

Prior to RTR, Saurabh was founding member of the Quantitative Analyst team at Barnes & Nobles and helped it grow. His responsibilities at B&N were customer segmentation and propensity to buy models. Since 2000, he has consulted in data space for many Fortune 500 firms.

More recently, he founded Virevol, a retail AI startup.

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Show Notes:

  • (3:20) Saurabh recalled his college experience.

  • (4:25) Saurabh talked about his first role out of school as a software engineer specializing in database at CA Technologies.

  • (8:06) Saurabh landed database consulting roles with different companies.

  • (9:14) Saurabh gave insights on the differences between database systems now and a decade ago.

  • (11:05) Saurabh shared his experience landing a senior data scientist job with Barnes & Noble.

  • (13:15) Saurabh explained major challenges in hiring good data scientists.

  • (16:10) Saurabh discussed his decision to go work for Rent The Runway.

  • (17:57) Saurabh gave insights on the data problems he had worked with at Rent The Runway.

  • (19:43) In reference to his blog post on scaling machine learning at RTR, Saurabh shared knowledge on structuring a data science team.

  • (21:36) Saurabh gave advice for data scientists to incorporate feedback loops into their workflow.

  • (26:00) Saurabh talked about how to give better pitches to business stakeholders.

  • (29:03) Saurabh showed great appreciation for Rent The Runway’s CEO and Founder, Jennifer Hyman.

  • (30:39) In his post Human in AI loop, Saurabh shared the details of building Deep Dress AI, which can show the Instagram photos on Rent The Runway’s product pages and help the customers find fashion inspiration through these high quality shots.

  • (34:10) Saurabh talked about unique challenges of doing data science in the retail space.

  • (36:18) Saurabh gave a brief glimpse about his stealth-mode startup Virevol

  • (36:58) Saurabh gave advice for data scientists who want to pursue the entrepreneurial route and start their own ventures.

  • (38:36) In a fun blog post, Saurabh used Generative Adversarial Network to generate dresses photos and use them as training data for the model. He discussed the potential usage of GAN models for fashion.

  • (41:02) Closing segments.

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