Ankur Pal

Demystifying AI and Charting New Frontiers in Tech

Ankur Pal

Chief Data Scientist,


As we stand on the cusp of a new era driven by AI and machine learning (ML), it’s paramount to reflect on their transformative journey. With firsthand experience navigating diverse startup landscapes globally, I’ve witnessed the rapid evolution of AI and ML, reshaping industries and unlocking unprecedented innovation opportunities. From optimizing product solutions with ML algorithms to enriching customer experiences through conversational AI, these technologies hold immense potential, revolutionizing industries on a global scale.
In the intricate data landscape of India, macro factors such as regulatory challenges, especially within the FinTech domain, present significant hurdles beyond immediate control. Navigating ethical AI practices and addressing data privacy concerns are critical for establishing trust and robust AI labs. This demands high-quality tech infrastructure and ML operations essential for scalable AI and ML capabilities. Ankur Pal, Chief Data Scientist at Aplazo, advocates for a nuanced approach to address India’s data challenges, emphasizing personalized solutions in consumer tech while grappling with ethical AI and data privacy complexities.
Ankur’s efforts extend beyond technical expertise, as he strives to demystify AI and ML for decision-makers and foster an innovationcentric culture within India’s startup ecosystem. In an insightful interview with TradeFlock, Ankur elaborates on his roles and strategies, offering valuable insights into his innovative pursuits in the dynamic domains of AI and data science. He also highlights the vast opportunities for advancements in AI and ML, underscoring the transformative potential these technologies hold for shaping the future. 

Share key milestones in your ML and AI journey.

My path in ML and AI began as a computer scientist with a computer science engineering background. After completing my master’s in Information Technology , I ventured into fintech and consumer tech startups. A significant milestone was leading the AI division of Niyo Solutions, India’s market leader in neo-banking, tasked with building Machine Learning, Data engineering and analytical science capabilities. This required a blend of strategic vision, technical expertise, and fostering an innovative culture within the team. My journey involved designing and implementing novel solutions and building robust personalisation framework and optimisation framework using scalable ML capabilities for 15 million+ customers . Steering the AI capabilities, I managed four distinct product lines, varying from savings account solutions for millennials to forex card solutions for international travellers. Currently, I’m deeply involved with Aplazo, a Mexico-based BNPL FinTech startup, leading the data portfolio. This role demands a comprehensive understanding of the company goals and marrying the right AIled strategy to the right problem statement for improving product and performance as a whole.
These milestones not only highlight technical prowess but also emphasise the importance of adaptability and strategic leadership in the evolving landscape of ML and AI. 

As a leader in a burgeoning BNPL company, I envision a growth trajectory characterised by technological innovation and market expansion

As Chief Data Scientist, what major challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them?

My journey saw some challenges in the research and innovation sector, demanding heightened adaptability. Coping with the swift pace of learning required constant openness to change, engagement with experts, and skill set updates. A key leadership challenge involved ensuring tangible impacts from AI initiatives. Staying technically ahead in this evolving field was paramount, along with a commitment to ongoing learning. Communicating the intricate AI journey within the company posed a pivotal leadership hurdle, necessitating a clear framework and transparent communication.
The nascent maturity of AI understanding across company hierarchies added complexity, impacting resource allocation, team building, and role definitions within the AI leadership team. These challenges highlighted the need to blend technical proficiency with strategic communication, adaptability, and an understanding of growth-stage intricacies. 

What are your proudest career achievements, and why are they significant to you?

At Aplazo, our dedication to expanding financial access through transparent solutions propels us to innovate and overcome challenges relentlessly. Our AIdriven Buy Now, Pay Later platform has revolutionised the Latin American market, boasting a remarkable 2.5X increase in customer approval rates and doubling efficiency in risk management through advanced machine learning algorithms. This success isn’t just about numbers; it’s about setting industry benchmarks and redefining possibilities.
Furthermore, our proactive approach to intellectual property underscores our commitment to pioneering solutions. With numerous patents filed for our cutting-edge ML models, we solidify our position as industry leaders, pushing the boundaries of financial technology. Behind these achievements lies our exceptional team, whose unwavering dedication turns challenges into triumphs, impacting lives profoundly. Their efforts not only drive profitability but also empower customers with greater financial freedom.
As we celebrate these milestones, we remain committed to our mission, eager for the endless opportunities ahead. With our team’s expertise, we’ll continue shaping the future of finance. Cheers to our achievements and the journey ahead! 

What key advice shaped your leadership style?

The most impactful advice I received early in my leadership journey emphasised embracing failure as a learning opportunity, prioritising effective communication, and nurturing empathy and emotional intelligence. These principles have profoundly shaped my leadership style, guiding me through challenges, inspiring my team, and contributing to organisational success. As I advanced, I adopted a transformative leadership approach, focusing on visionary thinking, empowerment, authenticity, emotional intelligence, continuous growth, and driving social change. This philosophy aims to ignite inspiration and empower others to reach their full potential, fostering positive change and leaving a meaningful impact on individuals, organisations, and society at large. It’s an ongoing journey of growth, exploration, and making a difference that continues to shape me as a leader.

As an angel investor, what's your experience with Indian startups, and how can the ecosystem attract more global investments?

My journey as an angel investor has been a continuous learning experience—far more than just investing; it has provided valuable insights into diverse geographies, disruptive technologies, and innovative business models. With a diverse portfolio of investments ranging from consumer internet, fintech, edtech, and marketplaces to deep tech, my awareness of the overall Indian user landscape has deepened immensely. I believe India’s startup ecosystem is on the cusp of its boom, and it’s the most exciting time to be watching it closely.
India has one of the biggest and fastestgrowing tech talent pools in the world. With such rich technology and AI skillset availability, I foresee many core deep-tech solutions being built out of India for the globe in the next two decades. The longer gestation periods with deep tech are no longer a hurdle for global investors. I believe a collaborative platform among startups, industry experts, and investors in India can facilitate idea exchange, positioning India as a breeding ground for cutting-edge innovation and attracting international investments. 

What motivates you personally and professionally, and what are your five-year goals in both aspects?

In both my professional and personal lives, my driving force is purpose and mission. Professionally, I thrive on continuous learning and understanding emerging technologies. On a personal level, I’m motivated to invest strategically in disruptive ideas within advanced technology domains. Over the next five years, my aspirations involve mentoring young AI leaders, democratising AI knowledge, and fostering a community where insights are shared. At Aplazo, my focus includes establishing a research lab to tackle complex problems, enhancing personalisation frameworks, and creating an open-source framework for collaboration beyond the company. These plans signify a holistic approach to personal and professional growth, emphasising the alignment of individual goals with organisational objectives to foster innovation and excellence within the AI and FinTech domains.

How do you maintain work-life balance amidst your professional demands?

Outside of work, I prioritise physical activities like marathons, cyclothons, trekking, and hiking, fueled by my passion for endurance sports and aspirations to conquer the Seven Summits. I also balance this with cultural pursuits, embracing art, music festivals, and theatre outings with friends, fostering a holistic lifestyle that enriches my well-being. Weekends are dedicated to dinners, movies, and meaningful discussions, adding depth to my personal life. Continuous learning drives me to explore new hobbies, cuisines, and cultures through travel. By setting boundaries and prioritising self-care, I maintain a healthy work-life balance as an AI leader. This balance not only enhances my overall well-being but also boosts my effectiveness and longevity in my career.

What's your vision for growth, personally and for the organisation?

As a leader in a burgeoning BNPL company, I envision a growth trajectory characterised by technological innovation and market expansion. Our mission is centered on pioneering an AI-driven BNPL platform, leveraging technology to propel innovation. Our strategy entails deep market penetration, product diversification, and global expansion, solidifying our position as industry leaders.
Both personally and organizationally, I prioritise leveraging AI to drive innovation, expand our market presence, and foster strategic partnerships. Improving customer experiences through personalisation and continuous learning initiatives is paramount. By maintaining agility, adaptability, and a customer-centric approach, we aim to unlock new growth avenues and strengthen our leadership in the BNPL sector. 

How do you define success, and do you think you've reached it?

Success, to me, is about inspiring, enabling, and empowering others while continuously striving for self-improvement. As AI becomes increasingly transformative, success for AI leaders like myself involves shaping its impact and democratising its benefits. While I’ve achieved milestones in my journey, success is an ongoing process of growth and refinement. There’s always room for innovation, impact, and personal development. I remain dedicated to advancing both professionally and personally, knowing that true success lies in the journey itself.