Kiran Uppuluri: Reimagining Business Strategy, New Rules of Engagement and the TiE Factor

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Kiran Uppuluri
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BOSTON–Kiran Uppuluri, founder and CEO of verteXD, helps businesses reimagine business strategy, customer journey mapping and experience design with a relentless focus on human-centeredness and an intrinsic design thinking approach. A thought leader in the industry, she built verteXD based on years of leadership experience at some of the most innovative companies such as Deloitte Consulting, Fidelity Investments and Citizens Bank. She and her team primarily serve companies in the Financial Services and Healthcare sector.

Before founding verteXD, Ms. Uppuluri was in an executive leadership role at Citizens Bank where she led a team that created and owned the Customer Experience strategy and roadmap for multi-channel customer experiences; and before that with Fidelity Investments in various senior roles spanning marketing, product, and customer strategy and experience. Prior to that, she spent several years in management consulting with Deloitte, in their Strategy and Operations practice.

Most recently, Ms. Uppuluri was the Chairperson for the highly successful TiECON East 2021. She is a current charter member as well as a member of the Board of Directors for TiE Boston. She serves as a business mentor at MIT VMS and as an industry mentor at the national level for NSF I-Corps. She is also a Customer Experience educator at DesignxRI and Harvard Innovation Labs.

She was named in the Top 10 CEOs of 2021 by Industry Era Women Leaders. She was also recently honored with the 2021 TiE Boston President’s Choice Award, for her dedication and contribution to the TiE Community during this past year. She is passionate about Women Empowerment. She has served as a longtime strategic advisor and Board member for Saheli. She is leading the TiE Women’s Pitch Competition team in 2022 for TiE Boston. She serves as a mentor for Women Who Win.

Ms. Uppuluri holds an MBA from University of Maryland Smith School of Business, Masters from Clemson University and a Bachelors from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.

Here is a Q/A with Ms. Uppuluri:

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Kiran Uppuluri: Having spent more than two decades in the corporate world talking to customers and end-users, I realized that taking a human-centered design thinking approach with analytics bolted on, was the most compelling way

to innovate and sustain, regardless of whether you are in the business of a product, process or service offering. While the mega corporations have started to incorporate the fundamentals of design thinking into their organizations, I realized that the companies in the large cap, midcap and startup sector would be left behind in this movement. That’s when I decided to start verteXD.

Customers are experiencing the world in new and different ways. Marketplaces are responding by transforming their businesses from product-centric to customer-centric models, shifting how and where value is created. It starts with developing (a) a clear understanding of customer’s needs, powered by (b) the intelligence of multi-dimensional data (quantitative, qualitative, behavioral, and contextual), and innovating from (c) a human-centric standpoint. These are the new rules of engagement that any company – whether it is born-digital or a

traditional company – must embrace to prosper in this digital age. The promise of this shift and the opportunity to be a part of it really excites me.

Our mission at verteXD is to help our clients to reimagine and transform businesses to a human-centered perspective. We help ventures and companies gain traction and transform through design sprints. Whether it is business strategy, building customer journeys or designing signature experiences at key moments of truth, taking the design-thinking approach to solve for it and using a “sprint” methodology, transforms  organizations to deliver durable solutions to compete tomorrow.

INE: If you’re engaged with any charity or non-profit, please tell us why this organization and what do you do for them?

KU: I have been a TiE charter member (TiE is the world’s largest not-for-profit

organization dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship.) for a few years  now and currently serve as a Board member at TiE Boston, the largest nonprofit organization for entrepreneurs in New England. The first thing that totally fascinated me about TiE was that – it’s a highly collaborative organization of smart people coming together to innovatively solve new problems. To my knowledge, there isn’t another organization in New England like it.

In some ways, I found inspiration to start verteXD by asking myself how I could I help companies design personalized consumer experiences. The organization and the members of TiE are different in the sense that everybody’s always trying to help each other. I think when you come together like that, you truly raise the whole community to a much higher level. Every time I interact with a TiE member, I learn something new and walk away enriched.

I was recently the Chairperson for TiECON East 2021, the largest conference for entrepreneurs in the Northeast. It was 6 months of hard work and a labor of love. Giving back to the community never felt better –it was one of the best experiences of my life.

I am also leading the TiE Women’s Pitch Competition team in 2022 for TiE  Boston as they prepare to compete at the global competition in Dubai later this year. Raising money is highly challenging for female founders as you may know. Female founders secured only 2% of venture capital in the U.S. in 2021, the smallest share since 2016 and a sign that efforts to diversify the famously male-dominated industry are struggling. I am excited about the opportunity ahead to help female founders balance the gap.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

KU: Curating and organizing surprises and celebrations. Nothing gives me more joy than bringing a bit of sparkle and zest to my friends and family. My husband and I love to Karaoke at our home to Hindi music.

INE: In what way you feel you have most positively influenced or served the local community and your company/organization and professional field?

KU: Mentoring. It is a passion of mine.  I mentor at MIT VMS, a non-profit that helps MIT student and faculty (both current as well as alum) entrepreneurs. I enjoy helping companies reimagine product and service experiences. Experiences are in the eyes of the beholder. The value of your product and service is too. Reframing and retooling this value in practical, actionable ways has been my calling, and the inspiration behind verteXD. It is through such experience design that I seek to positively influence my professional field.

INE: What is your rare talent?

KU: I think this is a question for my friends and family to answer.

 

INE: Your favorite books?

KU: Range by David Epstein; Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahamsa Yogananda.

 

INE: Your favorite quotes?

KU: “Let the worry worry itself. You go do your thing.” – My dad

“All the action happens at 32 degrees.” – James Clear

INE: Who inspires you the most?

KU: My children. For that matter, all children. I am amazed at their zest to create, to imagine, to face adversity. They take the hits and bruises, cry for a minute or a day and let go, moving on to start all over again… or pivot! Everything is just so matter of fact for them.

INE: Your core value you try to live by?

KU: Integrity and discipline.

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