Orion Innovationthe Edison-based digital transformation and product development services firm, boasts 30-plus years of experience solving complex business problems for clients across a number of major industries, such as telecommunications, media and technology; professional services; financial services; sports and entertainment; industrial and consumer tech; health care and life sciences; education; and more. Orion has a global footprint – with over 6,400 employees worldwide. The company entered 2024 with a head of steam, following a series of major announcements throughout 2023.
The most recent development came right at the end of the year when Orion was tapped by Liverpool Football Club to become the iconic English soccer team’s official digital transformation officer.
“We’re thrilled to join the Liverpool Football Club family and drive digital innovation for one of the world’s most popular sports teams,” said Raj Patil, Orion CEO, in a statement announcing the partnership. “We are confident that our collaboration will elevate the club’s fan experience and operations to even greater heights. This is because we pride ourselves on inspiring and accelerating digital innovation through long-term trusted partnerships with clients.”
Orion has developed sports industry solutions via its Sports Innovation Lab, including a platform for sports operations, enhanced fan experience, gameday management and more. “We welcome LFC to Orion’s Sport Innovation Lab and look forward to this partnership fueling innovation in the sports industry,” said Satish Kumar, global head of sports & entertainment for Orion.
“It’s fantastic to welcome Orion to the LFC partner family,” said Billy Hogan, CEO of Liverpool FC. “We see strong synergies and cultural fit between our two brands, with similar core values, ambition, and the desire to be best in class digitally.”
In October, Orion launched HI Labs.aia new global initiative to drive innovation in generative AI – serving as the company’s platform for experimenting with emerging technologies and tools in the evolving space. Orion said the lab is dedicated to developing proactive and customer-specific proof of concepts, solutions and accelerators for clients to rapidly deploy AI technologies into their businesses.
“We developed OI Labs.ai to co-innovate and incubate new AI tools and technologies to power our clients’ businesses and give them a competitive advantage,” said Orion CTO Rajul Rana in an Oct. 11 statement. “Our team has built a series of industry-specific AI proofs of concepts and we’re excited to bring them to clients.
“AI is a top priority for every business and OI Labs.ai is another example of our commitment to deliver emerging technologies that transform our clients’ businesses and serve as a catalyst for growth,” Patil added. “Combining both our deep domain expertise and engineering capabilities allows us to design and incubate new AI solutions for our clients.”
Patil recently discussed some of those 2023 announcements, AI, the company’s 2024 outlook, and more.
“I have been with Orion for seven-plus years now. And we are in the fourth phase of our journey – if you may, as a company,” Patil told NJBIZ. “The company was started here in New Jersey. We have been around for a long time.”
Patil said that when he joined Orion, the company focused on the digital shift and transformation.
“In this shift, there is an opportunity and the need for a new breed of a player – to build at a large scale,” Patil explained. “So, that’s been the journey over the last seven years. And really what that means for us is a few attributes. One is, what we call, agility at scale. We feel there is a need for large enterprises who are trying to transform themselves – that they need a player who can be extremely agile yet bring scale and global scale. Two is, we wanted to also build a platform that’s very evenly distributed globally and not heavily weighted in any one geography.”
He noted that Orion operates across the U.S., Latin America, Mexico, Eastern Europe and Asia. “The whole concept being – let’s do the work where it can be best done from,” Patil said. “And third is experience – expertise in specific industry verticals, investing behind that. That’s kind of been the journey and that’s been my background. So, the reason I say we are in the fourth phase is – and I’m getting into ’24 – we are now saying, what does that next journey look like for the company? How do we double ourselves from here? And what does it take to double as a company?”
Last year featured a number of acquisitions, such as the one Orion announced in February for Sryas, a global technology company that specializes in providing digital transformation services and solutions to companies in the telecom sector; and a March deal with Banktech Software Servicesa core banking implementation partner for global finance solutions.
“When we do acquisitions, we always look for a few attributes – for them to add to this platform I spoke about,” Patil explained. “Did they bring that, or do they expand us into a new geography? Does the acquisition bring new client relationships in the verticals that we are focused on? And third, is talent – talent at both the senior levels and across the board. So, that’s our criteria. There’s a lot more nuance to it – but at a high level.”
Patil emphasized Orion’s strength in providing technology and digital solutions to the sports and entertainment industries. “And sports itself is going through a tremendous shift of using new technologies,” said Patil. “Be it from fan engagement to just automation for the gameday operations to the stadiums becoming more and more intelligent.”
On the Liverpool deal, Patil expressed his excitement about the partnership, the opportunity to provide its technological capabilities and help the club with its digital transformation — while also reaching one of the largest and most devout fanbases of any sports club around the world.
“Incredible global reach – and we, again, want to be a global company. So, it allows us to associate with a brand that elevates our brand – and across industries,” said Patil.
Throughout the sports world more broadly, Patil laid out some areas where Orion is seeing a lot of activity and interest – fan engagement and improving the fan experience; innovation using data analytics and AI in terms of player performance, monitoring and enhancements; stadium automation to improve efficiency and the experience; and how to leverage and use the tremendous amount of content being generated.
“I think those are the kind of areas where innovation is going on,” said Patil. “And we have several of those we are actively working on with the sports teams. But also building our points of view.”
He described the launch of the AI lab and the AI space, in general, as exciting opportunities. “We see this as another major shift that has happened. And we believe we are positioned really well, and we continue to invest behind it,” said Patil. “But what is interesting is – given we work across multiple industries, across large enterprises – where we are seeing a lot of traction and success is working with our clients in, how do you apply and where do you apply AI? That is the big question. The technology has such promise. But at the end of the day, where can I really apply it?”
Patil said that efforts have included strengthening its technology team, bringing on a new CTO, and using the capabilities of the lab to build proof of concepts and show clients where the technology can potentially help them.
“We have several POCs across industries going on – and we already have a few that have gone into production now,” said Patil. “So that’s the big thing. Last quarter, we saw a lot of POCs. We’ve started rolling them out into production this year. That’s how we are seeing it – creating frameworks and models that can rapidly be adopted.”
Patil outlined the company’s overall areas of focus, investment and goals for the year ahead. “And [we’re] excited about the partnerships we have signed – and scaling them,” said Patil, who nodded to the Liverpool partnership, in particular, and his hopes to scale that one in 2024. “I think ’24 – given the macro environment as a backdrop – is really about investing behind our growth to the next level.
“Since we are talking to NJBIZ here. Obviously, New Jersey is where we are. And we continue to bring talent here and continue to hire people – and scale,” said Patil. “We’re always about investing in good capability and talent.”