In this interview Dr. Anand Deshpande shares with us the strategies for business growth in the digital age.
In this interview, Dr. Anand shares with us the growth journey of his company. Read the transcript of the discussion between Dr. Ganesh and Dr. Anand…
Digital India was just a dream a few years ago and given the hype and hoopla in the last few months over farmer stress and loan waivers, anemic industrial growth, banking NPAs, many start-up failures and the alarming rise of joblessness, a cynical citizen could be forgiven for believing that all the missions we have heard about — Skills India, Start-Up India, Make in India and even Digital India — will have to press a reset button to have any hope of succeeding by the time India is 75 years old. But this would not do justice to several successes we have seen in the realm of digital and the real hope that many of us have that a digitally-enabled India could be the secret sauce for cooking up a more optimistic future for many of our countrymen. The year when we see real results could well be 2019.
Research conducted by McKinsey Global Institute in collaboration with the IT ministry a year ago had optimistically projected a trillion-dollar opportunity that beckons if we address all the possibilities of digital enablement. This will mean not just the tech sector contributing $300 billion or more by 2025 but many sectors — health care, manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and education — using the enabling power of the national optical fibre network and an array of digital technologies will transform product design, optimise processes and enable new consumer and citizen journeys. The good news is that India’s pace of digital adoption has been among the best in the world with more than a quarter billion Indians having gone online in the last five years and smart phone penetration — which grew from six per hundred people in 2013 to 23 in 2017 — is expected to continue its breathtaking growth rate in the foreseeable future.
The secret to success in the creation of a digitally enabled India is not to rush in with digital technologies without preparing the processes and culture for assimilation of new ideas and capabilities.
In every manufacturing company, from the very large to the micro SME, it has been seen time and time again that spraying IoT sensors on the shop floor is no formula to ensure smart manufacturing. It is important to build a data usage culture and move from a descriptive postmortem analysis of production and maintenance to a predictive and eventually prescriptive capability for shop floor output, supply and demand chain responsiveness, customer buying behaviour and employee willingness to be digitally responsive, The interplay of cyber with physical, whether it is humans working with robots or artificial intelligence used as an assistive and augmenting tool rather than for autonomous AI replacing humans, mixed reality — augmented and virtual capabilities to enhance production and warehousing productivity and “digital twins” to model every process and simulate outcomes before putting it into large scale deployment are all capabilities which the fourth industrial revolution is demanding. The very same principles, with some necessary tweaks can transform agriculture, health care, logistics and enable the true creation of e-government and smart cities and villages across the length and breadth of the country. Even the social sector is seeing the value of digital technology deployment and impact investment monies are seeking the intersection of technology and social upliftment to fund new models of development.
The McKinsey report pointed out that while IT and IT-enabled services, electronics manufacturing, e-commerce, telecom services and e-payments would contribute half of the trillion dollar digital economy, the other half would be made up of new and emerging digital ecosystems — digital product and service creation and delivery, smart grids and digital power distribution, e-marketplaces for private and government services and larger participation of shared economy players not just in transportation and hotel rooms but every segment of the services economy. The challenge of course will lie in preparing the new workforces with the skills and work culture they need to participate with the digital natives to create new economic models and benefit from them. The nation is approaching a state of readiness to take up the digital challenge and convert it into national and global opportunities.
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Uma Nidmarty: So how would you define what a chatbot is?
Ayush Jain: My most layman definition of would be, chatbots are chat and bots. So now bots are anything robotic, anything automation. And then on the chat, I see it as more of an umbrella – it could be just a chat or it could be even a voice assistant or it could be any kind of program that you put in information and get out information.
Animesh Samuel: Its automated conversations. However, just a machine to give an automated conversation or an automated response is not going to suffice. In this era, data is of prime importance and especially unstructured data is very key. So if a machine is able to read and understand text like a human then what happens is that you don’t have to actually look out for a keyword but you can understand semantically what a person is talking. The machine can use both the rules that are set there and when it is trained on a neural network is able to respond proactively, intuitively to the user and the user’s needs.
The best advantage that chatbot has over a human is that machines don’t forget. So any conversation can be taken and can be dealt with that.
Uma Nidmarty: How far along do you believe we have come as relates to the AI component of chatbots and how much further do we have to go? From all our conversations so far we seem to feel that chatbots still come across as a very transactional element. So what is your opinion on that?
Ayush Jain: So what I think is that it’s just the beginning, though in fact the beginning has been in place since the 1960’s. That’s when, in fact historically chatbots came into existence. The pace of that growth has definitely become exponential now in the last two to three years.
However, we are just looking at the tip of the iceberg. Being in technology since the last ten years, we can see how technology has been changing and making our lives better exponentially. We can definitely say that chatbots are here to stay. The AI component that is the primary requirement for the chatbot industry to grow and to survive is going to become better and better.
Animesh Samuel: So when you talk about AI, ever since the 1950’s there have always been these waves about AI. When first it was proposed by Turing that a machine could think and make a decision, it was considered preposterous. To make it possible there were two factors that were not existing earlier but which exist today. One is the kind of computing power, the GPU’s that you need, the teraflux of computing power that you need to process all this data, and to learn to put it on a learning model or a deep learning network. And the second aspect of it is also the collaborative nature of the environment today.
So today people are happy to open API’s, people are happy to collaborate. Like our platform is consumed by the likes of Persistent Systems and Capita etc. where they are using our platform to build solutions for their end clients.
Uma Nidmarty: So given that chatbots today predominantly seem to pervade our mind space as relates to consumer activities. How do you think this translates across industries like manufacturing? Where do you feel the real gold mine is?
Ayush Jain: I have been a big advocate on the power chatbots can bring in areas such as governance. For example, the government today has applications, the government today has websites. But what happens is that all these things require a learning curve for the user. The information could be there, but the user cannot access it. The real beauty of the chatbot is that you can make it you so simple for anyone to understand. So now no one has to tell you to learn the website and understand where this information could be or which tab to put into. So with chatbots, all and all we see a future where these things become more seamless i.e. there is no learning curve, there is no installation etc.
Animesh Samuel: In the manufacturing part or the industry part of it, we are doing use cases like for example for Tatacom where a CXO level person, if he wants to approach a prospect – Typically an analyst would have to go through tons of data online. You know who you are meeting? What’s their background? Their hobbies, where they went to school? What’s their company’s strategic focus? Strengths, weakness etc. So typically on a platform like ours, you are able to get that information real time and the beauty is how it gets dispersed by a chatbot.
In an industry or an enterprise, there is a lot of unstructured data. There is a lot of soft communication on the platform like Skype and also chat about the enterprise outside. Any enterprise will have a social footprint today. People, employees, suppliers etc will be talking about the organises. So there is a lot of data in an unstructured format that’s out there which can be made accessible to the right person via chat and at the right time. So in that sense, the industry has a lot to benefit from making sense out of all this data that is there.
The growth of unstructured data is about ten times more than that of structured data. Also, the unstructured data is in silos.
Uma Nidmarty: So you both have talked about chatbots. What they are? And the tremendous opportunities it presents across multiple areas and applications. What do you think are the top three challenges in actually building and investing in this infrastructure as an IT services company?
Ayush Jain: I think you know as an IT services company the challenges are: one- because chatbots they have no UI. They have no other differentiator. The biggest differentiator is your NLP engine, is your AI. So you know as an IT services company you either have to invest in building your own AI/NLP which is totally very difficult. Or you have to find the right partners. In fact, one of the things like Animesh mentioned like companies like his who are the NLP experts and a company like Persistent or a company you know the other IT services company could partner together. Because as an IT services company to be able to cater to the demand and you got to be able to solve your customer’s problem. That can only happen when you have the right NLP and AI in place for the chatbot to really function. Chatbots do backfire. If the right engine is not in place.
So that’s one thing. The second thing is as an IT services company the other thing that relates equally is that the differentiators are really difficult in this space. Because again apart from your interface or your NLP and stuff you don’t have anything else that you can show. Therefore, what we have found a sweet spot is that more and more IT services company are focusing on certain industry segments through which they can build case studies. Or through which they can build their experience or work with multiple partners and figure out what works best. And third is of course educating the customers. A lot of companies are still in the thinking mode and still not open because they don’t realise the value of the chatbot. And last of course is finding good people. So these are the challenges that I see as an It services company for chatboats.
Uma Nidmarty: How about you Animesh?
Animesh Samuel: As a deep tech company, we do not have any domain knowledge apart from the core tech that we are building. It becomes very imperative for us to find the right partner, the right services company who is able to use our technology and deploy it to their clients.
Uma Nidmarty: So I think we have run out of time. And I really want to thank you both for your time and the excitement that you both show around this new technology.
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Industry 4.0 is no longer a future trend. Manufacturing companies are capitalizing on the innovations brought by young technology companies like Infinite Uptime. Having recently raised $5 Million in Series A funding, Infinite Uptime is poised for the next phase of growth.
Raunak Bhinge walks us through the company’s journey and future growth plans
1. What has been the journey of Infinite Uptime? And what are the key drivers for your success?
Infinite uptime was started in the U.S. towards the end of 2015. That was when the product development started. We started with a few angel investors where we got the first initial funds to develop the product.
We came to India in January 2017 and that’s when we raised our seed round. We started going to market in about July 2017. The response from the market has been really good. We have been lucky that we have hit the market at a time when the industrial IoT space has just started to take off and is now is reaching a hockey-stick curve in the product development cycle.
Apart from India, we have a team in China and in the U.S. The team in the U.S. is mostly focused in research and development. And, we have sales channel partners in the U.S., Australia, and other countries.
2.You have mentioned in news articles that 80% of your customers are in India. What has been your experience with the Indian manufacturing sector? Is adoption of Industry 4.0 pervasive or only focused among the large players? What is the opportunity?
The market is quite fragmented in the manufacturing industry. There are a lot of small & medium players and a few large players – few as in few hundreds. Currently the adoption starts with the large companies. Large players are trying out different forms of industry 4.0.
The adoption among the small & medium companies is low because they are more driven by a P&L kind of a system.
How pervasive it gets, we will see with time. However, at least everyone’s trying it out. You never hear a “no” in the industry today. This was probably not the case about five years’ back or even three years back.
There are a large number of small & medium sized companies who are exploring solutions such as ours. But they are looking for the RoI proof with the large players before they jump into it.
3. From a sales point of view, what is your approach in reaching out to a small & medium players and large players?
The market has a very large number of small & medium players, so to go to them directly is not feasible for most IoT companies. We mostly use a channel and system integration partner distribution network for sales. We do pilots with both the SMEs and large players. It is such a new concept that until and unless they see the benefits they won’t spend on it. Our strategy is the same for both, and that’s how it will be. Whether you are one machine, one manufacturing line, or 100 you want to see results before you invest.
4. You recently raised $5 million in Series A funding. What are your growth plans?
We plan to channelize most of it in team building. We are building a pretty substantial team here in India. We have some USPs in our product. We want to focus and ensure that we always stay on the top of that. Our focus is to get a good R&D and a good innovations teams and build on top of that. Also, customer acquisition is going to be very critical for us.
5. What are the challenges that young companies like you face that might hamper or hold you back from scaling the business?
We have been lucky to hit the market at this point of time in IoT. The timing matters a lot. If we had started five years back, we would be struggling to get this kind of market traction.
For us the barriers are not on the market side or the adoption side. Our challenge lies more on the ability to execute well and better than the other players. It is mostly on an execution and on innovation fronts where we need to build up and thereafter build the business on those USPs.
6. You are mostly concentrated in manufacturing. Can your solution be used in other verticals like retail, healthcare etc?
No, we are very focused in manufacturing and we will continue to do that for at least the next five years. We are not a horizontal solution that can be used by anyone and everyone. Our USPs are specific to certain types of equipment’s and we would like to keep it that way.
7. What would you suggest a company that wants to get into Industry 4.0 sector now as a solution provider?
The point we would like to mention to new companies is that they should find their niche and should be focused on certain problems and be very focused on certain technologies. They should choose to specialize across a vertical rather than a horizontal where they can scale much faster. Horizontals have already been established, so being yet another horizontal won’t help.