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2016

Guest Speech by Shri Talleen Kumar, Principal Secretary, Information Technology & Electronics Department, Government of West Bengal

Highlighted that technological disruption is on the way. New age technologies such as SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud), artificial intelligence, IoT, etc. will take a clear precedence over other technologies.

 

Keynote Speech by C P Gurnani, Chairman, Nasscom, and CEO, Tech Mahindra

Gave an enthralling speech, corroborating Shri Talleen Kumar’s highlights on technological disruption. Indicated that India gives us the scale to do our businesses. We make good products, and bring forth great ideas, but we only fall behind in sales and marketing. Nevertheless, India is undergoing a paradigm shift. Every business is being re-written, and no one can stop this disruption. Every 10-20 years, 40 percent of the top 100 companies die out, only because they waited long enough to react. Question is ’Are we reacting to this change? Or, are we participating in this change?’ The answer to this question will determine the likelihood of success. He emphasized that Nasscom will be there to facilitate this change, but the onus is on companies to re-imagine their entire tech businesses, in order to stay ahead.

 

Chat Session on ’IT growth in Kolkata’

An open discussion on key elements challenging IT growth in Kolkata. 4 key challenges were discussed:

  • Overall perception of Kolkata
  • Problems around efficiency
  • Shortage of manpower (IT-skilled)
  • Government Policies

It was also highlighted that for the Kolkata campuses and branches to flourish and attract talent across the country, it is pertinent for leadership teams to be based out of Kolkata itself. Their presence helps in growth of the campuses, and instill more confidence. When asked about Nasscom’s imperatives to promote IT growth in Kolkata, the panel clearly highlighted Nasscom’s continuous endeavour in bringing out a positive image of Kolkata.

 

Workshop 1: Robotics and its value proposition to industry by Kavi Arya, Associate Professor, IIT-Bombay

A truly intellectual session that makes you feel proud of India’s premier institute – IIT.

Kavi Arya was there to make a value proposition which was quite simple. The ICT landscape is changing – hardware/software costs are coming down – significant breakthroughs in cognitive computing – embedded systems getting inter-connected (IoT – smart homes, smart cities, smart grids), so on and so forth, creates huge opportunity for innovation and entrepreneurship. India definitely has the talent, but the question is how we capitalize that talent. The answer was simple – by the e-Yantra initiative.

e-Yantra: An initiative by IIT-Bombay that aims to create the next generation of embedded systems engineers with a practical outlook to help provide practical solutions to some of the real world problems. Its components:

  • eLSI: eYantra lab set-up initiative, where IIT-Bombay helps set-up eYantra lab infrastructure within other colleges.
  • eYRDC: eYantra resource development center, is a portal developed for eLSI colleges, through which content and resources are shared, to enable them establish their eYantra facilities effectively.
  • eIP: eYantra innovation and entrepreneurship, incubating winning ideas from innovation workshops, and ideas competition.
  • eYS: eYantra symposium, engagement through eYantra Ideas Competition (eYIS)
  • eYRS: eYantra robotics competition, an annual competition for undergrad students in science and engineering colleges. Selected teams are provided with robotics kits and tutorials to provide basic knowledge of embedded systems and microcontroller programming. The winners of the contest are provided summer internship at IIT-Bombay.

eYantra is growing exponentially. The registrations for the robotics competition is coming from PAN-India. Given below is the eYRC 2015 reach (just see the crowded red dots!!):

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…. And so is the distribution of e-Yantra labs. A total of 152 labs already established, and 118 in pipeline.

Mr. Arya’s message was loud and clear, ‘Give us real-life problems, be it related to urban services (waste segregation, cargo sorting, fire-fighting); urban farming (fertilizing, weeding); smart services (recyclable waste management, gas leakage detection robot), and many more, we will find you a solution.’

Mr. Arya and his team is developing the backbone of the supply-side of robotics and automation. The demand-side is now expected to come forward and help complete the supply-demand loop, helping commercialize the ‘WOW’ technologies.

 

Workshop 2: How we got 80 million app downloads! By Alok Kejriwal, Co-Founder & CEO, Games2win India Pvt Ltd

A highly engaging session, and I, personally, was bowled over. Alok Kejriwal - a typical cool Mumbaikar standing amidst the intellectual Kolkata crowd – trying to put forward a perspective that we had never thought of before. Now businesses are supposed to be serious, right? When you enter a workshop that is going to tell you how to get multiple downloads for your gaming apps, you chose to believe that some serious discussion on KPIs, numbers, and standards are underway. To my surprise, and great delight, he came up with a simple message for the success of gaming apps:

‘The seven deadly sins - Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, Pride. All human beings are inflicted with these sins (although some may choose to believe they are not!). A gaming app should be able to capitalize on these 7 deadly sins.’

What you can’t do in real life, make a game that enables you to do that. No wonder combat games get so many downloads because they capitalize on wrath. Games that temporarily makes you a detective, also temporarily boasts your pride. Isn’t that an ingenious idea!

 

Examples and cases went on and on, leaving the crowd completely agog and inspired at the same time.

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I do hope somebody writes a post on the other sessions that I missed!! All-in-all, I went back home highly inspired. Thanks Kolkata team for putting together a great show.

There are 2 things that prompted me to write this blog today – 1) Some amazing findings published by Tracxn on the food tech start-up industry, which gave me some ‘FOOD’ for thought, and 2) my very own life saving experience with one of the food ordering platforms.

Hungry as hell, I could only muster up my energy to write this after the company delivered some mouth-watering food.

Digressions aside, some of my key understandings from Tracxn’s Report on the global food-tech market, are as follows:

 

Number of companies founded: The number of food tech companies founded, have grown from 155 in 2010 to 569 in 2015, a whooping CAGR of 30 percent. If I extrapolate this growth to 2016, 700-750 companies should ideally get incorporated in this year. However, only 45 companies have been founded so far (just ~6 per cent of the expected number). Now, 2016 is otherwise estimated to have a lower number, because after 5 years of solid growth, the number of companies does not matter as much as the overall sustainability and maturity of these companies. But what is bothersome for me is that the number is too low from a global perspective.

Does this mean people are running out of ideas, OR are facing challenges in establishing themselves, OR are unable to get seed funded? This takes me to the next point on funding.

 

Funding Scenario: Overall funding looks promising in 2016, since H1 numbers for the year has already surpassed 2014’s total funding. Now, 77 per cent of this has come from late stage funding, which has steadily risen its share from 40 per cent in 2011. With huge chunk of late stage funding, start-ups at early/ideation stage seem to have been deprived, which could be one of the reasons for so few companies being founded. What is the panacea for this? The industry clearly needs angel investors, and more so, crowd funding. A conscious effort has to be made to engage start-ups with crowd-funding organizations at incubators/accelerators, national events etc. Even the crowd-funding sites, which are currently available, need to be well organized, so that investors can easily navigate from company to company, read their profiles, understand terms and conditions, and then contribute accordingly. If the amount being contributed is significant, a scheduled meet-up could be arranged, for a personalization. (Now, there’s an idea!) The other reason for lower funding at initial stages could be the presence of too many ‘Me-too’ companies with same ideas and proposition. The investors are waiting to be ‘Wowed’ by novel, yet marketable ideas.

 

Top investments in last 1 year: Ele.me (USD 1.3 billion; Shanghai), Baidu Waimai (Shanghai), Womai (Beijing), and BigBasket (India), are the start-ups that have each bagged more than USD 150 million in the last 1 year. China, clearly, remains the biggest destination for investments, setting newer standards, particularly Ele.me (China’s biggest meal delivery service), which has become a success story. The company is highly focused on instant deliveries and quality of service, and wishes to make ‘complaint’, a thing of the past.

In terms of investors, Sequoia is on the top, having invested in labels such as DoorDash, Ele.me, Grofers, Ricebook, Zomato etc. 

 

Top Business models: Globally, by funding, food ordering platforms, and groceries, have been the top businesses.

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The Tracxn report highlights that across the globe, significant early stage investments have also started in the IoT-enabled kitchen appliances market, with companies such as Juciero, June, and Tovala, having closed multiple rounds of funding. IoT and AI are some of my personal favourites. Across geographies, there is a palpable scope for IoT/AI-enabled kitchen products. That would promote cooking healthy food easily at home, given that life-style diseases have become an integral part of every household. Click here to read about the global food-tech companies that use AI, IoT, and smart technologies. (Tracxn Blog, 2016).

Overall, the sector is expanding, and witnessing significant activities, and scale-up. 2 things would determine the health of the sector:

  1. How are the older start-ups able to sustain, and scale-up? – By Learning from mistakes and global best practices
  2. What new market-ready ideas are newer start-ups bringing on the table? – IoT/AI/smart tech/B2B products - where there is still a lot of white spaces with regards to the Indian market.