Bangalore-based Realment Labs Pvt Ltd develops new products and devices for users in consumer, medical and industrial domains. The company leverages gesture control and IoT technologies for response-based marketing for their clients. Mihir Sen, CMO, Realment Labs talks about IoT’s market, Indian government’s role in IoT growth, future of IoT and much more.
Q. Many opine that IoT is just a buzzword that industry Gurus have coined to create hype? Do you agree with that line of thought? Or do you feel that IoT is opening an entirely new market?
I don’t think Internet of Things (IoT) is a buzzword. Instead, it is an identifier of a large field that encompasses a range of technologies across multiple domains. Initially, it was used by industry Gurus to create hype, primarily to try and help create awareness of this emerging technology. IoT is a system of devices connected to the cloud for some form of data processing and provides a feedback to a user or automates a process, based on the data. Considering this definition and its growing application, I think IoT is opening an entirely new market.
We are witnessing an exponential growth of sensors around us from smartphones to other smart devices. This has given us a chance to do the tasks better as well as provide us with the ability to automate more tasks. I think the growth in IoT market will bring about a second digital revolution.
Q. In your opinion, is the Government of India (GoI) playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If yes, how?
I think the Indian government is more thoughtful towards the technology trends in the current era as compared to previous technology booms India had witnessed. We have seen that the current government has launched campaigns such as Digital India to try and bring more support. IoT technologies will play a very important role in initiatives launched by the government such as Smart Cities, with allocated budget of US$ 1 billion for 100 cities. Apart from these, there are multiple research grants offered by the government, under the Department of Science and Technology, to fund specific technologies within the IoT sphere. As this field grows and more technologies specifically developed for India, we will automatically see a larger contribution from the government in funding research in this sphere.
Q. What are your expectations from the GoI in terms of the initiatives they should take to make India an IoT-superpower?
We want the government to push more on the education side in order to prepare the workforce better to deal with these technologies and to prepare them for professional environment. There should be more emphasis on up-skilling our workforce by upgrading the educational syllabus. This would help create a more prepared workforce to match the growing global pace of IoT sector and promote India to become a market leader in this field in the decades to come.
Q. Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?
The deployment of IoT in India will take a little longer, given the lack of basic infrastructure. We are still in the process of connecting the entire country with basic infrastructure, including internet, to deploy such technology. Even with this drawback, we are seeing that India has been adopting the technology at a rapid pace. The smartphone boom, where India will have 320 million users at end of 2018, is one such example of technology adoption. More funding in IoT would lead to a better rate of deployment across the country.
Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next 2-3 years?
I see a bright future for the IoT market in the coming few years and the changes it will bring in the fields, pertaining to direct customer usages and industrial use cases. This growth can be seen more clearly with a basic example of one of the commonly known IoT technologies to be adopted recently such as smart bands and fitness trackers. The growth rate of adoption of this technology in the last five years has been exponential (see below in the graph).
In just 5 years, there has been a growth from 5 million units to 141 million units in smartwatch sales worldwide. If we take a closer look into the industrial cases, ranging from security to manufacturing, we will see that there has been a similar rise in adoption. At a global level, it is estimated that the IoT will consist of about 30 billion objects by 2020. The global market value of IoT will then reach US$ 7.1 trillion. Based on this, we can estimate that by 2032 each person will be interacting directly with approximately 3000 to 5000 connected items.
Q. Which industry segments do you believe will be driving a larger chunk of demand? Why?
Much of the growth in the IoT market has been spread out to different fields. Therefore, it is not easy to predict the trend because these new technologies have suddenly gained acceptance in almost every sphere. To better understand today’s trending segment, we can refer to the chart below based on data collected by Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research.
As we see here, there are a range of industries which are being transformed by IoT.
Companies like Tesla and Uber, using technology, have changed the way we commute today. Similarly, there are other examples like the adoption of Nest for HVAC systems in homes or usage of IoT in manufacturing for automation.
Overall, we can say that these are the major segments adopting IoT and driving the demand for it. It is estimated that the opportunities in Industrial IoT could amount to US$ 2 trillion by 2020.
Q. What is your bigger challenge – acquiring customers or acquiring talent? What is your strategy for resolving the same?
Currently, we have not faced any issues in acquiring both customers and talent. This is because most of the work we have done has come through references and well-established customers network. Since we deal with many R&D projects, we often get inquiries from companies based on interaction at events and expos. We have developed our own Touchless (gesture controlled) dispenser for drinking water. This has also generated curiosity among companies in different fields and threw light on our work done in IoT space.
However, in future, we do see a challenge in reaching the right person to explain our work when we deal with large scale industries as our portfolio has become comprehensive, spreading across many different fields. This is mainly because use of IoT has spread across a multitude of domains such as marketing, consulting, response-based audience engagement, R&D, etc.
Q. What fraction of your overall business is the IoT-related business?
Approximately, 90 per cent of our current revenue is from IoT-related business. This is mainly because we are generating revenue from other sources such as in-house product development and working on R&D and artificial intelligence (AI) projects.
Q. How do you see your IoT-related business growing in the next 2-3 years?
We are expecting that approximately 95 per cent of our overall revenue will be generated from IoT in the next 2-3 years. Our main goal is to do more work in IoT and AI and to establish ourselves in niche sectors such as security, consumer analytics, AI-powered product trials and water industry.
Q. What is your strategy to create a differentiation for your solutions vis-a-vis your competitors?
One of the major differences between us and our competitors is that we are an R&D company. Our focus has always been to work on new concepts and bring them to fruition. As we interact with different customers on a regular basis, we always try to bring out something new based on their requirements. We have used this approach in our marketing also, which changes the way we envision the technology. Apart from this, we are working in-house on developing new tools for other companies to use in their solution development, which sets us apart from most of our competitors.
We feel that as an R&D company we get a chance to work with emerging technologies. This makes us more equipped and prepared to meet the varied requirements of our customers. We also keep abreast with this fast-evolving technology space, with infinite possibilities.
Q. Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions amongst customers or channel partners?
We have a multi-pronged strategy of approaching our customers, depending on their field of operations. When it comes to our industrial customers, we approach them with solutions and new technologies to better solve their problems and also show them the demos. So it requires free but genuine consulting from our side before they decide to go with us. At the same time, we have partnered with a successful marketing company, who connect us to marketing and consulting customers.
With our experience, we observed that we have to be more versatile in our customer acquisition while spending more time in doing actual work.
Q. Who is the key decision maker for you – the technology decision maker or the business decision maker?
In our experience, there isn’t always a need to approach either one of the two for starting a conversation. We believe in being able to explain technology as well as business benefits to either of the two because the work is what captures the attention and is the foot in the door for us. Once we need to discuss intricate details about business or technology, post the basic understanding, we don’t mind explaining the needful to each of the two decision makers.
Q. Have you come across any successful deployment of IoT in India that is worthy of being noticed by other decision makers? If yes, can you share details of the same?
In my opinion, I really can’t quote anything really impressive or original in the deployment of IoT in India. I feel we still need more time before we can come up with something completely original but there are good number of high-quality solutions at scale. Moreover, I am excited about the Smart City project and its implementation. There is a great scope for multiple IoT technologies to be implemented during the course of this project.