Happiest Minds Pvt Ltd is one of the leading IoT creators and integrators from India, serving segments such as Industry 4.0, smart wearables, smart retail, smart cities and smart work and living spaces. Sandeep Agarwal, Executive Vice President and Head of IoT CoE at Happiest Minds, shares with EFY Group about the IoT deployment in India, future of IoT, key segments deriving IoT demand, Happiest Minds’ unique IoT proposition and business strategy, 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?
A: In our view, Internet of Things (IoT) started as a buzzword. But, due to the maturity of cloud and platforms today and the considerable fall in prices of sensors, this buzzword has opened an entirely new market of opportunity in the last 2-3 years. IoT is not a technology, but an architecture in which assets, people and processes talk together. 2015 was the defining year of IoT when all major cloud providers came with their IoT platform offerings and allowed an ability to connect devices, integrate enterprise systems and provide data on fingertips through a mobile-first approach.
From homes and industries to enterprises, IoT is connecting everything and everyone. The number of Internet-connected devices (12.5 billion) exceeded the number of human beings (7 billion) on the planet in 2015. By 2020, IoT connected devices are expected to grow to 31 billion globally. A study by Deloitte in early 2017 highlighted that around 60 million IoT devices were in use in India during that time and this number is forecast to grow to 1.9 billion units by 2020. A NASSCOM report states that the IoT market in India is poised to reach US$ 15 billion by 2020, accounting for 5 per cent of the trillion-dollar IoT market globally.
Q. In your opinion, is the Government of India (GoI) playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If yes, how?
A: Certainly! The Government of India has launched a number of schemes and initiatives, including the Digital India program and the Smart Cities initiative. These are offering the much-needed stimulus for IoT expansion in our country. IoT is the most crucial component in transforming the 100 cities into smart cities. On completion, these cities will have smart parking, an intelligent transport system, connected health care, better safety (for women, children and the elderly), smart grids, smart urban lighting, innovative water and waste management methods, smart city maintenance, etc. As smart cities start realising their potential, we also see IoT making its way into smart industries, smart building and smart logistics. GoI is working on policies for NB-IoT, 5G and usage of drones for commercial, and all these policies will help in expanding the IoT market.
Q. What are your expectations from the GoI in terms of initiatives they should take to make India an IoT-super power?
A: We expect the GoI to:
- Fast-track some of the work done for smart cities, including smart meters, smart infrastructure and smart healthcare
- Revolutionise smart farming/agriculture to boost this sector with IoT
- Help in fast-tracking policies for NB-IoT, 5G, cyber security and privacy, and drone usage
- Allow some huge data sets to be shared with a larger community and enterprises to come up with innovative solutions for smart city management
- Help build common labs for government and corporates to work together, addressing the challenges of infrastructure, parking, clean water, pollution, etc.
- Promote the use of rooftop solar and policies that would enable significant energy savings
The biggest boost that the government can provide would be in the SME sector, especially on Industrial IoT — where IoT can play a crucial role in human safety, automation and high efficiency. It can help raise living standards of the country’s middle class and working class.
Q. Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?
A: It may take a long time for IoT to proliferate throughout the country, but the fact is that IoT is experiencing a steady and satisfactory rate of growth in India. As per Vodafone’s annual IoT barometer 2017-18 study, 81 per cent Indian organisations felt that IoT is key to digital transformation. So, enterprises do realise the need for connected devices and are working toward innovating in the area.
Considering our nation’s geography, demographics and cultural set-up, there are plenty of use cases where IoT is extensively addressing issues faced by consumers and industries, including energy, telecom, healthcare, retail, transportation and manufacturing. For major deployments, we cannot expect the government to be the lone contributor. Some strategic collaboration between the government and corporates working on IoT solutions will be the key to success.
Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next 2-3 years?
A: Just like in any other part of the world, I believe IoT will initially witness major adoption in the metropolitan cities and urban areas in India. However, there will be IoT deployments in tier 2 and tier 3 cities too which are part of the Smart Cities initiative.
It is interesting to note that consumer IoT is developing with a specific focus on connected homes and smart lifestyle. Wearable devices, health-related devices and virtual assistants will have greater control on other devices in a user’s surroundings. Enterprise IoT will see a major change with focus on smart workplace, buildings and smart retail. Industrial IoT will also come under tremendous pressure to optimise output, power, service levels and people safety across sectors. We do see a steady growth in the next 2-3 years, but IoT will pick up at a faster pace from 2020-2025.
Q. Which industry segments do you believe will be driving a larger chunk of demand? Why?
A: The highest level of IoT adoption in India will be seen in energy and utilities sectors, with focus on smart energy meters, renewable energy and smart electric cars – all helping to make our dependency on fossil fuels less while making place for greener and cleaner cities. These are the areas where GoI will definitely play a key role.
The next big area is manufacturing. Though large players have already started on the journey, the focus should move on to the SME sector and that will drive a large chunk of demand.
The transportation and logistics industry, including smart warehouses, is another area that we see grabbing the spotlight. Furthermore, healthcare, retail and agriculture will make great strides in the area. IoT will also make waves with intelligent point-of-sale (PoS) transaction and self-checkout, paving the way to a cashless economy.
Q. What’s your bigger challenge – acquiring customers or acquiring talent? What’s your strategy in resolving the same?
A: Well, both are quite challenging, but owing to the huge acceptance around IoT solutions, I would say acquiring customers is comparatively easier. Customers need to be shown the bigger picture, and then, we start with small use cases that demonstrate quick return on investment (RoI).
Acquiring talent is still an issue since conceptualising and developing IoT solutions demands deep knowledge in multiple areas and technologies across various stacks, platforms and sensor technologies. People with various skillsets – customer business processes, problem evaluation, IoT hardware, IoT firmware, telecommunications, back-end software, data visualisation, statistical analysis, etc. – are required. Deep domain skills are essential to ensure integrations with existing systems, deployment, and management as well. To streamline execution of IoT initiatives successfully, both business and IT teams need to work in tandem, and at the moment, there is scarcity of manpower which we hope will get resolved soon. Industry bodies like NASSCOM are placing huge focus on building IoT as one of the key skills among the top 10 skills – to build manpower for various IoT-related roles.
Q. What is the estimated revenue of your business that you’d attribute to IoT-related business? What fraction of your overall business is the IoT-related business?
A: We are a digital-born company. We are pretty young and agile with just seven years into existence. We adopted IoT quite early, and we have built a dedicated IoT CoE to ensure we focus on this segment – from sensors to insights. IoT contributes close to 10 per cent of our overall business. It is the fastest growing business and we target to take this number to 15 per cent by 2020.
Q. How do you see your IoT-related business growing in the next 2-3 years both in terms of revenue and as a fraction of your overall revenues?
A: Our end-to-end IoT solutions empower smart industries, smart living and smart enterprises and deliver connected experiences – via connected assets, connected operations/logistics, and connected services. With expertise across all stages of IoT adoption, we see our IoT-related business growing 50 per cent year-on-year in the next 2-3 years. In the next five years, we believe it will be 25 per cent of our overall business.
Q. What’s your strategy to create a differentiation for your solutions vis-a-vis your competitors?
A: Happiest Minds transforms business needs into competitive differentiators by delivering innovative IoT-powered solutions. Our major differentiators are: working business backwards, providing the consulting edge in end-to-end IoT, integration at all levels of transformation and deep analytics and data science capabilities to ensure insights are derived from the connected eco-system. From integrating the right sensors and deriving inspired insights to choosing the best-fit platform, we provide comprehensive IoT services to our clients. Beyond implementation, we offer a one-stop solution for deployment and provide 24/7 managed and secured services. We focus predominantly on:
- Smart Industries: manufacturing, energy, utilities
- Smart Living: wearables, healthcare, security, and
- Smart Enterprises: smart homes/buildings/offices, retail.
Q. Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions amongst customers or channel partners?
A: We provide our clients with a seamless single vendor experience to maximise efficiencies by enabling IoT adoption across all stages:
- Assessment/consulting:Conducting well-defined workshops to understand the current situation of client processes and working backwards to provide them a digital blueprint for their journey
- Configuration/customisation: Bringing in connectivity to already-deployed devices, developing prototypes quickly with a cloud-based IoT platform, and demonstrating possible business value
- Productisation: Creating next-generation connected devices, combining data with existing enterprise systems and creating business applications; providing relevant insights with dashboards for CEOs as well as ground-level workers – all through the same integrated platform by leveraging deep analytics and machine learning (both at edge and on cloud)
- Operationalisation: On-boarding groups, users and devices, creating an operations center, and managing devices and the business.
Q. Who is the key decision maker for you – the technology decision maker or the business decision maker? With whom do you start the conversation – and how do you balance the interests of both decision makers?
A: Collaboration is the key. The most fruitful IoT projects we have executed so far involved both technology and business decision makers. It is extremely important for both decision makers to be on the same page working toward a common objective of delivering the best IoT-powered solution to end user. A Mindful Design Thinking approach enables us to discover, innovate and deliver the right IoT product while ensuring that interests of IT and business decision makers are respected throughout the lifecycle. In fact, we ensure we talk to all stakeholders before we initiate any solution blueprinting.
Q. Have you come across any successful deployment of IoT in India that’s worthy of being noticed by other decision makers? If yes, can you share details of the same?
A: There are plenty of noteworthy IoT deployments across sectors. To name a few, Tata Communications is working on a citywide LoRa network to enable IoT cases for citywide usage, including smart transportation and parking. Many telcos have placed great focus on IoT, led by NB-IoT, and this new connectivity will ensure large-scale deployments covering remote connectivity for better healthcare, education, smart agriculture, logistics, infra and many such initiatives.
In manufacturing, we see large players like Jindal, Tata, Vedanta, Bharat Forge taking initiatives to develop a connected factory solution. We also see industrial OEMs, like GE, Honeywell, Schneider, ABB, Bosch and UTC making significant investments in IoT platforms to build and integrate their various products. Logistics, warehouse and retail companies are investing heavily to bring in a better customer experience, smart shelf management, smart PoS devices and integrated payment systems.
Q. How would you describe your solutions to a non-technical decision maker at the clients’ end?
A: Mindful Design Thinking does prove to be a useful framework to quickly converge on key business pain points from our users’ point of view, and arrive at key features and requirements for a minimal viable product (MVP) or prototype-driven design to solve the crux of the problem. We thoroughly analyse specific problems, evaluate requirements, study the client’s current landscape, and define success metrics that can be promised as a result of the IoT initiative. The need is to empathise with the customer and Mindful Design Thinking helps us achieve that, enabling a value-driven conversation. A non-technical decision maker is mostly looking at the business outcome, irrespective of the technology stack, to derive benefits such as increase in business, reduced cost/optimisation, newer business models and an integrated eco-system to upsell and co-sell.
Q. What’s unique about your solution or your firm for them to opt for it–vis-a-vis competitors?
A: With 30+ IoT customers, 300+ SMEs, 50+ partners and 20+ analyst mentions, we are uniquely positioned to help our clients improve business value, enhance efficiency, and reduce operations and maintenance cost. At the same time, we help enhance customer experience, build better business models and improve business value by upselling/co-selling. Our partnerships with leading innovators (such as MS Azure IoT, AWS IoT, Intel, PTC-Thingworx, and Siemens-Mindsphere), a host of device and sensor partnerships, industry memberships with TSDSI and Industrial Internet Consortium, a dedicated IoT lab, and successful collaborations with many start-ups enable us to deliver best-in-class IoT offerings – as both solution and system integrators and as a one-stop provider for sensors to insights, and from consulting to end-of-device lifecycle management.