“Ignoring Automation and Industry 4.0 is Making SMEs in India Lag”

Minesh Doshi (MD), director, Silver Touch Technologies

Minesh Doshi (MD), director, Silver Touch Technologies, in an exclusive conversation with Profit From IoT website (PiT), shared his thoughts on the IoT Ecosystem in India. He is of the vies that medium and small enterprises (SMEs) should start embracing automation and IoT aspect for ensuring growth in future.

“Even the top-corporate houses have just started their digital transformation journey in the last one or two years. They are now building a unique cell where all the ideas can be converted into a platform or a solution. Digital Transformation is our marketing strategy where it covers the core aspect of organization and covers the broader technologies like IoT, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence, “noted MD.

Silver Touch Technologies, in MD’s words, is a system solution and a system integration company. It helps businesses implement large and complex IoT projects by deploying solutions created in-house. Silver Touch also helps in integrating third-party solutions. The company recently deployed driver-testing tracks based on IoT in all of Gujarat.

PiT – Many opine that IoT is just a buzzword that industry Gurus have coined to create hype? Do you agree with that line of thought?

MD – No. IoT has been there since many years, it’s not new because we have a lot of machine management and machine interface. This has opened up a new market with respect to electronics, mechanical and all the machining industry where a lot of analysis is already going on, regarding the efficiency and performance of the machines.

Another aspect which has come up is intelligence. Machines are doing a monotonous job and are not intelligent enough to work as per the requirements.

So, to overcome that, we have come up with machine to machine communication which incorporates one machine talking to another. So, that’s a whole new paradigm which has opened up by IoT. The intelligence between the machines in terms of data and in terms of connectivity is a new thing that has come up. So, I think this is going to be very interesting and very exciting in the coming years.

PiT – In your opinion, is the Government of India (GoI) playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If yes–how?

MD – The government of India has done an excellent work by launching the Digital India Programme. I see the government is opening a lot of IoT operations across India. And the biggest thing that is happening is smart cities. The smart city project which has a budget of more than one lakh crore is entirely based on the IoT technology, be it solid waste management, smart lighting, smart transportation or smart security.

A lot of areas such as water management and smart cities have been started by the government on a large scale. Already hundred smart cities are under implementation right now. So, we can see a major change in the urban life of India by implementation of R&D. Example, installing cameras on the traffic lights which is based on IoT technology. It is helpful in controlling the traffic and implementing the rules by capturing the events.

So, I think the government is doing a lot of work and a significant amount of it is being done in the background to prepare strategies. I think the government is doing quite a bit of work and fortunately, we have very good implementations being done right now.

It can be replicated across India. Hundreds of smart cities are coming up and I think IoT is just the beginning of implementation in the government and in public space. I see huge businesses and huge investments coming up in managing the urban problems. IoT will be the key solution provider for that.

PiT – Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?

MD – Automation has just started in the last five years. It will continue to grow in double digits. There will be a growth rate of 50 to 60 per cent in IoT deployment and IoT solutions. The other thing that we’re seeing is the maturity of the solutions.

Many of the solutions are new and when they are implemented in a real-life-scenario, they need a lot of corrections and harmonization in terms of what is expected out of them. So, many corrections are happening also in the system that have been already implemented and they’re becoming more perfect and more better. I see a lot of growth coming up in India in all sectors, especially the manufacturing sector.

India has a lot of SMEs and they often ignore the automation aspect, be it process automation, machine automation or IT automation. That is why they are lagging. Industry 4.0 is coming up and the connectivity, 5G and all the sensor technology is now available in almost all parts of the country. So, I see a lot of investment coming from industry as well in IoT segment.

PiT – Which industry segments do you believe will be driving a larger chunk of demand? Why?

MD – First is the automobile industry. As you can see, a car is learning and becoming smarter. It is also happening for two-wheelers as well.
Second is the electronics industry which is one of the fastest evolving and most innovative industries, and also one of the most viable. If you look at the smart TVs, smart air-conditioners, smart refrigerators, smart washing machines and so on, everything is now IoT enabled and you know you can operate all the appliances from your mobile phone.

Third and most important is the security within the home as well as public sector where home automation has become a new lifestyle and has improved the quality of life. Traditional homes are becoming smarter homes in terms of electricity, life management, security management, efficiency management and availability of services.

PiT – What’s your bigger challenge–acquiring customers or acquiring talent? What’s your strategy in resolving the same?

MD – I would say both because IoT is a new paradigm and skills are developing. The way the industry is growing, there is a demand for technical skills, right from R&D to design to development and deployment and maintenance of the IoT solutions. So, it’s a new skill which we have to acquire from the market there is always a scarcity on the availability of new skills.

Another aspect is the customer acquisition. IoT market is now even more competitive and a lot of products are available with the serving of customers or clients.

We, being a system solution or system integration company, try to implement large & complex IoT projects where we deploy our own solutions as well as we integrate all the third-party solutions. These are deployed at some point of time by us or others.
So, challenges are there on both sides; the customer has something going on in IoT and they require some new solution.

PiT – What’s your strategy to create a differentiation for your solutions vis-a-vis your competitors?

MD – If you look at the IoT space, it has three levels. One is the sensor technology through which you can send information. These sensors are readily available. We try to design our own solution using ready-made sensors. So, we complement IoT solutions with the OEMs who provide the sensors.

Second comprises of those sensors talking to a network or a Cloud, where ultimately the data is stored. Third and most important is bringing intelligence to the solution and taking actions on the IoT data that comes up.

We are focusing more on the solutions around building smart analytics and smart devices. Sensors are generally sourced from the OEMs across the world, mainly from leading players such as Taiwan, China and the U.S.

Cloud is very generic where you can take any public cloud or private cloud like Amazon, Google, Microsoft or IBM and store your data. You can have your private Cloud. Here, the value addition is not much from the perspective of solutions.

Value addition includes integrating the sensor and the Cloud and then building the analytic solution. We are working on how to build smart analytical solutions and apply certain technologies on top of that like artificial intelligence and big data to take advantage of the IoT data.

PiT – Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions amongst customers or channel partners?

MD – Yes, digital transformation is pedagogy which we ran during this year and will run in the coming years. When we talk to customers, we are not talking about whether we can provide them system integrations, do an ERP or if we can provide them with dashboards and so on. The customer is already having some of the IT solution set up and established. In some cases, even the primary automation like ERP, CRM also exist.

What we are looking at, as a strategic partner, is how we can help others to transform their organisation by offering digital transformation services. We usually talk to the top management and try to understand their problems. We suggest them on how digital transformation technologies like IoT, Artificial Intelligence and Big Data analytics can solve their real-life business problems.

This is really working well, where customers are curious and having direct interaction with the top management and other decision makers and thus know exactly what to look at in an organisation for the coming five years. Digital transformation is a journey of which everyone is a part.

Most of the top corporates have just started their digital transformation journey in the last one or two years. They are now building a unique cell where all the ideas can be converted into a platform or a solution. Digital Transformation is our marketing strategy where it covers the core aspect of organization and which covers the broader technologies like IoT, Blockchain and Artificial Intelligence.

PiT – 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 types of decision-makers?

MD – Our company is a system integration and solution provider. We are not doing any R&D work on IoT. We design solutions based on the components available. Our focus is on the businesses, the government sector or any other businesses like healthcare, Pharma, manufacturing, engineering and automotive.

Those are the major customers. We discuss and try to understand their difficulties in digital transformation, expectation and requirement. We are more towards the businesses who are looking to reduce the cost, optimize the resources and through the profit implement digital transformation.

PiT – How would you describe your solutions to a non-technical decision-maker at the clients’ end?

MD – When we talk to businesses, we do not talk in terms of technology. We simply ask them about their problems in supply chain. These include if they have a problem in tracking inventory or any problems in logistics, or any problems with finance.

We talk to businesses in their language. They are not concerned about what technology is going to be implemented. If we pick up two or three problem areas, then we deploy our consulting team at the customer’s place and suggest them that how IoT or any other digital transformation technology can help them.

Most of the business owners are not tech-savvy or they do not have in depth knowledge of technology. But they are aware about the technology and are aware of digital transformation and how they can have an advantage over their competitors by implementing digital transformation technology in their company. They are aware of various technologies at a broader level but not at the technical level.

PiT – So it’s like finding out the problem areas of your customers and working there exactly without going in depth into technology with the business decision makers?

MD – Yes, absolutely. They are not concerned about the technology but about the results. All important projects generally take one to six months to complete because they like to see the results immediately as they already have some sort of solution into it or some sort of automation already in place.

PiT – 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 the details of the same?

MD – Recently, we were awarded Technology Excellence Award for Internet of Things (IoT) at NASSCOM Annual Technology Conference 2019. We solved one problem for the government by implementing automated driving test track with sensors.

We implemented the IoT enabled driving test track in entire Gujarat. The entire test for measuring the skill of a driver riding a two-wheeler or driving a four-wheeler is automated with the sensor and video technology. We have conducted about 3.5 million tests in last five years. The skills are measured through this IoT enabled track. And the Licenses are issued based on the skill. This is a classic example of how IoT can be used for bringing more transparency and structured way of solving any given problem.

There are many other examples in transportation, logistics, profit management, electricity management, parking management and so on which are being implemented. We as a common citizen don’t notice it. So, IoT solutions are now becoming visible to the citizens.