Athena IOTLABS is a company focused on smart meters as a service. The company also integrate smart city solutions and provide training to onsite engineers on IoT platforms.
Venu Palakriti, Director, Athena IOTLABS, in an interaction with EFY bureau, speaks about the IoT market, expectations from the government, Athena’s IoT solutions and its unique proposition 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?
It is not a buzzword to create hype. In order to understand clearly, let us first know what is Internet of Things (IoT), then it makes much more value addition to the term.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects – devices, vehicles, buildings and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors and network connectivity – that enables these objects to collect and exchange data. A global infrastructure for the information society, enabling advanced services by interconnecting (physical and virtual) things based on existing and evolving inter-operable information and communication technologies.
Through the exploitation of identification, data capture, processing and communication capabilities, the IoT makes full use of things to offer services to all kinds of applications whilst ensuring that security and privacy requirements are fulfilled. From a broader perspective, the IoT can be perceived as a vision with technological and societal implications.
IoT for sure is creating new markets with huge growth-oriented business opportunities.
Q. In your opinion, is the Government of India (GoI) playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If yes – how?
When we look at the government initiatives like the Smart Cities, which opened the floodgates of opportunities for various IoT hardware/software, applications and services vendors, it is a clear sign of market growth. Imagine 100 smart cities to be transformed and managed – that’s just one opportunity directly from the Government. Enterprises are now attaching sensors across the value chain of economy to feed billions of devices and even more out there, connecting appliances and things with human beings. Sensors connecting resource flow, warehouse and distribution centers, smart roads monitoring traffic and sensors on factory floors keeping up-to-date information on the flow of production factors will only lead to multiple opportunities in the world of IoT. This is already a reality and happening in our country.
Q. What are your expectations from the GoI in terms of the initiatives they should take to make India an IoT-super power?
With the advent of smart cities, the government needs to put more stress on the skill development of young graduates – not just the engineers but all the graduates need to be trained on IoT and its benefits.
More than half of those who pass out of higher educational institutions in India are not employable and a little above five per cent workforce in the country is skilled. Moreover, engineering graduates have no connect with the industry in which they work. These and some other startling facts have emerged from a center’s think-tank report that has also suggested corrective measures at the fag-end of current government’s tenure, when it can scarcely afford any time for correction.
In addition, the government should encourage young generation to look at starting business rather than depending on the traditional job market, to encourage entrepreneurship. The government should facilitate assistance to youths with an open-minded approach rather than being selective to a few. With these kinds of steps, India is going to become an IoT super power.
Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next 2-3 years?
We have billions of connected things today. In the next four years, the number of things is expected to increase nearly ten-fold. One example, in 2012 only 10 per cent of cars were connected to the internet, but by 2020, 90 per cent of cars would be connected. Experts mostly agree that for something to be part of the IoT, it needs to have sensors, internet connectivity, some kind of processing power, some decent quality and it should be efficient, reliable, secure and cost effective.
Q. Which industry segments do you believe will be driving a larger chunk of demand? Why?
The major demand of IoT will be driven by smart cities and segments like manufacturing, smart grids, smart energy, smart irrigation and big enterprises where data is being used. At the end of the day, it is the data which drives the value and gives results that make decision making easier for productivity. Data gives the ability to make sensible decision and it is the new gold mine for economy to grow.
Q. What’s your bigger challenge – acquiring customers or acquiring talent? What’s your strategy in resolving the same?
Acquiring talent is the bigger challenge for us. We need to focus more on getting our young generation to be ready for the explosive IoT growth. As our company is concerned, we are doing training programs at degree/polytechnic and professional colleges on IoT, making sure that the students are getting ready for the industry.
Q. What is the estimated revenue of your biz that you’d attribute to IoT-related business? What fraction of your overall business is the IoT-related business?
We are targeting to achieve Rs 125 crore by next year. Our 85 per cent of the business is from IoT only.
Q. What’s your strategy to create a differentiation for your solutions vis-a-vis your competitors?
We are a company focused on smart meters as a service. We do not burden the customers with upfront cost. We work with them on revenue sharing model, under the recurring model.
Q. Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions amongst customers or channel partners?
The strategy is to look at opex model and help the customers as they grow – both for government-led smart cities and private enterprises.
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 types of decision makers?
I believe that both the technology and business decision makers are important for the overall buying chain or the sales process. We have to involve both to make the decision making more easier and shorter. We always try to make them work together to shorten the overall sales process.
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?
I have been part of one of the state government initiatives from south, where smart irrigation was a successful project as well as smart meters for commercial users. Both the projects have been highly accepted and appreciated by the users.
Q. How would you describe your solutions to a non-technical decision maker at the clients’ end?
Recently we won an order. During the interaction with this customer, we said our solution can help “your company can save energy, you will be able to increase your productivity by X factor and your employees will be in a secured environment.” This made the decision maker to ask for more details and he made sure that we provide him the IoT solution in three weeks’ time.
Q. What’s unique about your solution or your firm for them to opt for it, vis-a-vis competitors?
Smart meters as a service with revenue sharing and connected devices as a service in recurring revenue model.