IoT Solutions have to be Rightly Priced in Cost-sensitive Indian Market

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Aeris Communications India Pvt. Ltd. is a leading platform company, providing end-end portfolio of IoT platform and services for Industry 4.0, Smart Cities, Smart Healthcare, Logistics and BFSI. In an interaction with EFY bureau, Dr Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President, Aeris and Chairman IET-IoT Panel, India, shares his views about the role of government in promoting IoT deployment in India, future of IoT and much more.

Excerpts:

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?

Dr Rishi Mohan Bhatnagar, President, Aeris and Chairman IET-IoT Panel, India

India is witnessing a prenominal growth in Internet of Things (IoT). Many enterprises were toying with the idea of IoT and conducting a few small-scale proofs of concepts (PoCs). The adoption of IoT gained momentum when the ‘Digital India’ mission was launched in 2015, followed by 100 Smart Cities Mission in 2016.

In 2017, IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government is trying to push Indian digital economy to US$ 1 trillion in the next 5-7 years. At that time, India had 200 million IoT connections. Recently, a joint report published by ASSOCHAM and EY claimed that in a hyper-connected India, IoT has the potential to reach an estimated 2 billion connections, unlocking revenues of US$ 11.1 billion by 2022.

This by no means is a small achievement. But a lot needs to be done, if the country has to meet the ambitious target set for 2022. IoT has got into the mainstream and is opening new revenue streams for both telecom and enterprises, whether it is B2B or B2C segments.

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

First and foremost, the government exists to provide services to citizens. Given IoT’s tremendous power to increase efficiency and provide new services, it is no surprise that much of the discussion centers on how agencies can use connected technology to better serve the citizens. The impact of a public-sector role can go beyond the economic impact of the dollars that agencies spend to set up IoT solutions. It can extend to the heart of the technology itself to address how schools, public utilities, law enforcement, and other government functions can take advantage of the new technologies to break traditional trade-offs and find innovative ways to serve the public.

The dawn of Digital India, Make in India and Smart Cities programmes in 2015 marked not only a milestone in the country’s digitisation drive for digital delivery of services to its citizens, but it has also created a plethora of new job opportunities and a culture of entrepreneurship in India. The push for domestic electronic manufacturing has led to the setting up of 23 electronic manufacturing centers in 15 states.

Q. What are your expectations from the GoI in terms of the initiatives they should take to make India an IoT-super power?

While the Indian government’s incentivisation with ‘Make in India’ and ‘Digital India’ has empowered the technology sector, we need further reduction in the burden on exports for which essential reforms in goods and services tax (GST) are required. To boost the device and sensor manufacturing in the country, the government must work towards lowering the GST slabs.

The plan of building one lakh digital villages in India in next five years is a remarkable and a welcome move by the government to ensure digital inclusion of all citizens. This would certainly strengthen the BharatNet initiative which aims to digitally connect 250,000 Gram Panchayats by 2019. However, it looks very ambitious, given the fact that internet penetration in rural areas still stands at only 21 per cent compared to 65 per cent in urban areas. Common Service Centres (CSCs), an initiative of the Ministry of Electronics & IT (MeitY) has been given the responsibility to create the required infrastructure.

In my opinion, they should not only focus on lowering the cost of data and voice calls in the rural India but should also focus on building an infrastructure which takes online services to citizens living in marginalised areas and improve their quality of life. Also, for the Digital Villages to be successful, it is important to take into account the everyday lives of women and girls. Women are significant actors in the socio-economic development of any nation. Enhancing females access to information and communication technology (ICT) in rural areas will help in creating an enabling environment for ICT in education and increasing ICT careers for them as well.

Another important aspect is the investment in the specialised IoT research and development (R&D) centres across the country to facilitate manufacturing of IoT materials suitable to the Indian requirements such as innovative sensors, devices, long-lasting and weather resistant batteries at lower costs.

In addition, recognition and support to IoT start-ups and solution providers producing solutions specifically for the Indian market so that they can scale and grow big enough and self-sustain in the long run. Budget 2019 announced opening of Centre of Excellence for skills development for artificial intelligence (AI) and similar attention to other emerging technologies to prepare Indian talent that can bring us again at the forefront of the fourth industrial revolution.

Q. What Aeris is doing to promote deployment of IoT?

At Aeris, we cracked the IoT monetisation in 2017. Aeris already has 50,000 IoT devices from pan India, deployed on the IoT platform which managed close to 13 million IoT devices, worldwide. We have done implementations in 400 plus cities and continue to grow.  This by no means could have been achieved if IoT was still in the hype stage. And, I strongly believe that IoT developments from India can benefit everyone across the globe. Today, we have the potential to become the Centre of Excellence for emerging technologies for the world.

Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next 2-3 years?

Smart Cities, e-Governance, Start-Up India and Skill India initiatives are driving us towards a cashless economy and Indian cities and villages are set to witness a massive change. Data will be a major catalyst in driving the economy by creating experiences that surpass products and services.

Social sector and healthcare will be massive consumers of this technology once 5G comes into mainstream as it provides everything from superfast bandwidth speeds, to ultra-low latency, to 10 times the geographic coverage. In India, Reliance Jio, Vodafone and Bharti Airtel are expected to lead the NB-IoT deployment and Jio has already conducted pilot run on NB-IoT network.

However, we need to keep in mind that India is a cost sensitive market. The IoT solutions have to be rightly priced for which the cost of sensors, devices, storage and processing have to be brought down further. Data privacy and cybersecurity laws have to evolve, connectivity to the last mile has to be ubiquitous and workforce skills have to evolve to manage the latest technologies to realise their full potential. Therefore, skill development in IoT is another important area which needs considerable focus by the government, industry and academia alike.

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

IoT presents our world with tremendous opportunities. For any country, the largest enterprise is the Government itself. Luckily for India, the Government has realised IoT’s great potential and is planning a close synergy between the Digital India programme and the IoT. The impact of a public-sector role can go beyond the economic impact of the dollars that agencies spend to set up IoT solutions. It can extend to the heart of the technology itself to address how schools, public utilities, law enforcement, and other government functions can take advantage of the new technologies to break traditional trade-offs and find innovative ways to serve the public.

Enterprises stand to gain greater operational efficiencies, significant cost savings, greater customer engagement, competitive advantage and more as they integrate IoT into their business models and industry verticals. Areas such as automotive, robotics, drones, smart homes, industrial automation, smart agriculture & food, healthcare & wearables, smart cities, logistics & transportation are adopting the IoT technology at an accelerated pace now.

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