Avench Systems Pvt Ltd is a Bangalore-based company serving the IoT industry with its unique platform MarryIOT. It is helping industries to deploy IIoT and monitor, track and optimise processes with MarryIOT. In an interview, Anuroop M, CEO, Avench Systems talks about the IoT market and its future, the government’s role in IoT deployment, key segments driving IoT demand 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?
Internet of Things (IoT) as a term has become popular in the last decade and has a very broad meaning. There are many underlying pieces which have come together to make the connectivity of things to the Internet possible and play a very important role in opening up new business opportunities of value creation. Miniaturisation and commercialisation of sensors, low power wireless connectivity and machine learning (ML), to name a few, have unlocked a host of innovative use cases.
We have, in the past three years, worked with at least 12 different original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) who rely on IoT as the backbone of their offering. We’re engaged in more than 30 projects, which are quotable example of the application of IoT. In fact, without IoT, these projects could not be attempted at all to begin with. From a business stand point, we treat IoT synonymous to computerisation wave of the 19th century with a much faster pace of adoption.
Q. In your opinion, is the Government of India (GoI) playing any significant role in expanding the IoT market right now? If yes, how?
The GoI has been one of the key customers for IoT adoption in India, through its Smart City initiatives. Smart Cities Mission was launched in 2015 for developing an area within 100 cities in the country. Smart city deployments have a lot of IoT-based solutions planned into them including air quality monitoring, hygiene of Swachh Bharat toilets monitoring, traffic data collection and smart parking management, to name a few. Each of these solutions has created new business opportunities for OEMs and systems integrator (SI) companies. We hope to see GoI investing more of its budget into homegrown IoT technology adoptions, thus encouraging local entrepreneurs to innovate more.
Q. What are your expectations from the GoI in terms of the initiatives they should take to make India an IoT-super power?
The Centre of Excellence (CoE) for IoT was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015 as a part of Digital India Initiative to jumpstart the IoT ecosystem. The main objective of the center is to create innovative applications and domain capability by harnessing the innovative nature of startup community and leveraging the experience of corporate players. Being a company incubated in the CoE for IoT, we have found the initiative to be a well-oiled mechanism to nurture innovation and encourage entrepreneurs in the technology development phase. Funding for mass adoption of IoT solutions which can be very effective in tackling major problems of urban waste management, air and water pollution, efficient public transport, public service delivery, smart traffic and parking management, etc, will go a long way in creating business opportunities for companies incubated by the CoE for IoT. Mass deployment of solutions is necessary at this stage for involved businesses to grow and make a mark in the IoT growth story of India.
Q. Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?
As an IoT enabler, we have been serving the IoT market in India through our MarryIOT platform since 2015. In January 2018, we made the decision to expand our focus to the US and Canadian markets, based on our experience in the Indian market. In these three years, we have worked on 12 proof of concepts (PoCs) with 10 pilot deployments. However, the mass deployment plans had not progressed beyond a few meetings and RoI matrix analysis. Today, with the experience in global as well as local IoT market, we can say that there is a lot of room for improvement for Indian market in terms of the speed at which it is willing to adopt technologies, such as IoT.
With new generation business leaders, the appetite for risk is higher and the faith in technology has improved, this should reflect in faster adoption of IoT in the future.
Q. How do you see the IoT market evolving in the next 2-3 years?
IoT in itself is a market where there are various pieces of technology and accordingly, businesses. Being an IoT enabler, we work with cloud platforms like AWS, Azure and Google cloud. On one end, the market seems to have stabilised with not much changes expected in the next 2-3 years. On the other hand, when it comes to connectivity, there is a lot of action today – 5G deployment is expected in 2-3 years, NB-IoT is competing with low bandwidth connectivity options like LoRa and Sigfox, world over. From an Indian market point of view, we are confident that we will see more mass deployments in the next 2-3 years compared to what we have seen in that last 6-8 years. Our business outlook for the IoT enabler market is bullish and we are expanding our team by 20 per cent to be able to meet the expected future needs.
Q. Which industry segments do you believe will be driving a larger chunk of demand? Why?
Manufacturing and mobility (automotive) are the two key areas where a lot of fast paced developments are happening in the industry today. The reason I selected the word mobility over automotive is to emphasise the drift to which businesses are driving the automotive revolution with focus on mobility as the key focus. What fuel should the car of future run on? What technologies should it use to interact with humans? Would the driver role be obsolete by use of technology? Businesses across the world are trying to find answers to these questions. According to me, some of those answers would define the demand quantum. In the case of manufacturing, Industry 4.0 based on connected machines with IoT as the backbone would create a big impact for demand of technology.
Q. What’s your bigger challenge – acquiring customers or acquiring talent? What’s your strategy in resolving the same?
These are two challenges, which are being looked at as the classical chicken-and-egg problem by many businesses. Fortunately, we have so far found ways to stay ahead of the need with our growth targets imposed in both these areas. The talent pool in India is phenomenal in terms of the volume and depth of technology experts that are employable. When it comes to customer acquisition, we have developed a process based on design thinking methodology which has helped find the right opportunities suiting our scale and expertise. Being an IoT enabler, we have found long standing business partnerships with SIs and service providers as the most valuable and rewarding business activity to invest in.
Q. Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions amongst customers or channel partners?
From our experience, IoT solutions have a sales cycle which could extend from anywhere between three months to nine months. The IoT enabler captures a portion of the value that is created only over the next couple of years. The major driving factor for such long drawn cycle is the turnaround time taken between milestones of any IoT deployment. The unusually long sales cycle is a challenge for all businesses involved. We focus on cutting this duration into the shortest possible time and hence have benefited greatly from this differentiator. Our technical leadership team with a collective experience of more than 90 years in the industry have created plug and play technology pieces, which helps our customers in going from a paper concept to POC/pilot deployment in flat four weeks and from POC to mass deployment in six weeks. This is loved by all the customers and SIs we work with and has become a key differentiator for us in the market.
Q. How would you describe your solutions to a non-technical decision maker at the clients’ end?
Our selling process, which is reviewed and updated as a part of our continues improvement objective, is based on application of design thinking philosophy. We worked with Business Sherpa and Jigsaw thinking, two young and innovative companies in this space to formulate a methodology which is based on the customer journey we would like our customers to go through. Our process takes into consideration the background of each decision maker in the customer journey and we envision our solution from his/her point of view. Following this process, we make educated guess of what value we could bring to a business and thereby the decision maker as a first step. We then spent time interacting with the decision maker to unearth the facts and this helps us improve our guesses over a period of time. Today, we have repeated this process enough number of times that 9 out of the 10 points we highlight are in line with our customers’ expectations.
Q. What’s unique about your solution or your firm for them to opt for it–vis-a-vis competitors?
Over the last three years, we have invested heavily into various technologies which are inevitable to an IoT enabler and thus formed a platform we named MarryIOT, which is a perfect fit for OEMs to leapfrog into IoT adoption. MarryIOT makes it possible for OEMs to adopt a “pay as you go” model in launching and taking the benefit of IoT with minimal investment. The two key factors of our offering are – the shortest time to market and investment model – which make our platform and offering an instant hit among our customers and SIs who work with us. The fact that we are able to offer all the different pieces of the IoT puzzle from hardware, secure firmware all the way to cloud and mobile app, makes it attractive to even tier 2/3 OEMs to adopt our solution with relative ease and confidence, thus helping them create a differentiator in the market. Today, we can say with confidence that our customers have endorsed our differentiation by adopting our solutions and providing us valuable feedback to help us gain more and more traction in the IoT market as a partner of choice.