Talent in IoT is Tough to Find

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Afterglow Tech provides IoT solutions to empower and enable sustainable and efficient lighting solutions. The company’s focus is on increasing energy efficiency of outdoor lighting and improving safety on streets while also establishing a robust and future ready infrastructure. Ashish Anand, CEO, Afterglow Tech shares about IoT solutions market, its future, role of Government in pushing IoT growth, challenges in IoT field 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?

Ashish Anand, CEO, Afterglow Tech

I do agree that Internet of Things (IoT) is a word coined recently for basically saying that the devices will be connected to the Internet to create more value than an isolated system. But for every technology there is a hype cycle. For IoT, this is the most important time as user adoption is also increasing due to higher levels of awareness.

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 Government of India is playing a key role in pushing the growth of IoT by setting up CoE (Center of Excellence) across the country. But some of the challenges still need to be addressed such as availability and speed at which we innovate. In IoT, there are two segments which are important for its growth – hardware and software.

India has a large pool of software ecosystem players. Thus, adoption rate of software linked with IoT has been rapid. On the other hand, it is still lacking in hardware. The reasons can be many but primarily if rules related to excise, custom and freight are made simpler then we might see a huge push in hardware also.

In fact, if the government can create small villages as test beds for IoT technologies, which can be tested and developed, then maybe our villages will be the sought-after locations for IoT ecosystem.

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

My only expectation is that the Government should motivate companies to develop and deploy solutions that are extremely centric and focused on the problems, being faced in India. Once we make the foundations of Indian companies strong then we can solve the problems for rest of the world. The Government needs to recognise talented and young minds of the country in this field and supplement their growth by providing them opportunities to visit other countries and bring innovation to India and plant those seeds in our country.

Q. Are you satisfied at the rate of deployment of IoT solutions in India?

No, I am not, as only large players are currently having deployment without inter-operability and open platforms. The true potential of IoT will only be reached when this market is made open source and only then innovation can leap forward.

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

In the coming years, more and more interesting use cases will come with a push for reducing capex costs and converting them to opex. This will improve the quality of services provided by organisations that will allow customers to reap long term value and more trust with the suppliers.

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

Industries which see the highest return on investment (RoI) will be the fastest to adopt. The first example, which comes to my mind, is of an ATM machine which is actually the first IoT device, deployed in large numbers by financial sector. Based on emerging trends, I believe industrial automation using IoT will be the fastest and most successful adopter of IoT, followed by Smart Cities wherein natural resources are falling short. This will also act as a catalyst for IoT deployments focused on utilising the resources more effectively and efficiently.

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

Talent in IoT is tough to find as this requires a blend of software, hardware, design and business logic skill sets. Once you have this in place, only then you can develop a good customer-centric product. After that comes the customer who requires a solution but is not ready to invest upfront. This requires the organisation to have enough capital to bear the expenses till the pilot is completed. For Afterglow Tech, we have realised it is important to focus on existing early adopters and provide maximum value to them and create stories of impact which can help other customers connect with our vision and mission.

Q. What is the estimated revenue of your biz that you’d attribute to IoT-related business?

Currently, as a startup, we are aiming to achieve a revenue of Rs 1 crore by end of 2018 financial year.

Q. How do you see your IoT-related business growing in the next 2-3 years?

Afterglow Tech is building its products for Smart Cities. Indian Smart Cities are adopting Smart Street Lighting as one of the first pillars of focus. With the help of our partners, we can achieve higher impact on this segment.

Q. What’s your strategy to create a differentiation for your solutions vis-a-vis your competitors?

Our aim has never been to compete but rather collaborate. Smart Cities will be a playground which will be large enough for multiple players, but our key focus lies in enabling safety and security on road. Rapid innovation with a strong domain expertise in street lighting enables Afterglow Tech to develop reliable, robust and world class products for the outdoor environment. Strategic partnerships are a key which enables us to deliver higher value for our customers.

Q. Any innovative strategy being planned or implemented by your team to create demand for your solutions among customers or channel partners?

We are increasing awareness among the citizens about street lighting as a public right, which they should have. Increase in adoptions of Smart Street Lights will enable citizens to live better lives which are safer and access to energy is made possible.

Q. Who is the key decision maker for you – the technology decision maker or the business decision maker?

The business decision makers play a crucial role in our projects as the investments in our domain are large. At certain stages, the technical decision makers play a pivotal role and help us understand the problem in depth which is specific to them.

Q. Have you come across any successful deployment of IoT in India that’s worthy of being noticed by other decision makers?

The Bhubaneswar Smart City (also bagged the Best Smart City award) is an example of early adopters of all technologies needed by a smart city. They have the early adopter advantage and have used the smart city movement in an effective manner to increase both tourism and industries.

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