Coverage by Bhat Dittakavi on Future of Innovations in India moderated by Atul Batra, Chair of NASSCOM Product Council, at TiE Global Summit on 9th Dec 2020
Atul Batra) The scale and diversity and complexity of India, including the entire demographic beyond urban including semi-urban, rural and SME sector, presents humongous challenges but also opportunities that can be addressed via technology and products. What are the top India innovations for India? What can we expect in the next 5 to 10 years? Where are upcoming entrepreneurs heading? What are our biggest challenges & opportunities as an ecosystem? I will ask the panelists to speak about innovation in India.
Santanu Bhattacharya) The metallurgical pillars that are 1000 years old in Delhi are still standing tall. The King is revered in a country where the knowledgeable ones are revered. Our GDP is in decline but R&D is in bright spot esp. in space and rocket. Leading institutions like TIFR are doing great.
AI driven innovations starting from designing drugs, connected world, better lifestyle using synthetic ingredients (food) and distributed healthcare. I come from Agartala the capital of state still finds it hard to get a complicated surgery done. These are the areas of future innovation in India.
Sandeep Maini) I come from the brick and mortar industry. Innovation for India must have larger purpose. India in last 20 years has innovation seen as key to business growth. How about shifting that for social impact? Large population of India are lesser privileged. How do you benefit them with innovation? Today’s younger generation is more tuned for innovation. We shall have something for entrepreneurs to venture into this huge blue sky of impact.
Dale Vaz) It shall be economic and social benefit together. Driving change in India requires lots of funds. Funds are needed to sustain the social causes. We need to have low-cost and high-impact solutions in the space of agriculture, healthcare access and financial inclusion and education.
Atul) Can you talk about innovation in your businesses?
Dale) Swiggy is on-demand delivery platform of products and services in India. During the lockdown, we could use Swiggy genie service to deliver the text books to students at home. Even medicines and milk too. We have customers, on-demand workforce and suppliers. AI connects all these three players in a 3-way marketplace in real-time. Preferences vary from city to city. Before COVID we were serving 500 cities in India. We will be able to connect consumers in India with suppliers through flexible workforce. We are doing hyper personalized local delivery. Currently, we are working on last-mile maps. Large maps are already solid. Last mile is challenging. Swiggy workforce needs to find that restaurant inside a mall. The delivery guy should be able to navigate to the apartment. We are using geo-spatial data to understand physical layouts of malls, structures and buildings. This also includes the problem of converting an address into geo-spatial construct.
Santanu) 400 million users that Airtel has. Forget bleeding edge. It has to be Indi edge. The address problem that Dale mentioned is apt. I have looked up on MIT’s emerging markets report talked about address problem. This could up the GDP by $12 billion!
Telcos have the challenge of continuity of connectivity. Consumers doubled their demand in 6 months. It requires right towers at the right places. The problem is really with rural India. Urban migrant workers who were comfortable with the bandwidth returned to their home towns and they have concerns about the bandwidth. People go and identify spotty area and nationwide we come up with say there is a need for 1-2 lakhs towers. This is a massive on-the-ground process to work around the home communities. How do you build economic prosperity indicators? We look for width of the road, is the canal full of water or not, agriculture land and 120 such attributes. Use satellite data to see the lights in the night. Overlay these two and use deep learning. The we can build synthetic prosperity index. If the building is rectangular in shape, we know it is a school or market.
Sandeep) In 2001 we launched India’s first electric vehicle called Reva. India needs truly electric mobility in terms of various sustainability needs. 87% of India’s population is running on shared mobility (Autos, buses and more). Only 13% is personal mobility. We are creating an ecosystem for this 87% population. You don’t own the battery. Swap station infra is as good as gas station. Just swap your battery anywhere. It increases your range. You don’t need to worry about the battery tech as the new battery tech comes in, you replace. The battery will have GPS and other sensors. We can build the technology build into the vehicle. The entire ecosystem will get help. We already installed 20 stations in the country. We signed up with Indian Oil where we will have our swap stations. We want to transform the shared mobility, personal, business or pandemic.
We are part of that revolution of electrical vehicles that are sustainable and economically viable. The ownership cost is 40% of the conventional vehicles. Battery plus IoT is a start for us.
Atul) Monetization problem?
Santanu) India can be an education hub. Agriculture has to go through that revolution. Technology Innovation Hubs in educational institutions is a good beginning. High-risk and low-potential for payoff research can be paid by the government as such work won’t be funded by VCs.