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Nihal Kashinath

Nihal Kashinath is founder and CEO of Applied Singularity, a platform for professionals passionate about the Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).

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One Day Soon India will be the Global Hub for IoT and AI Services

Just as India is the global hub for IT and BPO services, “In the next 18-24 months, we will have the quality and quantity of talent to take up significant development work in IoT/AI”.

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The skyline of bustling Bangalore, India's 'Silicon Valley'

Since 2015, India has witnessed a substantial uptick in serious IoT/AI activity. From increased adoption by developers, to dedicated funds for IoT/AI, and to companies and government stepping in to fill gaps, a perfect storm is brewing. While harnessing such solutions at scale for local use cases is still some time away, solution development is likely to be established quickly here.

Developing frontier technologies like IoT/AI is challenging, since they require multidisciplinary teams, scarce resources like dedicated hardware and high-quality data, and significant investment to build even early versions of solutions, among other requirements.

The good news is that India, thanks to the IT boom of the last 2 decades, already has talent with an appreciation for technology development. Their mindset allows them to learn new programming approaches and stay committed until the necessary expertise is built (IoT/AI have long gestation periods for learning). While a majority of the current talent may not compare to the best researchers globally, they are versatile and can innovate to make things work (a common trait we see in China when it comes to hardware development). This combination of foundational tech skills and the right attitude makes it possible for developers to deliver on a range of responsibilities, which is critical to the success of resource-constrained multidisciplinary teams.

Also promising is that younger developers are teaching themselves the latest technologies, spurred on by online courses, passion projects and competitive hackathons. In the next 18-24 months, we will have the quality and quantity of talent in India to take up significant development work in IoT/AI, be it at outsourced service provider companies or in startups.

Ecosystems, companies and governments are coming together to increase momentum and create new opportunities. At the grassroot level, the ecosystem is flourishing. Multiple Indian IoT/AI communities list among the top 5 globally. They create serendipitous connections, organise shared resources, and catalyse growth – all very essential in the nascent stages of tech adoption.

Higher up, companies are providing developers unhindered access to their hardware kits, GPU-server farms, cognitive APIs and expert resources (often for free, to increase adoption of their technologies). They also host events, workshops, and incubator programs in India specifically for IoT/AI startups. Most tech MNCs today have an IoT division in India with direct backing of global senior management. This creates IoT/AI jobs and incentivizes skill development. They also partner with startups for joint go-to-market opportunities, often providing the critical first customer and helping build a strong order book.

At the highest levels, the Indian government is providing unprecedented levels of support through the Fund of Funds initiative, educational interventions, and even opening up their underutilized advanced manufacturing and testing facilities to the private sector. Make in India, Startup India, Smart Cities initiatives, Swachh Bharat, Accessibility India – each of these directly or indirectly supports the growth of IoT/AI technologies.

The investment environment for IoT/AI is improving locally, not because there is free flow of capital but because there is intense scrutiny before investing. Accelerators and funds dedicated to IoT/AI have increased in the last 8 months, including multiple foreign accelerators scouting for top startups in India (and finding them too). Success stories from India lead to more compatriots taking the plunge, getting necessary support, and creating more success stories, and so the virtuous circle continues. We are on the right track.

There are still several gaps in the Indian IoT/AI industry, such as access to large volumes of kosher data, financially viable local use cases, stronger academia-industry connect, better manufacturing facilities, etc. However, with talent increasing in quantity and quality, ecosystem stakeholders aligning, and investment landscape improving, the future is looking bright for this sunrise industry in India.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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iot ai India IT service Applied Singularity India AI hub

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