Monday, 18 September 2017

SEAP Gurukul – LearnTo Be Better Professionals From Those Who Know!

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”: Albert Einstein

Not that we would be presumptuous enough to argue with Einstein, but what’s one to do until one gains that experience? Today we live in a hyper-competitive world – there are few second chances, and the space for experimenting and “learning on the job” is shrinking. If that’s true, and if you’re honest with yourself we’re sure you believe it is, then is there a way to accelerate your ascent up the learning curve? Everyone wants to become a more well-rounded and effective professional, so is there a way to access a goldmine of experience that is somehow still specific to you, your circumstances, and your own development needs? 
Well, now there is – presenting SEAP Gurukul.

Does “To foster a vibrant ecosystem in Pune that enables business and social growth through high-tech products and services” ring a bell? It should, considering it’s the vision of SEAP. If you’ve been in touch with us over the last few months you would be heard of SEAP Gurukul – an important part of our commitment to help businesses, and the people responsible for key functions in them, achieve that business growth. We recognise that most professionals want to get better but they may not always have access to the advice that will help them do that. When faced with typical, and unusual, situations in their career what they would really value is hearing from others who have “been there and done that.” SEAP Gurukul is a mentoring program that aims to do just that.

This unique program provides a structured approached to the mentor/mentee process. Mentees will be paired up with individual Mentors in this program. The Mentors, all of them veterans of the industry, will share career advice, insights on achieving professional growth, suggestions, and stories related to team building, and especially, their view of how to address leadership challenges more effectively. The program for each incoming member who becomes a mentee will be specific and address the unique needs of that member. A mentee may want to build up networking skills, public speaking confidence, or how to lead from the front. The guidance the Mentor provides would be tailored to address those questions. The objective is to help the mentee learn from the mentor’s experience and leverage that to develop the skills to become a better professional and a more effective leader in his or her own right.This unique platform will also help mentees build their own networks.

It’s not all a one-way street of-course. The beauty of the program is that the mentee is not the only one who benefits from the mentoring – the mentor does too. Mentors get the opportunity to influence and inspire another professional. They get to make their own little contribution to improving the professional lot of someone else who could go on to become a star. The whole experience provides mental stimulation of the best kind – the opportunity to challenge the mentee to see a situation in new and different ways also helps mentors broaden their own horizons. The knowledge and experience the mentors have gathered over the years get refreshed and updated – a great benefit.

John C Crosby said, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” The SEAP Gurukul program gives all that – if you’ve not already signed up then perhaps you should!

Friday, 4 August 2017

Innovation Is Mandatory For Today's IT Services Companies

The robots are taking over…and not in the way we see them in science fiction movies. Globally, the fear that automation is going to claim jobs is on an increase. A study conducted by Ball State University shows that over 5 million factory jobs have been claimed by automation since circa 2000. The IT sector too has witnessed an increased automation adoption and almost 40% of jobs in the United States are at risk according to a report by PwC. Technical advancements in automation such as AI and robotics threaten almost 30% jobs in the United Kingdom, 35% in Germany and 21% in Japan. The story, unfortunately, is not so different for India. A report from McKinsey estimates that approximately 3.9 million employees of IT services companies are likely to become irrelevant over the next four years owing to automation. News of mass layoffs in large IT companies such as Wipro, Infosys, Cognizant etc. have been in the news for a while now. According to a NASSCOM report, we could see sharply lower growth in India’s $155-billion IT industry in 2017 itself going down to 6.3% from 8.7% in 2016. Given these, Indian IT services companies may have a lot to worry about.
While technological disruption has opened up new business avenues, one of the greatest impacts it has had is on employee productivity. Today we have adopted technology to automate repeatable manual processes to ensure faster turn-around time. This has completely changed the IT landscape. Consider that traditionally companies used to charge for human effort and how that dynamic has been disrupted with automation. With automation, a task that used to take a huge amount of effort and consumed a lot of time can now be done with significantly less effort. Automation has made software development faster, less effort-intensive, and easier. Keeping this in mind, how can low-cost geographies such as India still remain relevant in the competitive market space, considering that their one most powerful tool, the labour force is now being replaced by the march of the machines? How can Indian IT services companies continue their dominance and have favourable profit margins when they can no longer stay tied to human effort for their revenues? The answer lies in one of the most overused words of this decade - ‘Innovation’.
Not many will argue that over the years the ability of companies to innovate in services has been a key contributor to their business success. It is also true that innovation in IT services is a complex task owing to the heterogeneous nature of activities. Change in organization models, modalities of serving markets, varied inputs, co-terminality between production and consumption and the information based and intangible nature of services, service variability etc. are some reasons that make innovation a little more complicated. Clearly, the challenges are many but the truth remains that innovation is not only essential for profitability but is now crucial to remain relevant. Innovation thus is no longer a ‘nice to have’ but is a critical component of staying in the game.
Robert Shelton, managing director of the Growth and Innovation practice in PwC’s PRTM Management Consulting Group, says “Innovation is growth these days.” It is only an emphasis on innovation that can generate higher revenues, increase profitability, and increase market share. In order to pump up the innovation quotient, IT services organizations have to take a step away from tradition and identify means to weave innovation into the very fabric of the organizational structure.
Is there a magic recipe for innovation? No, there isn’t. However, what is evident is that a linear approach is not the answer. Innovation is not a one-man game. It is a team sport. Taking cross-departmental approaches that encourage collaboration and are grounded in market considerations are the order of the day. Having well-defined operational processes that help in identifying new business opportunities, identifying areas that are wanting most in innovation,and encouraging employees to become proponents of innovation by putting creative thinking to profitable use can have a deep impact on the Innovation IQ of a company. Some factors that can help organizations become more productive in their innovation efforts and get more value out of their innovation focus are:
  • Looking at customer collaboration
  • Identifying the right talent
  • Looking at partner investments
  • Identifying business areas that can transform themselves with technology adoption and become more agile
  • Creating processes and structures that allow employees to experiment with new ideas and get more value out of the innovation dollars.
If we take a look around us, companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Netflix etc. have achieved a cult status of being some of the most innovative companies in the world. They are highly valued by their customers and investors alike. These companies have a few things in common – they are open, they have a culture of collaboration and they are focused on developing forward-thinking strategies by having active listening mechanisms to gather customer feedback.
It is abundantly clear that technology disruptionwill always be a factor in the IT business. While there are certain challenges that arise from this, there also lies immense scope and opportunity for those willing to adopt evolution and be the protagonists of change by adopting an innovative mindset. For those who do, the world is their oyster. Literally.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Strength in Numbers – Pune’s Buzzing IoT & Healthcare Startup Scene

Research firm Markets and Markets has predicted that the worldwide Healthcare IT market will rise from $ 134 Billion in 2016 to over $ 280 Billion by 2021 – a CAGR of 16%. That’s steep by most standards but there are other just as attractive opportunities out there too. Consider Markets and Markets’ estimate that the worldwide Internet of Things market will rise from $ 170.5 Billion this year to $ 561 Billion over the next 5 years – a CAGR of over 26%. Pune’s startups are clearly aware of the potential in both these areas. It’s fair to assume that over the last couple of years the IoT and Healthcare Technology scene has started buzzing like few others.

The thing about IoT
There are encouraging signs pointing to Pune’s growing IoT influence. In April this year, a consortium of industry bodies, startups, and manufacturing giants proposed to the government to create India’s very first IoT cluster in Pune. The focus would be on solutions designed to make Industry 4.0 more easy to apply in Indian conditions. If all goes well, the S. L. Kirloskar Centre will come up later this year. Then in March, technology giant Hitachi Consulting opened MIRAI, a state-of-the-art IoT experience centre in Pune. This peek into the future (MIRAI means future in Japanese) shows a glimpse of the connected factory equipped with predictive maintenance.

The action is not restricted to the big companies either. Pune’s own Altizon Systems last year closed a $4 Million Series A funding led by Wipro Ventures. Their IoT platform Datonis is attracting attention from a clutch of industry segments including Manufacturing, Energy, and the Supply Chain.Earlier stage funding is also finding its way to IoT-focused startups in other sectors too. Security solutions startup SmarterHi Communications is an example of one who closed an early stage round earlier this year.

There are more exciting IoT-driven innovations created by Pune’s startups already making waves in a variety of sectors. CarIQ is focused on creating a connected ecosystem in even the most basic of cars. Their eye-catching plug-n-play device is seemingly easy to deploy and is helping cars, and drivers make data-enabled decisions with the combined power of IoT& the Cloud behind them. Entrib is attacking niche segments in the manufacturing space and helping improve shopfloor productivity by 30% or more with their IoT-based solutions. Lifeplot is looking to address another crying need in India – the technology enablement of the delivery of healthcare. Their IoT-enabled solution allows important data like ECG reports, to be displayed and read on the mobile of doctors, allowing them to deliver care when needed, wherever needed.

Healthy in HealthTech
While launching a HealthTech accelerator in Pune last year, Govin Capital CEO Anand Govindaluri said, "Pune has the best start-up ecosystem because of the natural presence of good medical, engineering and management schools. There is a natural flow of talent that is automatically attracted to Pune, and so identifying management teams for start-ups with diverse backgrounds is also easier." That’s true, as is the fact that some of India’s largest services companies like Infosys have traditionally had a significant representation of their healthcare verticals in Pune. All this has come together to create some significant excitement around the Healthcare Technology (or should we say Technology-enabled Healthcare) space.

Much of the energy is focused on digital health platforms and leveraging the power of mobility to drive greater access, better doctor-patient communication, and ultimately better patient care. ThingsMeet Solutions’ Prescribez platform that integrates patients with the entire healthcare ecosystem – doctors, path labs, and pharmacies has been in the news recently as it seeks to raise a $ 2 Million funding round to drive customer acquisition. LiveHealth is another such startup with a report management solution that helps patients make sense of the medical reports they have been provided. App-based startups that focus on specific other parts of the patient’s journey are also becoming visible. Witness online pharmacy MedsOnWay that offers to home delivery medicines within 24 hours thus offering convenience and comfort to those who may not be easily able to step out to make purchases for themselves.

The sector is attracting the attention of the big guns too. Just this month Athenahealth announced a $ 63 Million acquisition of Pune’s own Praxify. Praxify’s app-based approach to enabling physician productivity and decision support seems to have caught the eye of the Watertown Mass healthcare major. Athenahealth believes the acquisition will help drive their own R & D efforts in the space.

Pune has always been at the vanguard of technology-based movements, and in many cases, it has been the startups that have been the standard-bearers. Pune also has a special relationship with Innovation as our survey “Pune: Nurturing the Fast Emerging Tech Innovation Hub” shows. This trend looks set to continue with the IoT and HealthTech movements.

Do you have an exciting startup in either of these areas that deserves mentionin this post – g.a add a line in the comments for all of us to see!

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Tech-Driven Pune Startups In the News For The Right Reasons

Always touted as a smart city story to watch out for, Pune is slowly but steadily rising to those expectations, bringing much hope for the city's startup sector. The government, as well as other bodies and agencies, are becoming much more alive to the task, infrastructure is steadily improving,  and the entrepreneurial landscape is vibrant. These efforts now seem to be showing unmistakable signs of paying off. In a landscape of negative news flow around startups, some Pune startup stories offer an example of names attracting their share of the limelight for positive reasons.

Druva - Data storage and security is top of the agenda for everyone from midsize companies to multinationals. Protecting data is a key concern especially when it is stored on the cloud. Druva's product suite consists of cloud-based applications for data protection, real-time availability, and information governance. By building an integrated platform for securing information on the cloud, since its inception in 2008, Druva was able to build a strong clientele spanning across varied industries like life sciences, manufacturing, education, etc. A notable feature that proved useful to many recently, is the ransomware and anomaly detection tool. The company now have over 400 employees and over 4000 customers globally!

Icertis - Icertis has come to become one of the leading providers of contract lifecycle management using the cloud. Founded in 2009, it has built a state-of-the-art platform which is highly configurable, adaptive and provides best-of-the-breed contract management system. By helping companies around the globe by providing contractual insights, better governance, and risk reduction, Icertis has become a key vendor in the cloud-based contract management space. A sign of the attention Icertis is attracting from the right circles is the recent funding of almost $46 million it received in March 2017.

Townscript - This was a first-of-its-kind DIY event creation and ticketing platform in India. The startup now has to its credit almost 17,600 events and more than 21,800 registrations per month. Recently, Book My Show took a big position in this startup. With this move, Book My Show now has about 75% stake in Townscript. This investment has boosted Townscript's growth prospects and provided the company a clear way forward for penetrating the online booking and event management market.

Pubmatic - Pubmatic specialises in building advertising software for the media and publishing industry. Using automation, Pubmatic's software connects publishers and ad buyers by creating an easy-to-use seamless platform. A seasoned startup, in that it was established in 2006, Pubmatic has raised funds successfully, including $45 million round in 2012. PubMatic later went on to acquire mobile ad server Mocean Mobile, which helped Pubmatic expand its footprint in the mobile advertising industry. By positioning itself as a reliable programmatic partner, Pubmatic has helped publishers gain an added competitive advantage over others.

FirstCry - This is an e-commerce portal which specialises in baby products and toys. FirstCry has raised a significant investment of $50 million so far and has grown into one of Asia's largest online portal with an inventory of more than 20,000 items from 250 major Indian and international brands. In addition to its online portal, FirstCry has also increased its presence by building brick and mortar stores in more than 85 cities. This is an innovative reach tactic, especially in India where only about 5-7% of the transactions are done via online retail channels. The retail footprint of FirctCry was further bolstered when last year, they acquired BabyOye from the house of Mahindra’s for Rs 362.1 crore.

Faasos - Faasos, a quick service fast-food joint that specialises in serving wraps and hot meals, was initially set up in 2004 with a mere investment of Rs 8 lakh by its founders. The idea of taking orders through Twitter and receiving funds worth $5 million initially helped them to expand to almost 20 outlets. Later, by going down the franchise model route and building an integrated mobile app, Faasos now processes approximately 18,000 orders daily via their app. The company today has more than 90 outlets spanning across India.

The success of these startups lies not just in creative offerings but also the superior execution and delivery. They all have ambitious plans and to various degrees are making good on those plans. This makes them great contenders for the top, successful tech-based startups from Pune to inspire several others! 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

5 Technology Movements Driving Everyday Innovation In Today’s Companies

Technology-based movements have made it easier for organizations to innovate and solve small and big problems that impact the day-to-day life and work. These movements have so much power and they are here to stay! Innovations now affect the economy, improve the way you treat your body and even influence our culture. While some movements are taking their time to unfold, others just explode on the scene and make a lasting impact on everyone. Here are some that are driving everyday innovation in business.

Digitization & Social

Businesses are digitally transforming. They are fundamentally altering the way they do business and digitizing by engaging their users and improving the use of digital tools amongst their teams. A recent McKinsey research revealed that businesses that embarked with digitization both on the inside and outside, have reaped more profits and increased productivity. The nuts and bolts of delivering value to customers have now moved online – and opened up a brave new world of two-way communication, instant response, insight-driven action, and business agility. Social media has made every customer a broadcaster – and a receiver of information. Companies that are innovating their business models by building them around this digital way of life stand to reap the benefits of this closer customer connect.

Mobility And Smart Phones

Almost everyone has a smartphone now. We are serially connected and the companies and products that we do business with know this. Smartphones have taken over most nuances of daily life. Alarm clock, wallet, camera, taking notes or calling a cab, a smartphone has replaced so many tools and increased mobility. The companies that seek to connect with their newly mobile customers, and collect and understand that data these customers knowingly and unknowingly provide back to them have a definite advantage.Just like consumers have more information and more choices to make, this data helps organizations create, and target innovative offerings better. The phone offers these innovative organizations an avenue of getting that innovative value proposition into the hands of the consumer too – a win all round.

IoT–wearables & other devices

The Internet of Things (IoT) is changing the world! Gartner predicts technology will connect over 20 billion devices, systems and people by 2020.Every device will be on the internet and be smarter as a result. These smart appliances will make everyday innovation not only possible but the norm. As such edge devices get connected, and the decision-making gets moved to the frontlines – companies can devise newer, more flexible, and responsive ways of solving problems for their consumers. This is not science fiction, the incredible impactis already being seen in everyday life. From smartphones to your refrigerator, every appliance inside your home and outside can be interconnected in ways you can’t even imagine. If connecting wearables and everyday household objects can make such an impact on an individual, think about the impact it will have on a smart city. IoTwill change people's lives in the greatest ways possible over the next few years and it will be due to the innovative companies that ride that wave.

Analytics–Machine Learning

Machine Learning is how computers learn. Based on a solid foundation of data, machines fine tune results from iteration to iteration and improve their decision-making. The more the data available, and the more the iterations the better the decision-making. As the waves of data build up, the “machines” learn to determine patterns, project possible outcomes and take actions in response. Companies are innovatively deploying solutions that utilise the learning capacity of such machines including in many areas already. In data security, with machine learning, computers can identify patterns of anomalies and report potential breaches.Paypal is doing exactly that to discern if transactions are fraudulent or legitimate. In financial services, these algorithms in machine learning help firms to predict and carry out trades at high volume and speed. Machine learning is playing a role in healthcare in helping spot cancer or predicts any onset of ailments. This is one technology movement that enables businesses to put in place innovative initiatives to address the needs of customers, improve operational effectiveness and efficiency, and improve safety & security.

The Cloud

When a trend has to be addressed as “The Cloud” you know you have to take it seriously. Let’s look at the magical powers of Cloud computing first. This is a technology movement that has freed up organizations of all types and sizes from constraints like infrastructure requirements, physical location, and investment ability. The Cloud has made it possible for even the smallest organization to leverage those technology-based solutions that were earlier the domain of only the large company. Today small companies are also able to access the power of Big data & Analytics, Machine Learning, and Mobility – all on-demand, and without having to incur prohibitive initial costs. This access has freed them up to create innovative solutions for their customers on the back of these technology-based movements.   

Innovation is key to surviving in a competitive world – those organizations that embrace the technology-based movements described here are likely to be at the forefront of the innovation cycle and benefit.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Pune Is Paying Attention To The Technology Innovations In Manufacturing

The Industrial revolution was a defining moment in the history of humankind. It was arguably the first and the only event that single-handedly increased the world’s population manifold times, boosted personal income, and rapidly fueled the economy of many nations. Since then, the world has seen enormous improvements in methods of manufacturing; from the assembly line to industrial robots, the sector has consistently challenged the status quo and developed better ways of production.
The Government of India is ambitious and leaving no stone unturned in creating the best-in-class manufacturing infrastructure which in turn, will develop a robust production-backed economy. Presently 16 percent of India’s Gross Domestic Product comes from the manufacturing sector. Prime Minister Modi’s “Make In India” initiative aims to provide an impetus tothe manufacturing sector and to contribute 25 percent of India’s GDP through this sector by 2025. If India’s communication revolution was the first wave, the “Make In India” initiative is set to bring in the Second Wave. Given Pune’s traditional tilt towards the manufacturing sector, this is all good news. Even better news is that the sector seems set to transform even more. Here are some of the path-breaking technologies which are making waves in the manufacturing industry today:
Additive Manufacturing, also known as 3-D printing has become the poster-boy of the manufacturing industry in recent times. It instantly caught the fancy of people and elevated itself to the ‘next big thing’ since the invention of the internet. Invented by Chuck Hull in 1986, this technology is most helpful in rapid prototyping, where a physical object is fabricated from a computer aided design (CAD) data. This CAD file is created using a 3D modeling application or by using 3D scanners (to duplicate an existing object).  Within the past few years, this technology has evolved so drastically that today it is possible to make physical objects using metal, plastic and even mixed materials. The economics of using this technology for mass production is not yet viable at present, but the future is bright.
Internet of Things
The Industrial Revolution went through three phases until the 1950s. In words of Klaus Schwab, executive Chairman of World Economic Forum, “A Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century “. Internet of Things (IoT) is the threshold to the future, and all the advanced technology lies beyond this technological threshold. Although ERP has been around for a while, feeding in precise and objective data from various manufacturing units to the ERP circuit has been a problem. IoT equips machines and devices with their own IP addresses which return an unprecedented amount of data for processing. A fitting example would be that of a cooling unit using up more that its rated energy consumption. With IoT in place, the unit itself could carry out some detective work, deduce the reason for its inefficient operation and make a note to the customer and the maintenance team.
The first generation of this technology has already arrived and is changing the face of manufacturing in terms of product capabilities and cost efficiency. Nanotechnology refers to the ability to control matters on a molecular scale. At nanoscale, matters have unique physical and chemical properties that can be used or altered to create a new application. For instance, ArcelorMittal has begun rolling out a line of special steel that contains nanoparticles that enable them to make lighter beams with similar strength as that of conventional steel.
Bio-manufacturing refers to the production of bio-materials for use in food and beverage industry, medicine and industrial applications. Today we are surrounded by hundreds of bio-manufactured products but are unaware of their providence. Bio-manufactured products are found in the culture of microbes, blood or naturally or artificially produced plant and animal cells. A common example is amino acids which are widely used in enzymes and protein supplements.
Honorable mention: Micro-manufacturing
As the title suggests, this is the production of extremely miniscule objects at production facilities which possibly may fit in a large backyard. Micro-manufacturing is the antonym of the bustling mega-factories spread across the Asian and American industrial landscapes. A child of this technology is the tiny chiplet, no more than the size of a grain that would make it easier, and more cost-efficient to get the circuity to a device. Today, companies build large wafers with dies that contain electronic circuitry. This is being researched and developed by Xerox at its Palo Alto research facility. Presently, it is not viable to mass produce it, but in few years’ time, this epoch-making technology could emerge as the next generation tech in public eye.
With the advent of such sophisticated manufacturing technologies, IT companies in Pune will also find growing opportunities in providing the enabling and operating ecosystem for these technologies to deliver impact. For instance, IoT connects the physical world with the digital universe, and this communication can only be facilitated by software that enables collecting the information that is fed in through physical devices, organizing the data, analyzing and processing it and further passing it on through applications that the end-user sees and interacts with.
Today, we stand on the brink of the future. With millions of dollars spent each year in research and development of more sophisticated technologies, the future does hold the promise of creating more efficient manufacturing facilities and sustainable processes – and Pune will be watching with interest!

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Innovative Technology with a Pune Backstory

“A city is not just a place in space, but a drama in time”: Patrick Geddes

From once being the apex of the Maratha Empire, then simmering down to a tranquil retirement home for the old, to reinstating its importance in the last two decades as the powerhouse of India’s technology revolution, life has indeed come a full circle for the city of Pune. Growing in the shadow of its giant neighbor Mumbai, it was only a matter of time before Pune itself became the bustling city we now know it as. Pune has always been a place of strategic and commercial importance to the warring kingdoms of the past, and the corporate dynasties of the present. Pune’s industrial landscape has companies from various sectors including information technology, automotive and manufacturing. Today Pune is a $50 billion economy and also one of the fastest developing cities in India.
In the recent years, several impressive innovations across various sectors have grabbed the headlines. Let’s look at some of them.

While Bangalore gave us India’s first electric car, Pune stole the thunder by unveiling India’s first electric bike. Pune-based electric bike maker Tork Motorcycles has unveiled India's first all-electric motorcycle - T6X. In 2009, a group of engineering student developed an electric bike that eventually became the first Indian bike to not only feature in the world championship of electric bike racing held at the Isle of Man but also secured a podium finish. Thereafter, there was no looking back. The bike is a product of 7 years of arduous research and comes packed with a 4.3” TFT screen with apps and cloud connectivity, a top speed of 100 kmph and a mobile charging station.Save for the lithium-ion battery,it is a completely indigenous product. With every single charge, one can enjoy a carefree ride for 100 km. For a country with an average income of less than a lakh, Tork T6x might not be the most affordable bike in town, but the lifecycle cost of the vehicle makes it an excellent value-for-money product!

India’s robust growth is backed chiefly by its agrarian sector. Agro Star is an innovative startup that helps farmers purchase farm inputs at an affordable rate by eliminating layers of middlemen between the end users and the manufacturer. The entire purchase cycle is triggered by a single missed call from a farmer’s phone. AgroStar calls them back and registers their order. Their product offerings include the complete array of farm inputs from pesticides to fertilizers. The order is delivered to the consumers at their doorstep. Since its launch in 2012, Agro Star has been able to sell INR 6 Crore worth of goods till date.
Arcatron Mobility was established to design and develop smart wheelchairs to aid the disabled carry out their daily chores without any hindrance. Their primary product is a self-propelled shower and commode wheelchair which helps millions with mobility impairments to access public or private toilets. Arcatronhas recently attracted an undisclosed amount of funding from an angel investor, proving that investors’ have started taking notice of this ‘next big thing.’

Indigenously produced high-quality lithium ion batteries are hard to come by. ARAI and ISRO have come to the aid of automotive companies by initiating development of lithium ion technology capability indigenously.  India shall have its very own lithium ion battery building technology ready by the middle of 2017. ARAI will then scout for technology partners for knowledge and technology sharing to commence commercial production of automotive batteries for electric and hybrid vehicles. Once available commercially, companies like Tork, can put out a ‘pure’ Indian e-motorbike and make it more economical for the average frugal Indian.

2016 witnessed a bunch of students from College of Engineering, Pune (CoEP) literally aim (and shoot) for the stars! Aptly named ‘Swayam’, this students’ satellite took off with ISRO’s CartoSat-2C satellite on 20th June 2016 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. It had been under development since 2008 with a corpus of INR 50 lac. Like a family heirloom, knowledge and technology was passed on from senior students leaving the institution to freshmen entering the college. Weighing just about a kilogram, Swayam’s chief objective is to develop end to end communication even in the remotest of locations. Basking in the glory of Swayam’s successful launch, CoEP has signed another MoU with ISRO for a yet unnamed project.

Pune’s technology eco-system is growing at a galloping rate. In the past two decades, Pune has seen a massive influx of domestic and international funding and looking at the present trends, this is unlikely to change. Pune has become a city of choice for enterprising individuals around the country. A city’s prosperity lies not in the abundance of its resources, but the way it is put to use. Pune has blitzed through India’s technological landscape at a breakneck pace and it may soon climb to the very top of the innovation heap

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Introducing the government's first ever National Software Policy

Providing a solid push for the Startup India initiative brought out by the Government of India, there is a new support system for the technology companies in the form of a National Software Policy. This is a trendsetting offering in the sense the policy aims to create more India-based software companies, which could bring out products on the global platform. It thus anticipates tremendous employment generation - for over 3.5 million more people over the next 5 – 7 years by some estimates. That, in turn, implies a sizeable contribution of the software industry as a whole to the Indian economy.

Despite having done quite well over the last couple of decades, compared to the other countries, Indian software sector is still only making its mark. Globally, the software product industry is worth $411 billion. The Indian contribution to that is just at $6.1 billion. Especially in the wake of the currency rate fluctuations being seen across the globe, worryingly enough, the Indian software services exporters managed to secure barely 8% of the total deals awarded in 2015-16 (Source - LiveMint). That is a lot of precious money lost. In that sense, the National Software Policy should be able to create a sound environment for thousands of startups (the official figure stands at 10,000 technology startups) to develop globally accepted software products. The draft policy states that "it will strive for a ten-fold increase in the share of the global software product market by 2025 by promoting easy access to local domestic/ international market for software products. We believe, that such a policy will thus help in bringing the Indian talent pool to the fore.

This policy will also be good for the industry since the government plans to make further use of software products in other sectors such as railways, telecommunications, healthcare, defence, power, atomic energy, and so on. It will lead to further employment opportunities not just in the software product industry but also in startups wanting to grow in the other sectors mentioned. Why it becomes all the more important is because the policy has provisions to nurture a specialised talent pool of 1,000,000 software professionals by 2025 to provide quality support to the software product industry.

Even the software product think-tank iSpirt supports the thought that software products in India do have the potential to become a $100 billion industry by 2025, especially with a robust contribution from startups in the space. The National Software Policy and the Startup India initiative come together with the aim of maximising the contribution of the software product industry. The policy also mentions important facets such as R&D, market access, and government procurement. If it does manage to create an environment which will facilitate startups with these advantages vis-a-vis expensive, internationally sourced services, the policy will be a boon for an inclusive sustainable indigenous software product industry.

There is another vital aspect to this policy which could also turn out to be a trendsetter. We all are aware of how businesses, especially startups, suffer due to complex economic rules and regulations followed in India. The National Software Policy has certain provisions which will simplify the taxations norms revolving around software products. It will also set up an Inter-Ministerial Coordination Group to address any needs and concerns of the software product industry. Both these measures will ensure greater ease of doing business in these sectors and will attract further interest from the professionals. Once compliance becomes easier, the industry will greatly benefit. At the same time, such provisions and easing of doing business will also help other global companies notice the Indian market, prompting greater investment and better trade relations.

All in all, there is great promise in the introduction of such a progressive policy for the Indian economy. Now to see how it actually gets implemented.  

Sunday, 11 December 2016

A Year-End View of Pune’s Technology Eco-System

“Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right” Oprah Winfrey

Much of the world will look back at 2016 as the year that changed it all – Brexit, the US Presidential election and India’s clash with cash were all potentially game-changing events. What affects the world definitely impacts us in Pune as well, and companies, small and big, have been putting their minds to dealing with these changed times. That’s not all that made news here, though – the technology ecosystem in Pune saw its own set of news-makers. Let’s look at a few things that made headlines in Pune.

Pune Smart City
The year dawned bright for the vision of Pune Smart City. The Government of India’s Smart Cities Mission’s first list of 20 cities, released in end-January saw Pune figure very close to the top of the list. This marked the start of a flurry of activity inspired by the Pune Municipal Corporation. The activity received special impetus when Prime Minister, Shri. Narendra Modi launched 14 projects of Pune’s Smart City plan in June. We at SEAP, are also putting our weight behind this initiative and have been involved in several consultations with those at PMC making these plans.The rest of the year has kept up the momentum and expect it to gather pace in 2017, especially with the announcement of the Union Cabinet approving the Pune Metro late in December.

The growing Pune Technology Ecosystem
Pune has lost none of its charm as a center of choice for technology companies looking to set up base in India. This year too several centres being expanded and some new names making their presence felt. What was especially noticeable was the growth beyond the traditional sectors like IT. German auto components company ZF set up a center for software and mechanical engineering estimated to create an additional 2500 jobs. Japanese auto testing systems major HORIBA opened their first India tech center in Pune this year. Auto players already at home in Pune also expanded, like Tata Motors’ global delivery center. Another Tata company, Tata Technologies, also expanded their Axia VAVE Center of Excellence for product development. The traditional software space also saw growth – take the case of EMC announcing their 2nd R & D center in Pune. Our space looks set to keep growing at a robust rate over 2017 too.

In the money – Pune Startups
The deal flow in the startup ecosystem continued at a slower pace than the previous years but was still quite encouraging. Pune emerged as the 4th largest magnet for such capital in India with some eye-catching deals. There were several deals over the $ 1 Million mark – startups like ElasticRun, Inuxu Technology, icustommadeit, ShoppingPal, Sminq, WorkApps and Tokri among others. There were bigger deals too significantly over the $ 10 Million mark, most notably Druva Technology, iCertis Technology and HelpShift Technology. This was apart from the several seed and angel funding rounds for earlier stage startups. There were some big acquisitions too, CitrusPay’s acquisition by Dutch payments company PayU, and LeftShift’s acquisition by Indonesian company GO-JEKbeing chief among them. L & T Infotech also joined in this flow by acquiring Pune-based analytics startup AugmentiQ. One Pune startup then featured for making a big-name acquisition was FirstCry, that acquired Mahindra Group-backed BabyOye. In some ways driven by government initiatives like StartUp India,this will continue to be an exciting space next year too.

Pune Connect
How can we close out our report without mention of Pune Connect 2016 – the marquee startup event of the year. Mid-November saw the biggest and best Pune Connect ever – with tremendous participation from startups, entrepreneurs and several inspiring mentors. The event was marked by startups from sectors far beyond the traditional software space and this was most encouraging. The speakers, especially Mr. Gopichand Katragadda, CTO of Tata Sons was especially inspirational. The highlight of the event was an exciting shootout between the finally shortlisted startups, and event presided over by the Union Minister of State for Electronics & IT, the Hon. P P Choudhary, and the DG of the STPI, Dr. Omkar Rai. The bar has been set quite high for Pune Connect 2017 – but we will definitely strive to clear it.

It’s fair to say that the Pune technology ecosystem has been buzzing with activity over 2016. It’s also a reasonable assumption that 2017 will be no different – you can count on SEAP being in the thick of things all along in line with our stated objective of, “Enabling Pune’s technology ecosystem!

Friday, 25 November 2016

A Day For Pune Startups To Remember – Pune Connect 2016

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” – Walt Disney

Those who have been observing the annual Pune Connect event for the last 6 years may well conclude that Disney’s mantra has inspired Pune’s startups. As an action-packed Nov. 19thdrew to a close,the abiding impression participants of Pune Connect 2016 were left with was just how varied, vibrant and promising the Pune startup scene really was.

As the primary showcase for Pune’s startups the event, organized by SEAP, has been attracting attention for a few editions now, and 2016 was no different. The precursor to the event is the call for applications from startups keen to exhibit in the startup showcase and this year, just like the last 2 editions, over 100 startups applied when this call went out. After a rigorous screening of their applications and multiple rounds of interviews with our EC members over 30 made it to the showcase. What stood out this year was the range of areas the startups were seeking to make their mark in. Pune has traditionally beenseen asa software or IT city but this year the applicants cast their net far beyond that. There were companies looking to make homes and cities smarter, manufacturing-focused solutions, robots, and innovative electric cycles in addition to startups looking to leverage technology and the consumer internet for new and interesting ways to solve consumer issues.

A key part of the event is designed to offer some concentrated doses of wisdom for the attendees, who are drawn from the wider Pune startup eco-system as well as some yet-to-be-entrepreneurs. Pune Connect 2016 kicked off with a very informative talk by Mr. Kuntal Shah, of Sage One Investments, on a topic of deep interest to investment-hungry startups. He presented the VC’s perspective on “Investing in an Idea.” Apart from great information on what VCs look for while deciding on an investment, a segment the startups found particularly useful was his views on the mistakes startups make over that process.

Startups that had already made a beginning and were looking for answers on how to chart an explosive growth path were enthralled by the panel discussion that followed on “Scaling”. The panelists were 4 Pune entrepreneurs who had “been there and done that”. Monish Darda, Shridhar Shukla, AjitPatil and ShachinBharadwaj spoke candidly and passionately about their own experiences of the various challenges they had faced, and overcome, as they set about building their successful ventures. The segment contained a wealth of information on everything from what to do with funds, hiring, market segmentation and the signs to look for that could signify it was time for the founder to leave. Look for the startups that attended this segment to grow sharply now!

The keynote address, by Mr. Gopichand Katragadda, CTO of Tata Sons, focused on technology-led innovation. In a word, this session was inspirational! As he charted the history, the present and the future of innovation in India one could almost see the excitement among the Pune startups in attendance. As the anecdotes about innovations from India’s oldest recorded history to the shop floors of Tata factories, today added up – it was hard to escape the feeling that Pune’s startups were being subtly drawn into a wider national innovation movement, with Mr. Katragadda at the helm.

All of the post-lunch session was dedicated to the startups - time for the visitors to view them and their offerings in the exhibition. The exhibition area was buzzing with excitement. This was crunch time for the startups as potential investors, mentors, associates and even potential customers sought out and interacted with them. Selected startups also got a chance to pitch to members of the Indian Angel Network in closed-door sessions.

Then it was on to, what most consider to be, the highlight of the event. A final shortlist of 5 of the exhibiting startups got an opportunity to pitch to an all-star judging panel for the startup awards. The shortlist included a startup focused on converting ordinary cycles into electric cycles, one that used Machine Learning technology to help B2B sales, a startup that analyzed the social profiles of potential loan-seekers to approve payday loans, and a virtualization technology startup.The startups exhibited great conviction in their ideas and tremendous passion in the face of insightful questioning by the judges.

The chief guests for the event were Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information and Technology and Dr. Omkar Rai, the Director General of the Software Technology Parks of India. Before presenting the awards to the winning startups the MoS and Dr. Rai presented a most encouraging view of how the government and the STPi were committed to supporting the growthof these sectors - great news for all the startups looking to make their mark here. The culmination of the wonderful day was the announcement of the awards, Early Salary won the big prize as the winner of the startup shootout but it’s fair to say that all the startups that attended the event won in some way or the other!

The startup ecosystem in Pune is thriving, and over the last 6 editions,Pune Connect has become a central part of that landscape. Given the success of this year’s event it seems clear that next year will be even bigger and better – will you be ready?

Monday, 10 October 2016

Stories of Pune Connect Alumni

"Don't be a lone wolf. Lean on the experience and smarts of your teammates, investors, and mentors to help solve the tough problems and take advantage of the opportunities."-- Seth Bannon, founder and CEO of Amicus

Pune Connect 2016 is coming soon and the city’s entrepreneurs are eagerly awaiting to showcase themselves at the event. Pune Connect, organized by the Software Exporters Association of Pune (SEAP) for the past six years, is a one-of-its-kind platform for budding startups to mingle with the who's who of the industry. For startups willing to take the advice of Seth Bannon, there is a wealth of interaction on offer with investors, venture capitalists, potential business partners, potential customers, mentors, and other associates with new ideas. To top it all , there is the explosion of interest in print and social media coverage which ensures more visibility. All in all, it's a perfect cocktail for a young startup looking to succeed. To substantiate that point, you need to look no further than some of the alumni of Pune Connect 2015 and the rich experiences they had:

ImageProVision - Started in 2010, ImageProVision is an Image Analytics company. They primarily focus on image processing and detailed analysis. Since Pune Connect 2015, the company has succeeded in growing three-fold with considerable profits. They cater to a wide range of customers in the field of medical sciences, life sciences, chemical and manufacturing industries, as well as agriculture industry. In the last year or so, ImagePro has attracted marquee customers in the pharmaceutical sector too. Co-founder and Director Sandeep Kulkarni said about their experience at PuneConnect, "We had a good experience participating in Pune Connect 2015. We got good exposure to a multi-dimensional group of people. We could also connect with fellow startups and understand their challenges and approaches to handle them. More importantly, we learned the investor's point of view while participating in the selection process of Pune Connect 2015".

Trendzlink - Trendzlink is India's first personalised newspaper. It summarises news, curates opinions and blogs, and creates timeline for the stories that readers wish to follow. CEO Aditya Khanwelkar too echoed positive thoughts about the marquee event. "Pune Connect 2015 platform has definitely benefitted us. In the past one year, we have pivoted from a pure play news aggregator into educational product domain".

RoboEasy - This company was started in April 2015 with the idea of making education practical and fun. Using a platform called EduTech, it aims to help students develop logical thinking, enhance decision making, and overall make learning much more practical. RoboEasy's Founder and CEO Aabhas Agarwal opines, "Pune Connect 2015 was a good experience. We learnt how to proceed further, and also understood what exactly the users require".

InJarwis Technologies Pvt Ltd - The company has a couple of products, and vivifii.apk for behavioural health care discovery and delivery on mobile or desktop platforms via audio, video, and text channels. According to its Co-founder Paras Pagare, post the exposure at Pune Connect 2015, they have been able to sign up two marquee clients and have been able to generate a good sales pipeline. "The event helped me connect with investors and entrepreneurs who helped us refine our product. We got a good indication of investors' expectations and their interests in our kind of business," he feels. Consequently, the company now plans to expand to other cities in the coming months.

Pune Connect has created a name for itself as one of the most sought after stages in Pune for startups and entrepreneurs keen to make a mark for themselves in the industry. Not surprising then that the success stories which have emerged from the previous years, of participating companies, are heartening. They are a reminder of how more good is to come from this forum. Have you registered yet so your story could be in a similar article next year before Pune Connect 2017? 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Pune Connect – The Place for Pune Startups to Shine!

Pune has long been seen as a good place for startups to get ready to hit the world, and the marketplace. There is a huge range of businesses young entrepreneurs are venturing into and this city offers the right kind of eco-system for those bright ideas to flourish. There is a readily available talent pool, a wide variety of resources, and then there is the thriving software industry for support. So much so, that research says there are some 322 startups in the city! (Source – Inc.). If yours is one of the startups among this number but waiting for the right push to explode onto the scene here is an opportunity not to be missed - Pune Connect 2016. A platform to bring together new businesses with industry professionals and other associates, this is the most sought after event to make a mark for yourself. Pune Connect is organized by the Software Exporters Association of Pune (SEAP) and Pune Tech and is now in its sixth year. The gathering brings together investors, potential customers, partners, and mentors for an interaction with budding entrepreneurs. Thus, at the same time it gives a great chance to startups to directly interact with industry stalwarts and expose their potential to venture capitalists and angel investors.
Since the event is all about displaying the best, startups need to go through a rigorous selection process to be selected as the top participants. Here are some figures to depict the true picture - in 2014, of the 150 total entries received only 36 startups were selected. The challenge got more harder when last year, of the 180 participants only 27 could make it to the final list. The numbers just go on to show the stiff competition startups face to be eventually identified as the most promising ones. The chosen ones are privileged to have access to a lot of new information, networking with the core industry people, exclusive sessions with venture capitalists, just to name a few benefits. They even get to exhibit free of charge at the event. Also, the startups could score a mention in the print media and social media coverage before and after the event. That is a lot of exposure for a startup which is only beginning its foray into the real world.
The showcase, this year, is scheduled for the month of November. While that seems like far enough away, however, if you are keen to make the cut, the application process needs to start right now. Remember to spend time over the application as getting through to the finals is tough. Yet all the hard work does pay off. Hence, it would be worth starting with the application process to complete the entire procedure well in time. The last date for accepting nominations for this year is 8th October 2016. To begin with, you can log on to the Pune Connect website at and register yourself as a startup. You will receive an email with your username and a temporary password. The website will then further guide you to the selection criteria and procedures.

So if you have a product or technology startup or a startup with a dazzling idea that has started seeing light of day, this is the chance to gain recognition as one among the best. See you ate PuneConect 2016!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

A Ringside View of the SEAP 2016 AGM

“India is the world’s largest experiment in digitalisation.”B. Santhanam, Saint-Gobain India at the CII Digital India Summit

It’s been a few months since I, and my agency Midas Touch Consultants, have been associated with SEAP. In that time, I have had the opportunity to view at reasonably close quarters the work SEAP has been doing in line with their mission of “Enabling the Pune technology eco-system.” In many ways, it is the Annual General Meeting that becomes the reference point for the activities of the year gone by and that sets the Association’s sights on the upcoming 12 months. This year I was fortunate to get a ringside view of the proceedings. Let me also clarify that this is not an official minutes of the meeting, rather a collection of impressions of a first-time viewer of these proceedings.

If there is one movement that is occupying the minds of Punekars and Pune companies alike, it is the Smart Cities Mission. Since coming 2nd in the Govt. of India shortlist earlier this year, those responsible for governing the city and those living and working in it have the task of making Pune smart front and center in their minds. An initiative like this has natural resonance with SEAP’s mission given the key role technology is slated to play in this transformation. This synergy found expression through 2 separate, but complementary addresses that kicked the AGM off.

Mr. Shrinivas Kowligi, of Ernst & Young, has been at the forefront of the Smart Cities debates in India and can claim credit for having helped a number of the other cities that made the GoI shortlist, put their proposals together. He made a wonderful case for how Smart Cities were both good for business and were good business too. He specifically pointed to smart manufacturing, IoT, Robotics, eCommerce and Analytics as the industries of this Smart future.       He also spoke of how Smart City initiatives have to go beyond what the government can provide, given how the transformative industries of the future will need their city eco-system to be smart to survive. The key takeaway from the session was how government and other organizations would have to embrace a more systems thinking mindset as the journey to a smart city started.

The Chief Guest of the evening was Mr. Kunal Kumar, Pune’s Municipal Commissioner. In many ways the man most closely identified with Pune’s Smart City bid, Mr. Kumar is in the hot seat as far as realizing the dream of Pune’s 6 million citizens is concerned. Mr. Kumar passionately communicated just how much the mission means to him. His view was very clear that the mission was all about effective implementation now, and the true test was just how the ordinary citizen would benefit. Mr. Kumar identified the 3 pillars on which Pune’s Smart City plans were built.

ü  Enhanced quality of life
ü  Strong and robust economy and
ü  Infrastructure

His definition of smart, as the capability to do more with less particularly made a lot of sense in the context of the resources available to Pune. It was abundantly clear to everyone in the room the scale of the task at hand, but also the potential benefits to our city.

The operative part of the AGM then took over. SEAP’s President, Mr. Ramkumar presented a report on many activities undertaken by SEAP over the preceding 12 months – an extremely wide range. The new Executive Committee was formed and took the stage, presumably tasked with making the next 12 months as activity-filled as the last 12. A very pleasant evening ended with networking with many of the technology game’s whos-who of Pune over dinner.

Speaking as someone who is a small part of the Pune technology eco-system, I think it’s fair to say that exciting times lie ahead for Pune’s tech community and it’s also fair to assume that SEAP will have a key role to play in enabling those exciting times.