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. 

Friday, 15 July 2016

An Exploration Of Smart City Mission And What It Means To Pune's Technology Ecosystem

Last year, Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced the launch of the Smart City initiative which aims to bring about digitization and growth in India’s city infrastructure and logistics. Exactly a year later, Pune witnessed the launch of the 'Smart City Mission' from the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex.
The mission consists of various projects, all of which aim at improving the city with regards to aspects such as amenities, transport system, waste management, road conditions, recycling, etc. The launch of The Lighthouse Project in Aundh is aimed at making citizens smarter by providing skill training to youths of poor localities. Another project aims at slum rehabilitation and works towards the replacement of the slums with buildings, all of which will be fulfilling the norms of green building. A street and pedestrian walkway in Aundh will involve PMC, traffic police, utility service providers along with local residents and commercial establishments.
While a lot of these projects will be launched at a ground level and are aimed at improving or enhancing existing systems, a big part of them involve the use of technology and innovation to see the expected results. For ease of keeping track of PMPML commuters, the smart city mission will be introducing a website and mobile app. All information about the passengers opting for local commuting services will be available on this app. Another facility in the pipeline which is soon going to be introduced is the allotment of Common Mobility Cards for all passengers. This concept involves the use of a card provided to all regular commuters. The bus conductor will swipe it in an e-ticketing machine and the amount of his ticket will automatically be deducted from the card. This facility will involve recharging the card to have credit but will eliminate the hassle of exchanging cash every time a passenger needs to buy a ticket.
Another area where the smart city mission aims at providing convenience to the citizens using technology is the traffic system. This project aims at using technology to address the planning of the entire transport system. If executed as planned, it will ensure sufficient availability of public transport in different areas as per the actual demand. This will prove to be of great help to the commuters as well as enhance the regulation of traffic on roads.A project that has the potential to change the entire face of public transport in the city is the introduction of modern buses, which are designed to be environment-friendly. The project will be launched on a pilot basis at the initial stages to check if it will prove to be a better option than the conventional buses which make use of fuel. The buses would run on electric power. If the outcome is good, they would be included in the fleet of PMPML buses.
Using rooftops of civic properties for generating solar power is another project that has been proposed multiple times in the past and is finally approved with the first project launched at the Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics. The Pune International Centre (PIC) is playing a major role in it and many private educational institutes are looking to be a part of it too.
Taking care of waste management and ensuring appropriate and timely disposal of the city's waste is another sector in which implementation of various technological tools and devices is planned. The first phase involves the installation of a GPS system on every garbage-carrying-vehicle. This initiative is on the verge of completion and will be reviewed after a few months to see if it had any positive effects. Once that is taken care of, the second step will involve geo-tagging all the waste bins with sensors to monitor details of garbage collection.

The Smart Cities Mission aims to bring about major changes in the city's ecosystem and will see the launch of many more projects in the years to come, depending on the changes witnessed from the ones that are already launched. The use of new ideas and methods involved in it makes it an exciting opportunity for technology providers to collaborate with different bodies and enable the government's efforts through various public and private partnerships.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

SEAP - Driving Pune's Technology Ecosystem Towards Growth

Pune has witnessed a transformation, with major technological advantages and innovation taking place in all sectors including software and manufacturing. Yesterday’s pensioner’s paradise and educational hub has today, started becoming even more than an IT hub. Today’s Pune is working towards building an ecosystem which is great for all manner of high-tech product and service companies, too. As SEAP, our stated objective is to enable this growing technology Eco-system. We have a clear role in interfacing with government and the administrative powers to state our case and also to contribute in the growth of key initiatives like the Smart Cities movement. This post is not about that role though – this post is about what we are doing to “Enable Pune’s Technology Eco-system”. Our aim is to help startups to grow, and larger technology companies to flourish by means of various workshops, events, and facilitated training programs. Our endeavor is to ensure that the activities carried out by SEAP play a major role in the way industry and innovation are blooming in our Punya Nagari.

Here are some of the ways in which SEAP is trying to bring about measurable changes in the way the technological ecosystem functions:

1) Creating Networking Opportunities:

In spite of Pune being a smaller city than Mumbai or Bangalore, the opportunities for networking and growth here are innumerable. SEAP works towards creating a platform for players in the technology eco-system to meet prospects, customers, mentors, business partners, affiliates, investors and owners of other startups. A strong networking circle will help get the right contacts together, wherein they can share ideas, concepts, feedback or perhaps, even join hands to initiate new projects. Together everyone achieves more - this will prove to be advantageous for the system as a whole.

2) Educational Events:

Organizing events with educational value is another great way for startups and stakeholders in larger companies alike learn more about their business and then take the right steps while working towards their growth. SEAP organizes educational events regularly – you may have seen events on key areas like proposal writing and product market sizing that took place recently. Such events, apart from their instructional value, also, provide people with a platform for interaction, where they can discuss and share their ideas for validation and get their minds refreshed.

3) A focus on Products and Intellectual property:

A focus on products specifically and creation of intellectual property in general has the potential to drive innovation and SEAP is keen to help establish product leadership and to strengthening the ecosystem in Pune. The intent is to create tomorrow's product leaders by organizing flagship, volunteer-driven conferences for them. Such events focus on guiding the potential leaders of tomorrow to define, plan and accelerate their product paths for the future. Talent and ambition are already present in all the mindsets, what SEAP works towards is to channelize these thoughts and give action to their innovation.

4) Personal and Professional Development Workshops:

To bring about a change in the overall ecosystem of the city, implementing changes at the ground level is very important. SEAP works towards organizing workshops for specific target audiences and providing them with knowledge that is relevant to their industry. All growth is not professional or driven towards certification, some thought has to be given to the soul too. You may recall the recent workshop on appreciating classical music conducted by noted vocalist Mahesh Kale. Our aim is to provide the people within Pune’s technology eco-system the right information that will open their minds and provide all-round development. The growth and nature of the city's technology ecosystem will depend largely on the way every leader decides to execute his plan of action.

Working towards coming up with new means to encourage more and more people within the city to become a part of the technology space and become proud contributors to the overall technological scene of the city, SEAP is playing a major role in paving the way for the city's future and with a good response from the recipients, will continue to do so. We want to see Pune among the leading technology destinations in the world – hopefully we will all get there soon.