How to get the cash flowing from a connected world is his business. His rich experience in managing 360-degree alliance partnerships and innovative business models have enabled mutual success with customers, his company claims. Ajit Singh, Global Head of Communications & Devices business unit at Sasken Technologies, in a recent interview with ELE Times states on how India could be a perfect ‘Phase 1’ zone for connected device businesses and discards all fears regarding the negative impacts of an automated world on human lives. Here is an excerpt from the interview.
ELE Times: Please share your views about the connected devices industry in India and globally.
Ajit Singh: In my view if we look at the comparison of the western countries’ adoption of connected devices and if I look at India, the gap is reducing significantly quarter on quarter, not even year on year. India I do not see behind in any way. Where I see the gap is largely the infrastructure that on which the devices run, that is a gap that I see between India and the developed countries, or let me call it the western economies. In application and usage of the devices, I would rate India higher. It is India where you have even a simple mobile phone call getting translated into different user patterns which we do not see anywhere else. And coming to the technology front in terms of, bandwidth, maybe 2G, 3G, or 4G in India or even 5G which is going to come, I see that difference blurring very very quickly.
ELE Times: The things that are worrying us is that we do not have an infrastructure to levitate the experience the connected world is offering. How do you think this could be addressed in a country like India?
Ajit Singh: One thing is good that is intent is very clear in India. The government has been talking about smart cities. The government has listed down which are the cities they want to call ‘Make Smart.’ With the influx of MNCs in India, if you look at the top ten global Technology Company, each one of has their presence in India. And that is naturally going to drive the ideas that are happening across the world into India. I don’t see a reason why they would not want to do some pilots here. Take maybe India as a ‘phase one’ or a ‘phase market’ and take it to the larger globe. So that is a good part that the software talent that we have given to the world that has been invited by software giants, be it Google, Facebook, every top technology company is here. So that is naturally going to give away knowledge that the new clients coming from around the globe, and we will benefit from it.
ELE Times: Being into the connected device industry, what are your comments on Big Data that would be generated by smart devices and on the analysis of the same?
Ajit Singh: I am glad that you raised this point because, a lot of people might not know, but Sasken has a dedicated business unit which focuses on digital business which is going to expand even further coming the financial year, this April. Right now we are into trying to see what more we can do. Let me just give you some examples of what we are already doing. For one of our Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) customers in Europe, we are helping them to use Big Data technology. We are helping them in reducing their costs. Most of these Virtual Network Operators buy bandwidth and talk-time in bulk and they sell in the form of small SIM cards through their distributors or retail channels. So somebody might buy say, for example, one GigaByte worth of talk-time or bandwidth and sell it in say a unit of thousand. What we are trying to help them is that how much of that unit that they are selling is actually getting utilised by the end consumer. Now if the end user is only utilizing, say 80% then they can actually instead of selling it to thousand they can sell to another 10%. So thereby we are not only helping them on optimizing the cost in a dynamic fashion, this is something which is happening on the real-time basis. We are able to look into the past trends and help them with how much more SIMs or how much more bandwidth they can sell in retail within the same pipe. So Sasken already has the experience and this is just one example.
ELE Times: It is seen that Indian companies do not invest on R&D but your company has been primarily into Research and Development. Please throw some light on it.
Ajit Singh: Our hardcore DNA has been core Research and Development and that has been our history. If you look at the way it started, we created a lot of protocol stacks which are actually products which got adopted by the Orient to create the telecom products. We participated and continue to participate in forums which define the standard of what is going to come in the next generation of devices, and we continue to that. We have a dedicated CTO office, who directly reports to the CEO, and not in the business units. They are working on the next generation ideas with a bunch of fresh and experienced mix of talent who is right now working on the Machine to Machine (M2M) learning and Machine Intelligence. We may not create a full-fledged product, but we create components that can fit into any product. Those are the development that we are doing in-house.
ELE Times: What type of competition are you getting from the regional competitors, if any, or most of the competition is coming from outside India?
Ajit Singh: Let me divide the segment into two, if you let me look at the SatCom sector, the kind of solutions we are making or the kind of components we are making which will help our customers on the time to market, so I am not boosting but we do not see any competition in India. Because this a very niche segment and you may know that Satellite Communication is a regulated segment, unlike the mobile communication. People need a license to operate Satellite phones. Very recently government allowed BSNL, to restricted use of satellite phones. And prior to that, largely restricted to the defence forces. Maybe because a lot of Indian clients has to depend upon international services. But we are working with our global clients and we are one of the first company globally to design LTE-based satellite terminal.
When I come to the devices, we cut across different verticals that could be going to the industrial segment, automotive segment, telephonic segment, or the retail segment. So there are special boutiques firm different segments, and there are plenty of them in the country. But if you look at hardcore engineering and development of mixed generation devices, how they can be enabled, they are very handful. There are more companies who want to do peripheral, but very few are involved in the development of the finished products. In this case, here is competition obviously, as well as well globally.
ELE Times: Being into the connected device market, that also take you to the industrial automation, so what kind of market do you see in Industrial 4.0, and secondly and having India as a country, with a huge number of labour population whose lives will be affected with fully automatized workplace, how would you address this situation?
Ajit Singh: See it is a larger issue, the social dilemma, the western countries are largely capital intensive, they don’t have a soaring population. Automation, there only seems to make their lives easier, and in some countries, the population is actually decreasing. Whereas we are more of labour intensive economy and we have been like that for ages now. I understand the social dilemma, but my hope is that India as a country has always embraced technology. If you look back at the history, and in some our religions, we worship our machinery on a particular day, so as a country we have always embraced technology. I feel the population will enable itself in new areas of providing solutions. There will be solutions and it will find its own path. It is not that the ‘tonga’ was born and so people are jobless. There might be new sectors that might open up which can ensure that we will have jobs.
ELE Times: What are the strategies and projects goals your company is having for the next couple of years to come?
Ajit Singh: Specifically to the communications and devices unit, we have seen double-digit growth, year and year. Large revenue has come from global markets and customers who also have a presence in India, but they are largely global brands. Our solutions are available to all the customers across the globe including India. So I hope we will be able to increase our presence, increase our business in India, we are hoping that. And especially, in the global market, if you look at the couple of areas that we have seen good growth, one is the satellite communication, we will continue to strengthen our offer there and enter into new areas. The second is that we see the maturity of the machine learning solutions coming up in the coming years, which we will integrate into our devices business and help a lot of our customers. We are not going to change our R&D strategy as I said, that is going to remain our focus area, and we are not going to venture into the IT businesses. We will strengthen our digital businesses that compliments our R&D.