When it comes to activity and innovation in the Internet of Things space, India is buzzing. Recently, there has been a surge in the number of IoT startups in the country, and experts now expect India to become an innovation hub for emerging IoT technologies.
"It is difficult to estimate the number of IoT entrepreneurs in the country but there are around 150 to 200 serious startups in India today and that number is growing rapidly," says Nihal Kashinath, the founder of IoT Bangalore (IoTBLR), which describes itself as an open community for IoT enthusiasts in the city.
While most of the entrepreneurial activity happens in Bangalore -- India's Silicon Valley -- cities including Ahmedabad, Chennai, Delhi, Kochi, Mumbai and Pune are also witnessing developments in this area.
"We have close to 10,000 people on our Facebook group and 4,000 on our Meetup group, making us one of the largest IoT-focused Meetup communities in the world," says Kashinath.
Many factors are driving this interest in IoT technology within the community of entrepreneurs. "A lot of top talent is being attracted to the IoT space because it is terribly exciting," says Kashinath. "We are witnessing the birth of a new era of mainstream human-computer interaction.
"Secondly, IoT has potential to provide simple solutions to longstanding, complex problems," he adds. "This has allowed many entrepreneurs to identify markets, mass as well as niche, to build solutions for."
The falling cost of IoT equipment is also making it easier for entrepreneurs to build prototypes and products without having to make huge investments or raise substantial funds. And as IoT continues to generate publicity, entrepreneurs have been drawn to the industry.
"The Smart Cities and Digital India campaigns have served to improve awareness about IoT, and will provide even greater impetus through formal policies going forward," says Kashinath.
Somshubro Pal Choudhury, the managing director of semiconductor player Analog Devices Inc. (NYSE: ADI), similarly notes the impact such government initiatives are having. "There are hundreds of Indian IoT startups, especially so in home and office automation, and government initiatives like Smart Cities and Digital India are providing a much-needed fillip to this industry," he says.
Indeed, the push from the Indian government has been substantial. Besides launching projects such as Smart Cities and Digital India, authorities have set up an "innovation platform" called the Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).
"AIM will be an innovation promotion platform involving academics, entrepreneurs and researchers," said Pratap Padode, the president of the Foundation of Infrastructure Research Studies Training (FIRST) and the founder of the Smart Cities Council India, which represents a number of technology companies in the IoT space. "The smart city opportunity in India is estimated to be worth $1.5 trillion to $2 trillion and India would become a hub for the world for such development once we empower our youth with the Digital India plan."
Even so, entrepreneurs do not need authorities to convince them there is a huge opportunity in the enterprise IoT area. "Enterprises big and small, though keen to adopt new technology, are facing challenges with long engineering cycles, coping with technology shift, technology commercialization and driving constant innovation," says Shyam Vedantam, the chief executive of technology services player Altiux Innovations.
Many believe the number of Indian IoT startups is only going to increase in future. "We believe IoT will penetrate industries and consumer markets rapidly over the next two to three years," says Vishwas Udpikar, the chief executive of Wavelet Technologies, a 17-year-old company that has recently entered the IoT market with a range of enterprise solutions in the video analytics and distributed control areas.
Besides targeting the global market, many of these startups are likely to develop products and services that are tailored to local needs. The question is how many of them will be able to make a success of their efforts and thrive in the years to come.
— Gagandeep Kaur, contributing editor, special to Light Reading