19 May 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Though he's a young contender, he has a pulse on the market. He knew that 4 and 5 star hotel chains flooded the market and alternative options were relatively untapped. This is how he created a market for mid and no frills scale Inns and Suites which are tech enabled.
To simplify things, a tech-enabled inn focuses on making accommodation economical by decreasing costs and increasing efficiency, unlike a tech-enabled hotel designed to make life easier. "At a tech-enabled inn, a customer can request for any service by a single click or call for our tech enabled concierge. There's not much paper work and stationery, as most work happens online," said Agarwal.
A combination of technology, carbon neutral efforts and an unchartered path catapulted him into global fame as he made it to a recent prestigious US Fellowship Award platform. Agarwal, now 19 won the Thiel Fellowship 2013. Agarwal is the only Indian resident on this list of '20 under 20 years of age' globally. Twenty two entrepreneurs who made to the fellowship will receive $100,000 each from Thiel Foundation and mentoring and support of Peter Thiel and the community including Sean Parker, Co-Founder, Facebook and Napster; Elon Musk, Co-Founder of $3 billion companies, Tesla, Paypal, Space X.
As for Agarwal, the Fellowship puts things in a different perspective. Being a Thiel Fellow, Agarwal will use technology to bring affordable and standardized accommodations to emerging economies across the world, starting with India. The company is padding up for new launches. He plans to use tablet computers to capture customer reviews of OYO.
While the teenager certainly has the ability to convert ideas into income, let's see what makes this section of hospitality different. "We brand the tech enabled inns as OYO Inns. Technology comes handy as a solution to decrease costs in Inns and increase the overall efficiency. Due to use of smart technology, we are able to price our places aggressively between US$20 and US$30 with healthy margins," said Agarwal and added, "OYO Inns uses the top notch Inn Management Systems custom-built by the Oravel.com in-house engineering team. It is deployed in all our Inns usually not seen in any of the Inns in India."
The accent is on efficiency and time management. OYO offers food and beverage services using its trusted online F&B service providers via SMS based orders. Guests can SMS the codes of food orders, which saves the cost of a bell boy, increases efficiency and reduces chances of error.
The OYO phone reservation is linked to the CRM (customer relationship management) system, making both systems cost efficient and updated online. Tracking each room with the status of house-keeping and check-in with a code-enabled room key helps keep the CRM updated. "We're the country's first chain of Inns and Suites to be following such practices. As of now, we have 11 Inns under OYO, of which four are operational and remaining ones will be launched in a couple of weeks," explained the tech entrepreneur, who is also a VentureNursery Season-1 acceleration program graduate. Venture Nursery is India's first angel-backed start-up accelerator.
Agarwal may have been born in Bissam Cuttack village in Rayagada district in the East Indian state of Orissa, but he was quick to realize that smart solutions can be created with cutting edge technology to save time and money.
It was a lesson well learnt. Today, for someone so young, he comes across as a seasoned performer. Agarwal made sure that the Oravel site has the largest and most diverse selection of homes around India, with more than 3,000+Listings across multiple locations. All these facilitate guests with decision making tips. "Our 'elemented' results page will automatically show you the most suited non hotel as per your requirement. Additionally, we have strong filters to support the purpose," he reasoned.
Moving beyond the digital footprint, one hopes that the 19-year-old sets an example for other hospitality players to emulate. We already have smart keys in operation, let's hope more such smart, tech enabled, easy to operate options are thrown open to guests.
Edited: 19 May 2013 at 09:13 AM by Kavitha Srinivasa
17 May 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Now that's a tall order and self reliance can happen through a culmination of various forces. "The Indian aero industry can become self reliant only if it produces its engines in India. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, known for its R&D in defence and civil aviation, has invested over Rs 400 crore towards the development of jet engines," said Dr K Tamilmani, who heads the Centre for Military Airworthiness and Certification, Department of Defence R&D, Ministry of Defence as its Chief Executive.
As the chief guest of IDAS 2013, Dr Mani gave the audience a futuristic perspective. "We need to prepare ourselves for future security threats related to aircrafts. The need of the hour is to build an eco system that will address surveillance issues," he cautioned. It calls for an interdisciplinary approach, beginning by integrating the principles of software engineering into the aerospace industry. Growth can be fuelled if private industry develops products for the aerospace and defence corridors. The accent is on automation and not so much manual operations. That means we need to beef up our industrial facilities and create a business model so that we can design, deliver and test our products on our home turfs.
To think of it, if we were to take the self reliance path, we need to fine tune our resources and make them reliable and cost effective. For instance, flying test beds should be set up at strategic places to test models. This works as a time saving and cost cutting measure. With this, we also need to look at security systems. "The defence system requires a commuting platform which integrates IP and software systems," explained Sujeeth Pai, Country Sales Manager, National Instruments India, the company co-presented IDAS 2013 with Society of India Aerospace Technologies and Industries.
Obviously a full-fledged commuting platform would create newer streams of avenues and in turn scale up the GDP and bring in revenue into the defence sector. It's a green signal to invest in a platform to stay ahead of the curve. "Since we have 3,393 engineering colleges in India, we need to equip our engineers and scientist with tools for product innovation and discovery," reasoned Pai. The idea is to encourage local talent to build indigenous systems for Indian aerospace-defence needs.
A suite of live demos established National Instruments' technological expertise in the aerospace and defence industry.
One of the most engaging demos was the NI Smart Record and Playback System. This is a universal record and playback system with inbuilt signal intelligence. Let's look at things hypothetically. There's a burst of signals in the air, from the in-house camp as well as the enemy camp. So how does one identify the right signal, monitor it and extract the required information? That's where this product steps in, as it is tailored to identify and smartly record appropriate signals. It is aligned to meet the requirements of military applications and target simulations.
Captronic Systems, a specialist in automation and test equipment, also had a nice demo. The company briefed people about its usage of modular NI platform like PXI hardware for testing vehicles on roads and avionics.
Keen to tap hidden talent and create newer opportunities for engineers and scientists, IDAS 2013 is positioned as a multi-city event, beginning with Bangalore, then moving to Hyderabad and culminating in Delhi later this month.
Painless procedures ahead
10 May 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
To a large extent, this fear psychosis will be lessened thanks to the efforts of a thinking group of scientists from the premiere educational institute, the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore. Newspaper reports hail it as a needleless vaccine delivery system.
Shashi Tharoor the Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister threw light on the device, which is a pen-shaped needle-less drug delivery device that uses supersonic shock waves technology. The reason being shock waves are proved to be an efficient means of energy dissipation. The mechanical impulse generated behind a micro-shock wave during a controlled explosion is applied in the creation of the needle-less vaccine model. IISc is probably the first institution in the world to use the principles of supersonic shock waves technology for developing a needle-less drug delivery device.
As for the device, well it helps administer painless delivery of medicines into the body. Conceptualizing such a device calls for extensive research and cross disciplinary approach. The drug delivery device is a collaborative effort by the hypersonic and shock waves of the department of aerospace engineering, and the microbiology and cell biology department.
As per newspaper reports, the device has undergone animal trials, specifically to deliver typhoid vaccines on mice. It is indicated that the animal did not undergo extensive pain during the trial. With that, there have been no visible signs of bleeding.
Tharoor describes the new offering as painless, portable, disposable, safe and economical, as it can be re-used. One might have to pay around Rs 9,000 to get the device. It may be available in the medical market after it is clinically tested for human trails, and that would take about 2.5 years from now.
Compiled estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO) reveal that around 12 billion injections are used globally. The needle-less drug delivery device can be used for insulin and even in certain types of cancer treatments.
The device is certainly a pat-on-the back for India. However, it would make sense if it becomes commercially accessible to all the sections of society. That's because we have heard instances of the use of unsafe injections and its consequences in economically backward parts of society.
Even as we think of improving the scenario in the fringe areas, I must say life is full of strange coincidences. Earlier in the year, the emerging technologies conference 'Emtech India 2013' presented by MIT's Technology Review and CyberMedia, the largest specialty media house in South Asia, acknowledged innovators who were sensitive to needs of the rural poor. Take the case of Nitin Sisodia, who founded Sohum Innovation Lab. Armed with an electrical engineering from National Institute of Technology, Sisodia decided to use his expertise in creating a device to screen newborns for hearing loss in resource constrained settings. That's because hearing impairment in such places goes undiagnosed till the child is about four years and can lead to speech related problems. This is where the device steps in, to save children from suffering from lifelong speech related problems.
Emtech India 2013 also honoured Sumit Dagar, who took Smartphone innovation to the next level. To him goes the credit of designing an affordable Braille phone. The phone is built with facets like the tactile system for visually impaired users.
Whether it's a team of scientists from IISc or individual entrepreneurs, they are all collectively using technology to create simple user friendly portable devices that help upgrade the current healthcare system.
The need of the hour is to encourage more such developments through incentives and schemes. The encouragement will be fruitful if tangible scalable models are developed to address real world problems.
Some sort of programme needs to be worked out and provide hands-on assistance to make such devices successful in a price sensitive market like India.
Technology Day for All
9 May 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Now before I sound too ambiguous, I'm referring to a particular Day which is identified as National Technology Day and celebrated on May 11. For us, that includes fellow bloggers and readers, science, technology and engineering are of paramount importance. Hence it makes sense to set aside a blog post and trace the Technology Day and give it its contextual place.
People remember May 11, 1998 with pride as that's the day when India exhibited its mastery over nuclear weapons. In the global scenario, the country had made a significant mark in the world of science and technology. Historically the year 1998 set a record, as three nuclear tests were carried out at Pokhran in Rajasthan on May 11 and subsequent two tests were carried out on May 13. The undulating sand dunes of Rajasthan, which has always been a tourist's delight, brought the spotlight on the country. India became sixth country to have tested nuclear bombs and joined the global elite nuclear club.
Over the years, May 11 has been singled out for trying nuclear and defense related tests. This explains why the missile titled Trishul underwent a successful test firing on the Day. May 11 also doubles up as the day when Hansa-3, the first indigenous aircraft was test-flown in Bangalore.
We need to admit this; May 11 has been a lucky mascot, so it's no surprise that the Day is dedicated for Technology. It offers opportunities to acknowledge technological advancements in cross disciplines like agriculture, pharmacy, biotechnology and health, among others.
Clearly the rub off is seen on schools and colleges, which conduct quizzes and competitions to build tech awareness and take it to the next level by creating channels for growth. Probably one of the ways of to get children interested is to arrange a visit to a science museum, where touch screen kiosks and 3D animations will keep them engrossed.
Moving beyond the student fraternity, the President of India gives away the National Technology Award to companies and individuals for their contribution to science & technology.
Let's look at it realistically. On the one side, we are trying to shape young minds and infuse a tech and scientific approach. On the other side, we are saluting achievers and corporate houses that have gone an extra mile to harness the potential of science and technology. So where does that leave a large educated chunk of the economic pyramid?
Most people may not be directly involved, yet they too can be part of the celebration. After all, isn't parenting a reality check? Judging by that, adults and parents can involve in engaging story telling sessions narrating to children the presence of technology in our daily lives, beginning with basics like mobile phones and computers. Once you manage to capture the child's attention, you can involve yourself in science projects.
Then it's a challenge but a responsible task to bring rural India into the fold. Already agriculture has been influenced by some measure, as technology is being used for improving irrigation. Science and Technology is being harnessed to transform rural India. We've even seen rural schools being equipped with computers and vernacular mobile apps that help connect rural India with the rest of the country.
And finally, if one isn't inclined towards technology and is content leading laid back lives, guess one should still acknowledge the fact that technology has blended seamlessly into regular pattern of life. Aren't we all led by automated tech devices right from the buzzer alarm on our mobile phones?
App to track traffic violators
5 May 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
It brought back sepia tinted memories of Mokshagundam Vishveshwariah. A Google search quickly establishes the fact that Mokshagundam Vishveshwariah popularly known as Sir MV is hailed as an eminent engineer.
Among all his laurels, he is credited for being the chief designer of the flood protection system for Hyderabad in south India. He is also remembered as the chief engineer responsible for the construction of the Krishna Raja Sagara dam in Mysore in Karnataka. As part of the Indian Irrigation Commission, he implemented a highly intricate system of irrigation in the Deccan area. It's no surprise that he was knighted as a Commander of the British Indian Empire by King George V for his contribution towards public welfare. A world class engineer, scholar and fine statesman, Sir MV was awarded honorary Membership of London Institution of Civil Engineers for an unbroken period of 50 years.
Now while Sir MV is lauded for his engineering feats, his grandson Satish Mokshagundam made news in a different sort of way. He has teamed with like-minded colleagues and devised a mobile app for the traffic police. Designed to bring in efficiency into the system, newspaper reports indicate that the app is likely to replace digital cameras used to book traffic violators. The police force definitely has a reason to smile. This new offering is meant to lower manual work and scale up transparency.
On the flip side, with a more efficient and highly automated system in place, it means that those behind the wheel need to be more cautious while driving. After all, the app includes a page for policemen to enter precise details like place of violation, vehicle number, type, kind of violation and GPS location.
When this app is currently being pilot tested at a local police station for zeroing in on traffic violators, it makes sense to look at road management as a whole, focusing on safety and security measures. In short, let's try to curtail road rages through automated traffic enforcement initiatives.
This is an area where app developers can make a difference with their simple, easy-to-navigate offerings. All it requires is some imagination and ability to align it with domestic needs.
Safety communication is paramount as this is the age of turbo charged engines. It would be nice if we had an app to gently nudge us when we over speed or try overtaking on the wrong side. The app should function as a reminder. Again, we also need a device that would warn us as we get distracted while driving. Let's admit, we are so absorbed by a digital lifestyle that we are used to texting while driving. The risk quotient is high and perhaps the best way to curb it is through apps. Even better, if the app sports a vernacular flavor.
Digital intelligence and wireless communication can come together for road safety management that can also take care of aspects like locating a vehicle. We are talking about places like huge parking areas, where it's difficult to spot your car amidst an assembly line of vehicles. But then, such devices need to be localized.
Continuing on the same trail, it makes sense for auto manufacturers to look at better seat belt technology, and factor in elements like in-vehicle seat belt warnings.
We need to accelerate smart technologies for smooth street realities. The designs and devices should be in sync with human-machine interface.
Ode to a Mathematical Genius
22 April 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
She's known for calculating numbers at breaking speed and this ability came to the forefront when she solved a complicated Mathematics calculation. It was at an American university when the ace mathematician extracted the 23rd root of a 201-digit number mentally. Her answer took a UNIVAC 1108 computer a full minute (10 seconds more) to confirm that she was right after it was fed with 13000 instructions. Her response was faster than one of the world's fastest computers. This is a human achievement best symbolized by outdoing a computer. Ironic, since we live in a Digital Age.
But then, Shakuntala belongs to rare breed, born for mathematics. She may have been destiny's child who grew up in by-lanes of a humble neighbourhood, yet this child prodigy worked her way to scale unbelievable heights. It didn't matter that extreme poverty compelled her to forgo formal schooling. Her father was a circus performer and could not afford the school fees. Still, she became a self taught mathematician.
This once-in-a lifetime legend shares many insights in books like Fun with Numbers, Astrology for You, Puzzles to Puzzle You, and Mathablit.
A fine orator and an enterprising person, Shakuntala has gone on record sharing her cherished dream to open a Mathematics university. She had envisioned an R&D outfit that would make math interesting.
Shakuntala is one of the rarest persons; the ratings of her calculation skills are stratospheric. Most average individuals pale in comparison. But it's an interesting challenge to take her dream forward. We would be paying a fitting tribute if we can put her vision in perspective.
At the outset, the effort should be towards popularizing Math - the formula lies in making it fun - for different age groups. To continue on this rather simple and obvious trail, we can use math problems to formulate games and puzzles for building a community of well-informed GenNext children.
On a different plane, how about using technology for virtual interactive math lessons, presented in a friendly and affable manner? At its best, the effort can be known as Math-ability in progress.
A significant view would be to look for ways to integrate math puzzles and numeric with science and technology, especially in the case of emerging fields.
Let's do some loud thinking. Let's look at the environment and study it. So can we try creating software for analyzing the complexities of earth sciences? Perhaps use the precision of math calculations to view earth systems in a 3D format.
When we look at futuristic applications, why even basic math like decimals and percentages can be put to appropriate use in promising sectors like space travel and nano science? No doubt a certain degree of math is already applicable in these verticals, but it would be nice if we use math principles for better and wider applications. Like simulations for Geological mapping.
The articulate properties of math can be applied for magnifying properties of minerals. While the exactness of math finds applications in the study of forensics reports, likewise math is useful to study satellite imagery.
We would all like to think that we are indispensable, but actually no one is. Shall we say the mathematics wizard and human calculator Shakuntala is an exception?
18 April 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
This is a thumbs-up sign for the world of wheels. But it's been rather bumpy for auto OEMs (original equipment manufacturer) as they represent a fragmented industry. That's where telematics steps in to map out an automotive navigation strategy to ensure safety and efficiency on Indian roads.
The Telematics India and South Asia Agenda 2013, a business conference-cum-exhibition that concluded in Bangalore today, highlighted the advantage of telematics in verticals as diverse as automotive, digital and mobiles.
It was interesting because the conference acknowledged various state governments which rely on telematics to track vehicles for road safety. At the same time, the conference gave a clarion call for commercial vehicles to use telematics for creating next generation infotainment systems and navigation. This ensures accurate traffic management systems and helps track real-time traffic. The message is clear. We need to look beyond GPS (Global Positioning System) and optimize results by creating easy-to-navigate factory-based technology for monitoring in-vehicle data.
"Fleet operators are beginning to realize the value of telematics. Secondly the government is showing an increased interest in telematics, as it is modernizing its bus fleet under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission programme," said Sanjay Gupta, Head Telematics and Fleet Management, Tata Motors. When the government is inclined towards telematics, entrepreneurs should be quick to react and conceptualize a portfolio of cost effective localized telematics options for OEMs.
It's nice when we have tools that ensure safety and convenience as we zip along. But then, there are other factors too. "As road traffic increases, millions of drivers are added to the workforce. A time has come when the driver needs to be seen as an integral part of the industry. That's how many parts of Europe follow insurance telematics for drivers. We need mass market adoption of the same in India," reasoned Anil Kumar Gupta, Practice Head - Telematics and Infotainment, Infosys. Considering India is among the world's top accident prone markets, insurance telematics will put things in a safer perspective. As the driver's movement is monitored and transmitted to the insurance company, it will take into account issues like over speeding and lowers accident risks.
Since our concern is to save lives, a time has come when OEMs should align themselves with service providers. "This synergy will work because of key drivers like emergency care services and mobile penetration. However we need to create value propositions and services that are cost effective. At the end, it should be a value-added service for customers and OEMs," added Usha HV, Engineering Group Manager, Electrical Engineering, GM Technical Centre India.
With this, come safety measures for improving road infrastructure. "We need navigation with live traffic information that will also track stolen vehicles. Alerts about stolen vehicles should happen through an e-call system," felt Renukaprasad Sharma, Principal Consultant & Head - Strategy, Automotive Electronics, Tata Consultancy Services.
The event also played host to early birds which have already integrated telematics into their system. A case in point is Keltron (Kerala State Electronics Development Corporation), a Kerala government undertaking. The multi-product, multi-centric organization based in Kerala, South India, has designed a suite of intelligent transport systems, among other offerings. Keltron hit upon the idea of intelligent tracking by creating a 24x7 Control Room to monitor vehicle movement round the clock and also integrate emergency services. A national toll free number is available for accessibility.
A time has come for us to leap frog into telematics and align it to the requirements of the Indian consumer.
CNR Rao makes India proud again
13 April 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
This morning, news broke out that Chintamani Nagesa Ramachandra Rao, better known as Dr CNR Rao is ranked as the first Indian scientist to reach the h-index of 100. That's great news. With almost 50,000 citations to his credit, Dr CNR Rao has made it to the coveted league of science biggies of the world. Incidentally, George Whitesides of Harvard University has an h-index of 169, which makes him the highest ranked living chemist.
What does h-index mean to a layperson? A Wikipedia search establishes the fact that h-index is a tool that measures the productivity and impact of the published work of a scientist or scholar. The index is based on the set of the scientist's most cited papers and the number of citations that the individual has received in other publications. Physicist Jorge Hirsch was the first one to coin it in 2005.
Coming to Dr Rao, in a career spanning five decades, he is best known for his work in solid-state and structural chemistry. Over time, the Bangalore-based scientist has also contributed extensively to nano materials and hybrid materials. While most of his colleagues have retired, Dr Rao never tires reinventing himself and most of his work is ahead of the curve. His never-say-die spirit is reflected in many significant activities, the most sought after being his current role as the Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of India. Certainly Dr Rao has cracked a successful code and has set a path for researchers to follow.
Agreed, it's necessary to build a community of researchers by creating opportunities for them. Agreed, it's also important for the government to encourage scientific pursuits among students by offering grants and scholarships. This is one of the means of opening out a youth-led world stimulating research ideas.
Now moving beyond the creation of an intellectual space, it would be nice if the new crop of scientists try to focus more on connecting research with the common man. For instance, researchers with expertise in children's nutritional needs and behaviour patterns can tailor outreach health-oriented programmes by collaborating with educational institutions.
The parameters of proportions should be laid out as science and society need to connect for a collective cause. It can be towards the betterment of something as basic as sanitation, drinking water and healthcare, crucial to the well being of a person. The only way that the science-society equation becomes a formula for success is by encouraging researchers to convert ideas into affordable solutions for everyone. A case in point is when the best of technology practices combine with research to improve irrigation and create preventive healthcare measures.
There are various means of optimizing the science-society relationship. One of the obvious ways is to give a clarion call to the IT and private industries to come forward in greater numbers and use scientific research to develop a suite of offerings for the common man.
Private investments in the R&D space should help scale up capabilities for the domestic user. The government on its part should come forward and provide an optimum atmosphere for intellectual property rights. Privatization of research is another option. This ensures a better salary, which should ideally generate fresh thinking and lead to newer innovations.
The presumably narrow definition of science calls a paradigm shift in approach. A time has come when scientific research can be used to improve lifestyles and add depth and meaning to one's life. This message should percolate to the common man.
Shall we coin it as citations for the common man's betterment?
India, new destination for 50% of Fortune 500 companies
10 April 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Actually we have already proved to be a preferred offshore destination as we have a sizeable number of 200-odd MNC led IT/ITeS companies. A noticeable movement was triggered off two years ago by Fortune companies from the US and later followed by European firms.
Bangalore in south India gained favour among Indian cities when it came to fresh establishments. So this is not new to us. However, the fact that the study points to a bigger number of companies putting their best foot forward on the Indian soil, is something new for us. At least we need to prepare ourselves for it. This time, along with Bangalore, other cities too need to spruce up their activities.
That's because if approximately half the Fortune companies look at India as a happening place, we need a makeover in many ways. One of the most obvious ones would hopefully point to better infrastructure, seen in terms of efficient connectivity and telecommunication networks.
Coincidentally industrial corridors are shaping up, one of the first ones being the $90-billion Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor, slated to give rise to seven new cities including two smart cities.
As per the Zinnov study, the banking industry relies on India for IT and ITeS processes. It's not difficult to imagine why some of the world's biggest names in IT have set their sights on India. One of the greatest strengths of our companies lies in the ability to modernize IT by shaking up some of its existing processes and introduce modern elements like social, mobility, analytics and cloud processes that transform and make companies globally competent. With this, comes the ability to deliver high end value added services, which in turn, helps diversify the portfolio.
And then, India is already an acknowledged R&D hub. Many of the Fortune companies that focus on healthcare and life sciences flaunt a new address in India. Another attraction is cost effectiveness, because of which these multimillion dollar companies fall back on India as a return-on-investment bet.
Foreign inflow investments visualize India as a potential innovation centre. It's a known fact that many of these organizations would require specialized skill sets in different levels to address newer demands in domains like engineering and telemedicine. To meet this emerging need, we should get our act together scale up our soft and niche skills and build a talent pool.
We need to be quick about it as some companies which already have a centre in India, would like to reinforce their presence by increasing the head count, others will set up operations from scratch. At the end of the day, it would be nice if we can work out strategies so that our home grown talent can become part of these swanky IT hotspots.
While these companies have been expanding their business horizons, this estimated number of upcoming IT centres is tinged with joy and expectation. We may briefly indulge in unabashed celebration, but it's time to face realistic matters.
Such an investment opportunity should improve living standards and remove poverty. More significantly, it should generate employment among the locals and improve the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth. Above all, an announcement of this kind should build India's equity as a safe and strong offshoring destination.
Big Hope for Small Enterprises
6 April 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
This has been officially announced on the Google site's blog. As per the website, it states, 'Get Your Business Online is a Google-led program to help Indian businesses go online and succeed.' Google has created a website Indiagetonline.in for SMEs and will pay for their .in domain registry for 12 months. Its partners include HostGator.com, LLC, a leading provider of shared, reseller, VPS and dedicated web hosting. The other partners are FISME, the national federation of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and ICICI Bank, which is India's second largest bank.
Pray, what could this mean? Let's take a closer look; of course the initiative could usher in a welcoming development in the SME world, provided it works as a 'How To' tool and brings conventional and unconventional SMEs to the forefront. Visibility should be the catch word here. Visibility leads to accessibility, as the online medium makes the SME open for business virtually round the clock. That means visibility allows prospective customers to visit the SME website. The tool kit also increases the visibility quotient by gently pointing to value-adds like tweet buttons, scroll bar and widgets.
It's not surprising that SMEs caught the attention of Google considering India's small businesses account for 95% of the industrial units in the country and are the second largest employers of human resources. Almost 45% of the total exports from India are dependent on small businesses. Earlier in the year when the Union Budget 2013-14 was announced, the Budget took a rather encouraging stance by allocating MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise) non-tax benefits for another three years.
Moving ahead, there's ample scope for growth in the SME sector. Already SMEs have exhibited predictable and repetitive patterns of behavior, as many of them don't have a website or an online presence. And then there are SMEs for whom the Internet doesn't go beyond an email address, for others, well, it's their sustenance.
That's where GBGs hopes to make a difference by making SMEs proactive online. It hopes to bring in a certain degree of professionalism, while aligning SMEs with different visions. And then, there are goodies to look forward to.
For SMEs grappling with operation costs, this online option gives them a cost effective customer-centric approach. For those people who took plunge into the SME sector with little or no idea of target audience, this medium does away with many complexities and ambiguities of offline businesses.
Let's not forget that we live in a wired world, surrounded by tweets. So an online presence ensures efficiency and generates fresh thinking. In a way, it keeps tabs over the carbon footprint, as it is a paperless effort and does not allow office waste to pile up.
GBGs should kick in a favourable tide, and allow SMEs to sail winds on their own wings. Boosting SMEs is really a chain reaction, in the positive sense, as SME financing is a key growth driver for the banking industry.
So SMEs need to be quick to pack in concepts that are immediately comprehensible. In short, it's dynamic fast selling ideas that matter.
However while they embark on the online business journey, they should differentiate themselves from their competitors. And then, set some realistic targets about achieving your goals. Somewhere along the line, I guess one needs to address issues like computer viruses. What do you say?
3 April 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Probably this is what prompted the Students' Council of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore to come with an event titled 'Samanway 13 - Connecting Academia to Industry,' which will be held on April 6. The event is poised as a Career Fair, where the students of IISc interact with industry.
No doubt annual placements at IISc have already happened between October and January, but Career Fair goes beyond job scouting. Its purpose is to offer an insight into various research areas undertaken by students and open out opportunities for internships and projects. About 70 companies ranging from R&D units, life sciences and public sector undertakings are scheduled to participate in the Career Fair.
Since Samanway is confined to the students and industry, the interaction should and needs to be direct, and the event, double up as a platform to bridge them. Once the initial communication gap goes, ideally Career Fair should encourage young minds at IISc to showcase their specialized skill sets and leverage opportunities offered by student recruiters.
Such events can ring in success only if they go beyond the tenets of academics. Rather than a text bookish approach, students should brainstorm and sell ideas; ideas that are practical, workable and cost effective.
Though IISc is a little over a century old, this is the first time that such an initiative has been planned. For a layperson, it seems odd that it's taken 100 years to kick start an event of this kind, but a closer look reveals that this is the right time to create a platform that encourages campus recruits.
To think of it we need more such campus fairs across scientific places of learning. This could be attributed to the fact that industrial expectations can be met through partnerships with R&D units and incubation centres. In short, scientific collaborations, analytical research and an inter-disciplinary scientific approach can address many of the growing challenges in the country.
Let's start off with basics like water. Our water resources are fast dwindling like never before. Probably we can tackle this by desalination, a process where salt from seawater is removed to become fresh water. Scientific institutions need to synergize the ideas with desalination plants, and also look at tech options to take care of wastewater management.
Today the accent is on ecological compatibility. Campuses should position themselves as a hothouse of innovation, and open out channels for students to create waste-to-energy solutions, many of which are equipped to take care of the neighbourhood's requirements.
Several reputed science institutions are already producing their own energy and using biodegradable waste in their surroundings. It would be nice if the smaller ones got funding to pursue similar cutting edge green improvements. Actually campuses provide fodder for experiments, considering the amount of organic waste they produce. To give an example, probably all this can be fashionably recycled as green tableware. That would be, producing a line of forks and knives using eco friendly material. Such unconventional approaches should be made commercially viable.
Moving beyond commercial prospects, a more benign reason for campus scientific innovation is to offer sustainable solutions for society. Experiments in atmospheric science could look at airborne diseases and pollution related issues.
All such scientific efforts become meaningful only if it is brought to the forefront and reaches out to the common man. This is possible when research institutes are linked to the private and public sectors, and career fairs is one such option that recognizes industrial and interdisciplinary research that benefits the public at large.
22 March 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Earth Hour will be celebrated on March 23 this year. At 8:30 pm the world will come together to switch off lights for an hour. It's the Power of Change - an effort towards Planet Earth.
A quick recap reveals that WWF Australia co-founded Earth Hour in Sydney in 2007, facilitating Earth Hour's worldwide growth through its connection to WWF's global network. Since then, Earth Hour has steadily gained momentum and mapped its way through various continents. The official website of Earth Hour estimates that 7,001 cities and towns across 152 countries comprising hundreds of millions of people united for Earth Hour 2012.
This year, the community is expected to grow into a bigger one. The website indicates that 2013 is the beginning of a journey towards global environmental reform. It aims to introduce and raise awareness about Renewable Energy solutions as an upcoming and practical option for consumers to orient themselves and reduce their impact on the environment. It's a green signal as the website offers downloadable logos and posters.
Following the eco trail, we should not just wait for one day in a year to get our act together because a One Day anthem gets nowhere. There's no point in remaining unplugged from society and making conversations peppered with topics like global warming and return to square one in the next 24 hours.
Now it's time for confession. We tend to waste energy but when it's actually required, we compromise especially in working situations when we sit hunch-backed behind our PC screens and strain our eyes under poor light. Moving beyond such ironies, let's put our thinking caps and try to get powered, in a different sort of way.
School children can be taught to turn off the lights when not in use. It could be an ecology lesson well learnt. We need to encourage carbon-neutral events, where energy is produced through pedal power.
The need of the hour is clever use of energy, which can cut costs and keep the surroundings clean. So, introduce energy efficient motors or pumps at home and offices and conduct an energy efficient audit later. You will see the difference and begin to monitor your activities for optimum results. Use digital intelligence to synchronize equipment and integrate power management as part of green building solutions.
Fall back on intelligent architecture, bundle together energy-intensive systems like HVAC, access control, video security management, and lighting control across the entire enterprise into one system. An upgraded energy management and control system would mean an annual saving of crores of rupees.
All of us have shades of eco warriors within us; it's a pity we don't realize it. Until an event like Earth Hour descends on Planet Earth. It encourages everyone to join an interconnected global community that works towards real time solutions for environmental challenges.
Every city in India has its own eco agenda. Since the thrust is on Renewable Energy, we need to acknowledge the fact that ours was the first country to have a dedicated Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE), and ranks fifth in the world as a producer of renewable energy.
This year Earth Hour reinforces a return to basics and harness alternate sources of energy like wind and solar effectively. Various state governments should introduce favourable policies for renewable energy. India needs renewable energy because statistics indicate that 30% of the population has migrated to cities, and this is expected to double by 2050. So if we were to look at urban development, renewable sources of energy can sustain the increasing population, while ensuring environment protection, climate mitigation and climate adaptation.
Let's use paper instead of plastic, solar and wind energy instead of fossil fuel. All this can radically transform urban landscapes.
20 March 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
But it becomes different when a state government ushers an environment to encourage its people to use the Internet. One such effort has morphed into a campaign titled Innovation Karnataka. This is a project of Karnataka State Innovation Council, Government of Karnataka and is supported by Google. Rather than merely acknowledging innovation in Karnataka, the campaign aims to create the right policy environment to empower innovation to generate employment and sustain economic growth. The message is clear, use the Internet to improve knowledge and do business.
Innovation Karnataka made its point when it identified four innovative efforts from Karnataka, Kanaja, Sakala, mDhil and RedBus. They have been christened as the Innovation Corps of Karnataka.
A case in point is Kanaja, an encyclopedic knowledge portal in Kannada, conceived and launched by the Karnataka Knowledge Commission. Obviously this portal was created to encourage the vernacular audience to use the online resources.
A government services portal, Sakala addresses citizens across the economic pyramid. Whether they are the rural folk or the tech savvy crowd, they can approach Sakala for remedy grievances related to various government services.
RedBus is a classic example of the successful digitization of bus industry. Consumers can book bus tickets on the Internet. This first of its kind initiative in India points to a positive reality of the digital age.
Some of these start ups are high on the cool quotient. Like mDhil, which can be described as a fun online portal that provides basic health related information through mobile phones. A panel of experts answers questions revolving round family planning, diet and nutrition, among other concerns. It began with SMS, before leveraging the power of the Internet. Today mDhil has an active presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
We could call these innovators as Change Makers, since each one has come up with a contemporary solution. These represent fast growing start-ups that have reinvented tweaked things around and worked their way up to the Innovation Karnataka platform. Already the campaign has outlined several policies that the Government of Karnataka can undertake to improve innovation. The thrust is also on online tools that can help improve Karnataka's overall economy and society. Innovation Karnataka is taking a keen interest in fostering transparent regulatory environment. All this needs to be backed by improved Internet connection.
Innovation Karnataka is a unique initiative and only goes to prove that industry and government can collaborate to create Internet driven opportunities. This interactive effort could lead to fresh job opportunities that could attract Java developers, engineers, web designers, content writers and business developers among others.
Other state governments can also think of similar efforts. We need to think from a pan-India perspective, a thinking led by the fact that a shift in consumption has led to a new phase in Internet business.
A national effort should come through to help Internet start-ups strategize their efforts and look for growth areas in the value chain and streamline their approach to address the need. And step in at the right moment to give the entrepreneurs a pat-on-the back through schemes and incentives.
A time has come when start-ups should actively use the Internet to create sustainable intelligent solutions and likewise offer simplified payment procedures. Besides the transaction, the Internet related business should engage citizens through interactive tools. A feedback is essential for creating better facilities for the improvement of society.
At the end of the day, we live in a connected, wired world. The Internet is a destination by itself, an end point or shall we say a beginning?
19 March 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
This all-electric four-seater passenger car is a home grown product; it's a creation of Mahindra Reva Electric Vehicles (MREV). The e2o is the first vehicle from the Bangalore-based Reva Electric Car Company after it was acquired by the Mumbai-based Mahindra & Mahindra in 2010, and became MREV.
A complete plug-in car, e2o ranks among the world's most advanced electric cars. Media reports indicate that the new car is built on the vision of the Future of Mobility. It represents an automotive ecosystem that brings 5 Cs, Clean, Convenient, Connected, Clever and Cost-effective mobility solutions to customers across the world.
e2o comes with astonishing features like Hill hold, courtesy lights, iPod connectivity and one touch foldable seats, among others. e2o may be loaded with compelling features, but its greatest attraction is the maximum power output because of which the running cost is less than Re 1 per km. An estimate calculation reveals that this would cost nearly one tenth of a petrol car and about a fifth of a diesel car.
Moving beyond the impressive launch, newer electric cars are expected to grace the Indian roads in 2014. The Tata Megapixel is positioned as a global range extended electric vehicle. This fuel economy variant will have a lithium ion phosphate battery and an on-board petrol engine generator for recharging on the move. Another eco friendly car would be the Nissan LEAF, which would be a complete electric car. At a time when petrol costs are escalating, electric cars which can be charged at home or offices, besides electric vehicle stations or through solar panels, become a cost effective option.
We need to look at these upcoming offerings as an opportunity to foster a full-fledged eco system to improve our Electric vehicle (E-vehicle) technology. The battery is the nerve centre of E-vehicles and so it makes sense to improve batter technology by working on its life cycle. We need to back it up by investing in R&D that focuses on better battery management. Battery makers, distributors and others in the logistics chain can look forward to creating efficient business models.
Rather than succumbing to environmental pressure, we need to make E-vehicles commercially viable. Recharge points can be mounted at strategic points and one of the means of achieving this is through the private-public-partnership mode, a synergy between the government and industry.
Clad in highly polished metal, these impressive E vehicles can and should set a path for a carbon neutral route, because electric cars are a solution for road de-clogging. We need to reconcile with the fact that vehicular pollution can make a dent in any motor expert's enthusiasm.
Don't allow your enthusiasm to be dented, all that eco cars require is a few plug ins to move ahead. Can we look at producing our own bio diesel using our home-grown flowering plant jatropha? The thought stems from the fact that India produces substantial quantities of jatropha, a cost friendly plant when it comes to cultivation. Studies indicate that the Jatropha tree yields 40 per cent oil. Jatropha can rewrite unwritten rules. It can provide better income to farmers if a contract farming system is set up by diesel dealers. Then of course, the bio diesel should be made available at petrol pumps.
The country is known to be a hub for small cars, sought after for their fuel efficiency. And when we talk curtailing fuel prices, it makes business sense to encourage eco friendly cars. This can smoothen out the rough ends of the Indian terrain.
So shall we say, the road ahead is green? Well, it sounds refreshing.
Time tested travel
8 March 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
"We use technology to bring the organized and unorganized taxi operators on a common scale," said Aprameya Radhakrishna, Founder-Director, TaxiForSure.com. He was speaking at the Start-Up festival in Bangalore.
Radhakrishna teamed up with college friend Raghunandan G to develop a hassle-free integrated travel platform. Their company came to be known as Serendipity Infolabs Pvt. Ltd and TaxiForSure.com is its online taxi booking site. The entrepreneurs chose a cost effective model as they don't own a fleet of taxis.
Together they brought professionalism to the highly fragmented industry by aggregating branded and local taxi operators and benchmarked taxi drivers by making them tech savvy. It's anyone's guess that the basic Android mobile provided the solution. To put it simply, a Driver application has been developed whereby drivers inform commuters about their exact location and availability. This Android-based in-cab technology differentiates the company from most players in the segment. This month end the entrepreneurs will move to next frontier in online travel with their app that encourages users to book taxis on the go.
As the day progressed, the Start-Up festival enabled an insight into Latlong, an effective search engine optimization. This is the brainchild of Rahul RS and his partners. As director of Onze Technologies (India) he realized that it pays to bow down to the simplicities of life. This vision led him to initiate Latlong, a map-based mobile service that helps users to locate and navigate their way through cities. He took it step-by-step beginning with an in-house software. "We've relied on maps from Survey of India and used satellite imagery to capture landmarks," explained Rahul.
As you navigate, you are guided by user-friendly directions. "Most of our users are comfortable with vernaculars, so we created software which understands spellings of areas/landmarks and provides localized directions in a colloquial manner. An external GPS or Global Positioning Device is connected to the phone," reasoned Rahul. At its best, this is an Indian version of giving directions.
Location based services are growth drivers in any city, which is why Latlong extends to other Indian metros as well. It's an SMS-based search and direction service that offers answers for the 'Where' and 'How' to find a place in real time. The system searches the place and then an in-house algorithm is used to find the best route, based on time and distance. For this reason, the roads are graded. This year, the company plans to increase its sales and generate more income. Right now, Latlong has about 40+ customers representing verticals like consumer durables, healthcare and real estate among others, who use its Latlong services to indicate their location.
From the days of metered taxis we've moved on to gadget-driven taxis. In various parts of the country, entrepreneurs have created exciting tech-based options to ease flight, train and bus bookings. With this, cities are also mapped out intelligently. In the former, the taxi driver is the face of the brand and in the latter, the map says it all.
It would be nice if techies and entrepreneurs come forward to offer more such web based travel bookings and city maps. These automated processes open out opportunities across the spectrum. We are not just talking about mature productivity apps but even cost effective vernacular apps are enough to keep cash flowing at the app developers' end. Techies can customize software codes. Drivers and back end staff can scale up their tech skills.
Start-Up festival is a four day event that celebrates Bangalore's Rise as the Startup Capital of India. It is organized by The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE), a non-profit global network of entrepreneurs and professionals dedicated to fostering entrepreneurship. The event is supported by the government of Karnataka and various institutions.
IISc scores top ranking among Indian higher education institutions
5 March 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
A newspaper report indicates that the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore has made it to the top slot in a new ranking of the top 10 Indian higher education institutions based on their global academic prestige. Started in 1909, IISc is the brainchild of Indian industrialist J N Tata.
Next in ranking is the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, followed by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). The Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur is fourth place and the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi comes fifth in ranking. Sixth in category is the University of Delhi, the first fully fledged comprehensive university on the list.
This is as per the Times Higher Education India Reputation Rankings, published by the Times Higher Education magazine (THE) UK for the first time this year alongside the full Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings. The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2012-2013 powered by Thomson Reuters are the only global university performance tables to judge world class universities across their core missions like teaching, research, knowledge transfer and international outlook.
This announcement can be described as perfect timing. That's because the Union Budget 2013-2014 has allocated Rs 1,650 crore towards six AIIMS-like institutions. Already a move has been made in this direction as these institutions have admitted their first batch of students in the academic session in September 2012. The hospitals attached to the colleges will be functional in 2013-14.
The Union Budget has also allotted Rs 2,400 crore towards a Technology upgrade scheme for the textile sector. Now if we were to look it as a growth driver, then we should fine-tune our tech courses and give more scope for research to keep pace with the requirements of the textile industry, be it newer fabrics or slick methods of production. The need of the hour is cutting edge technology deployment for specialized faculty development programmes. This means that industry and academia should join hands for textile-industrial research.
An increased expenditure on education funding translates into better productivity and job opportunities coupled with good remuneration.
If we were to look at the higher education landscape, the crux lies in raising the bar for Science and Technology teaching in India and making our other educational institutions competent and recognizable brands like the IITs and IISc.
Probably this can happen through University collaborations, where channels open out for more grants that will encourage out-of-the box thinking and offer platforms to take it forward.
We need to harness our potential to forge international academia partnerships, throw open many more student exchange programmes and create a world class atmosphere conducive for higher education and interdisciplinary courses. This requires research-centric modules backed by knowledge networks.
Already we have proved that India is not just an outsourcing hub, as global scientific institutions have set up their R&Ds here. From the research point of view, it gives scope for creating more patents through a teaching and research oriented approach. Considering the Twelfth Five Year Plan (2012-2017) aims at strengthening the quality in the existing universities and institutions, such initiatives create a threshold level of academic excellence.
It makes sense when research applications reach out to the common man. To a large extent, such initiatives can help decrease the gap between the rural and urban students. All this can be seen in the light of the fact that India is predicted to be the world's youngest nation, with the average age of 29. Hence a comprehensive education overhaul that extends to improved quality and access becomes necessary, when viewed in the context of science and technology education.
Reasonable & Realistic
1 March 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Finance Minister (FM) P Chidambaram unveiled a slew of policies oriented towards growth and infrastructure development, some of which extend to the creation of new seaports and highways. In a bid to promote connectivity, Industrial Corridors have been mapped out to link Chennai-Bangalore and Mumbai-Bangalore.
Industrial corridors are opportunities waiting to be tapped. Heavily congested IT-ITes metros can de-clog themselves by shifting some processes into the newly developed tier cities. Secondly, those living on the fringes would have access to employment and skill development. Seen from a macro perspective, this makes sense. The Budget has announced Rs 1,000 crore allocations for the national skill development fund. "Every sector in India is challenged with severe crunch of skilled workforce and such initiatives will help achieve its target of skilling 50 million people in the 12th Plan period, including nine million in 2013-14," said Sanjaya Sharma, CEO TATA Interactive Systems.
While we hope to build a resilient workforce, Nasscom (National Association of Software & Service Companies), the country's software services industry lobby hailed the Budget as responsible and reasonable. What is interesting is that technology is going beyond the corporate boardrooms to reach out to the common man and generate income for the nation. "The thrust on technology adoption through widening the core banking solutions and e-payment systems, leveraging post offices for offering real time banking services is likely to offer long term benefit towards financial inclusion. The income tax department is also rapidly moving towards technology based processing and we hope to see benefits of simplified processes and transparency in tax administration," the NASSCOM statement indicated.
Overall the Budget hinges on economic progress with sufficient tweaks to take it ahead. FM has proposed to initiate Rs 200 crore fund to promote science and technology innovations that will benefit people. As Ravi Kiran, co-founder, VentureNursery, India's first angel backed accelerator put it, "The move to allow investment in Technology Business Incubators to qualify as CSR investment is a good start and good for tech incubators. Hope it comes with a mechanism to establish accountability of such investments. "
Another growth driver will be the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises sector. "Continuation of non-tax benefits three years after the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises move to next level is welcome, even though the exact impact needs to be assessed," explained Kiran.
Moving on, the spotlight shifts to education, which is one of top gainers of the Budget. FM announced a budgetary allocation of Rs 4,727 crore towards medical education, training and research. Notwithstanding that, an Indian Institute of Biotechnology will be established in Ranchi, a commercial, industrial and educational hub in eastern India.
"I think this budget is very positive in terms of the increased spending on education, R&D and science. This will help raise the level of R&D. However, most of this will remain with Government research organizations since research grants are administered commonly for Government and other institutions," felt Rahul Agarwalla, Co-Founder & CEO Knimbus, a cloud based global search and collaboration platform that connects creators and users of Scientific, Technical and Medical (STM) knowledge to online content and peer groups. "Creating a separate allocation for non-governmental research grants would improve private participation in research," he added. This could happen by earmarking funds for R&D by companies independently or through the private-public-partnership mode.
On the whole, the Budget points to a fast track growth. All it needs is good governance and proper implementation to propel forward.
Raman Effect Lingers On
25 February 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Within two years of his discovery, Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman or CV Raman became the first Indian scientist to win the Nobel Prize in 1930. Scientific history chronicles him as the first Asian or non white to be bestowed with a Nobel Prize. His contribution was in Physics and recognition came for his work on the scattering of light. Popularly called Raman Effect or Raman Scattering, the award-winning discovery laid the foundation of scientific research in India.
NSD becomes relevant in today's context as the Government pays tribute to Sir Raman through an annual focal theme. This is an occasion for R&D units, educational institutions and the scientific fraternity to host and participate in debates, quiz and exhibitions revolving round the theme. Each one has an agenda but at the end of the day, the purpose is to kindle a scientific temperament among all. State governments also invite proposals for the event. This time, Genetically Modified Crops and Food Security has been declared as the theme for NSD 2013.
It's a clarion call for representatives of science, engineering and technology to exhibit their skills, expertise and concern over genetically modified (GM) crops, which is a hot topic.
Let's face it. We've already reaped success with our biotech food or GM crop 'BT Cotton,' which has proved to be commercially viable. It has lowered the use of insecticides and increased the produce. Genetically modified experiments are going on in big staple crops like basmati rice and chick peas.
When GM crops are seen in the context of the Indian scenario, it becomes pertinent because to an extent GM crops tackle crucial issues like decreased soil fertility. It's scientifically proved that GM crops can provide a solution to food crisis, which remains a grim issue at the national level. This alternate and emerging form of cultivation is hailed for reducing dependence on food imports which becomes a cost cutting measure. They also reduce the risk of pesticides and give a better drought tolerance, thereby ensuring yield gains from the crop. However, genetic engineering in food crops is viewed with a degree of skepticism. Are we willing to eat food grown genetically? With this, aspects like bio-safety and ecological concerns pose a challenge. This is where we need to strike a balance.
While this is an opportunity for the biotech industry, agriculturists and scientists, the government should encourage farmers by offering schemes to support innovative forms of farming and technology used in the cultivation of GM crops.
The theme of GM crops is expected to trail off a chain of reactions during NSD2013. As an event, NSD has gained statute since several scientific organizations create region-specific programmes to popularize S&T among students and people.
For instance, the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT) observatory at Khodad in Pune, considered the world's most powerful telescope operating at low radio frequencies, conducts student outreach programmes, science exhibitions and quizzes. GMRT is operated by the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA) of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR). Over the years, Science Day has been a fulfilling one as the observatory attracts students from the fringe areas. It has grown into a successful outreach programme that has touched the lives of rural and semi urban children.
Let's hope that NSD continues to trigger a positive degree of scientific enthusiasm among citizens and that the spirit manifests itself in various activities for the rest of the year; even as we salute Sir Raman.
IT to add significantly to India's GDP
14 February 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
NASSCOM (National Association of Software & Service Companies) the country's software services industry lobby has predicted a positive growth for the IT-BPM (business process management) industry in FY2014. It has been described as the highest value-add sector for India and reinforced by words like resilience and growth. IT Exports are expected to grow by 12%-14%; while the domestic market is likely to witness a 13%-15% growth. Overall, the forecast for the IT industry point to additional revenues to the tune of USD 12billion-15 billion in FY2014. This was announced at a press conference held recently in Mumbai.
Though parts of the globe are reeling under the impact of recession followed by job uncertainties, this piece of news is sure to chart out a new roadmap for the IT landscape. Even as we bask in this optimism, what is important is that NASSCOM points to emerging technologies like SMAC (Social Media, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud) which will be significant growth drivers.
"The Indian IT-BPM industry has demonstrated resilience and agility in the past year. Technology has today become an integral enabler for growth across all sectors and the industry is continuously evolving and innovating to emerge as a strategic partner to its customers," said N. Chandrasekaran, Chairman, NASSCOM and added, "The thrust is IP led solutions served over multiple platforms that has the customer at the centre of every module, and is transformative in nature."
If we were to dwell on this statement, there's quite a lot to look forward to. As optimists we look forward to barriers being broken and traditional rules being subverted. At its simplest level, IT would be seen an an enabler in every segment of society, beginning at the student level. Can this new projected growth rate extend to digital literacy in our villages? Can we use technology to disseminate information through the wired world? After all, we need to build a vast talent pool, and this should go beyond the English educated class. That's where SMAC as a segment can make inroads into the rural markets with its cost conscious models that take care of poor infrastructure and in many cases, lack of connectivity. At the other end, SMAC can help top notch Indian universities collaborate with international centres of learning.
Moving on, India can become a significant geography for analytics, mobility, cloud, social collaboration. SMAC as a whole can mobilize communities to create innovative solutions that can improve productivity, increase resources, generate employment and unleash new skill sets. Healthcare and medical devices and the financial sector are some of the promising domains worth tapping. Like education, these sectors can also tailor IT solutions for the low income and high net worth individuals. The government however, has already embraced many IT solutions into its fold for better governance. "Technology can also play a critical role in enabling transformation in India and add to India's GDP. The domestic market in India is maturing, it was the fastest growing market in the year and NASSCOM will look to partner with the government in enhancing technology adoption in the country," added Som Mittal, President, NASSCOM.
What makes the Indian IT landscape compelling is its vast portfolio of offerings that include IT Services, BPM, Engineering & R&D, Internet & Mobility and Software Products. As per the NASSCOM statement, while the first USD 100 billion landmark can be attributed to the cost and quality advantage, the next USD 100 billion will be a combination of higher-value services and increasing non-linear growth. To sustain this growth, Indian IT-BPM industry is focusing on greater efficiencies, verticalized structures, geographical presence, IP based solutions, domain and increased collaboration across all stakeholders. The future of the IT industry shows a strong inclination towards a complete blend of services, products, solutions and platforms.
So shall we put our best IT foot forward?
India to be world's sixth largest defence spender
9 February 2013 by Kavitha Srinivasa
Parakram, a private firm is doing the rounds in the aero circuit here. The company will create defence and aerospace industrial corridors in southern regions like Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Cochin.
Together they will design, develop and support defence, aerospace and home land security systems and solutions. This was announced at Aero India 2013 by former minister of state for defence S Krishna Kumar, former Commodore in the Indian Navy and additional director general in the defence ministry Prem Chand and executive director of Indo Arab Chamber of Commerce Asif Iqbal.
In the ASEAN region (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) this is probably the first time that a private company has come forward to create a defence and aerospace industrial corridor. The naval R&D will be handled by Bangalore, maintenance repair operations will be routed through Chennai, while house research facilities will be taken care of by Hyderabad and Cochin will step in to take charge of the naval infrastructure.
As per the newspaper report, at over $40 billion, the Indian Defence budget is expected to grow at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 8.3% to exceed $75 billion by 2020. It also means India would elbow its way to being the world's sixth largest defence spender by 2016.
Brands add significant value to a business. At its simplest level, Parakram speaks of a major shift in consumption and hence, the need for such a creation.
When Parakram is up and running, we hope it will skyrocket the Indian aviation into an enviable space. Let's look at some of the various possibilities.
At the outset these zonal locations would be backed by technical intelligence to handle the challenges involved in designing and building aircraft, while also creating home land security systems and solutions.
Parakram would not only propel Indian aviation forward, but also give scope for private sector collaborations and hence generate funds and employment for equipment manufacturers, suppliers, satellite operators, airlines and governments.
It would create synergies through a multidisciplinary approach. Scientists, aviation and design experts, academia and techies need to put on their thinking hats and tailor innovative research to meet performance specifications. Their ideas would be drafted on the drawing board to reach out to the skies. The integrated efforts would offer airborne solutions for the next generation defence systems and missiles.
We are talking about large scale transformation and this requires an industrialized approach. Industrialized processes and cutting edge programme management are required.
Since Parakram extends to defence, aerospace and home land security systems and solutions, we can also look forward to new age security systems that would trigger off alerts and sensors; in any tense situation be it on air or ground. We need the know-how for creating comprehensive simulation information systems of deliverable standards.
While we look forward to Parakram, this weekend, Aero India expects to attract a packed audience. Apart from the usual traffic snarls and a full house, the biennial event culminated in significant deals and collaborations.
A quick recap tells us that last year our Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) entered into a contract with the Russian firm United Aircraft Corporation - Transport Aircraft (UAC-TA) for designing the Multirole Transport Aircraft (MTA). Representatives of the $600-million Indo-Russian military transport aircraft project will supervise the execution of the aircraft at every stage. Key persons from UAC-TA who flew down for the Aero Show hinted that the aerodynamically superior design would be compatible with extreme weather conditions. Which means MTA would be able to withstand the freezing snowscapes of Russia as well as the soaring temperatures of arid Indian deserts.
Another 'Aha' moment was when the Maini Group, a reputed design and manufacturing entity whose electric car Reva is sold in 24 countries, showed its keenness to collaborate with an overseas company to mark its presence in the aerostructure business.
Even as Aero India 2013 closes curtains in Bangalore on February 10, one wishes that by the next aero show in 2015, many of the landmark moments will be a gateway to trailblazers in the atmosphere.
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