View from India: SMEs finally embrace automation and the cloud

Indian businesses are finally embracing cloud computing and automation technologies after years of lagging behind the curve.

Cloud revenues in India are predicted to cross the $2bn mark in 2018. India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies housing 40 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The adoption rate for cloud technologies is sub-optimal at the moment, but with continued take-up India would be one of the largest markets globally.

The biggest benefit of cloud is the additional management bandwidth created. Secondly, it results in reduction of manpower costs and optimisation of resources. The third benefit is improved uptime of infrastructure. In the pre-cloud era IT departments were faced with a unique challenge. To infuse the growth of cloud, the government could roll out special incentives to SMEs and start-ups in the form of Cloud credits. Adoption of cloud can help reduce consumption of electricity across the country and lower the nation’s carbon footprint.

“Cloud has transformed the way enterprises embrace technology. Earlier a chief information officer (CIO) would purchase a software and then procure hardware, storage, security, networks, and ensure the data is available round the clock through their in-house data centre – the focus was on managing internal IT alone. However, with cloud computing the entire infrastructure becomes the responsibility of the cloud service provider including management of the application uptime. This allows the CIOs to focus on strategic initiatives that add value and help align IT with business,” said BS Rao, vice president of CtrlS Datacenters, which designed the world’s first ‘community cloud’, for the banking sector, an Insurance Community Cloud and G-Cloud (Government Cloud).

“Our banking community cloud has enabled over 50 per cent of the new payment banks in India, and we are rolling out this offering globally,” explained Sridhar Pinnapureddy, founder and CEO of CtrlS. A community cloud for Banks comprises core banking software, automated teller machines (ATM) software, online banking software and customer relationship management (CRM) tools all hosted on the community cloud, powered by infrastructure with built-in security.

Around 80 per cent of all IT budgets are likely to move to cloud by 2020. The era of multi-cloud management has begun and will consolidate in the coming years. An enterprise could use multiple clouds and would require inter-operability and management of the infrastructure deployed on those multiple clouds.

Industrialisation of cloud is the new trend where all applications and related infrastructure are made available to the community of customers based on compliance, security and related requirements. The future belongs to a balanced model of Hybrid Cloud where private and public clouds would be used in combination. Critical applications would be hosted on private cloud while the rest would be deployed on public cloud.

Besides cloud, a lot is anticipated from the manufacturing sector. The Government of India has laid out an ambitious plan whereby the manufacturing sector will contribute 25 per cent towards the gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. However, this cannot happen unless there is a higher investment in technology, especially in plant and the shop floor.

“Disruptive technologies, like the internet, industrial agriculture, and aeronautics, have profoundly shaped the world and our daily lives and it continues to take the future by storm,” explained Aloke Palsikar, senior vice president and global head of Tech Mahindra's manufacturing vertical. “Indian industry is at the right juncture to reap the benefits of Smart Manufacturing especially in the small and medium sector. The time represents the convergence of IT (information technology) and OT (operational technology), increasing visibility and intelligence within operations and across the global supply chain.”

As part of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)’s Council on Smart Manufacturing, Tech Mahindra is working towards creating a comprehensive architecture and readiness assessment kit for certain major sectors such as automotive, consumer durables and medical equipment tailored specifically for the Indian context which can quickly see the benefits. “Next-generation technological forces such as IOT, Connected Machines, MES, Predictive Maintenance and Analytics, 3D Printing etc are likely to see a larger adoption on this journey towards Smart Manufacturing,” said Palsikar. “In the process, this is likely to create more jobs and open up new business opportunities which will boost the overall economy.”

Continuing on the Smart trail, this time the thrust is on the government’s Smart Cities Mission, as this sector will be driven by innovation and technological upgrades in the coming years. “The core of Smart cities is formed by the Internet of Things (IoT) which has boosted the growth and establishment of home automation systems. There is an interesting relationship between the concept of Smart Cities and IoT,” added Ripu Daman Sharma, country sales manager, India Subcontinent, at Lutron Electronics, which makes energy-efficient products. The Smart City Mission has opened doors of new opportunities and possibilities for enterprises that are keen to leverage new-age intelligent technologies like automation and IoT to make the mission successful.

“Both, Big Data usage and Smart Cities are still novel in application, and with the cities leaving such a huge digital footprint, especially with data coming in from IoT networks, Big Data is likely to emerge as the most important technology that collects, analyses and predicts consumer behaviour over and above creating efficiencies in areas like smart traffic management, smart water storage, air-cooling and heating systems and smart waste management,” Sharma continued.

Energy packs in a high-voltage promise for the future. Understandably so, as recognised by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India has moved from a scenario of power shortages to a power surplus and increased clean energy in the grid. “According to Gartner, IoT usage in the energy sector is expected to grow to 50 billion devices by 2020, and manufacturers, utility providers and consumers are taking advantage of information that flows from multiple assets. India is expected to see the market for smart grid touch Rs 50,000 crore [£6bn] in the next four to five years, from the present level of sub Rs 100 crore [£12m],” Sharma highlighted.

It is believed that the growth of energy-efficient systems is due to a soaring desire to save energy, which means people are more inclined towards energy-saving home automation solutions. Besides providing switches for meeting the level of brightness, they enable households to control the quantum of lighting, which helps in lowering the energy used.

The Government of India has finalised the draft of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) on drones, otherwise known as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS). A policy is expected to be in place in one or two months, after finalising details like dedicated drone zones and clear-cut regulations to back the same.

In many parts of the globe, drones are used for aerial mapping, disaster management work and defence-related activities. In India, the official commercial usage of drones is expected to take off later this year. Broadly speaking, these drones will be classified into nano, micro, mini, small and large. A large-scale adoption of drones is anticipated after the policy is formalised. We also hope the commercial roll-out of drones will bring in manufacturers and investors into this sector. Then drones can be leveraged by domains like agriculture, logistics, e-commerce and healthcare deliverables, apart from being used for special occasions like betrothals and weddings, and creating a community of hobbyists.

It’s time to welcome drone deliveries that will drop off a basket of goodies to one’s doorstep. I leave you with that lingering thought of a feel-good parcel arriving at home.

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