A $19 trillion opportunity, Cisco, and the possibilities for startups


It was at CES 2014 in Las Vegas that former longtime CEO, John Chambers declared the Internet of Things as a $19 Trillion opportunity for the global economy. It’s an opportunity that is set to get serious focus from Cisco in India too, as the company doubled up on its plans for the country during its annual meet at Jaipur.

Attended by CISCO’s senior India leadership and a large cohort of journalists and analysts, the annual meet took to the streets literally with a demo of the company’s collaboration with the Jaipur Development Authority in Rajasthan, as well as some of the more quirky and interesting side projects being created by Cisco engineers in their spare time.

Addressing the gathering, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje highlighted the opportunities that arise with better connectivity, transparency and direct engagement with citizens that are technology led. Talking about the emergence of Rajasthan, especially Jaipur as a start-up hub in its own right, the CM stressed on the natural evolution of the state to an even more enabling place for start-ups, as smart city projects like the one demonstrated by Cisco become pervasive. “Digital Rajasthan is a powerful platform to realize that vision. We envision Rajasthan as a role model for digital transformation for other states to follow”.

Cisco released estimates projecting 545 million internet users, 654.1 million smartphone users, and 1.6 billion networked devices in India in 2019. Mobile data traffic will be equivalent to 51x the volume of the entire Indian internet in 2005, with video contributing 66% to this traffic.

Scary projection /opportunity alert- Over 40% of firms will be disrupted out of business as usual in the next 5 years, with 75% yet to start doing anything about it, according to research  by the Global Centre for Digital Business Transformation. Obviously a huge opportunity for Cisco.

For the company, the opportunity would be realized only with a number of partners working in tandem, be it in terms of fulfilling needs, building awareness or creating new opportunities.

Pointing out to just one area where start-ups have started thriving, Dinesh Malkani, President, Cisco India and SAARC, highlighted the huge multiplication of data as more devices got connected. From factory floors to street lights, the data proliferation, and opportunities to make sense out of it for clients would be massive, and just one of the areas start-ups would help fill the gap in. “ Digitization will be key to how cities, communities, and countries maintain global competitiveness, increase GDP growth, foster innovation, create jobs.”

The company showcased a glimpse of the smart city future that is already being built, with a live demo at Jaipur’s Amer Fort, one of eight sites where pilots have been implemented in Jaipur. JDA commissioner Shikhar Agarwal himself demonstrated key applications like lighting control, surveillance cameras, connected parking, wifi, intelligent kiosks and more, all controlled from a central location and providing actionable inputs in real time there. Jaipur expects to have over 25 more sites connected to this new grid by Feb 2016.

Mr Avtar Monga, Chief Operating Officer, IDFC Bank, and a Cisco India customer shared his own vision for the bank of the future, and the increasing role of digitization. While falling short of declaring the branch network redundant, Mr Monga stressed on the need for banks, especially young banks such as IDFC, to address the disruption created by innovations like electronic wallets and associated payment options. Quoting an example with bank customer services, he promised a seamless experience for his banks customers, thanks to a better connected and real time sharing of individual queries and issues.

For Cisco India, riding high on a strong growth momentum from Q1 of this year, it was an opportunoity to showcase its intent, and real steps taken to meet the smart city and smarter India challenge. Besides an additional $40 million for investment into relevant start-ups, the company also announced fresh investments into the Cisco Network Academy, to ensure trained personnel for the new networks coming up. The company is already invested directly and indirectly into 25 start-ups to push discovery and faster adoption of business models around digitization.

For a firm that has thrived in a disruptive environment for 2 decades now, Cisco will be hoping that the start in Rajasthan marks a new phase of growth and opportunity for the firm to be a part of Digital India.