With the rise of deep learning and AI, India has great opportunity, says NVIDIA’s Vishal Dhupar


While he is today a member of the Bengaluru business elite, Vishal Dhupar‘s foundation years were never elitist. The Managing Director of NVIDIA (South Asia) was an “army brat”, growing up with the etiquette and moorings expected of an army officer’s son. After graduating from Bangalore University, he went on to work in global corporations like Sun Microsystems, Autodesk and Symantec, being Managing Director of the latter two for several years.

A true believer in the power of technology, Vishal is sold on the concepts of connected vehicles and artificial intelligence. He believes that India is capable of building technologies for the world and moving into the domain of significant high value IT services. The head of a product company, he shares his thoughts on the future of Indian business and technology. Here are some excerpts of his interview with YourStory:

  1. What are the few mega-trends that India should focus on?

Digital transformation is seizing various industries across the world, and India is no exception. The pressure is on to leverage data in new ways for competitive advantage. CIOs need to connect two different worlds – satisfying their existing customer base while innovating to develop instant, data-driven services – or risk losing ground.

The sheer volume of information associated with Big Data represents an opportunity for businesses to make better, more informed decisions. However, this requires them to analyse data at an unprecedented velocity, and make sense of the results. Conventional computing just can’t keep up, and the enterprise is now turning to artificial intelligence and deep learning for the capabilities required. Deep learning is a type of artificial intelligence, in which computers are trained, rather than programmed, to solve a problem or complete a task. It’s an extremely powerful approach because it allows machines to make sense out of data, identify patterns and improve their accuracy over time. Deep learning has already found significant application in areas such as autonomous driving, security and surveillance, e-commerce, healthcare and government.

India has a significant advantage over other countries in terms of available talent, a vibrant startup ecosystem, and strong IT services and offshoring industries, arming it with the ability to harness the power of deep learning. With parallel processing and parallel programming being at the heart of this trend, NVIDIA sees a lot of potential for deep learning in India. From a consumer business perspective, growing internet services at affordable prices will be the key driver for the growth of the gaming industry, encompassing the likes of e-sports, mobile gaming and so on. This will open up new opportunities for us.

  1. How is IT changing the world, and how are consumers changing? Are corporations keeping up with that change?

VD: To stay ahead in this competitive environment, it’s important for organisations to have an eye on trends that have the potential to accelerate — or disrupt — their business. It’s no secret that personalised customer experiences will be the way forward. In the future, when everything from our cars to our homes is connected, the personalisation won’t stop when you turn off your computer. The greater the number of connected devices, the more potential for personalisation there is; the very definition of personalised experiences will also expand. Globally, organisations have realised that they need to embrace technology and innovate at every step to stay ahead of the curve.

We’re already seeing companies using artificial intelligence to customise the way consumers interact, procure and receive services from vendors. Retailers like Amazon and Netflix suggest products that fit our preferences, a technique that uses deep learning to analyse not only our own purchasing and browsing history, but that of thousands of other consumers to deliver uncannily accurate results.

AI will also be revolutionary in warehouses and manufacturing plants. Industrial robots that can learn new processes, rather than requiring costly modification or replacement, will bring about huge gains in effectiveness and flexibility to production lines. There’s some exciting work being done in the ‘future factories’ field by companies like French startup Akeoplus. And in warehouses, we’ve already seen online retailing giant Zalando achieve impressive improvements in its systems by implementing deep learning to calculate the most efficient picking routes.

At a more individual level, there is exciting work being done with deep learning in the medical space. Thanks to AI, we can expect more personalised care and improvements in the detection time for devastating diseases like cancer. We also have the opportunity to begin predicting diseases with much greater accuracy. The startup DreamQuark is using graphic processing units (GPUs) to analyse medical records and data, developing prediction and care solutions for healthcare and insurance providers.

  1. What is NVIDIA’s India strategy?

VD: In 2015-2016, our business in India grew significantly across the enterprise and gaming units. We witnessed heightened engagement with startups involved in deep learning. We also expanded our compute solutions in higher education and research, including the introduction of GPU programming as a subject in academia – this was evidenced by the widespread adoption of a language developed by NVIDIA, Computer Unified Device Architecture (CUDA), in several institutes and universities across the country. Our professional visualisation business Quadro has also continued to expand, with new product and architecture launches across segments such as manufacturing, media and entertainment, engineering, and design. AI applications have helped boost the market for NVIDIA’s Tesla products. While NVIDIA is primarily known for its gaming GPUs, we have also been making solid progress in data centers with our high-end Tesla GPUs. That’s because GPUs are more effective than standalone CPUs at deep learning and AI.

NVIDIA is a complex business with multiple domains. Our strategy aligns around our core compute platform, the GPU and being an AI compute company. This powerful, versatile processor is accelerating innovation across sectors, from gaming and VR to supercomputing and artificial intelligence. AI is the hottest trend in technology right now, and will be the dominant theme of this year’s GPU Technology Conference (GTCx), which will be held on the sixth of December at the Renaissance Hotel Convention Centre in Mumbai. In addition, we’ll be hosting our Emerging Companies Summit in concert with GTCx India. ECS will give startups using GPU technology a platform to connect with potential investors, customers and employees. Over the last few years, we have invested heavily to evolve our GPU computing stack for deep learning. Now, we are very excited about its potential, which will impact every industry and market. There was a time when NVIDIA was hardly known for business beyond graphic cards and lacked communication with the outside world. But today, thanks to our investment in emerging technologies like VR and AI, the company has evolved and flourished.

  1. What advice do you give startups today, and what can a corporation learn from them?

VD: Right now, the climate for startups is extremely exciting. For those choosing to focus on leveraging GPU technology to develop new products, services and business models, the opportunity is unprecedented. This technology is driving three of today’s most important technology trends: artificial intelligence, self-driving cars and virtual reality. Based on the Emerging Companies Summit (ECS) events that we’ve already held around this world this year, young companies in these areas are creating a lot of excitement among investors, potential employees and enterprises alike.

Of course, it’s tough to succeed as a startup. Along with selecting a business area with a compelling market opportunity, it can be very helpful for new companies to seek out and participate in programmes designed to raise their profile. For those using GPU technology, NVIDIA’s Inception Program is a perfect fit. Inception provides unique tools, resources and opportunities to the waves of entrepreneurs starting new companies, allowing them to develop products and services with a first-mover advantage.

Corporations can learn a vital lesson in agility from startups. Very often, it’s young companies that are open to innovation and early adoption of cutting-edge technology that bring new opportunities to market first. It’s interesting to observe how some industries, such as automotive, are learning from this. Traditionally very conservative, we’re now seeing many automotive manufacturers develop startup-like groups in Silicon Valley to tackle challenges such as self-driving cars. They’re also selecting technology partners, including NVIDIA, whose expertise in fields like AI complements their own. This December, in Mumbai, we will feature 20 startups using GPU technology to drive forward the technology mega-trends of artificial intelligence, virtual reality, autonomous vehicles and robotics. This will be an exciting opportunity to meet the nation's brightest minds, with great ideas, peer audiences, leading investors and luminaries highlighting the immense capability we have in our country.