Nasscom puts laser focus on industry specific tech solutions with its Centre of Excellence for startups
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s popular “Mann ki Baat” programme on All India Radio had numerous callers dialling in. The challenge rose on how to convert these voices into English text and then, as cognitive elements. This task was thrown as an open challenge to tech startups across the country. And, three of them rose to the occasion, coming up with solutions.
This is what reveals the strides made by tech startups in India, finding innovative solutions that can solve practical problems. And the National Association of Software Services Companies (Nasscom) is strategically driving this.
Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO, Centre of Excellence – AI & IoT, Nasscom
As a part of its initiative to nurture and expand the Indian startup ecosystem in the country, especially the startups that fall in the business to business (B2B) segment, Nasscom has numerous programmes under its portfolio with a Centre of Excellence (CoE) being one of the key pivot.
The association has established this CoE across four locations in India – Bengaluru, Gurugram, Ahmedabad, and Vizag with a focus on newer technologies. Startups can use this platform as it has the necessary support infrastructure built into it. In Bengaluru, for example, the CoE is focussed on creating solutions in the area of artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT).
Talking to YourStory, Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO, Centre of Excellence – AI & IoT, Nasscom, says, “The focus for us today is how we can bring all these technologies together to create solutions. For this, we have taken a vertical approach.”
Under this vertical approach, the CoE is looking to create solutions for specific industries like healthcare, manufacturing, and auto. Sanjeev says there is a sharper focus on how to build solutions specific to these industries.
This is being done with participation from other players in the ecosystem, including representatives of the industry, mentors, and even the government. This highlights that innovation cannot be done in isolation, but through collaboration, and the solutions that are created need to have practical use cases.
The driving force behind this is to enable faster transition from the lab to market. As Sanjeev says, “We help these startups with mentorship and also bring them the connects to the industry so that they can develop faster as they have a first-hand understanding of the requirements.”
In many cases, the industry representative tell these startups what they need and ask them to come out with a solution. At other times, these representatives ask the startup what innovations are available at the time.
Nasscom’s CoE has also created a community of startups which actively engages in knowledge sharing. From an industry connect point of view, they get early feedbacks on solutions that they have developed so any course correction can be done early.
“Our core ethos is to discover, design, and scale,” says Sanjeev.
Being ahead in the game
The idea behind the start of CoE germinated from the government, which wanted the country to be competitive in the newer technology space because these will have a deep impact on every industry segment.
“If we wait for too long, there is a probability that we may become laggards and every technology from outside may not be suitable for Indian conditions,” says Sanjeev.
At present, India is seen as a destination for technology innovation and Nasscom is acting as a catalyst to accelerate this.
The associated plans to add agriculture as a focus sector. Sanjeev says that they are trying to look at things that are a priority at the national level.
The startups present at the CoE are largely at the seed stage with some in the early stages while others are slightly ahead. The basic qualifying requirement is a proof of concept (PoC).
“What we need is some genuineness from startups as we do not look into the economics as much as the uniqueness of the idea,” says Sanjeev.
Solutions need to either be suitable for one of the focus industries or for the larger social good. Over the years, the quality of the startups present in the CoEs has witnessed a tremendous improvement, according to the Nasscom official.
These centres are receiving positive traction with requests pouring in from multiple players like government bodies, PSUs, corporates, and small and medium enterprises. In fact, there are examples that do not fall under any normal paradigm. For example, someone aired the problem statement of detecting snakes in farmlands while another was on how to avoid gender detection in imaging machines.
However, there are challenges.
“We trying to make technology adoption faster but people ask about the return on such investments,” says Sanjeev. Also, many enterprises in India are unsure about their digital journeys, especially the public sector units.
There is still some time lag in creating a mature technology product and an increased flow of fund into these startups will certainly help.
“There is definitely a big change in the mindsets as everybody has evinced interest in adoption of technology - though the levels may vary,” says Sanjeev.
(Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta)