Archive for the ‘My views on IT in India’ Category

Future of IT in India

September 28, 2015

Future of IT

 

The question “What is the future of IT?” has assumed significance today; this is particularly pertinent in India; as IT industry has arguably created the largest number of jobs in the organized sector in the past fifteen years. With the slowing down of job creation in this sector, there is even more curiosity. Let me first assure the readers that the future of IT continues to remain bright and job creation will continue in this sector for at least another decade. This is due to the following four key factors

  1. IT will continue to transform industry after industry
  2. Apps will be the main delivery vehicle for IT application delivery
  3. IT will organize the unorganized sectors, particularly in India
  4. Indians are starting to solve India’s problems

Let me elaborate the four factors

  1. IT will continue to transform industry after industry

We have already witnessed the way multi-function printers transformed the office automation industry; digital cameras changed the face of photography; e-mail, Web and mobile phones changed airline ticketing; and, the World Wide Web transforming the way banking and publishing industry function today. At the core of all these transformation is “digitization”. While the foregoing examples illustrate the transformation of an industry, the next stage is the transformation of entire business processes across several industries and the resultant benefits to consumers. Naturally, IT application development will continue to be in demand leading to top-line growth of IT companies and the resultant job creation opportunities.

Example: With more than 100,000 employees undertaking 2.5+ Lakhs travels in a year leading to 75 Lakhs bills, the in-house travel department in Wipro was an “efficient” organization of 700 professionals. With an in-house App that captures all the bills across transportation (airline, train, taxi), hospitality (hotels, restaurants) and services (Visa, toll) industries, the resultant “digitization” could lead to a super-efficient travel department with just twenty employees!

  1. Apps will be the main delivery vehicle for IT application delivery

Application delivery, maintenance and upgrades have remained the mainstay of the outsourced IT services industry that benefits countries like India. Such services are built around Web-based client (typically running on Desktop / Laptop PC). With the widespread availability of smartphones and mobile networks and the location-based services that utilize GPS and GIS, Apps can identify the user and the location leading to a far-better application delivery than what a simple Web-based application can provide. Coupled with superior interfaces including touch, local scripts and voice that are possible with today’s powerful smartphones that are always connected and mostly “personal” devices, services can be targeted to specific consumers leading to a superior user interaction. Also, Apps-based delivery can be regularly improved with “over the air” update that makes such improvements hassle-free to the end customer. Since Apps development is accessible to people with varied skills (not needing an CS Undergraduate degree or MCA), there is a potential for much-larger job creation; much of the new jobs creation might happen in the next generation nimble start-ups and not limited to the biggie IT services companies.

Example: FlipKart is generating 75% of its traffic from Mobile App; MakeMyTrip and GoIndigo find 50% of their travel booking happens over their App. ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank find that much of their online banking transactions happen over Mobile Apps. Myntra shifts completely to Mobile App in May 2015; FlipKart is planning a similar move.

  1. IT will organize the unorganized sectors, particularly in India

The first generation of e-commerce companies like Amazon focussed on the “first mile” – consumers finding goods and services providers and ordering them on 24×7 basis with the convenience of their homes. Over the years, the backend supply chains improved dramatically. Users could get convenience of ordering, enormous of choice of goods and services, better prices and even near immediate supply, thanks to improvements across the supply chain. Along the way, companies like Amazon in USA and FlipKart in India could get the benefit of such dramatic improvements to even SME sector; in the process, organizing the unorganized sectors. It is impacting retail, travel, hospitality, healthcare and many other sectors.

Example: Uber started in San Francisco, USA and over the years disrupting the taxi-haling experience across the world. Ola and TaxiForSure in India are extending it to Auto-rickshaws too. In the process, personal transport industry is getting organized from individual divers to small-sized taxi operators (with 1 to 100 taxis) to mammoth-size operation involving tens of thousands of taxis spread across 100+ cities. With mobile payment maturing, AADHAR getting more acceptance and biometric authentication built into entry-level smartphones, companies like Ola with fundamentally change the way next generation will view car ownership.

 

  1. Indians are starting to solve India’s problems

 

The generation of Indians who went to United States and other countries in the West for higher studies in the 60’s and 70’s contributed to the development of Science & Technology that largely solved problems of the West. The generation of IT entrepreneurs of the 80’s and the last two decades created Indian IT Services companies, which largely benefited the corporations and consumers in the West. In the past five years, a whole new generation of companies are using IT to solve India’s problems – urban transport (RedBus for organizing bus transit, Ola and TaxiForSure for organizing taxi / auto-rickshaws), retail (Myntra, FlipKart), Healthcare (Portea, DoctorC, Practo), hospitality (Oyo Rooms, HolidayIQ), payment systems (PayTM), food delivery in train (TravelKhana, ) etc., and even India-specific opportunities (OnlinePanditji, OnlinePrasad, Bharat Matrimony).

To me this is perhaps the best part of IT; the future of IT is to transform India; and in that sense, IT is fulfilling the promise Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajapayee talked of in 1999 – IT being “India’s Tomorrow”!

Professor Sowmyanarayanan Sadagopan is the Director of IIIT-Bangalore. These are his personal views. He can be reached at ss@iiitb.ac.in

Appeared in September 28, 2015 Special Issue of New Indian Express

Analytics – a personal perspective

January 17, 2015

To me analytics has been around for long

In the 70’s

Airlines were “computerised” way back; I flew in 1976 from Madras to Chicago using a “computerised” ticket!

Out of the Airline computerisation came “planned overbooking” – Airlines found a “pattern” – last minute cancellation peaking on weekends but near zero on Monday morning

Simply the weekend effect and Monday morning catch up; thanks to data stored on tapes they could estimate with near 100% confidence, possible “cancellations” and introduced “planned overbooking”

It helped Airlines and passengers – but not scaleable – at best 20 Airlines in USA and may be 200 in the globe (at least then)

in the 80’s

Any Data mining book would give the example of another “pattern” – men in 20’s & 30’s picking up Diapers AND Beer cans on Friday evenings; by putting them together they could increase sales

Something that can be scaled to thousands of stores

In the 90’s

ATM switches could see a pattern of “unlawful” ATM withdrawals; by people who “stole” ATM PINs from unsuspecting customers

This was scaleable to millions as ATM base was nearly a million

 

Starting 90’s

data mining software could “discover” pattern; for example,

using software “IIMB student store data” could throw out a pattern; 89% of purchases happened in 2 days!

Everyone knew that most students purchased their items (tooth paste or pencils) for the full 3 month term;

the discovery was the extent 89% it is better to ask some stores to put a “window” twice a year rather than running a store all thru the year!

That is “discovery” and the area was called Knowledge Discovery; even today KDDI is the Conference for data mining!

 

What is possible today is to use Analytics to “disrupt” an industry c

For example, an industry called taxi hailing is getting disrupted right before our eyes; our own TaxiForSure is doing in for Autos in Bangalore since yesterday!

Uber started it in SFO 5,6 years back

Thanks to GPS, Smart phones, Google Maps, you can bridge the “information asymmetry

For example 90% of the time a cab / auto driver has a customer within 100 feet, but the driver does not know;

Similarly, 90% of the time there is a taxi / auto within 100 feet but the customer does not know!

 

If this asymmetry can be “managed”, we can reduce the number of taxi / auto on the road by 30%

 

We can do similar exercise for buses, ambulances, fire engines,… as well as doctors and hospitals, patients and nurses, … the list can go on

 

That I think is the real power of Analytics

 

(My Pep talk on the Inauguration of 3rd “Analytics Program” (Continuing Education Program) @ IIIT-Bangalore on January 17, 2015)

Information systems have the potential to “transform” business

March 9, 2014

It is important for B School students focussing on IT (Computing & Information Systems) to think “out of box” and go beyond minor improvements  (Though they are important); here are three cases where IT changed the very face of the industry!

 

1 OTIS Elevators thru its OTIS ONLINE in mid 80’s, could predict elevator failure and alert the mechanic in time before the failure was noticed by the end customer; in the process, creating “elevators that never fail”

2 Southwest Airlines could look at the very core of every business process, and, realize that the Airline ticket post full computerisation was just online copy of the record; and, with wide connectivity to end customers, thanks to Internet. by mid 90’s, one can go “ticket-less” and save money; by offering to share the benefit of cost savings, Southwest enabled majority flyers flying “ticket-less” with online tickets instead of paper tickets. By 2010, ALL Airlines moved this way and 100% electronic ticket became a reality

3 Core Banking in India changed the very notion of banking (going to a Bank Branch); in the process, Indian Banks could grow phenomenally in the period 2000-2014; all banks could offer “any branch” banking, multiple channels (Branch, Phone, Net, ATM and Mobile banking), once again changing the very face of Banking in India

(Inaugural Talk at BizEx (Business Excellence) Conference of Christ University (Mysore Road Campus) on March 8, 2014)

Network 3.0

November 28, 2013

In the first two decades (50’s to 60’s) we were busy connecting components of a computer; there was clearly no network!

In the next two decades (70’s to 80’s) we were busy connecting  computers in the form of a Network (LAN & WAN), what I call Network 1.0

In the next two decades (90’s and the past decade) we were busy connecting computers and people through the connected computers (Internet, WWW and e-mail, in the beginning and Facebook & Twitter in the recent years), what I call Network 2.0

In the current decade and the next decade we will be busy connecting things with people through the network of computers, what I call Network 3.0

Let me elaborate

There is a lot of talk today about the Internet of Things, that talks of networking many sensors, devices (Glucose meters), vehicles (cars), equipment (elevator, washing machine) in the form of Sensor networks

To me networking the things alone is not interesting until the human beings are part of the network. Let me use some examples to illustrate

1 In the past few years Indian users are pleasantly surprised to get an SMS alert when a cheque that they sent for payment got encashed; no need for them to login to their account and check the transaction (which is better than going to Bank branch). Suddenly, they found that the Net is monitoring their activities without they having to monitor. Bank computerisation is not new, particularly in the International scene, but such SMS alerts are new! Similar is the case when a flight is delayed or your Wait-listed ticket on Indian Railways has moved to “Confirmed” status, if you book the tickets through an intermediary like MakeMytrip. Here the thing that talks to the users is a “cheque” or a “ticket” transaction.

2 With barcoded tags tracking luggage pieces in Airports, it is perfectly possible for users to get notified thru SMS when Inter-line (between two flights or two Airlines) transfer takes place, particularly in an inter-continental flight; the infrastructure is there, but the systems are not integrated enough to make it possible. Such networking of things “relieves” the users of constantly monitoring (some time leading to worrying) about things. Here the things are static objects like “luggage bags

3 A still more interesting situation that makes immense sense is for the “network of things” to include devices, equipment, complex machinery that are dynamic in nature. Take for example, the case of HP printer; for many years one has to know about “out of paper” or “paper jam” only the hard way; later printers got equipped with display one could get a “message display”; later, the printer status could be shown on PC screen. A more tricky situation is the “ink cartridge status”; suddenly on a day that one wants an urgent print out, the ink would have gone dry, causing sufficient inconvenience. Later, software to monitor the “Ink cartridge status” let users check once in a while (say every Sunday) the status; but these days the printers have become much smarter; they constantly monitor the ink status and “flash a message” and “alert” the user when the “ink level” is “20% or 10%”! In fact a similar service is available on “battery level” of wireless keyboard and mouse on Apple iMac. Extending the idea, one can have systems that monitor your car, elevator, plane, pacemaker etc. Using the notion of “geo-fencing” that lets one check the proximity of an object with a specific location, thanks to GPS equipped smartphone, one can track the location of a patient, visitor, object or a device. The applications are endless

What would mean for a country like India?

We misuse human beings to do very routine things like traffic control, surveillance, cleaning sewer pipes, meter reading etc. All these can be done much better and the human beings can be relieved to attend to work that can be more meaningful to them and to improve the quality of life for others. For example, automatic switching on and off electric poles would relieve the chore for several hundreds of corporation employees who can be deployed to take care of citizens needing care (children, elderly or physically challenged). That is where I see the potential of Network 3.o to transform India

 

China continues with No 1 position in Top 500 Supercomputers list

November 19, 2013

Announced twice a year – June in USA and November in Germany – from 1993 onwards, Super 500 List has a list of the 500 fastest computers in the world.

In the list announced on November 18, 2013, China’s Tianhe-2 with a peak performance of 33.9 Peta-flops is on the top

India had a couple of entries (with C-DAC setting the trend in 1991 and Tata Eka reaching up to 4th position in 2007), but lost out recently.

US has 252, while China has 66 entries of the total 500, while India has just 11 in the current list!

That is IT in December 2010

January 4, 2011

In the general developments,

  • French President & Chinese Premier visited India in December 2010
  • Toyota launches “Made for India” car “Etios” on December 1, 2010
  • Organized sector added 1.13 million jobs in India in 2010 (nearly two thirds by IT/ITES)
  • Wipro Chairman Premji transfers Rs 8,846 crores worth shares to AP Foundation
  • Adani commissions 660 MW thermal power plant in Mundra (in Gujarat) on December 27, 2010; a super critical power plant, that will be part of 4,620 MW plant by 2012 making it India’s biggest by then
  • Bangalore Metro trials started by end December 2010; likely to get commissioned in January 2011
  • With 88 million square feet of Grade I office space, Bangalore is only next to Shanghai at 95 million and surpasses Singapore with 76 million square feet; Mumbai has 47 million and Delhi NCR has 45 million
  • Moser Baer commission 5 MW solar power plant in Tamil Nadu
  • Thousands stranded at European airports in December 2010
  • GSLV rocket explodes on December 25, 2010 causing minor damp to India’s Space technology success
  • 2G scam in India, and WikiLeaks globally crowd the frontline news in December 2010!

 

 

In the products arena,

 

  • Google launches Cr-48 Chrome OS powered Netbooks on December 7, 2010
  • HP Dream Screen 400 information appliance targeted at first time users reach markets in India
  • Notion Ink’s Adam Tablet starts selling
  • BlackBerry launches OS 6.0 powered Bold 9780 in India

 

In the market-place,

 

  • Indian marketplace raised Rs 11,00,00 crores in year 2010
  • British consumer goods giant Reckitt Benckiser bought out Paras Parma the owner of “Moov” for a whopping Rs 3,260 crores on December 13, 2010
  • Dell buys storage vendor Compellent for $ 860 million on December 10, 2010
  • Siemens decides to sell off its IT arm to Atos Origin
  • Sensex closed at 20,509 on December end http://www.bseindia.com/histdata/hindices.asp)

 

The Indian IT Companies continued to do well

 

  • Cognizant headcount crosses 100,000 on December 3, 2010, the fourth Indian IT services company to reach this milestone after TCS, Infosys and Wipro
  • Mastek buys insurance services software company SEG software on December 1, 2010
  • TCS bags Deutsche Bank deal worth $ 100 million on December 24, 2010

 

 

MNC Companies in India continue to grow their India operations

 

  • The world leader Dell with $ 53 billion annual sales, has 23,000 of its 96,000 people in India as of 2010
  • Huawei to invest $ 2 billion in India over the next 5 years and start a manufacturing plant in Chennai
  • Juniper Networks to create its 4th Center with 750 seats in Bangalore in 2011
  • Texas Instruments starts its Kilby Labs (named after TI Founder and Nobel Laureate) in Bangalore, the second such center after USA on December 21, 2010

 

In telecom

 

  • All calls on BSNL landlines in India become local calls effective December 2010
  • RCOM launches 3G on December 14, 2010

 

In the Education & Research front

 

  • Supreme Court approves single test across India for MBBS seats in all medical colleges
  • Government permits corporate sector to start technical institutions as Not for Profit companies (Sec 25 companies)

 

In the people front

 

  • Times Magazine declares Facebook Founder Mark Zuckerberg as the “Times Person of the year” for 2010
  • French President (December 3-6) and Chinese Premier (Dec 14-17) visit India in December 2010
  • Wipro Chairman Premji transfers Rs 8,846 crores worth shares to AP Foundation representing a new milestone in Indian corporate philanthropy

 

 

Some interesting numbers

 

  • Telecom subscriber base at 742 million (707 million mobile & 35 million of landlines) and broadband subscribers at 11 million as of October 31, 2010 (TRAI Press Release of Dec 24, 2010); with 15+ million subscriber addition per month 2010 subscriber base must have crossed 775 million
  • Rupee closes at 44.71 against USD by end December
  • Foreign exchange reserves stand at $ 295.03 billion by end December
  • Sensex (Indian stock exchange index) at 20,509 on December 31, 2010 (compared to 17,465 on December 31, 2009)

 

Class A Office space in Bangalore likely to exceed Singapore

January 2, 2011

As per media reports quoting CR Richard Ellis, the global real estate leader, Shanghai with 95 million square feet and Bangalore with 85 million square feet of Grade A office space have crossed Singapore with 76 million square feet of space. With Mumbai at 47 million, Delhi (NCR) at 45 million India is doing a good catch up in services (a good indicator being Class A office space)

If the estimates are correct Indian industry can justly be proud of Singapore having had a huge lead for decades

Chennai-based IMSC (Institute of Mathematical Sciences) of the Department of Atomic Energy commissions supercomputer Annapurna

July 31, 2010

On July 30, 2010 DAE (Dept of Atomic Energy) Chairman Banerjee inaugurated the Rs 6 Crores supercomputer built by IMSC (Institute of Mathematical Sciences) scientists. It is the third fastest machine after the ones at IISc (Indian Institute of Science) and TIFR (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research).

Sometime back a team from IMSC built one of the Top 500 global supercomputer “Kabru” under the leadership of Prof Hari Dass. Using just about $ 500,000, the group could build a 144-node Linux cluster which was the fastest tera-scale facility (1.0002 Tera-flops per second) among educational institutions in India then. Interestingly, this cluster was one of the Top500 Super-computers in the world in the year 2004.

SBI (State Bank of India) continues to grow

March 21, 2010

The Press Release of  March 21, 2010 has the following interesting aspects

  1. In the current fiscal, SBI has opened 1,000 branches and 10,000 ATM. Of the 1,000 branches, 600 were opened in rural and semi-urban areas.
  2. SBI plans to open more than 1,000 branches next yearAt present, the public sector lender has 12,448 branches and over 21,000 ATMs. By the end of March, it aims to scale up the number of ATMs to 25,000.
  3. During 2010-11, SBI plans to hire more than 27,000 people across its various divisions. The bank also plans to recruit 20,000-22,000 people at the clerical posts and 5,500 people at the probationary officer level.

What an amazing growth!

    Microsoft Phone Software has some traction

    February 18, 2010

    Launched in Mobile World Congress 2010 in Barcelona, Spain on Feb 15, 2010 Microsoft Windows 7 Phone Series seems to get traction even from people who have given up hopes of Microsoft ever getting its Mobile strategy right!

    The code base and interface are complete re-write from bottoms up. A “Nike” veteran is in charge of design. Microsoft has moved away from “catch up” mode to “set the benchmark” mode

    The partner strategy appears brilliant

    Will they deliver? Wait till Holiday Season (Oct end 2010)