It is Time To Shift Focus From Software To Hardware.


Its been an axiom for some time that India has a core competence in software, which, on the face of it, is a great thing, considering that software is eating the world, according to the founder of web browser Netscape and now venture capitalist Marc Andreessen.

Meanwhile, China is on the verge of overtaking the United States (US) in artificial intelligence (AI), and has overtaken it in the use of digital money, and India is way behind in robotics/drones/internet of things (IoT), and especially in semiconductors.

Another is that these are strategic technologies where we simply cannot afford to be dependent on the tender mercies of uncertain suppliers like China imagine if we have to depend on them for sensitive defence gear, especially in the wake of Doklam.

Similarly, the success of companies such as Qualcomm and ARM show how fabrication-less design is viable. How much of this will be done on the cloud and how much has to be done locally is an interesting design question in itself.

There is a fifth reason, which has to do with the nature of strategic business at large. But this can be disrupted that over-used term, but it is meaningful by others who change the rules of the game.. And so it is happening to the likes of Infosys, which may explain the churn there more than problems with any manager.

One of the big problems we have had in the past is that Indian engineers were building products and services for customers they did not understand, ie..those in the West.

The time is ripe for that.

Design is a skill that we have aplenty note the profusion of traditional designs, and even recent frugal engineering cases such as GE Indias electrocardiography machine, the Mahindra Scorpio and the Tata Nano that could be turned into a core competence for the country with sustained effort.

The Tata Nano is a success story of engineering and design, although it has been a market failure for other reasons, having to do with customer intimacy: a cautionary tale again in that you need to be fanatically customer-focused to be able to win.

There are four electronics-focused incubators officially set up by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) along with state governments and educational partners: Electropreneur at Delhi University, a medical electronics-focused centre at Indian Insititute of Technology (IIT) Patna, Maker Village for consumer electronics at IIIT Trivandrum and Cochin, and the Fabless chip design incubator at IIT Hyderabad (Disclaimer: I was earlier associated with Maker Village, but no longer).

There are some differences with the ubiquitous software incubators: the infrastructure is far more affordable to an entrepreneur on a shared services model than in software..

All this costs a lot of money, and MeitY is investing heavily in making these facilities available to entrepreneurs. There are also challenges being held with partners to direct the creation of new, marketable ideas.

Those that have already built a prototype may join for acceleration and productisation.

Angel funding and private sector participation is also available in early-stage investment industry partners are keen on co-creating intellectual property with startups, and are willing to invest in the most promising of them.

There are also modified special incentives packages.

Several state governments are also investing heavily in startups, for instance through the Kerala Start Up Mission. By using the services of other professionals, such as market researchers, accountants, IPR lawyers, design thinking experts, marketing and public relations firms, and accelerators and entrepreneurs-in-residence, startups will have the benefit of broad support.

Many companies from the industry will become partners to the incubators, not purely for altruistic purposes, but often as market extension activities for themselves. In fact, in the last couple of years of meeting with innumerable would-be electronics entprepreneurs, I have identified a few myths that I would like to disabuse others of. Generally, this will not work, as the stringent evaluation system for startups will ensure that the principals, the idea, and the market prospects are all fairly good.

Bill Gates and other college dropouts did do well in business, but the chances are pretty low. Its not the idea, but the implementation, including the business model, that is interesting. Some entrepreneurs believe that just because they signed up and are paying the rent, it is the incubators problem to make them successful.

The right model is somewhere in between.

They need to know that customers are a very finicky lot, and may not quite see the value in your product that the makers see, and that there is a huge problem of crossing the chasm.
It is Time To Shift Focus From Software To Hardware. It is Time To Shift Focus From Software To Hardware. Reviewed by Kanthala Raghu on November 10, 2017 Rating: 5

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