Narendra Bhandari, General Manager, Developer Experience & Evangelism, Microsoft India, says powered by digital, the Fourth Industrial Revolution is likely to benefit the Indian economy across sectors. Digital technology’s potential to transform the infrastructure space is especially mindboggling.
How is technology transforming Indian manufacturing?
India is moving towards becoming a very digital country. You have seen the examples from the money perspective over the past several weeks. Irrespective of which side of the debate you are on, benefits of digital are going to be across sectors. Therefore, the potential for Indian manufacturers to benefit from digital is significant. One is knowing what is going on in your shop floor, into your products, into your shipments and into your quality, in real time, (which) is a significant advantage no matter where you are in the world. That’s one stage. And you can revamp after every shift to improve efficiencies. In the next stage, once you have historical data you are able to make much more advanced decisions about product quality. We often say: ‘Data is plenty but insights are few.‘ Lots of data will get generated, but insights need to be created. And that’s where the new digital framework will help the manufacturing industry create significant benefits for itself and customers. In the last stage, the question arises whether you want to remain in the same business or are you going to transform yourself into a newer business.
That brings us to the point that you had raised about manufacturers are becoming ‘productive producers’ from being mere producers. Do you see this already happening in the Indian manufacturing sector?
I think so. For instance, Luminous is a pretty interesting company that produces things like UPS’, batteries, solar panels, etc. You can buy a solar panel manufactured by the company and put it up on your roof. So, they have sold you a solution that provides you with electricity. Which is why I believe that several manufacturers are likely to become service providers. That’s one aspect of improving productivity, enhancing efficiency and making customers happy, and then there’s another aspect of transforming your business into something else. Now suppose I manufacture drinking glasses. But I do not produce drinking glasses, but produce glasses that are curated for the kind of consumption you have. The manufacturing and services industries are slowly starting to intermingle to effectively offer increased value to customers. However, the customer needn’t be the end-consumer; it could also be an intermediary. This is especially critical in the infrastructure sector where you have smart buildings, smart cities, smart roads and smart transportation. That space has got an insane amount of potential in terms of how digital can benefit a sector. If you break down the problem to electricity, it enables you to calculate the number of units consumed in a city. In a building, if I improve 20 per cent efficiency in lighting, air-conditioning or heating, there is value. If 10,000 buildings in Connaught Place started using smarter infrastructure, it’s adding value in terms of savings.
What is your forecast for the infrastructure sector by 2025 for which you have already laid down a roadmap?
In addition to private numbers, I think I would go a lot with the government forecast which talks about creation of some 100 Smart Cities. We’re going to get there at some point. When you tear it down to analyse the impact on manufacturing or transportation industries, everyone is going to benefit from technology.
What role is being played by technology in transforming product development and engineering?
If I were designing a next-generation microphone recorder, I could potentially start to ponder on the insights gained in the last three years through customer engagement. This implies building a good relationship with end-customers. Let us say the manufacturer has a Twitter relationship with you and you tweet them saying that the recorder give you an advance warning before running out of battery so that you don’t face any problems while conducting an interview. Now if the manufacturer had that feedback from a consumer, over time this will help him build insights. Similarly, cars will tell you the distance to ’empty’. Even if the fuel tank is 20 per cent up or down, the car will inform you that you can approximately drive up to 100 kilometres. I will give you another example. Data analytics, usage, battery rates, all provide you with an incredible amount of data on what materials work really well, which markets you perform well, etc. All this, in turn, helps you design a better product. This also goes a long way in facilitating relationships and understanding.
How do you see this ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ impacting initiatives such as ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, Smart Cities and so on?
There are many components and verticals within that. But essentially it is all about how digital is going to facilitate the movement towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution and aspects that are going to change. Our role in all this is to facilitate digital transformation of our customers. I may not understand glass manufacturing or glass from plastic, but I do know how analytics can help manufacturers improve their systems and processes.
How is this likely to impact the start-up ecosystem in the country?
Look at the innovations being made by the start-ups. They’re taking bets and structuring very interesting business cases. Samudra Electronic System has successfully initiated work on monitoring and controlling of 100,000 LED streetlights under the Jaipur municipality. The solution is unique, efficient and clean, with all notable indicators available online. You will get to see more such innovative solutions being offered by start-ups in the days to come.
Moving on to artificial intelligence (AI), to what extent has the Cortana Intelligence Suite been implemented in India?
There’re many companies using different components of the Cortana Intelligence Suite. Some firms use it for speech, some use it for images, some use it for simple analytics while still others use it to generate Power BI oriented visuals. But it still has a lot more potential. Which is why we are continuously introducing newer elements. We regularly conduct hackathons to help firms put together solutions. These are not mere training sessions, but events where participants study technology codes to create workable solutions. The efficacy of Cortana’s rollout will be measured by the extent to which it helps customers to make well-informed decisions.
– Manish Pant