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How Startups Can Leverage the Power of IoT to Tackle India’s Challenges

From switching the air conditioner in your room with your mobile phone as you park your car, or tracking your pulse on your smartwatch, there is so much that you can do with the help of Internet of Things (IoT). IoT is not just a term that has caught the imagination of people and businesses; it has simplified and enriched the lives of people in the truest sense.

PriceWaterCooper puts it better in their report, Sensing the future of the Internet of Things, “The Internet of Things (IoT) is transforming the everyday physical objects that surround us into an ecosystem of information that will enrich our lives. From refrigerators to parking spaces to houses, the IoT is bringing more and more things into the digital fold every day, which will likely make the IoT a multi-trillion dollar industry in the near future.”

The IoT Innovation Accelerator program was a result of the shared vision of CIIE-IIMA and Cisco to bring about change through disruptive connectivity startups in India. Nasscom Centre of Excellence for IoT, one of the largest deep-tech innovation ecosystems, was on-boarded as the technology partner for this program. The focus of the program was to target India’s seemingly intractable challenges in industry 4.0, agri-tech, clean-tech, civic-tech, and health-tech.

The selected startups were offered Catalytic capital of Rs 17.50 lakhs each, portfolio support up to a year as well as technical mentorship from Cisco experts and Industry experts through CIIE.

The selection process

The applications were opened for the IoT Innovation Accelerator on 1st April 2019, 175 applications were received out of which a cohort of 7 startups was selected.

The seven startups went through the screening process, internal evaluations (consisting of CIIE experts), and external evaluations (consisting of Industry experts). The shortlisted startups were invited for an in-person selection pitch to a jury comprising experts from NASSCOM, CISCO, and CIIE-IIMA.

The seven startups that were selected for the program were:

  • Statwig

  • Sonant Technologies Private Limited

  • Farms2Fork Technologies Pvt. Ltd.

  • Radiate Healthcare Innovations Private Limited

  • Optify Industrial Solutions Private Limited

  • Sustainable Reference Analytics Private Limited

  • Synersense Private Limited

IoT Innovation Accelerator Bootcamp

A 4-day residential Bootcamp for the cohort startups was conducted from 19th June 2019 to 22nd June 2019 at IIM Ahmedabad.

Each day had a specific theme that revolved around key aspects necessary for the growth of the company — Customer Centricity, Unit Economics and Pricing, Technology at Scale, and Leading People and teams.

Day 1 — Customer Centricity

Mukul Sachan

The accelerator program began with Professor Ankur Sinha addressing the startups and explaining how they must utilize the cohort to find solutions to larger problems. It was followed by a keynote from Mukul Sachan, co-founder of LendingKart, who spoke in detail about the three pillars of entrepreneurship — Hard work, Courage, and Struggle. Explaining the correlation between working intensely and the likelihood of success, Mukul said, “if you’re trying to do something with 50% intensity, the likelihood of success is 0 or -ve; if you give 200%, the likelihood of success doubles”. In a session on customer centricity, professor Manoj Motiani of IIM Indore spoke about how startups should love customer-centricity, map the pain points, but make sure that the customer they choose, proves to be profitable to the business.

Day 2 — Unit Economics and Pricing

Professor Neharika Vohra

The second day of the Bootcamp started with professor Neharika Vohra explaining about the entrepreneurial method. She gave a metaphor of ‘quilting’- to drive the point on how entrepreneurial thinking represents joining and weaving things as and when they come. She also explained the three aspects of negotiation.

The next session by Ram Motwani, a business consultant was on unit economics. He spoke about how unit economics requires business acumen. “For any metric in the world, there are always two thresholds, minimum and maximum; you need to play in between!”, he said.

Day 3 — Technology at Scale

Dr. Amarjeet Singh

The third day began with a panel discussion on scaling up and growth strategies. Professor Amit Karna spoke about why it’s important for early-stage startups to have people take up multiple roles. “The success of an early-stage startup depends on the amount of fungible resources they have,’’ he said. The second session was by Dr. Amarjeet Singh, co-founder of Zenatix, who spoke about building technology at scale. “Don’t build generalised products! Always build for small scale; build products for your early customers, and provide them with a unique experience”, he advised the startups. While sharing the various Intellectual Property (IP) strategies with the cohort, Deepali Paun, Managing Associate — Patent of YJ Trivedi and Co. discussed the three key essentials required to file a patent — Novelty, Inventive Step and Industrial Applicability.

Kunal Upadhyay, the co-founder of CIIE and the managing partner of Bharat Fund, spoke about how to look at the business from the investor’s lens. “Best form of money is ‘REVENUE’, Best type of investor is the ‘CUSTOMER’”, he said. The third day ended with Nisarg Vyas, the CEO of Infocusp sharing his insights on how to design human-centered AI and ML products with the cohort.

Day 4 — Leading People and Teams

The last day of the bootcamp revolved around the most important aspect of an organization — the people. The day began with professor Neharika Vohra talking about how to lead people and teams. “The rules that the founders set, lay the foundation of the culture in the organisation. People may or may not like these rules, but the way people are dealt with, will promote the culture of the organisation”, she said while explaining why it’s important for startups to set rules for the organization. While explaining the art of pitching, VC Karthic, founder of Buzzworks, spoke about why people love the unexpected and how one should introduce the unexpectedness in their pitch. Tapan Ghosaliya, the Director of Technology of Amnex, gave a lecture on how startups can build scalable technology.

The day ended with a closing keynote by BVR Mohan Reddy, Executive Chairman of Cyient — “If you want to make a global presence, your talent needs to be such that the locals of the country relate to. When the customers see local talent, they get higher confidence to give their business to you!”, he told the cohort.

The four-day program left the startups enriched with ideas on growing business with innovative IoT solutions. We believe these insightful sessions will help the startups to harness the power of technology and people to solve the problems that India faces in the field of agri-tech, clean-tech, civic-tech, and health-tech.

The 4 day bootcamp left the 7 startups enriched with the knowledge required to solve their challenges and grow innovatively.

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