Atul Batra-NASSCOM

[DeepTech Mentor] Atul Batra on deep tech’s Y2K moment

Atul Batra on the trends in the deep tech space, sectors that would be disrupted by deep tech and the market for the ecosystem.

Deep tech startups have started making a mark for themselves. Having said that the startups are just now getting started with its use cases and in terms of market adoption. “But the pandemic is the Y2K moment for the ecosystem,” says Atul Batra, CTO of Algonomy, a SaaS-based analytics and AI products company. Batra is also Chair for India’s NASSCOM Product Council and a member of the NASSCOM Executive Council.

Batra has a ring side view of the deep tech startups’ evolution as he is a core team member of the NASSCOM Deep Tech Club and mentors several deep tech startups. In a conversation with DQ Deep Tech, Batra talks about the trends in the deep tech space, sectors that would be disrupted by deep tech, the market for the ecosystem and advice for the upcoming startups.

Edited excerpts:

What are the upcoming trends in the deep tech space?

Deep tech is one of the biggest shifts—not only for technology but humanity too. The pandemic is the Y2K moment for the ecosystem as the pace of innovation is astounding.

One of the trends is a shift to verticalization. Companies will be building deep tech use cases around health tech, fintech, Work 2.0 (remote collaboration), etc. Historically, retail, e-commerce sectors have been early adopters of technology. India is doing well with early-stage ecosystem.

Second—and it’s happening fast on the consumption side—we expect deep tech to penetrate every single business process, task, role, irrespective of the company being an SMB or a large enterprise. Especially, advances in machine learning, natural language processing, computer vision is disrupting everything. If businesses don’t experiment and start to integrate deep tech in every single business process, role, in the next five years, they may potentially be on a death spiral.

Deep tech is the new norm. Companies are building deep tech innovation and integrating applications on it.

What sectors will be disrupted by deep tech in future?

Globally every single product is being re written due to deep tech. India has a big opportunity for global leaders for product and we have a great platform.

In India we have a good foundation by the virtue of being one of the largest ecosystems, technical talent bases. We stand on the shoulders of giant. We have a strong visibility in the IT services leadership globally and a large base of R&D centers in India. The pandemic has been a Y2K moment.

Cybersecurity is the mother of all problems facing global tech. It’s a complex landscape. Global cybersecurity maturity is low and every company is a data company. There is a huge opportunity for India to be a provider for cybersecurity solutions.

The other opportunity is the Aatmanirbhar initiative. Though healthcare has shown early signs of adoption, there will be innovation in distributing healthcare to rural, semi urban areas. There is a huge opportunity in PSUs for consumption of indigenous technology and products.

We can build things in India and apply them globally. A lot of initiatives will be fulfilled on the back of innovation happening from an early stage startup ecosystem. The government too is now trying to help with policies that will allow consumption from smaller companies and not just larger ones.

Advice to startups on cost effectiveness, hiring right talent and developing business acumen to deal with the enterprises:

Adopt the philosophy of ‘Being inch wide and mile deep.’ Focus on the problem the startup is trying to solve. Be clear on the use case, pain point and opportunity to be tackled. This comes down to product market fit—a major theme that plays out. Do your due diligence in terms of opportunity, market, market readiness. Once there is enough validation, it’s about scaling.

Importantly, the domestic market is showing signs of early adoption. The success of the valley is as much a consumption story as it is that of innovation. It’s critical Indian businesses/enterprises too embrace India deep tech startup ecosystem.

Another theme that plays out is focusing more in terms of product and business and not just technology. As the market is niche for deep tech entrepreneurs should build products for the globe. They need to think of building the best of breed and benchmarking them against the global peers. Therefore, it is important to figure out global selling.

There are two challenges: The capital to build a global GTM, and longer gestation time and R&D. It is important to ensure investment in it. Academia and tech industry should scale up their collaboration and not restrict it to IITs. We need patient capital and investors to place long term bets.

Deep tech startups need good advice. Silicon Valley has a ‘pay it forward culture’ and it is happening in India but there isn’t a large supply of successful entrepreneurs. It is therefore important to get the right mentors and that could also mean to tap into the Indian diaspora to mentor startups here.

Competition and market for deep tech:

There needs to be competition both from the consumption and entrepreneurs building new products. With deep tech disruption, we have barely scratched the surface in terms of use cases. The legacy companies are struggling and have to rethink, re innovate. It is relatively easier for the startups. A deep tech entrepreneur needs to think global.

 

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