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Empowering India’s Tech Future: A Deep Dive into NASSCOM’s CoE Journey

discover the visionary initiatives driving India’s technological future., MeitY Nasscom CoE, is revolutionizing India’s IoT and AI landscape. From empowering startups to spearheading global collaborations

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Minu Sirsalewala
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MeitY Nasscom CoE, is revolutionizing India’s IoT and AI landscape. From empowering startups to spearheading global collaborations, discover the visionary initiatives driving India’s technological future.

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Sanjeev Malhotra

CEO- MeitY Nasscom CoE 

India is emerging as a powerhouse of innovation in IoT and AI. At the forefront of this transformation is the MeitY Nasscom Centre of Excellence (CoE), a beacon for startups and tech entrepreneurs. Led by Sanjeev Malhotra, CEO- MeitY Nasscom CoE is not just fostering innovation but also reshaping the tech landscape of the nation. In a chat with Minu Sirsalewala, Executive Editor of Dataquest, Malhotra shares the CoE’s remarkable journey, its mission to democratize deep tech and the groundbreaking strides it is making towards a digitally empowered India. Dive in to uncover the strategies, successes, and future aspirations that are setting the stage for India’s ascent as a global tech leader.

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Can you walk us through the journey of NASSCOM’s Centre of Excellence for IoT and AI? What inspired its establishment, and how has it evolved since its inception?

The Centre of Excellence for IoT & AI was established with the goal of catalysing indigenous solution by enabling startups in emerging technology and build a strong and inclusive ecosystem for innovation and entrepreneurship in India. It was launched as part of the Digital India Initiative by MeitY with state governments & Nasscom to jumpstart the IOT and AI ecosystem by using India’s IT capabilities and assisting the country in achieving a leading role in the convergence of hardware and software.

Our core goal is to foster innovation democratization in emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things & AI.

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Over these years, the center has successfully enabled development of unique solutions by harnessing the innovative character of the startup ecosystem and helped in the adoption of these solutions with corporate. This initiative has expanded to four strategic locations including Bangalore, Gandhinagar, Vizag, and Gurugram and have emerged as a pivotal resource for entrepreneurs navigating the realm of emerging technologies. Many startups who have been nurtured that are across various sectors, with a particular emphasis on manufacturing, healthcare and enterprises.

What is the core mission of the Centre, and how does it aim to impact India’s technology landscape? Could you share some key milestones or achievements that highlight its contribution to the ecosystem?

Our core goal is to foster innovation democratization in emerging technologies such as Internet of Things & AI. Through the development of prototypes and creation of solutions tailored to sectors vital for India’s progress, including healthcare, energy, manufacturing, the Center aims to address the nation’s specific needs. We have established ourselves as a frontrunner as enterprise innovation partner and as one of the most extensive deeptech startup ecosystems. There are over a thousand startups collaborating with us and benefiting from access to labs and industry partnerships. In these years we have successfully co-created indigenous solutions through collaboration between startups, industry partners, and governmental bodies.

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CoE Labs operating at full occupancy helping startups in prototyping and testing their products. We have demonstrated domain expertise in Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Enterprise technology and built a robust industry connections, encompassing over thousand enterprises and SMEs.

Our startups have streamlined manufacturing processes through intelligent automation, enabling automated visual inspection, anomaly detection, and predictive maintenance.

Apart from this, CoEs are advocating the India Innovation Story, hosting hundreds of delegations at the Center thus serving as an international platform to showcase technological prowess of India and foster global collaborations.

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With hubs in multiple cities across India, how does the Centre foster collaboration among startups, innovators, enterprises, and the government? What kind of support does it provide to these stakeholders to drive innovation in deep tech?

We have played a critical role in facilitating collaboration among entrepreneurs, innovators, businesses, and the government by establishing easily accessible labs and enabling system to grow.

We function as hubs, providing a variety of services such as mentorship, funding assistance, and networking platforms.

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We promote information exchange, idea development, and partnership formation among different stakeholders by fostering businesses and establishing collaborative ecosystems. We have effectively engaged relevant players and are facilitating focused collaboration within those industries. Overall, we’ve built an ecosystem that brings together startups, businesses, government agencies, and academics to collaborate on solutions, drive innovation, and promote economic development.

One of the important topics is harnessing IoT and AI for growth and innovation in India, particularly for MSMEs. How is the Centre facilitating this empowerment, and what role do these technologies play in enabling small and medium-sized enterprises?

SMEs can use technology to digitize their operations to monitor downtime, quality control, automation, energy savings etc and overall improve their efficiency. As a Centre of Excellence (CoE), we play a crucial role in facilitating the adoption of new technologies by SMEs ( Small, and Medium Enterprises developed by our startups. We have initiated the UDYAM 4.0 Smart Manufacturing Forum with the aim of promoting the adoption of digital technologies among micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the manufacturing sector. Through this we are helping these enterprises to start, scale, and sustain their digital transformation by overcoming roadblocks such as restricted budgets and lack of expertise, thereby enhancing their global competitiveness.

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We’ve helped farmers increase their crop productivity by providing crop insights using drone-based Hyperspectral Imaging technology.

Our efforts are focused on several key areas: conducting extensive research on emerging technologies to understand their potential applications and guide startups through different programs; providing them with information on technical solutions, best practices, leadership support, and management guidance. We help companies solve problems and set up development phases for new technology implementation by serving as a platform for knowledge exchange and capacity building for industry stakeholders; engaging in co-innovation activities to identify new solutions and test use cases; and collaborating with industry partners, research institutions, and government bodies to transfer advanced technologies, conduct research, and develop innovative solution.

Edge computing is gaining prominence, especially in applications requiring low-latency processing like IoT. How is the Centre exploring the potential of AI at the edge, and what opportunities does this technology unlock for various industries?

For years, the cloud computing revolution has forced businesses to consolidate more of their data and processing power in massive, remote data centres run by corporate behemoths. However, the pendulum is beginning to swing back towards a more decentralised computing model, at least for a few essential applications. Edge computing, which processes data locally at the “edge” where it is generated, is rapidly gaining popularity as a viable alternative to clouds. It has the potential to drastically reduce latency and bandwidth costs by evaluating data at the source rather than transferring it across the internet to centralised data centres, while also safeguarding data privacy and improving digital experiences. This distributed computing paradigm is poised to spark the next wave of innovation across industries. A substantial number of organisations are installing or exploring edge computing efforts during the next years, with many preparing to invest heavily in these projects. We are working with startups working on Edge technology and are helping them to connect with companies looking for such solutions.

Could you share some success stories of startups incubated at the Centre? How are these startups leveraging IoT and AI to bring transformative solutions to market, and what impact are they making in their respective domains?

Many startups using technologies from cutting-edge AI to computer vision technologies have benefited from the CoE programs. These solutions have optimized operations and boosted productivity. We enabled the implementation of predictive maintenance systems that use real-time sensor data to identify wear and tear, monitor tire pressure, and forecast future breakdowns, therefore improving safety and lowering costs.

Our startups have streamlined manufacturing processes through intelligent automation, enabling automated visual inspection, step verification, anomaly detection, automated assembly, defect detection, 3D vision monitoring, and predictive maintenance, leading to improved efficiency, reduced costs, and higher product quality.

There are success stories across sectors from Healthcare to Manufacturing to Agritech. For example, we’ve helped farmers increase their crop productivity by providing crop insights using drone-based Hyperspectral Imaging technology. This technology allows for a detailed analysis of plant health, enabling farmers to make informed decisions about irrigation, fertilization, and pest control. In another domain, a solution was deployed for digitized policing that ensures effective police patrolling, thereby reducing crime. This solution leverages AI and data analytics to predict crime hotspots and optimize patrol routes.

Additionally, in the healthcare sector, we have implemented vision AI systems for accurately detecting vision impairment. Another startup was enabled that uses AI in screening cervical cancer. All these solutions have made life easier for the citizens by delivering affordable healthcare.

By fostering innovation in these areas, not only the startups thrive, there is a significant impact on the lives of everyday people.

What are some of the key challenges facing India’s deep tech ecosystem, and how is the Centre addressing them? Additionally, what opportunities do you see for further advancement and growth in this space?

One significant challenge is the lengthy gestation period necessary for their very sophisticated and advanced technology. These startups may take couple of years to get a right prototype in place. This prolonged duration makes collecting financing, particularly post-seed funding, and maintaining operations difficult. Investors are unsure of the full potential and capabilities of deep tech

developments, which might make it difficult for these firms to get funds. Acquiring the multitude of skills and experience is another hurdle that deep technology firms encounter – an hardware startup may not have the necessary AI skills and vice-versa. There are some government grant programs to help technology startups and we see growing maturing in VC ecosystem that is looking at tech ecosystem. We are engaging with VCs through pitch sessions to help them gain a better knowledge of products, which will lead to higher investment. We see a strong network of research institutions, incubators, accelerators, and industrial collaborations emerging, which will enable India to fully realise the promise of its deep tech startup ecosystem.

Looking ahead, how do you envision the future of tech, particularly in terms of deep tech innovations shaping India’s landscape? What role will NASSCOM’s Centre of Excellence play in driving this future, and what are your aspirations for its continued impact?

India has already made a mark in digital and govt programs on DPI (digital public infrastructure) have been a catalyst. Deep tech in India is on a upward trajectory, thanks for more multinational companies and newer startups and more investments. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are at the forefront, with AI-powered insights and predictive analytics increasing operational efficiencies across multiple industries. The rise of generative AI, blockchain technology, Quantum computing, will be transforming industries, and reshaping many fields.

The centre will continue to enable more solutions, create more use cases and help enterprises to adopt newer technology and strengthen aim to boost investment, ecosystem support, and cooperation among business, academia, and government in these areas, allowing us to promote newer solutions, strengthen industries and create global partnerships. 

minus@cybermedia.co.in

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