Going Digital in Namma Bengaluru

Srinivas Narasimhan

If you are like me, you would be probably taking your regular walk with the pleasant morning chill still lingering in the air, contemplating the enigma that is our beloved city Bengaluru. Yes indeed, what explains our sleepy, tradition-bound, by-two chai and thatte idli loving , unassuming and highly non-competitive city be the envy of other bustling, buzzing, ambitious and more strategically positioned metros to be the R&D centre of the world, Silicon Valley’s twin sister in the East and city of thriving entrepreneurship? In any report, using whatever benchmark, Bengaluru emerges the leading city in India on Digital Transformation. You can enjoy the contrast as highlighted by the two images on this page, one showing the enchanting old-world charm of Gandhi Bazaar, and the other capturing the glittering growth of IT Parks near Belandur Lake. But what is really going on here?

R&D Activity in Digital Technologies

When it comes to R&D activity, a veritable list of who’s who in Digital Technologies has set up shop in Bengaluru. Google, IBM, Microsoft and Adobe are all there. So have Cisco, Hua Wei, Rolls Royce, Boeing, General Electric, Mercedes Benz, Samsung and Texas Instruments. The list is growing by the day with Airbus, ZF (Commercial Vehicles Autonomous Operations) and Tesla joining the fray. All labs I mentioned above are working on state of the art Digital Technologies, be it IIOT, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Mobility, Wireless Communication, Block Chain, AR/VR, Cloud and last but not least, Digital Security. Abundant availability of talent, relatively lower cost of operations and real estate and availability of a supportive infrastructure are touted to be the major reasons for this explosive growth. Therefor you can safely bet that Bengaluru has a role to play, whatever be it, in the technological advances of tomorrow’s world which will be firmly anchored in Digital Technology.

Startups in Digital Technologies

Bengaluru is officially the biggest startup hub in India, with an estimated 8000+ startups in 2019. Most startups not only embrace Digital Technologies, but spin a successful business model out of them. We can classify these startups into two categories, those that are building technologies that enable industry digital transformation and the other that is exploiting these technologies to build new industry business models. The first category of companies are building AI, Analytics, IIOT, Mobility, Block Chain and Cloud Solutions to name a few. You can read about some of the leading startups in this area here. Belonging to the second category, we find companies making electric scooters, robots, wearable health devices, semiconductor components, security and pollution monitoring devices and Chai! There is a longer list of startups providing B2B services using digital technologies. The way that these startups have harnessed technologies is mind boggling. For instance, take the case of Chai Point, whose focus is on the last mile experience by being able to deliver chai quickly to consumers in a heat retaining biodegradable flask. Less than a year ago, they launched a fully automated IoT-enabled filter coffee dispenser. Chai Point is an omni-channel company benefitting by locating in Bengaluru and leveraging the tech ecosystem on offer. Read more about these startups here.

The Missing Piece

Bangalore is a thriving hub of millions of MSME units that have supported the light and heavy engineering industries anchored in and around Bangalore, contributing to the abundant engineering expertise that our city is known for. It also provides livelihood to a cosmopolitan workforce who have been assimilated into the traditional-modern ambience of the city. While these industries are rubbing shoulders with the best-of-the-best in digital technologies who work for top-tier MNC’s or have started out on their own, there is very little chemistry between them. The high technology expertise that is being showcased to the world has not percolated to the industry ecosystem sufficiently to bring in a Digital Revolution to the industry in Bengaluru. Should the Digital experts choose to turn their attention to the industry ecosystem in Bengaluru, especially the MSME variety, and embark on a fruitful partnership with them, we would have found the missing piece to securing a bright Digital Future for the city. What are the benefits?

  1. The technology companies get to try out their innovations in a much more familiar local industry ecosystem and hence deliver proven solutions to the world
  2. The Bangalore consumer, who has always embraced technological advances with both hands and feet, will greatly benefit from the all-round lifestyle improvements brought in by the technology
  3. The majority of the workforce in Bengaluru, who are mired in traditional engineering skills ill quickly upgrade themselves and will help bring home the outsourced industrial processes at scale, which is not possible today
  4. The startups (who have been extremely creative to begin with) will find more creative startup opportunities
  5. As in the past, Bengaluru can show the nation and the developing world, how to economically uplift themselves

What would help

For Digital Companies to help the Indian MSME and for the MSME’s to upgrade and adopt to the Digital Technologies, the key ingredient needed is finance. While any number of Government schemes and Public Sector Banks loan disbursements are being offered, there is very little offtake due to scepticism all around. What is needed is a tri-partite initiative between finance companies, Digital Technology providers and the MSME’s to work out a scheme that is mutually beneficial. I am reminded of the similar initiative in Real Estate where the Real Estate developers helped owners of an individual houses to build apartments securing loans from housing finance companies without major outgo from either party. There must be a forum where these parties can be brought to the table to initiate discussions on finding such a solution.

Keep watching this blog for updates, or write to me if you want to ask me, or share something with me on the subject. See you until next time!

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