Startup Saturday: Here’s why AI, Internet of Things and cloud computing is the future
The New Year has brought in a sense of uncertainty about what is in store for startups in the coming months. Which businesses will grow? What ideas will play out better now? Namita Shibad talks to the industry captainsUpdated: Jan 12, 2018 21:57 IST
Ready-to-eat food will have better sale
I think time and health will be of essence in the food and agriculture industry. As technology advances, it has become more and more difficult for the ‘aam aadmi’ (common man) to find time to engage in activities. With both spouses working and being on call most of the time, the chances of anyone cooking food in the traditional way is diminishing as we move ahead. People now spend more time commuting and come home tired, so no one will cook the way their mothers did. Therefore, this year, I think business opportunities will lie in the ready-to-eat segment, which is already growing by leaps and bounds. You do have some players in this field, like MTR, but there’s more to it. Right now, it’s more like ‘jo dhikta hai woh bikta hai’ (it’s available in the market, so it is being sold). But I think there is a huge latent demand for ready-to-cook or ready-to-eat products. Greater availability will lead to increased demand.
The other area that will see growth is health. More and more people are now aware of the benefits of organic food. I feel that, right now, the supply cannot meet the demand. So technologies that enable better organic farming will see growth. Whether it is soil, seed or water management, all that will help produce organic food will see growth. Food processing is another area that could see growth as currently, a large amount of agricultural produce goes to waste and processing has become the need of the day. Time is of essence and therefore, online food retail will grow and so will quick-service restaurants.
Cloud data will offer new avenues
The job of an entrepreneur is to see what problems his ideas can solve and how things can be done in a better, faster and cheaper manner. The typical areas would be food, water and energy, but it is technology and the way it has moved that will provide opportunities. Technology helps them take a step forward and builds a platform that entrepreneurs can then use to build their businesses.
To that end, I think cloud computing and data are the fundamental backbones that provide businesses a platform. But what you do with it, is important. So, for example, let’s assume you now have the ability to predict the weather of all cities across the globe. This information can become important to people selling say umbrellas as they will now know when it will rain. The availability and integration of data on a cloud offers huge opportunities.
In India, the proliferation of smart phones has been a big boon. E-commerce would not have been possible if it was not possible to make payments online. Now that payments are getting more integrated due to the advancements in technology, it is possible to make payments using your mobile phone and not your credit card. So there could be an app for rural areas which would help them know the prices of goods in cities. Ola would not have been possible without maps. Technology will aid the creation of next gen apps not even imagined of previously.
I think there are three layers that will impact business. the first one is cloud infra, which will sit at the bottom of everything. Second is machine learning that give users the ability to monitor and handle huge amounts of data and the third is the Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, which will also play a huge role. These three pillars will facilitate things that are even hard to imagine.
Intelligence will go artificial in stores soon
Businesses will be marked by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and IoT that will bring about innovation in every fathomable space, including the retail space. Brands focus on customer experiences and engagement. This will be enabled via AI and IoT. For example, a noodles manufacturer is already testing its AI platform that engages with their customers. They have implemented a bot that runs on AI on its website which that enables customer conversations. This bot can help the company understand what flavours people prefer, what is their experience with the noodles, what they are likely to buy and so on.
So using AI, I am working with people in the United States of America to create a bot for a fashion store. This will not be an app as there are too many apps and many people only keep a select few. This will sit on the messenger and help you, for example, locate a dress that you saw your friend wear at a party. It will show you whether this store has the same dress or something similar. When you walk into the store, it will show you, based on your previous purchases, where clothes of your type are located and whether your size is available. At the payment counter, you can photograph the labels and inform the bot to send it to your mailing address after making the payment via your phone.
The applications of AI and IoT are immense. Imagine what a bank could do? The key will be understanding how to use these technologies to solve the pain points of customers and give them a better experience. In my opinion, apps will disappear. All these bots can be stored on a messenger, making it simpler to use.
Steady growth will be seen in health and energy industries
In my opinion, there are four areas that will see growth. In the food and agriculture business, technologies that can discover things, say bio-degradable materials for food packaging or better management of resources such as soil and water, will be in demand. the second area that will see a sure growth is IoT as it presents huge opportunities. Within IoT, it is the sensor development department that will attract more attention. Things like detecting motion to switch lights on or off or detecting irregularities in blood pressure to warn doctors will see a growth.
The third area is health. I feel all technologies that help with nutrition management and prevention and management of health will be in demand. And the fourth is energy. India has recently passed the national Waterway bill. This means that there will be new opportunities in the marine transport field. The government has also put restrictions on polluting fuels used by ships. Methanol is the next big clean fuel and is being pushed by the government, so this will also offer big opportunities to entrepreneurs.