COVID 19 and Beyond: Startups on the Leading Edge

Looking beyond the immediate crisis, we have to also start thinking about the situation once lockdown starts easing and how the current crisis will shape future

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As the world battles COVID-19, technology startups are playing their role from the front. Be it the solutions for patient tracking and creating the profiles of people ‘at risk’ using their mobile location tracking, adding remote management capabilities to the hospital devices such as ventilator, using innovative approaches to build low-cost ventilators, solutions for remote consultants by doctors, using artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the X-ray; the various approaches being experimented with and brought to the market are only limited by the imagination.

At NASSCOM Center of Excellence, using Internet-of-things and AI we are working with multitude of startups to enable their solutions and take those to the right state and central government authorities for possible adoption as just development of solution in isolation is not good enough and it has to reach the right eyes and ears to really be the part of the battle.

Looking beyond the immediate crisis, we have to also start thinking about the situation once lockdown starts easing and how the current crisis will shape future. One thing that practically everybody agrees to is that some impact areas will be permanent in nature—many only initially till we have herd immunity all across so that the impact of COVID-19 starts looking like normal cold/flu; but some beyond that also because we find that the new approach is more useful than the old methodologies. We can identify work-from-home or remote working as a permanent impact since it provides significant saving for the corporates in terms of office rentals and facilities. Already some corporates are cutting down on office cost by having only the front office staff (primarily sales team) in high end offices while shifting the back-end staff to cheaper locations. However, the remote working will also open up more opportunities for gig workers/freelancers and for women workers who for certain reasons can’t travel long distance to the office. It will also open up similar opportunities for people in remote areas as long as they have the decent Internet connectivity.

Other impact that we can expect is to reduce the resistance to the digital technology adoption by corporates/manufacturing/healthcare/agriculture players. While there has already been the movement in this direction, going forward it is only going to accelerate and once the users start seeing the benefits of adoption, they will only want more. For manufacturing players, being able to remotely monitor the production status, inventory status, current pipeline and getting timely customized reports is extremely critical. For example, players such as bike manufacturers who have finished goods warehouse the size of football stadium spend considerable amount of time to look for particular model when shipment has to be made and for them having the capability to quickly move the trucks is a big advantage. Similarly for healthcare professionals being able to access past patient data collated from different sources or be able to access the expert advice remotely and on demand, are areas whose value can’t be underestimated. In the agriculture domain being able to save water consumption is an area whose value can’t be underestimated where many of the startups are deploying the solutions.

As these technology adoptions grow, so will the challenges. The data being generated will grow exponentially and so will the concerns around privacy, cybersecurity apart from the expectations in being able to utilize the data for further improvements. This will require the out-of-the-box thinking and innovative approach which is the primary hallmark of startups. Since many of the solutions don’t currently exist, we can expect the startups to exploit the business opportunities by developing newer solutions. Such solutions may be adopted as it is by the users or may be integrated in the larger platforms by large corporates which will allow the required scalability and repeatability of the solutions.

In summary, as we start looking to the future planning the role of innovative digital solutions by startups is unlimited. The digital-savvy users who are open to the idea of working with such innovators to explore the technology adoption will be the ones to benefit in terms of cutting down the costs and scaling up the operations. The biggest challenge of getting suitable startups on the same platform as the users is what the NASSCOM CoE – IoT & AI is striving to address. The smart startups who understand how to work with the users will be able to quickly capitalize on the opportunities. The space for innovation is unlimited.