Will 2016 be the best year yet for innovation and entrepreneurship in India? It could be. Several elements are falling in place. Technology, applications, talent, funding and policy support are all aligned to create the best environment for startups in the country.
Technology, especially information technology (IT), continues to evolve to increase the speed of processors. Apple’s A9 processor, as well as other processors used in the latest smartphones, rack up impressive benchmark numbers. These numbers are better than those from the desktop computers of last year. With the announcement of Raspberry Pi Zero, the cost of a programmable computer has come down to $5 per piece. The prices of processing and storage on cloud are also coming down year-on-year. Smartphones and handheld devices have become the default user interface devices—costs of these are reducing for similar configurations too.
We will see an increase in the number of smartphones, with India already becoming the fastest growing market. This creates a larger market for smartphone-based applications and solutions.
With these developments and by combining the smartphone with backend cloud, it has become possible to develop more complex applications. Increasingly, this is the combination that is being used for enterprise applications like Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). For a startup, development costs and capital costs are lower than ever.
Programmable computers can be embedded in more devices and appliances creating a world of intelligent things—sometimes referred to as Internet of Things (IoT). Broadband connectivity is becoming cheaper and ubiquitous. With the introduction of 4G and LTE telecommunication services and technologies like WiFi, Bluetooth, NFC and ZigBee, we are able to create a world where everything that needs to be monitored and tracked can be connected together. We are able to create new applications like connected cars, smart homes and buildings, remote monitoring, wearable devices, smart grids, etc. The number of innovative applications will continue to increase as we continue to put intelligence into things.
Every industry is being re-imagined with these new IT capabilities. Taxi services, hospitality, education, health care, banking and finance are all being transformed and we will see more innovative applications in 2016. India can become the laboratory to the world since we have very few legacy applications—we are underinvested in IT and this can become a positive for us as we look to leapfrog in the use of IT in applications. These applications can be cheaper to use since development costs are lower. This will benefit India as well as the developing world at large.
With advances in computing and the use of computing in other sectors, we can develop newer applications. One such example is personalised medicine. DNA testing allows us to identify potential inherited diseases and, with genome editing, it is possible to eliminate some of these inherited diseases. With connected vehicles, we can reduce the number of road accidents. Wearable devices can be used to monitor the health of individuals and detect heart attacks, angina and strokes early. Digital cash can eliminate the use of credit cards or even currency notes. Innovation is limited only by our imagination and the need to preserve legacy applications that we are using today.
Research is an area where India can play a bigger role in the future. We have the talent and we are on par with information, thanks to the internet. Since the cost of living is lower in India, people costs would be lesser for the research conducted here. This will lower the overall cost of research and in the case of diseases, find cheaper and faster cures.
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(This story appears in the 22 January, 2016 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)