Nishant Malhotra Founder of Middle Road OPC Pvt Ltd & The middle Road platform on the evolving Sustainable Finance sector

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Podcast Episode 12: Gireendra Kasmalkar & Enabling Digital Transformation for Social Impact

Pic Source: Ideas to Impacts 

# Summary

This feature is based on the podcast with Mr. Gireendra Kasmalkar “Giri”, the Founding Director and CEO of Ideas to Impacts Innovations Pvt. Ltd., Lead Investor and General Partner at Pentathlon Ventures and Owner of the Ideas to Impacts Hub. I had a conversation with Gireendra on how technology is enabling a sustainable social impact within the society and the social ecosystem. The podcast features a detailed discussion on impact of technology accelerators especially in the B2B sector, and social impact of disruptive technology including Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Machine Learning among other technologies. The podcast is an excellent source to understand how various technologies are enabling digital transformation for a social impact both globally and in India.

“AI/ML is not another technology but a complete different way of doing things”. Giri

The ongoing pandemic has disrupted the world forcing businesses to rethink their strategy, especially in the digital transformation sector. Some businesses especially in the US, China, selected European countries including Finland, Sweden, etc. have emerged on the top by implementing a transformative digital strategy to enable social impact by leveraging technology. The following is an excerpt from my conversation with Giri and not a substitute for the Podcast. The read is backed by research with focused data points not found in the podcast elaborating on digital transformation efforts by businesses globally along with informative videos to enunciate the thought process. The feature includes a note on Artificial Intelligence, a brief on Blockchain and how it’s impacting the global development sector, Bond-i offering from the World Bank, cloud computing etc. An excellent read for the audience looking to know how emerging technologies are positively disrupting businesses to enable social change and impact within the society.

Nishant Malhotra| Founder & CEO | Middle Road OPC Pvt Ltd | The middle Road

Nishant Q: I begin our conversation by asking Giri how his work is enabling sustainable innovation in the technology sector through work in IoT (Internet of Things), Artificial Intelligence and machine learning at Impacts Hub. The hub is one of the largest accelerators/incubators in India. Please do share your work philosophy. How are you different from other incubators/ accelerators within this sector?

Giri: Our philosophy is that an early stage fund and an incubator / accelerator go hand-in-hand. At an early stage, the start-up does not just require funds but also mentoring, access to markets, access to talent and simply mingling with other entrepreneurs. We provide that at our Hub through our ecosystem of mentors, advisors and corporate partners, in addition to our partners and investors in our Fund. Being a fund + incubator makes us unique. Plus, we are in the Baner area of Pune which is a tech hot-spot. Within slightly more than a year, we have 30 start-ups, 350 techies (AI/ML, IoT, Block-chain), and more than 100 events where Gurus on various topics of interest of start-ups have spoken.

 

Nishant Q). Ideas to Impacts works on a low-cost Smart-Town Model. You have opened Small Town technology centers in tier 3 cities like Rajgurunagar, Satara, etc. Would you like to comment on how you are invigorating the model in non-metro cities? What matrix do you use to make sure the quality standards example people skill sets are on par with the best in India?

Giri: At Ideas to Impacts our tag-line is “Distributing the Future evenly”. In the fund, we do that by being in Pune when most funds are in Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore. But my background is IT services, and the “smart town model” refers to what we do in our IT services company by delivering cutting edge IT services from the non-metros. The fact is that the “best in India” had to come to metros from all over in search of opportunities. If the opportunities can be taken to them, at least some of them will choose to stay back. This is simply the logical next step of Indian off-shoring. The delivery pyramid of the smart town model includes a metro layer with seniors and the non-metro layer with juniors. With this combination of skill and aspiration, and right distribution of work, we hope to have even better delivery than from the purely metro model. That is required if the model is to be sustainable. BTW, we see COVID providing a big boost to our model with everybody getting used to remote working. Just as Y2K gave a boost to Indian off-shoring 20 years back.

Our conversation delves into Pentathlon Ventures and the significance of business 2 business (B2B) technology companies in India.

Nishant Q: B2B technology companies are one of the fastest rising companies among the Startup ecosystem in India. According to Zinnov, in 2018, 43 percent of the 7,400 start-ups in India were in the B2B sector up 26 percent of 3,100 start-ups in 2014 from B2B. 1 This is a whopping 294.8 percent increase in just four years. In which technology sectors have you seen an upside among your portfolio of start-ups. What parameters do you look for in selecting your companies’ example metrics, KPI, etc? The podcast link on iTunes.

 

Giri: With B2B-Tech our focus is horizontal and we look for all verticals that B2B-SaaS can disrupt. We look for companies with early revenues in India, but must have the scope to go global. The conversation talks about rising importance of emerging technologies especially Cloud Computing and Fintech both globally and in India and the open source India Stack fintech project.

Graph: Microsoft segment wise revenue comparison for quarter ended March 20 Y-o-Y; fig in $B

 

“Cloud computing today is one of the biggest enablers for business among the SMEs small and medium enterprises globally including India. SAP, a leading multinational company in the enterprise software especially ERP solutions derives 80 per cent of its business in India through the SME sector. SAP recently launched Global Bharat project in association with NASSCOM Foundation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Pratham InfoTech Foundation to provide skilling along with access to global markets by transforming digital businesses among the MSMEs. (micro, small, medium enterprises. ” The middle Road 

# Enabling Social Change & Impact

I ask a question on B2B eCommerce sector wherein the revenues are expected to be ~$250B this year? 2

Giri discusses his view on the B2B eCommerce sector and how he is directly enabling a social impact within the society through initiatives like Smart India Hackathon. Giri is the board member and President of the Executive committee of I4C that promotes many initiatives including the Smart India Hackathon which drives innovation among students in India. The idea is to understand the evolving mindset among the youth and how the initiatives differentiates itself from similar projects including Atal Tinkering Lab program. Its noteworthy to understand the problem-solving behavioral impact among children through a focus on experimental learning exemplified by countries like Finland. Giri further talks about his role in driving social innovation and entrepreneurship through Pune International Centre – Social Innovation Group, where he mentors the awardees (tribal /rural /urban) of annual National Conference of Social Innovation.

Nishant:  According to Accenture, AI could add ~$1T in the Indian economy by 2035

Towards the end of our conversation, I highlight that 11 per cent of social start-ups in India are from Ed-tech (NASSCOM report). The idea is to drive the importance of social entrepreneurship within the business ecosystem for enabling solutions for less privileged using technology or other means. A significant part of our conversation is on the social impact of emerging technologies with a focus on Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Blockchain.

Blockchain is increasing deployed globally for social good. Accenture Lab’s collaboration with Akshaya Patra, a leading non-profit in India for the “Million Meals Project “is an excellent example of “Tech For Good” i.e. technology enabling social good for the underserved communities.  The middle Road 

# Technology, AI, Blockchain and Global Development: Rise of Fintech

During the podcast, Giri mentions about use cases as examples to drive his point about the impact of emerging technologies like AI and ML among startups in India. Giri gives a poignant overview on how artificial intelligence is making a difference through examples including self driving cars.    

                                “AI/ML is not another technology but a complete different way of doing things”. Giri

According to Bain & Company, AI is defined as a machine’s ability to autonomously perceive, understand, make decisions about and react to its environment.

“Bain & Company researched the proliferation of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the consumer-packaged goods industry CPGs, a sector which is in AI infancy. AI leads in sectors like retail and tech while wholesale and business services are laggards based on google trends listing search results associated with company name with AI or machine learning published last year. To understand the AI maturing within the CPGs, the Bain team measured companies against two criteria: AI portfolio size and scale realization to segment the companies into five AI brackets led by AI Scale leaders. They attempt and scale more use cases across function areas. Although data is limited, the results of the study are startling. A global packaged food company which lost $100M per year due to excessive perishable cost, redesigned its manual forecasting and order processing methods using AI and machine learning to attain a 40 percent to 50 percent reduction in waste backed by 50 percent reduction in dedicated labor hours. The solution was scalable, repeatable to identify inefficiencies within the set processes for improvements in functionalities. This points to the measurable impact of the emerging technologies to improve both the top-line and the bottom line of businesses, especially during the pandemic. At the same time the adverse effects of increasing automation using AI and machine learning will lead to increased job losses especially among blue-collared workers.” The middle Road 

BLOCKCHAIN is one of the most promising emerging technologies in the world today. The technology behind cryptocurrency Bitcoin, Blockchain is increasingly being deployed across different industries especially banking and global development by facilitating transactions including crowdfunding. Blockchain is a peer to peer distributed ledger technology with series of blocks containing information, with each block containing the marker code to the next block, making it impossible to manipulate the data. Originally designed in 1991 by a group of researchers to digitally timestamp documents to prevent backdating of the documents, the technology today is driving transparency and accountability behind global transactions.” China successfully employed Blockchain technology to drive philanthropy within the country while The World Bank created Bond-i, a bond issued using the distributive ledger technology signifies the increasing role of Blockchain technology within the development sector.” The middle Road

 

“Healthcare is one critical sector wherein Blockchain is making increasing inroads to drive accountability and transparency. Kenyan Start-up Afya Rekod is using blockchain to build a global healthcare platform to mitigate health risks due to COVID-19. China implemented Blockchain technology within its hospitals to aid in optimizing its response during the heydays of novel coronavirus spread within the country. Singapore’s Trace Togther app is changing the paradigm of fighting COVID-19 by automating the data among its citizens who are in close proximity making contact tracing easier. The Singapore government is making the platform open source to enable countries to make use of the technology for fighting the healthcare crisis. Emerging technologies are not only changing the global landscape in both the social and business spheres of life but also transforming the development sector. Although a lot is within the realms of social good, a significant portion of its impact is hindering the wellbeing of society. In recent years, social media adverse effects have enabled social isolation, promoted racial hatred through social platforms leading to the detrimental of human nature. A mindful regulation of harmful practices closely attributed to unadulterated use of disruptive technology is recommended to enable a long-lasting sustainable change and impact within the world.” The middle Road.

All publications, articles (except one until today under guest feature), tutorials are written, researched, structured and presented by me (Nishant Malhotra), Founder and CEO of Middle Road OPC Pvt Ltd. Guest features under Insights section are recorded under guest names while posts by interns are published under their name. Until now only one article has been published  under Insight by a guest. All guest publications are edited and elaborated by me before its posted on the site. Most of the podcasts were recorded and edited by me except a couple of podcasts videotaped by the client and a couple of podcasts recorded and edited by a professional. These were further edited by me before presenting on the platform The middle Road.

  1. https://www.digitalistmag.com/digital-economy/2019/03/19/b2b-startups-are-on-rise-in-india-06197130/
  2. https://www.ibef.org/industry/ecommerce.aspx#:~:text=India’s%20internet%20economy%20is%20expected,the%20highest%20in%20the%20world.
  3. https://www.nasscom.in/system/files/secure-pdf/Indian_Start-up_Ecosystem_2018-Final_Report.pdf

 

 

 

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