While businesses have been deeply affected by the ongoing pandemic, the startup community is not immune. In fact, many startups have faced visible declines in profits and structural transformations due to COVID. It has been a learning lesson for entrepreneurs to make startups thrive despite the challenges. Has the effect on deep learning and AI startups been also the same?
Analytics India Magazine got in touch with Sudhanshu Mittal, Head – CoE Gurugram & Director – Technical Solutions, NASSCOM Centre of Excellence to unravel the scenario of the AI startups.
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Nasscom CoE- the Center of Excellence is the largest deep-tech innovation ecosystem in India, comprising startups, innovators, enterprises and the government. It focuses on solving real-world challenges utilising technologies like IoT, AI, Data Science, Big Data, AR/VR, Machine Learning, Robotics and through extensive academic research. It is also helping startups develop solutions to combat challenges posed by COVID-19 and accelerate the implementation of solutions.
How is the tech startup community affected by the COVID pandemic?
COVID has impacted the startup community in multiple ways. For many of the startups, their cash flow has been adversely impacted due to instances such as non-receipt of payments from their customers. While they need to continue paying their staff, the revenue stream has been adversely impacted for such startups.
On the other hand, some startups have seen their fortunes growing. Startups delivering 3D printed solutions have seen orders for 3D printed medical parts. Those working on AI-based solutions have seen an opportunity to create social distancing enforcement solutions for large corporates and manufacturing units. CDR-based heat map generation opportunities have been generated by the demand from state governments to identify and track the suspected patients. The mature startups in the healthcare space have got opportunities to develop ventilators for hospitals. Contactless attendance requirements have generated opportunities for camera-based facial recognition and attendance recording.
In short, the impact has been across the spectrum. Some have seen their fortunes dwindle while others have seen new growth opportunities.
Are startups in the AI and data science space booming despite the pandemic?
Yes. In general, the startups in AI and data science space are growing despite the pandemic. Many new opportunities like contactless attendance and sound-based COVID identification have been created due to the pandemic. The requirement for remote monitoring of employees has seen significant growth which has aided such startups. As the corporates have seen the benefits of remote working of their employees and look forward to continuing with remote working to reduce the office costs, there will be more opportunities, especially in the cybersecurity area.
What are some of the challenges that the startup community is facing?
The key challenge for startups has been the loss of revenues because their customers are unable to pay and drying up of new orders. Startups by nature don’t have much cash and are dependent upon the continuous flow, and such problems threaten their existence much more compared to established companies.
How is NASSCOM CoE helping Startups Develop Solutions to Combat Challenges Posed By COVID-19?
NASSCOM CoE has been working with various state governments for the adoption of solutions developed by startups. In addition, NASSCOM CoE presented selected solutions to the empowered committee of Niti Aayog for their consideration and then subsequent adoption. Selected startup solutions were given wide publicity through the media channels, which led to inquiries being generated for the startups. Additionally, through its LHIF (Life Sciences and Healthcare Innovation Forum) platform, NASSCOM CoE has been promoting the startups developing relevant solutions.
What are some tips you would like to share with the deep tech startups to deal with the challenges created due to COVID?
Basic rules are simple – save the cash outflow, be ready to pivot keeping in mind the developing situations. While startups don’t have the large cash reserve of corporates, they do have the advantage of being nimble, and they have to play upon that strength.
What are some of the latest developments that NASSCOM CoE is facilitating the areas of AI, robotics, machine learning?
One of the key objectives for NASSCOM CoE is to promote the adoption of solutions being developed by startups. When we look at the manufacturing sector, we see that AI, Robotics and ML play key roles in the solutions in the domain of process automation, predictive maintenance, forecasting etc. NASSCOM CoE works with manufacturing companies and relevant associations to promote such solutions in their operation, thereby playing a key role in efficiency improvement of the manufacturing players as well as generating the business opportunities for the solutions developed by startups.
NASSCOM CoE also works with players in the healthcare segment to promote the relevant AI/ML solutions. These may be for disease identification through X-Ray reading, Intelligent microscopes with AI capabilities to assist the doctors. The potential for such solutions is there in multiple sectors, and NASSCOM CoE works with the stakeholders there to promote the adoption of the relevant solutions.