IT

V-Guard working on digital strategy: Mithun Chittilappilly

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Kochi-based V-Guard Industries Ltd in Kerala state, is India’s leading consumer electrical and electronics major. It has evolved into a renowned consumer brand with market-leading products in select segments.

MithunMithun K. Chittilappilly, Managing Director of V-Guard Industries foresaw the need for market expansion beyond South of India, and consistently increased the footprint in other parts of the country. In 2012, the company established presence in Guwahati, and introduced new products, like solar inverters, switch gears and mixer grinders. His vision is to elevate V-Guard to the next level through long-term growth plans.

Chittilappilly said: “I joined the business in 2006. We have since grown. We had almost 50 percent revenue coming from voltage stabilisers. The revenue for voltage stabilizers has come down from 50 percent to 18 percent. Now, we are present pan India. We are also looking to diversify.

Strong player
“We have entered inverters and batteries, kitchen appliances, and switchgears. We have since become strong players in these segments, especially, water heaters. Today, the new categories are contributing 10-15 percent to the overall revenue. The wires and cables business is doing Rs 60 crore EBIDTA year-on-year. There was also a good boom in the construction industry from 2006-12. For water heaters, we have been doing business worth Rs. 8 crores.”

How did this come about? He added: “We changed the structure to several categories of business. Today, we have 2,000+ people on roll. We are fairly comfortable. We have two to three channels, such as electrical, battery, etc.

“We have DSIR-approved labs in Kochi. In Gurgaon, we have development teams for switchgear. We also have a separate team on industrial designs. We also have a team working on smart products, such as IoT.”

Elaborating, he added: “We are working on products that communicate with consumers. We have products that are connected, controlled and M2M capable. We are bringing capabilities like machine learning as well. We are also in the battery segment. The battery will be an expensive part of an electric car in the future.

“We are also building in auto diagnostics into devices. For instance, the next-gen water heater can communicate to the other water heater as well. In rural areas, farmers need to know when a pump should be switched on/off. We have automated that. We also need to ensure that the products are protected from natural disasters.”

Isn’t there competition from the MNCs? He noted that MNCs don’t bother much about Indian-based products. “Our retail is distributed. We have a great talent pool in India and we develop products. We are in the consumer electrical business and continue to do that well.”

“We have looked at automation, and find that robots prices are declining. We have distribution boards, where intelligent management is built in. We are looking at smart products that can make some difference to consumers. We are thinking of getting into modular switches, and smart home solutions. In kitchen appliances, if you have a mixer grinder, it can control speed.

“We are also working on a digital strategy for the company that includes looking at the predictive maintenance in plants, where AI comes in. AI may help reduce headcounts. We have to wait and see what happens.”

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‘Graying’ of salary budgets for India!

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India continues to remain cautiously optimistic on business performance as far as the business outlook is concerned. The graying of salary increases in India is a reflection on how India Inc. is coming of age. The macro question remains: if this represents a blip or a trend! These are among the findings of the 21st Annual India Salary Increase Survey by AON Hewitt.

The survey projects a drop in pay increases to an average of 9.5 percent across industries. While the inequity of pay remains a concern, the key reasons cited by the various employees across 1,000+ firms for voluntary attrition are role stagnation and limited growth opportunities.

aon2For almost a decade, manufacturing firms in India are budgeting higher salary Increases than services firms. A lower base and higher expectations has driven this behavior. Although, with increasing pressures on margins and improved salary base, the difference in the budgets has been gradually declining since 2013. Along with high performance – high potential and hot skills remuneration are now gaining acceptance.

The gradual slowing of pay increases and higher emphasis on productivity and performance indicates the ‘graying’ of salary budgets for India. Some industries are impacted more than others – and AON Hewitt sees faster moderation of pay increases in industries such as technology, telecom, consumer etc.

Inspite of lower salary increase budgets, top performers will continue to get lucrative hikes as companies focus on performance and criticality. While attrition was contained at a broader level, key talent attrition takes a hit. Differentiated people and pay practices slowly taking the edge away from compensation for Key Talent Management.

Projections for 2017 include salary increase projections across consumer Internet companies, life sciences, professional services, chemicals, entertainment media, automotive/vehicle manufacturing, and consumer products.

The study, the largest and the most comprehensive of its kind in India, analysed data across 1,000+ companies.

Anandorup Ghose, partner at Aon Hewitt India, said: “Political changes and economic headwinds have had an impact on business performance. However, the trend this year reflects a gradual slowing of pay increases and higher emphasis on productivity and performance – quite literally a ‘graying’ of salary budgets for India.

“The last year has shown organizations take a strong view towards performance differentiation and not only have bell curves become sharper, the pay differentiation between top and average performers has also increased.”

MasterCard, CAIT launch digital payments program in India

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The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) and MasterCard have announced a 90-day ‘Digital Apnao Vyapar Bhadao’ campaign to accelerate the adoption of digital payments among traders in India.

masterIn this campaign, CAIT and MasterCard will organize 500 camps across 50 cities in India over the next 90 days. It aims to on-board 5 lakh merchants and traders by bringing together financial institutions and other payments facilitators under one roof.

The camps will follow a three-step process of completing KYC documents, opening merchant accounts and helping them adopt the right digital payments solutions for their businesses.

Ravi Aurora, senior VP, Global Policy Affairs and Community Relations, MasterCard, said that the stress is on trade, As of now, around 10,000+ merchants have been asking for PoS devices daily. There is a need for more incentives across SMEs and consumers, so that they do not go back to cash-based commerce.

This step is in line with the Indian government’s multiple objectives of combating tax evasion, drive electronification, and prevent circulation of counterfeit currency. As of now, India has 1.5 million PoS locations and 0.2 million ATM locations. MasterCard is committed to a ‘less-cash society.’

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, CAIT, said that digital payments are very important for traders. It is also a pre-condition to embrace GST. He added that the first camp will be held today, Feb. 7, in Nagpur, followed by other cities, including, the metros.

Canon celebrates 20th anniversary in India!

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Canon, the world imaging leader, marked its 20th anniversary in India with a plan across its enterprise, commercial, consumer and social initiatives.

Celebrating two glorious decades in the country, Canon re-affirmed its commitment to India with the announcement of its ‘Vision 2020’, by Ms. Noriko Gunji, president and CEO, Canon Singapore and Kazutada Kobayashi, president and CEO, Canon India.

canon

Canon India’s Vision 2020 charts its next phase of growth in India. The company in the next three years, aims to penetrate further in the country with its offerings, augment the photography culture in India and introduce technological advancements across business and consumer products.

Vision 2020 also sets a growth target of Rs. 3,500 crore for Canon India, to be achieved by consistently attaining a year on year double digit growth. The company kick-starts its year-long celebrations to commemorate the 20 years with its business partners, vendors, consumers and employees. For 2016, Canon registered a growth of 9 percent, with the revenue aggregating to Rs 2,348.6 crore.

Ms. Noriko Gunji, president and CEO, Canon Singapore, said that India had established itself as one of Canon’s key markets. “We have brand loyalty in India. India will be a major contributor in our future.”

Kazutada Kobayashi, president and CEO, Canon India, added that twenty years’ progress cannot be made without partnerships. “Our CSR will be continuous as well. We are focusing on eye care, education, environment and empowerment.”

SAP consumerizing enterprise biz apps

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The recently-held SAP Spotlight Tour in Surajkund, India, emphasized heavily on the consumerization of enterprise business applications.

As we all know, all enterprises have applications that they have to manage. They also have data residing on the cloud as well as in the premises. Now, the SAP digital boardroom has been changing data into insights, said N. Sekhar, VP Engineering, SAP Labs India. There was a demonstration of SAP’s innovations regarding how customers can shop.

img_20161202_031320Sonam Wangchuk, founder, Students Educational & Cultural Movement of Ladakh (SECMOL), spoke about how students in the far flung area of Ladakh are enjoying playing with the sun, earth, fire and ice.

Three years ago, SECMOL came up with the idea of the ice stupa artificial glaciers. A pilot ice stupa stores approximately 1.5 million liters of water, and is used to water about 5,000 trees.

Now, SECMOL is said to be using siphon technology at the Lhonak lake, that resultantly, also helps water overflow to some other lakes. The ice stupa technology has since gone to Switzerland, near St. Moritz.

Deb Deep Sengupta, president and MD, SAP India Subcontinent, said the organization had img_20161202_031418now completed 20 years in India. “We are digitally enabling businesses to embrace a cloud mindset,” he added. “Technology is now driving innovation, efficiency and growth.”

On day 2, there was a session titled ‘Impacting one billion lives’. Dr. Ramesh Nimmagadda, managing trustee, Ramesh Nimmagadda Cancer Foundation (RNCF) said there have been disruptions in healthcare. There is a constant growing need to collect data, and then see what best can be done using that data.

According to him, the connected healthcare was growing in importance. RNCF has developed a data collection software. The next step would involve predictive analysis. “We must go digital. There is also a need to develop simple and cheap systems.”

img_20161203_155950Rajandeep Singh, co-founder, Kivi Technologies added that writing electronic medical records (EMR) would become much easier over the next two to three years. There is also a need to develop techniques to get different data to ‘talk’ to each other. Cloud is definitely the way forward.

Predicting electricity consumption with analytics tools

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The Weather Company, an IBM Business, talks about the analytics tools they use to help energy companies predict electricity consumption and traders understand expected changes in the weather. They also talk about how load forecasting is rapidly becoming all about handling Big Data, and how it’s going way beyond the spreadsheet systems of yesterday.

I caught up with Ed Cuoco, director, Data Science and Analytics at The Weather Company.

WeatherFirst, what’s the current status of advanced new data analytics tools and data scientists to improve forecasts for electricity consumption?

Cuoco said: “The sophistication and refinement in demand forecasting has increased by leaps and bounds over the last 5 years. The near-real time forward demand curve has become omnipresent within the demand, generation and merchant worlds. Today, the value of forward analytics lies in improving marginal accuracy and timeliness as well as including more diverse and volatile data sources (weather, renewable generation, etc) and applying the insight into more complex business problems where increased speed, accuracy and precision become ever more important.

“Indeed, forecasts have moved beyond capital planning, pricing auctions and energy to become critical across the energy infrastructure, from portfolio management and risk mitigation through demand management and even near-real time operational efficiency.”

So, why is there so much interest in data scientists?

He added that load data and related data sets are seen as core business assets; extracting the value of this data has become a critical task across energy-related businesses. This increased use also increases the criticality of contextual data quality (i.e., is load data that was good enough for thinking about yearly capital spend also good enough for near-real time trading?).

The role of the data scientist lies in the nexus of these two tasks; unlocking more value from diverse data sets (load data, customer data, operational data) while also helping utilities, ISOs, traders and other stake holders understand and overcome limitations in the data themselves to continue to drive more refined understanding and action.

Analytics tools
Next, we need to know what sort of analytics tools does The Weather Company work on/with, and what can those do?

Cuoco said: “We use most of the common analytical tools in the market, but what differentiates us is our underlying data platform and its ability to handle huge amounts of weather and load data. Every day The Weather Company maps 62 vertical miles of the atmosphere, all around the globe, to deliver 35+ billion forecasts along with 100+ terabytes of data.

“Four years ago, The Weather Company went through a transformation to a new cloud-based, cloud-agnostic, data-driven infrastructure. That “SUN” platform is an efficient Data as a Service (DaaS) platform that reliably handles these incredible workloads, leveraging 249 different open source tools with proprietary capabilities.

“Most of the platform was written in Scala, and a few of the technologies it leverages include Cassandra, Spark, Riak, and Redis. This platform allows us to turn Big Data into better decision making and provide demand forecasts to energy traders and utilities.

Finally, how is load forecasting now becoming all about handling Big Data?

The robustness, availability and quality of data sets varies tremendously from firm to firm and geography to geography, so there’s a lack of standardization and maturity. In some cases, load data is flowing in near real time at the meter level, in others, only at the grid level, and some in between.

With the implication that all the analytics are the same in principal, the real value to the industry is unlocking the value in the data sets as they exist now, not simply saying “when everything is robust, pristine and perfect, then you’ll see the value.”

What questions can be answered and how confident can one be in that answer is the crux of the big data question in this space. At the same time, load forecasting plays a central role across the energy and utility space, helping drive everything — from real-time demand response to optimizing the use of existing grid infrastructure and preventing catastrophic failures.

These predictions look minutes ahead for traders and days ahead for an ISO or utility, and the business needs to switch seamlessly between geographic and temporal filters. As the questions become more complex, interval meter data is critical but insufficient. Complex weather data, sensor data and customer behavior data all play a role in truly forecasting load and then applying that forecast to finance, operations and customer service.

And, how is it going beyond the spreadsheet systems of yesterday?

Cuoco concluded: “As analytics begin driving ongoing operations as well as strategic planning, the need to handle volume, speed and complexity dwarfs what even the most complex set of spreadsheets can accomplish while also pushing the limits on the underlying products used to create them.

“Further, when this increased business relevance is combined with the more robust, complex, and diverse data, the constant need to revisit and update even the best models becomes critical; analysis is no longer sufficient and, even now, we’re seeing the combination of advanced statistics and machine learning evolve.

“Soon, companies will need solutions that truly learn, interact and reason. Spreadsheets can’t keep up with the load or the complexity and, when pushed to their limits, increase the chances of critical failures in key analytical processes.”

Kandy embeds comms within apps, biz processes

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GENBAND is a global leader in real time communications software solutions for service providers, enterprises, independent software vendors, systems integrators and developers in over 80 countries. It recently released the Kandy cloud communications solution.

GenbandHow does Kandy enhance software applications with cloud-based features?

Carlos Aragon, director Kandy/UC Solutions Marketing at GENBAND, said: “The key term is not ‘cloud-based features’, but ‘cloud-based real-time communications’. Kandy is a communications platform-as-a-service (cPaaS) that provides APIs and SDKs to allow communication service providers (CSPs), enterprises and independent software vendors (ISVs) to embed communications within their applications and business processes. Kandy allows these players to make communications an integral part of their applications.

“For example, if you are working on your CRM platform and you need to contact a customer, typically, you would have to find the phone number and call the customer from your phone or softphone. Wouldn’t it be better to just click on the customer name in the screen and have that call happen automatically from within the CRM application? That’s exactly what Kandy enables, your applications can now trigger voice or video calls, messaging, co-browsing, collaboration and many other communication related activities, and you don’t need to be a communications engineer to make that happen or have an expensive communications network to terminate the calls.

“Kandy provides you with REST APIs consumed from a JavaScript, iOS or Android SDK to allow you to easily add this functionality into your apps from the Kandy cloud. But in addition to that, Kandy also provides pre-built applications (Kandy Wrappers, OTT clients and Unified Communication Clients) that simplify the process even further and reduce the time to market.”

Hasn’t it been long claimed that real-time communications will revolutionize the telecoms and technology worlds? Is this any closer to that?

He agreed that the the term revolution is very frequently abused. “We prefer to use evolution. For us, it is the natural step in ICT, first the integration of information technology and communications happened on the network level, by migrating voice and video to IP and using the same transport network to deliver them. We moved from dedicated telephone wiring in our offices to sharing the same Ethernet cables to connect our phones and computers and the analogue and PRI trunks have given way to SIP trunks over an IP link.

“The next step on this evolution was to have the integration at the application level. Real-time communications have already been consumed as applications for years (Skype, WhatsApp, Yahoo Messenger, MSN. Google Talk, and the plethora of Unified Communications Soft Clients in the market), but true integration of those components into business flows and applications never happened.

“Kandy bring us closer to that world, where communication is a natural part of our everyday applications. where a phone line is not tied to a physical telephone, where one can start a conversation with anyone, no matter which device (old and new) they are using from the device or application we choose. That’s what Kandy enables.”

SaaS and PaaS are also related. How is Kandy really different?

He noted that SaaS, PaaS and Kandy are related indeed. “Kandy is PaaS, more specifically, cPaaS (communications platform-as-a-service). With SaaS you obtain a fully functional application that you consume from the cloud (Salesforce.com, Workday, SAP C4C, even Facebook can be qualified as SaaS). With PaaS you use a cloud service as building material to build your final application.

“You can’t just start using PaaS because it doesn’t provide you with an application to consumer directly, instead, it provides you with an API and/or SDK to allow you to use its services within your application. But you have to develop on top of it. In the end, the difference between SaaS, PaaS, IaaS and on premise solutions is who is responsible for each part of the solution.”