What will work for Indian Startups in 2017 ?

As the new year dawns, it is time for most of us to make resolutions either realistic or far fetched. Millions and millions of people worldwide set out their New Year resolutions at the end of December.

Of course, on a personal front it’s probably something like “get my dream career", "lose weight”, or “save money”. But for entrepreneurs, resolutions usually sound something like “start my business with the eureka or big idea" or, if the business is already kick-started, "get my startup really rocking" or “get my series round of funding".

Startups and entrepreneurship have been the glamour hot buzzwords for the last few years in India. As India raced ahead to become the third largest startup ecosystem in the world, there have been spurts of reality checks more often this year. While Indian startups have multiplied in huge numbers, needless to say, there have been significant trends to clone the US eco system in India. With global players inching their way in Indian soil and funding narratives drying up, it is high time to contemplate what will make Indian startups tick in 2017. Time to move ahead of eCommerce, hyperlocal delivery…

Digital Transformation and Cloud
As India embarks on Digital India Movement, a digital transformation on a massive scale is almost certain In 2017 and beyond, enabled by cloud, mobile, big data and analytics, and social technologies. The grand demonetisation announced in November this year served as a catalyst accelerating digital technology adoption and digital transformation at a much faster rate than expected and the early competitive advantages will go to enterprises that can keep pace with the emerging digital transformation economy. Startups like JusPay, Chargebee, Wibmo are making significant impact in this space.

Needless to say, cloud is the prime enabler of digital transformation, which means that every business will be a cloud service provider of services to its own marketplace. As India strives to become a cashless economy, various modes of digital payments and mobile wallets will be increasingly the attractive option – a lucrative space for Indian start-ups.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning 
With technology gaining a strong foothold in almost all fields in India, the AI revolution to make tech smarter and better at predicting things, shows great promise about AI's possibilities to help foster innovation at a much quicker pace in 2017. Applied AI and advanced machine learning give rise to a spectrum of intelligent implementations, including physical devices (robots, autonomous vehicles, consumer electronics), as well as apps and services (Chatbots, virtual personal assistants and smart advisors). Not to mention the role of Big data behind AI's rise, given the sheer volume of data that the digital world currently accumulates.With the emergence of data scientists and machine learning experts all set to rock the Indian tech landscape, a scope for startups to truly innovate in the space – a huge market for blending human expertise with AI.

Of late, Chatbots have taken the enterprise world by storm as these automated services interact with and offer information to consumers, through a chat interface. Interestingly, AI is one of the prime technologies that is helping to make chatbots mainstream, . A future trend to spur even more innovation, specifically in the enterprise.

Indian businesses will increasingly look to chatbots to help reduce spending on customer service, insurance and financial services representatives. As digitisation pervades across the country, there is great scope for chatbots to become the hot consumer application of AI. With the flurry of companies opening their platforms for chatbot integration with companies' backend systems, the way people communicate with businesses is rapidly changing. Indian startups can also focus on chatbots innovation which is ripe for disruption in the services sector. AIndra Systems, Brainasoft, Morph.ai, Racetrack.ai, Fluid AI are leading the race of AI in India.

Thanks to digitisation and demonetisation, coupled with wide-spread penetration of internet, smart phones and eCommerce in the country, the issue of cyber security has gained prominence in the Indian context as well. One can expect growth in the cybersecurity space in 2017. Indian startups can be optimistic about this area as eCommerce and digital transactions grow exponentially in the country. No doubt that AI will play a growing role in cybersecurity. Security is complex and hard to manage, which is going to be constant challenge for Indian start-ups in this domain. With cloud computing and its adoption becoming increasingly popular and zooming like a rocket , the role of managed security service providers will be increasingly important in helping organisations reduce the risk of a security breach. With rise in volume of funds transmitted via digital channels, the banking sector is facing new challenges as unscrupulous elements and fraudsters have started devising ingenious methods to siphon money. The concern is growing among bankers and customers on the threats posed by cyber criminals. The latest incident of 3.2 million debit cards being blocked or recalled by Indian banks has sent jitters across the banking community. While the data breach took place between May and July, the fraud was discovered only in September and banks then decided to proactively change cards. Every new attack vector or vulnerability exposed , is an opportunity for the emergence of a cybersecurity startup to fill the gap. Indian startups like Deccan Infotech, Data Resolve Technologies, Secugenius, Valency networks are promising ones working in this sector.

IoT is gaining widespread prominence in India with the launch of Digital India and Smart Cities initiatives. As a step in this direction, Cisco and Electronics City Industries Association (ELCIA) formed a partnership to develop Asia's first end-to-end 'Internet of Things (IoT) Innovation Hub' in Bengaluru. Cisco ‘s ‘Smart City’ project using IoT in Bengaluru serves as a blueprint for the future of smart and connected cities in India.

The IoT wave is a great chance for India to create new startups and global brands as well as growth opportunities for existing companies and brands. The requirements of this massive and emerging market translates to exciting options for innovation in technologies like embedded design, semiconductor industry , communication systems thereby creating a new paradigm of pervasive computing. Exploiting AI and machine learning to deliver advanced behaviours and collaborative intelligent things, such as drones, autonomous vehicles and smart appliances, holds great promise. There are exciting Indian players like CarIQ, Sensegiz, Teewe, Entrib Shopworx coming up in this space. This is a golden opportunity for SMEs and startups in India in the coming year.

It is indeed an inflection point for Indian start-ups to shift focus to basics, quality, creativity , customer service and local conditions. An opportune era to transition from funding narratives. Will 2017 label India as a global powerhouse of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Looking through the Indian lens, can we have any realistic predictions for 2017, crystal gazing into the startup landscape ?

About the AuthorJayashree Patnaik@JPatnaik
Jayashree Patnaik is an entrepreneur at sparkbootcamp. Passionate, result-oriented strategic thinker and problem solver.

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