When oil prices turned absurdly negative in April, it was panic stations at oil and gas supermajors. Europe debated an accelerated shift to renewable energy. Oil rigs in the US turned off their taps as demand plummeted with the global economy’s pause to tackle coronavirus.
But the very week when oil prices tanked, a subsea oil company in Houston signed a major deal to deploy an industrial AI product from Flutura, a startup in Bengaluru. It turns out that improving a myriad operational efficiencies to reduce costs with real-time AI analytics of sensor data is much more urgent now for oil and gas majors. “Remote operations are no longer a luxury. They’re now a necessity for industries, and they need digital solutions," says Krishnan Raman, CEO and co-founder of Flutura.
BlinkIn is an Indo-German startup that helped emergency medical centres in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, install ventilators on a war footing with remote support using augmented reality, because technicians could not go to the affected area. It also found a critical use case for its AR product in care centres for the elderly in Italy, the second hotspot for coronavirus.
Conversational AI startup Yellow Messenger raised $20 million from US VC Lightspeed in April as demand exploded for enterprise-grade chatbots that could take over customer queries from call centres. Its chatbots also became active on channels like WhatsApp as brands resorted to direct-to-consumer sales. Another Bengaluru-based AI chatbot startup Senseforth saw new demand coming from civic bodies in Europe that were responding to an avalanche of citizen calls.
Time was when robots were mostly being made for factories and warehouses. But now robots from Invento and even autonomous vehicles from Ati Motors in Bengaluru are finding their way into hospitals.
Another maverick entrepreneur from Bengaluru, Arvind Lakshmikumar, whose computer vision products go into the arsenal of defence forces around the world, including the US and Israel, is figuring out new scope for night vision and other defence tech. Aruna Schwarz’s startup Stelae, meanwhile, is reassessing the market for her documents tech that is used by global enterprises in Europe and the US.
Apart from savvy founders such as these, other stakeholders in emerging tech from India are equally busy looking ahead at new opportunities and business models in the post-covid world. US multinational Netapp’s corporate accelerator in Bengaluru, that looks for innovation in cloud-based services; Swiss-Swedish giant ABB, whose corporate VC arm is deepening its engagement with Indian startups; international VC Vertex Ventures and early stage fund Ideaspring Capital that has a product innovation focus; corporate advisor and startup mentor Chintan Mehta of CXO Connect - they’re all figuring out the future. This could be India’s emerging tech moment, if startups and their backers find the pain-killers and digital solutions that the post-pandemic world desperately needs.
*You will hear these speakers from across the emerging tech spectrum share their insights on rewiring for the new normal at Mint’s India2Global Emerging Tech Conclave.
*Sumit Chakraberty is a Consulting Editor at Mint. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org