From assisting a customer in making transaction to improving the whole retail experience, the 'Internet of Things' (IoT) promises an automation of almost every manual activity.
According to the tech industry predictions, there would be as many as 30-35 billion IoT installed units by 2020, where these units/web-connected physical objects will communicate with each other via the Internet. It is said that IoT will revolutionise the way hospitality, entertainment and retail industries function.
Striking a similar thought, Himanshu Chakrawarti, CEO, The MobileStore Limited, said, “IoT will change the way the devices interface with customers and also the way the devices interact with each other. From wearable technology to lighting to security solutions to medical appliances to home appliances to automobiles, everything will see significant activity in the coming years.”
India’s IoT Ecosystem
The government, too, seems keen to promote the Internet evolution in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan of developing 100 Intelligent and Digital Smart Cities by 2020 is a positive step toward expansion and awareness of the IoT in the country. An interesting case of IoT happened last year in August, when Vishal Gondal, CEO and Founder, GOQii, launched a beta program - a wearable fitness band by the same brand name, which offered personalised coaching to its subscribers. Collecting subscribers’ daily activity - monitoring their sleep to guiding them towards their health and fitness goals through a mobile app, was one-of-its-kind IoT-enabled wearable bands.
Sharing his thoughts, Gondal said, “It’s not a band, it’s an ecosystem. The services around it include personal coaching to enable the user to reach one’s fitness goals. The data is collected from the band, goes on the mobile app on your smart-phone and gets transmitted to the servers at GOQii, enabling the advice from fitness experts.”
A big retail outfit such as Infinity Retail has already started selling such products. Avijit Mitra, CFO, Infinity Retail Ltd, shared, “India is witnessing the penetration of such devices which has begun, albeit slowly, with the introduction of wearables in the smart watch category. Croma currently retails smart watches manufactured by Samsung and Sony.”
Another maker of wearable technology, Mohammed Hussain Naseem, Co-founder and CEO, GetActive, talks about the product’s reception and how big companies are investing in them for employee engagement and wellness. He informed, “Some of the key names are: Cisco, Wipro, GE, Intel, KPMG, CIGNA, Apollo-Munich Insurance, IBM etc.”
MAID, an Android powered oven by Kochi-based SectorQube, Inc, a firm integrating IoT into consumer durables, has been received very well, too. Said Sabarish Prakash, Co-founder, SectorQube, Inc., “We raised $124000 in a month of our crowd-funding campaign. We also got a number of pre-orders from India as well as around the world.”
Vinay Nathan, Co-founder and CEO, Altizon, said, “We have Aliot appliance, Aliot SGA and Datonis platform for connected IoT devices, and our customer segments would be: System Integrators in manufacturing, Smart Grid, Smart City and Smart Health; and Industrial and consumer product companies looking to build IoT enabled products.”
Consumer Consumption: A Challenge
Issues like infrastructure, cost of IoT devices and Internet bandwidth are going to be hurdles in the way of IoT and its implementation in India. “IoT is an opportunity, but privacy and who pays what for the services it will offer, are questions that the market will discover in due course of time. If IoT will only lead to erosion of the margins of manufacturers, then the model is not sustainable. The customer will pay for the convenience he is seeking,” said Anupam Bansal, Executive Director, Liberty Group.
Apart from the consumer consumption issues, for retailers like Sapna Book Co, who are using the online space and IoT aggressively, it is a different story. Nijesh Shah, CEO, SapnaOnline.com (Sapna Book House) and Bookadda.com, shared, “We have installed in our stores what we call ‘Buzz Points’, which enables the customers to log in and scout through the various offers available at the bookstore. The information gathered is then used at the time of marketing. We are able to connect with our user in a more targeted fashion today, and therefore are beyond being just a bookstore.”
Clearly, we are about to witness the golden age of retail. Will IoT be a major disruptor for retail? This is the big question.
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