Need for efficiency is the reason behind their growth
Of all the technology startups in Bengaluru, artificial intelligence (AI) and security- oriented firms make up 21 percent, making big data the largest product sold.
Big data, according to Oracle India’s website, refers to “complex data sets… that can be used to address business problems one wouldn’t have been able to tackle before.”
According to the Start-Up India portal of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, there are 2,925 technology-related startups in Bengaluru. Of these, 621, or 21 percent, are under the AI, computer vision, robotics, safety and security solution industry categories.
Several reports and studies have recently noted this upward trend not just in Bengaluru but across the country.
In a report titled “The future ahead: Evolving cyber security priorities in India” the Data Security Council of India, said that approximately 67 percent of its surveyed executives mentioned ‘‘improving threat management capabilities’’ as a priority in their businesses.
Analytics and Data Science India Industry Study 2020 by AIM Research explored the analytics domain across sectors. The sector, according to the report, saw a growth of 19.5 percent in its revenues since 2019, with Bengaluru gaining the major share of revenues at 29.4 percent.
This comes at a time when the research and innovation behind AI are at its highest in the country, driving the uptick in related startups.
Karthik Kumar, a machine learning engineer at Pixxel, Bengaluru, believes that the trend is a sign of the need for increased automation and efficiency.
“AI is often just a toolkit, the big data being the eventual product. And all of it is in place to reduce the manual effort required in any given field,” he said.
Talking to The Observer about Pixxel, an aerospace company, he added: “We use GIS mapping in agricultural fields to provide realtime imaging… about crops, to help them with their crop health. Without AI or data analytics, this would be a time-consuming process.”
Vikshut Mundkur, co-founder and CEO at HUVIAiR Technologies, believed this is a sign of an evolving public sentiment.
“We use visual intelligence gathered by our drones to improve the efficiency of our clients’ projects, especially in areas such as real estate. This used to be a manual effort job before. People were quite weary of drones before. However, now it isn’t the case. Even the drone laws have eased out, with a growing acceptance towards usage of technology,” he shared.
But Anushka Jain, associate counsel, Internet Freedom Foundation, is sceptical of these developments. “In our transition from being a developing country to a developed one, it has been identified that technology is the missing piece. So we have all these companies rushing to fill the gap, selling their products to the public and the government. However, when a group of engineers come together, they might have little insights into how their innovations might backfire or have adverse social implications.”
Mundkur said this misbalance is mostly because of the fact that startups are the pioneers of technology. “The technology often comes first, since startups are at the forefront of innovation. Only later do the laws and regulations catch up to regulate the practices. What needs to happen is that the government needs to be a little ahead of the curve, and be in the loop about what technologies are being developed. This way, through public consultations, they could make laws that are beneficial to both companies that innovate as well as the general public that utilize them.”
India has no laws with regard to AI, with the government prioritizing the large- scale adoption of the technology and its promotion, according to the NITI Aayog’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence. Simultaneously, India’s cyber security and data laws haven’t progressed beyond the Information Technology Act, 2000, and the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation recently adopted the liberalized Drone Laws 2021, doing away with some of its provisions like licences for nano drones and reducing the no-fly zone perimeters.