DTU Times interviewed Sunil Solanki, Sr. Director, Head, SAP Cloud Platform, who attended the Startup Weekend as one of the judges.
There are multiple technologies that have a lot of potential in today's market. Being technical students, what are some technologies that we can tap into?
If we talk about the list of technologies, the list is endless. It could include anything from Cloud Computing to IoT to AI to RPA (Robotic Process Automation) to something you might not have even heard about. The idea is to figure out which technology to choose, since in today's date students are very confused and whichever technology that a senior follows everyone seems to be following the same path. A few years ago it was Cloud and now it is AI, RPA, etc. One should do a study of top companies in the field of technology and check the product or technology which they focus on currently, this will tell you what is in demand. If you go and see the blogs of Microsoft or SAP, SAP isn't talking about just ERP, they are also talking about RPA (Robotic Process Automation), Cloud Platform, Cloud Analytics, Conversational AI, etc.
There are some technologies which have not yet matured and there are more advanced technologies coming and hitting us, one has to be prepared to capture these technological shifts.
Nowadays, if the CEO of a company wants to get immediate data, say the production of one of his plants, he has to wait minimum 4-5 hours while 15-20 individuals all pass the information down the chain of command, whereas with automation, using a few chat bots and data analysis programs, he can simply ask Siri or Alexa and they will get the information in a few seconds. This is the practical reality and what is required, identifying areas which are running the entire supply chain today.
Nowadays mass recruiting is a common practice among Engineering Colleges, many students prefer to stay in the comfort zone and do not wish to go into these up and coming technologies, due to the risk factor. How can we create an environment for innovation bolstering students to go into these new fields?
This environment comes from the surrounding support ecosystem. Taking the example of DTU, it is my first visit here, I feel like you have everything. You have industry experts coming and guiding you and you are going to industries. The DTU management and administration is so flexible, I have never heard of an institute that is helping in patenting, research and incubation. These are the important aspects, that make it a highly open environment.
What are some of the key factors we look for in a successful startup?
Most people will tell you many criterion for a successful startup. In my opinion, for a country like India, we, as a people, are very efficient as we have our technological strengths and some weaknesses. Considering this, your startup should focus on a couple of things. Firstly, your startup should be impacting a lot of people in the beginning itself, even if it is B2B. Secondly, wherever possible, get a big company as your supporter. We always think to cut down on the cost by using open source or other such technologies, however in the beginning, your priority is to keep your business running, and if you can get a big supporter to give you a push by using their technology or products embedded into your business such that even they have an incentive to support you, you will go a long way. Since you are creating this idea from scratch and are involved with the entire working of the model, and you are also involved in marketing, and finance etc., getting a big company as your supporter will be of great assistance to you. So always take help from the ecosystem. Lastly, grey hair has to be respected, and that can come as expertise working for you, as a mentor, as a guide, as a professor or even as an industry expert, and that is something you have to respect because that insight is something you can never get without experience.
Many students here do not have proper experience in the fields of business, they do not know marketing or finance and how to create proper working business models. How can engineering students increase their exposure to the business side of things to ease the process of entrepreneurship?
Before being engineering students, you are primarily students. Don't limit yourself right now. The world you have seen in these 18-20 years are enough to create the entire story. In today's world, a samosa seller does not need an expertise in business or samosas, he can figure that out on the go. That basic test has to be done by you, because you aren't that ignorant, and you know a lot. In an institute like DTU, you also have MBA links and you can always engage them at the right stage for expertise. Never hesitate, never think you don't have the capability of doing something. Just for fine tuning or for presenting it to a bigger firm or to a venture capitalist, you can hire a small agency or a PR firm, and you can take your colleagues and your friends who are learning these skills. There are two things, one is Go Do's and the other is Show Do's. So first focus on the Go Do's and then worry about the Show Do's.
Any message you have for the students of DTU?
The message is simply that you have got everything. Great education that has got you here, and great exposure from people both internal and external to help you. Even the sky is not the limit for you. The branch tag also dissuades people from exploring options outside their stream. Someone in Mechanical or Automation might think he would get only Hyundai or Tata Motors. Can you not go in the IoT wing or the supply chain management wing of these big companies? So remove this stigma of branch from your mind. Engineering is a graduation which is a bit high-tech, and makes you use your mind more. Never, never, never be limited by your branch tag.