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The upside potential of IoT in India is enormous: Juergen Hase, CEO, Unlimit

By Anusha Ashwin

Reliance Group, one of India’s leading private sector business houses, led by Anil Ambani, recently inked a strategic partnership with Cisco Jasper, in November 2016, to launch a new venture called Unlimit — a company solely dedicated to providing Internet of Things (IoT) services to enterprise customers throughout India.

Unlimit – equipped with the Reliance Group’s diverse resources, the nimbleness of a startup, the high-profile partnerships and an international management team – aims to tap into the growing potential of the IoT market in India. In an interview with Voice&Data, Juergen Hase, CEO of Unlimit, discusses how IoT is revolutionizing India’s businesses from developing clean-green initiatives to connected cars.

Voice&Data: Unlimit is Reliance’s dedicated set-up for IoT-based solutions. What is the background behind its inception?

Juergen Hase: India is rising as a prominent hub for a robust developer environment in the world. With a strong IT backbone and an enormous pool of young inquisitive minds, the country ranks third amongst the start-up habitats of the world. There is an evidently growing interest in the IoT technology that is primarily fueled by the nation’s government-backed projects. However, unlike other nations such as Germany where IoT serves as a catalyst to increase efficiency, this technology takes a fundamental yet diverse approach for India; serving as end-to-end solutions that serve a basic but wide range of sectors.

Starting on this path and building an organization around it, Unlimit has established its mark in the Indian corporate landscape as a business unit that solely focuses on IoT. Backed by India’s leading conglomerate, Reliance Group, Unlimit is driven by an in-depth knowledge of the Indian market and an unparalleled expertise of IoT implementations ranging from connectivity, application enablement, devices, analytics, and incidence management.

Voice&Data: You have recently assumed this role as CEO of Unlimit. What are your strategies to steer the organization?

Juergen Hase: For the Internet of Things (IoT) to thrive, companies developing products for both consumers and enterprises need to find common ground and develop systems that can actually connect. When new technologies have burst on the market in the past, players have always responded by forming new partnerships and restructuring existing ones.

We expect that, as a result of the rise of the IoT, companies that not used to working together now will need to find ways to do so. And existing partnerships may be affected by the industry structure. All this means that, whatever your business, your alliance strategy most likely must respond to truly be a part of the IoT revolution. We have already done this by establishing strong partnerships with established IoT stakeholders such as Cisco Jasper and Cumulocity.

Voice&Data: Unlimit’s IoT solutions have been designed for almost every vertical. Is it customized according to the client or is there a uniform platform on which the IoT solutions are deployed?

Juergen Hase: Our customers are primarily businesses and utilities with assets that they want to track or monitor to improve efficiency and profitability. There are countless commercial IoT use cases and more being conceived by developers every day.

For established use cases, we will offer vertical solutions. Beyond these, with our API-based architecture, we see no limitation regarding adapting new application in an absolute short time to our portfolio because we are working closely with many partners who have long experience in their respective domains.

Voice&Data: Could you elaborate on the partnership with Cisco Jasper?

Juergen Hase: We are the only provider in India that has the Cisco Jasper cloud-based connectivity platform, which we call Unlimit Control. More than 4,000 companies across dozens of industries in more than 100 countries already use this platform.

Our strategic partnership with Cisco Jasper has helped us seamlessly deploy Unlimit Control to our customers. Unlimit Control offers unique capabilities that can make a real difference in how quickly and successfully you grow your connected device business or enterprise deployment. Every enterprise has a unique model to use connected services to create new experiences, get closer to customers, and grow the bottom line. Unlimit Control can be customized to support any type of device deployment and network usage models, so you can tailor the implementation of device connectivity to your specific goals.

Voice&Data: What kind of network support does Reliance Communications provide to Unlimit?

Juergen Hase: Unlimit leverages the best-in-class 4G LTE coverage along with 2G & 3G from RCOM and other roaming partners.

Voice&Data: On a comparative scale with other countries, how do you see India’s IoT business scaling and what according to you is needed for India to position itself as a key player in the global IoT business?

Juergen Hase: In India, we see far more opportunities than challenges. We often hear people in the business community talk about “green fields” and untapped markets. The reality is that these are very rare. With respect to IoT, India is truly an untapped market.

For example, my team has done some high-level analysis and we estimate that there are fewer than three million SIM-based IoT devices in India. By comparison, there is one carrier in the United States that has over 30 million devices on their network alone. The upside potential of IoT in India is enormous.

Another reason to be optimistic about IoT in India is the favorable position of the Indian government. They have been instituting a number of smart, common sense policies such as smart cities, support for agriculture and the “Clean India” initiative. All have significant IoT components. One of the great things about working in IoT is that there are many opportunities to make a direct positive impact on people’s lives.

The Indian market is different than North America or Europe. The economics on the ground are different and the average opportunity size is different. Because of downward price pressure, devices from other parts of the world are often not cost effective in India. To solve this, we have recruited a number of Indian partners who manufacture their IoT devices in-country.

In North America and Europe, IoT businesses can thrive by only going after large fleets. This is not possible in India, as there are a limited number of large opportunities and many smaller ones. To be successful in the Indian market, you have to be effective at going after “the long tail”. This is only possible by having a vibrant partner ecosystem.

Voice&Data: The IoT process handles vast data. How does Unlimit offer secure data management to its clients?

Juergen Hase: Data security at Unlimit is a high priority. As an Unlimit customer, you will benefit from a data center and network architecture built to meet the requirements of the most security-sensitive organizations. Additionally, Unlimit leverages GSM communications technology which has been proven to be one of the most secure in the world.

Voice&Data: Among all the verticals, which vertical according to you, seems to have a huge demand for automation in India and why?

Juergen Hase: Production of connected cars is growing rapidly in both mature and emerging automobile markets and poised to touch 61 million in 2020 according to the research firm Gartner.

The Indian transport sector is one of the most diverse and large in the world. Catering to the need of around 1.25 billion people across the country, India transport industry contributes about 5.5 percent to the nation’s GDP. Today major Indian cities are home to millions of vehicles, contributing profoundly to traffic congestion and inadequate parking infrastructure & operations.

The government is aiming to make the country, a 100 per cent electric vehicle nation by 2030. Intelligent Transport Systems will make transport safer, more efficient and more sustainable to all modes of passenger and freight transport.

Voice&Data: What are the company’s near term and long-term goals and strategies?

Juergen Hase: Moving forward, we are looking at 4G integration with Unlimit Control, LoRA Integration and on boarding certain device level partners to help us increase our vertical solutions portfolio. We will also be focusing on the Analytics layer as a part of our horizontal solutions.

Along with this, we will also focus on Innovation Engagement and University Programs to help nurture young talent.

Voice&Data: Can we see more office establishments by Unlimit in the coming years and also an increase in human capital numbers?

Juergen Hase: In the last nine months, our team size has increased by almost 250% and we plan on hiring more people to help us build Unlimit. Even though we are based out of Mumbai, we already have sales teams deployed in all the major cities of India.

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