Our R&D efforts at NEC Laboratories India have enabled our ‘In India- For India’ strategy to develop innovative solutions

As part of our ‘India Go Big’ initiative, NEC intends to double the workforce number by 2023: Aalok Kumar

Japanese multinational information technology and electronics company, NEC Group works on the motto of creating ‘Solutions for Society’. True to its motto, since 1950, NEC in India (rebranded recently as NEC CORPORATION INDIA) has been standing tall in India’s telecommunications’ journey. Shoulder to shoulder, NEC has been responsible for several projects that has made India a digital powerhouse.

In an engaging conversation, Aalok Kumar, President and CEO, NEC Corporation India (Formerly known as NEC Technologies India), reveals on how NEC operates in India, its role in India’s ambitious telecom projects, and on the company’s expansion plans in the country.

Few excerpts:

Voice&Data: To begin with, let us understand from you on how NEC Corporation India – after you have assumed your leadership role as President and CEO in April 2020 – evolved in the communications infrastructure vertical?

Aalok Kumar: For several decades, NEC has led from the front in transforming the Indian society. As countries across the world reel under the impact of the pandemic, NEC has been focusing on empowering governments and businesses to unleash the power of digital. To this end, with our ‘In India – For India’ strategy, we are focusing on strengthening our R&D efforts and developing innovative solutions at NEC Laboratories India to create social value and drive long term impact.

NEC has been a pioneer in the telecom industry over the past 70 years, offering cutting-edge solutions and infrastructure to all leading telecom service providers in the country. In the last 10 years, we have dominantly sold microwave backhaul. More recently, we have completed a major infrastructure project – Chennai-Andaman 2,314 km long undersea optical fiber cable project – which was inaugurated by Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi.  This marquee project is going to improve connectivity in the islands significantly thereby enhancing commerce, education, and tourism opportunities in the region.

As India moves towards 5G, NEC India will be playing a pivotal role in 5G hardware and software development. This will not only position NEC strongly in the Indian market but will help in strengthening global presence.

We are committed towards contributing to the development of safe, secure, and smooth communications infrastructure by expanding our solutions business portfolio. With our large pool of engineering and technology talent across the communications domain, we are contributing significantly to the digital transformation of the country.

As India moves towards 5G, NEC India will be playing a pivotal role in 5G hardware and software development. This will not only position NEC strongly in the Indian market but will help in strengthening global presence.

Voice&Data: Recently, the Andaman & Nicobar Islands were connected with submarine optical fiber cable boosting digital infrastructure. NEC India has been the major enabler for such an accomplishment. What is the expected outcome from being part of enabling this infrastructure and how do you see the country progress in its digital infrastructure capabilities?

Aalok Kumar: We are delighted that we have completed the first-ever 2,312- kilometer undersea optical fiber cable project for Island connectivity in India. This project is a testament of the success accomplished by the government’s “Digital India” mission. The high-speed broadband connectivity in the union territory will boost tourism and generate new employment opportunities; facilitate the delivery of e-Governance services such as telemedicine and tele-education; benefit small enterprises from opportunities in e-commerce and boost e-learning bandwidth for educational institutions in the region.

I would like to congratulate all the stakeholders for delivering this project under the current tough circumstances due to COVID-19.

Overall, I am very positive about the country’s progress as far as the digital infrastructure capabilities are concerned and confident that we at NEC will partner with the Indian government in achieving these goals.

Voice&Data: Another significant stride in India’s digital connectivity was established by NEC with its Orient Link collaboration. How does this project lay India as a hub for digital connectivity with other SE Asian countries?

Aalok Kumar: NEC has been a long-standing partner to India’s growth since the 1950s and since then we have contributed significantly towards the country’s progress. With an objective of strengthening the country’s digital infrastructure ecosystem, we signed an agreement with Orient Link Pte. Ltd. (OLL) to build the MIST Cable System (MIST).

This system will directly connect two major cities of India including Mumbai and Chennai with Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar, Thailand, and deliver a design capacity of more than 216 terabits per second (Tbps).

Through this, we aim to provide a truly connected India to our clients around the world, deliver high-quality and low-latency networks to the people in the country as the nation charges forward with its digital transformation roadmap. I am confident that MIST will enhance and contribute to the much-needed expansion of communications networks within South East Asia, which would in turn improve the network redundancy, ensure highly reliable communications and expand onward connectivity options in the Bay of Bengal.

Voice&Data: How do you see the telecom operators in India benefitting from these infrastructure projects?

Aalok Kumar: When it comes to telecommunications, the group has hands-on experience with network resources, as well as the tools and mechanisms needed for the management and control of these resources.

The group seamlessly delivers high field-proven, reliable wireless backhaul solutions through NEC’s PASOLINK series of Microwave Radios, for service providers in India and across the globe. As far as 4G is concerned we are rapidly deploying high-speed, flexible, scalable, and highly reliable backhaul which contributes towards strengthening the network communication infrastructure in the country. This further enables the telecom operators to deliver high-speed internet services to the people of India.

To sum it up, through our infrastructure projects in India which has the second-largest internet subscriber base across the globe, we continue to empower people, businesses, and society.

In India, NEC’s high capacity backhaul will be instrumental for 5G deployment as well.

Voice&Data: What is your take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for Make in India and Make for World? How does NEC India’s R&D efforts translate to solutions that solve India’s social and economic issues?

Aalok Kumar: Over the years, we have been able to provide tailor-made services and solutions to multiple sectors in the country owing to continued investment in our R&D capabilities. Our R&D efforts at NEC Laboratories India have enabled our ‘In India- For India’ strategy to develop innovative solutions that create social value and are globally scalable.

Moreover, our huge pool of engineering and technology talent across various verticals including public safety, communications, infrastructure, aviation, logistics, and transportation solutions contribute significantly to the digital transformation journey of the country.

We welcome the Prime Minister’s call forAtma Nirbhar Bharat and are taking steps towards strengthening our R&D center capabilities in the country.

Additionally, the group’s global arm is instrumental in supporting and facilitating solution deployment that can be beneficial for India’s overall economic development. 

Voice&Data: In what way is NEC India a big contributor to the National Digital Health Mission?

Aalok Kumar: Indian society is transforming at a rapid pace and that’s the reason there are various new challenges especially in the healthcare sector. One of the biggest concerns in the country is self-diagnosis and self-medication owing to people’s belief in home remedies and other sources of information including the internet.

Even after the availability of decent healthcare infrastructure in rural areas, people only visit a medical facility upon falling ill; there is a lack of preventive treatment practice. So people miss the chance of being examined by a healthcare professional who may identify outstanding health issues.

We are collaborating with various state governments on the ‘Preventive Digital Healthcare’ model for Indian citizens. In addition to making India healthier, these projects also aim to educate people especially women in rural areas who may be in socially difficult situations.

Voice&Data: The current pandemic situation has turned around a lot of business practices. How did NEC India adapt to the new normal and what new business opportunities emerged from this pandemic?

Aalok Kumar: The new normal is already redefining the way people behave in their workplaces, home, public places, and even while choosing the modes of transport. We are committed to bringing best practices from around the world to India and accordingly we have our offerings in the ‘New Normal’.

Banking on the brand legacy, we have already started working towards providing solutions that are very specific to the needs of our customers in India as we move in the changed circumstances. We have identified opportunities that can be leveraged to make post-pandemic life, both seamless and efficient.

To exemplify, we are particularly looking at how we can ensure social distancing and curb the contagion through products that are part and parcel of our daily life.

We are focussed on building our product portfolio including contactless technology as the scope and demand is high in sectors including aviation, tourism, public safety, etc. When it comes to transportation and logistics business, we are contributing in terms of providing safe and a seamless procedure to ensure contactless payment of the bus tickets — we have collaborated with Paytm in Ahmedabad to provide cashless tickets.

Additionally, we have developed a mobile app – Janyatra app which can be used to book tickets through Paytm and have introduced QR codes to validate devices at the bus or railway stations. Apart from Paytm, one can also book tickets through bank payment gateways (PGs). For a seamless passenger experience, we are working on introducing paperless boarding at 4 airports in the country.

Voice&Data: Development of smart cities and command control centers is NEC India’s forte. Can you elaborate on how this served a purpose for mitigating COVID-19?

Aalok Kumar: Building smart cities with the utilization of Artificial Intelligence, IoT, video analytics, and system integration capability, coupled with our NEC Safer Cities strategy, has helped the local authorities to execute secure and efficient public services. Our FIWARE based Integrated Command & Control Centre for Smart Cities, launched last year acts as the brain of cities (interconnects embedded sensors) and empowers decision-making through visualization and analytics for city authorities.

Our significant contribution to GMDA’s Integrated Command Centre Room gives us the capability for real-time situational awareness through a central dashboard to the authorities. Through the use of modern CCTV cameras that are connected by an optical fiber network, we are able to monitor communities and make pre-emptive moves wherever necessary. We are hopeful that with this successful implementation, we will help Gurugram become a COVID-free city.

At our Indian Research Labs, NEC Laboratories India, we are working on a mobility app to provide first and last-mile connectivity to the commuters along with Gate automation, Depot Management, Empty container management, etc.

Voice&Data: NEC India is a major contributor to India’s progress in end-to-end mobility solutions. How do you envision the future of mobility solutions in India and NEC India’s deployment of associated technologies?

Aalok Kumar: NEC has played an instrumental role in providing transparency in the Indian Logistics sector. We are closely working with the Indian Ministries, Port terminals, Shipping Lines, Enterprises, and across stakeholders of EXIM Containerization to provide container tracking service.

We currently provide visibility to approximately 97% of the container volume in the country. At our Indian Research Labs, NEC Laboratories India, we are working on a mobility app to provide first and last-mile connectivity to the commuters along with Gate automation, Depot Management, Empty container management, etc.

In Rural Logistics, we are working very closely with the government entity, CSC (Common Service Centre) to deliver innovative digital services for rural areas in India, including logistics e-marketplace.

We are expecting exponential growth in the Indian logistics segment and various Ministries are now looking forward to developing physical infrastructure as well as leveraging technology effectively to reduce the high transaction costs and implement best in class in industry standards for Indian Logistics.

The Department of logistics is coming up with a National Logistics Policy. With multi-model types of transportation available in the country – oceans, rivers, the potential of the segment is immense. Logistics can bring growth to the country, realizing its potential the new division of logistics has been set up under the Ministry of Commerce. We are looking forward to partnering with the government and the ministry for more endeavors soon.

To support our business and expansion plans, we are looking at increasing our workforce from 6,000 to 14,000 employees in India by the end of 2023.

Voice&Data: New projects call for increased demand in the workforce. How has NEC India planned on increasing its workforce in the coming years?

Aalok Kumar: We have recently rebranded ourselves from NEC Technologies India to NEC Corporation India. The shift reflects our strong commitment to the country and India’s growing importance to the NEC group’s global business. We are planning to expand the portfolio and the depth of solutions and services offered both in the Indian market and globally.

We are aiming at “India Go Big” initiative by leveraging our solution development & delivery capability from India to aid the global business growth and serve as a global delivery hub for offshore support & product development.

To support our business and expansion plans, we are looking at increasing our workforce from 6,000 to 14,000 employees in India by the end of 2023.

(Anusha Ashwin – x-anushaa@cybermedia.co.in)

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