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Get Connected: The IoT and Electronics Manufacturing Revolution

Get Connected: The IoT and Electronics Manufacturing Revolution

Welcome to this enlightening episode of The Zista Podcast, where we delve into the fascinating world of IoT and Electronics, a rapidly growing sector in India.

Joining us today is Ashish Chinthal, a seasoned expert in business and technology. He currently leads Strategy and Business Operations at Napino Digital Solutions. With educational credentials from Stanford and NMIMS, and a successful track record with leading brands, Ashish brings a wealth of knowledge and unique insights to our discussion.

Today, we’re exploring the intriguing IoT landscape, the booming electronics manufacturing industry in India, its impact on the economy, and the golden opportunities it presents for engineering students.

So tune in, as this episode is a goldmine of information for students aiming to venture into this dynamic field.

Welcome to another riveting episode of The Zista Podcast! In this week’s episode, we are diving deep into the intersection of the Internet of Things (IoT) and Electronics Manufacturing, an incredibly vibrant sector that’s making substantial headway in India.

We are privileged to have industry expert Ashish Chinthal, who has an impressive array of experiences under his belt. With more than two decades in the business and technology domain, Ashish’s knowledge spans multiple roles and industries. From managing business development and partnerships to overseeing product management and operations, he’s done it all. He’s a proud alumnus of Stanford, an MBA graduate from NMIMS, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Electronics & Telecommunication from Mumbai University. Presently, he spearheads Strategy and Business Operations for Napino Digital Solutions and has worked with prominent brands like Lenovo, Vodafone, Airtel, Mobileum Technologies and Ernst & Young.

In our conversation with Ashish, we delve into diverse aspects of the IoT and Electronics industry. We ask Ashish about the basics of IoT, what sparked his interest in the electronics manufacturing industry, how he envisions the rising growth of this industry impacting the Indian economy and the opportunities it presents to budding engineering students. We also explore why IoT is an exciting career path and the educational prerequisites for students aiming to enter this booming industry.

This episode offers a wealth of insights and knowledge, especially for students aspiring to venture into the world of IoT and Electronics. 

So sit back, tune in, and let’s explore the realm of IoT and Electronics with Ashish Chinthal on The Zista Podcast. Don’t miss it!

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Internet of Things (IoT) is a technology that allows everyday devices to be connected and share data. It involves adding intelligence to devices through data collection, transmission, and decision-making algorithms.
  • IoT has the potential to expand beyond individual use, offering applications in multiple sectors including consumer electronics, logistics, medical electronics, defense, and others.
  • The electronics manufacturing sector in India presents an opportunity to reduce dependence on foreign manufacturing, reduce India’s current account deficit, contribute to the local economy, and create job opportunities.
  • Entering the electronics manufacturing industry can be achieved via multiple paths, including design, manufacturing, software development, or business roles.
  • Education in IoT is not just about acquiring technical skills but also involves learning about business operations, supply chain management, and logistics, offering a multifaceted educational experience.

Q1. What is IoT and how does it operate?

A: Ashish explains that the Internet of Things, or IoT, is a term that essentially refers to the process of adding a layer of connectivity to traditionally independent devices or appliances. These could be objects that previously functioned solely through an on/off switch or a remote button.

Now, with IoT, these appliances are equipped with connectivity options such as Bluetooth, WiFi, or even mobile networks like 2G, 3G, 4G. This enables the device to transmit data about its operations. For instance, a water heater might send data about its status to a Cloud.

The term ‘Cloud’, Ashish points out, isn’t nebulous. Rather, it’s a network of servers spread across different platforms like Amazon’s AWS (Amazon Web Services), Microsoft’s Azure, or Google’s GCP (Google Cloud Platform). These platforms act as cloud providers that gather and analyze data from these IoT devices.

Once this data is received, it is processed through specific algorithms or logic to create a responsive mechanism. This mechanism can then relay commands back to the device, dictating it to perform certain actions. Ashish uses the example of a water heater, which could be programmed to switch on at 9 am and off at 9:10 am every day, or to turn on at 6:30 pm and off at 6:40 pm to coincide with a person’s return from work.

Such capabilities for remote control and automation were not possible before the advent of IoT. In a nutshell, Ashish summarizes that IoT adds a level of intelligence to devices through a system of sensors for data collection, a connectivity layer for data transmission, and a platform with an algorithm to make intelligent decisions based on the received data. This, according to Ashish, is the fundamental operation of IoT. While there are countless more examples that could further clarify the concept, this provides a broad overview.

Q2. What attracted Ashish to join the electronics manufacturing industry and the realm of IoT?

A: Ashish begins by recalling his initial career journey, stating that he first got his start in the Telecom sector. He spent considerable time in technology operations at Vodafone, previously known as “Orange” and then “Hutch.” Ashish was part of this transformational journey. 

During this period, he took a break from his career to pursue an MBA program. Post-MBA, Ashish joined Ernst & Young as a consultant. He further expanded his exposure by undertaking product management for a US-based company, offering him a significant understanding of the Telecom and IT industries.

Ashish then returned to the Telecom sector, but this time, his role was different. Instead of focusing on technology, he served as a Business Lead for Airtel, managing operations across India.

According to Ashish, the piece missing in his career spectrum was experience with the hardware side of things. This gap, along with his interest in the integration of IT intelligence, connectivity, and hardware, drew him towards IoT. In IoT, he saw an opportunity to bring together all these elements.

Ashish observes that the current technology landscape isn’t just about IT or mobile applications. Devices like smart speakers, such as Alexa or Google devices, are becoming common household items. He sees the future being driven by IoT devices which can consolidate various types of intelligence.

For instance, Ashish points out that while the number of SIM cards sold is tied to the number of people, the potential for IoT devices is far greater. Every home could have 10-12 IoT devices, controlling everything from plant watering systems to water heaters. 

As more and more applications come with IoT connectivity, Ashish predicts an explosion in connectivity that IoT can facilitate. He found this emerging area very exciting, which is why he decided to focus his career in this direction.

Q3. Given the increasing growth of the electronics manufacturing sector in India, how will this impact the economy and what opportunities does it present for engineering students?

A: Ashish acknowledges that globally, we’ve become heavily dependent on China for electronic device procurement. He notes that India, in particular, has an annual trade deficit of about 100 billion dollars, with a significant portion attributed to electronics imports. This situation was further aggravated post Covid-19, with electronics procurement from China rising to around 30 billion dollars.

Ashish highlights two main risks from this dependency on foreign manufacturing. Firstly, there’s a political risk. If relations sour, supply chains could be disrupted, leaving India vulnerable. Imagine, he says, waiting for three to six months to replace a faulty mobile phone – a situation that would be inconceivable to most people today.

The second risk is economic. The current situation contributes to the prosperity of manufacturing hubs outside India, posing a disadvantage to local industries that can’t compete. To break this cycle, Ashish suggests investing in local companies to help them grow and compete globally. The Government of India has already started addressing this issue through various measures such as incentives, subsidies, and import duty structures to promote local industries.

According to Ashish, this transformation won’t happen overnight but is already in progress. Moreover, there are countries that, for political reasons, are seeking alternatives to Chinese manufacturing. This presents an opportunity for India. Ashish shares an example where a product that costs one hundred dollars to manufacture in China. costs 125 dollars when it reaches another country due to trade sanctions. If India can produce the same product for 110 dollars, we become a competitive option.

So, Ashish concludes, there are a multitude of factors supporting the growth of the Indian electronics manufacturing industry, both locally and globally. This environment provides a wealth of opportunities for engineering students, opening up new avenues for them to apply their skills and contribute to this burgeoning sector.

Q4. Is IoT an interesting path to explore? Does a career in IoT offer more than traditional careers in IT or Telecom industries?

A: Ashish offers multiple reasons to consider IoT as a career choice. Firstly, he points out the tangible nature of the work. Unlike software development where the output is virtual, working in IoT allows you to design and build physical products that you can touch, feel, and observe in use. Ashish describes the exhilaration of witnessing a product’s transformation from a prototype to a mass-manufactured item.

He explains the typical journey of a product’s development: it starts with building the prototype, moves to the engineering validation build stage, then to design validation, and finally to the production validation test. The product then starts to be manufactured on a large scale. This whole process, which can extend from 9 months to a year, culminates in seeing your product produced in tens or even hundreds of thousands of units. Watching it being used across the market offers a unique satisfaction that, according to Ashish, is unparalleled in the software industry.

Ashish also emphasizes the nationalistic perspective. He reiterates the need to reduce dependency on other countries and strive for self-sufficiency. He identifies the current period as an optimal time to enter the field as the IoT industry is flourishing with vast opportunities spanning across various sectors like defense, consumer electronics, logistics, and medical electronics, among others.

Lastly, he mentions that the journey of creating innovative products and bringing them to the market offers an extensive learning experience. It encompasses multiple disciplines from business and program design, to mechanical and electronics engineering, packaging, shipment, logistics, and customs procedures. Hence, a career in IoT not only allows individuals to create and innovate but also has significant potential for job creation in various facets of the industry.

Q5. What educational background or experience do you need in the IoT industry? 

A: Ashish breaks down the required educational background into two main areas: design and manufacturing. 

On the design side, Ashish likens it to the software industry. The IoT field requires talent that understands electronics, a subject typically taught in the first or second year of an engineering degree. Knowledge about microcontrollers or ICs is also important, with a need for embedded engineering skills to program these components. Furthermore, understanding how to design a PCB and determining which components to include in the circuitry is essential. But it’s not solely about electronics design. IoT brings together hardware, software, and cloud integration, requiring skills in software engineering and cloud engineering as well. Therefore, for the design aspect, an engineering diploma, undergraduate degree, or postgraduate degree in fields like electronics, mechanical, or computer science can be very beneficial.

Turning to the manufacturing side, Ashish identifies different types of roles. There are managers who’ve worked their way up from hands-on roles like soldering components or assembling products. Vocational training courses, like ITI Engineering taken after the 10th grade, can be useful for roles focused on assembly or sorting. Supply chain engineers, who work with various suppliers to procure components, need skills in negotiation, managing inventory and warehousing. Specialized SMT (Surface Mount Technology) engineers, who handle the process of mounting components onto the PCB, also have opportunities in this industry. Additional roles around customs, packaging, and handling also exist within the manufacturing segment.

Lastly, Ashish points out the business layer, which includes roles in sales, marketing, market research, business development, partnerships, alliances, and strategy. These positions can be suitable for professionals from other industries who are keen to transition into the electronics manufacturing industry. For students or those new to the industry, opportunities primarily lie in the design and manufacturing areas.