How Cisco aims to innovate with young Indian entrepreneurs

Cisco’s LaunchPad programme aims to bring startups and developers on a common platform to build digital solutions

There are three billion internet users and 22 billion connected devices today. In the next five years, 3 billion more users will be added and the number of connected devices is expected to reach 50 billion. No single company will be able to create solutions for all. That is why big corporations are experimenting with a consortium approach in which different firms come together to identify problems, pool their resources to create solutions and market them.

Recently, the US-based technology firm Cisco took a step in this direction by launching its LaunchPad programme in India, which aims to bring startups, developers and Cisco’s experts on a common platform to build solutions that can help governments and enterprises digitise them.

The programme has been designed in such a way that startups, developers, Cisco’s experts and authorised channel partners will come together to identify a problem, create a solution and use Cisco’s go-to-market (GTM) platform to reach new market and build digital businesses.

Basically, India has a very large developer base. According to Cisco’s internal study, the country will have world’s largest number of developers by 2018. Since Cisco is already working with 10-12 big partners like Wipro, TCS, Cognizant, Tech Mahindra, MindTree, iGate, who have vertical expertise, with LaunchPad programme; it wants to engage the developer community with domain experts to create solutions aimed at solving digitisation problems.

“Digitisation will transform the way the next 3 billion people will work, live, play, and learn. We have an unprecedented opportunity to digitise the next three billion people in one-third the time it took to connect the first three billion. Through Cisco LaunchPad we want to unleash the next generation of disruptive ideas and help turn the entrepreneurs of today into the business leaders of tomorrow,” said Amit Phadnis, president, engineering and India site leader, Cisco.

To ensure smooth flow and faster progress, Cisco is providing space at its Bengaluru campus with access to a suite of Cisco’s technologies and free grants to startups chosen to work at its campus. In addition, a dedicated team from Cisco will be available to mentor startups and developers. The company informs that entry to this programme will involve a rigorous selection process based on the viability of applicant’s business plans, the strength of their teams and their alignment with Cisco’s digitisation vision.

Also, in order to bridge the gap between the high pace working style of a startup and bureaucratic way of functioning of large corporation, Cisco says that it will keep the team very nimble. “There will be a serious technical person like a principal engineer or distinguished engineer and director of engineering who will be directly attached with the programme. They will be our conduit to rest of Cisco, they can make the decision quickly, they can pull other resources from Cisco if needed,” said Phadnis, adding that the purpose of the programme is to help the startups, not to become the bottleneck.

Is Cisco’s LaunchPad different from startup programmes of other tech giants such as SAP, Microsoft, National Instruments, Avaya? Perhaps not, but Phadnis argued that an opportunity to work on solving business relevant problems by catering to use cases that are already identified and validated by Cisco go-to-market teams is something unique. He said, “I will not categorise it as a startups programme neither it is just an accelerator. It is a much large construct. The basic difference is that we are getting the entire go-to-market muscle of Cisco behind this programme. Lot of background activity is happening within Cisco to identify what are those opportunities from digitisation perspective that we need to solve.”

Cisco already runs Cisco Digitisation Acceleration and Cisco Investment programmes in India. It has committed $280m to boost the Indian startup ecosystem. In fact, during the launch of this programme, the company announced that it had collaborated with Tech Mahindra to develop digital solutions for electric utilities. They will work with select startups and developers to create solutions that can digitise different elements of power sector like digital meter.

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