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Low Power IoT Networks Continue to Grow Rapidly Across India

By Special Guest
Shrey Fadia, Special Correspondent
February 26, 2019

The adoption of Low-Power Wide-Area Networks (LPWANS) is rising worldwide, with India continuing to lead the way, including several leading companies rolling out successful implementations (Tata Communications, Unlimit IoT, and SenRa). Applications include smart metering, surveillance, transportation systems, logistics, and overall smart city projects – being funded in part by the government.

LPWAN solutions, designed to support secure, small data movement over a wide area while maintaining battery life for up to ten years, reduces the cost of solutions, both initially with lower up-front capex, and over time with less maintenance required.

Transceivers used in LPWAN wake up only when a data signal needs to be transmitted or received, unlike mobile technology where the transceiver remains active all the time.

LPWAN occupies the lowest bandwidth and provides the highest range of coverage, best fit for small data transmission, and use an unlicensed radio-frequency spectrum, at 865MHz to 867MHz.

The LoRa Alliance, Sigfox and technology communities in India are working towards addressing standards that will further accelerate adoption beyond the initial projects in major cities, including Mumbai, Bangalore, Pune, New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Chennai, and Chandigarh. 

In mid-2016, the government of India launched a "100 Smart Cities Mission" and approved a budget of US $14 billion for the development of 100 smart cities and the rejuvenation of 500 others. Then, in early 2018, the government stated their vision to enable access for connecting to 1 billion IoT/ M2M sensors/ devices by 2020 and 5 billion by 2022.

SenRa, a contributing member of the LoRa Alliance, is a PAN India Low Power Wide Area Network Provider (LPWAN), specifically LoRaWAN, for the Internet of Things (IoT) and Machine to Machine (M2M) solutions and applications, consistently coming in ahead of schedule with one new city deployment after the other.

We recently caught up with their CTO Kush Mishra, interviewing him on progress to date and plans for 2019.

Q. How do you feel knowing that SenRa is already a big hit in the Indian IoT market?

A. Well, we have worked very hard for this and we’re really happy to be at the position we are at right now. We have been working for the last year and half on educating India - customers, policymakers and government bodies, and finally, it has started to bear fruit for us. We’re starting to see revenues from the Indian IoT markets. We’ve been a member of LoRa Alliance. So it feels really good.

Q. What hurdles did you face commercially when dealing with legal procedures and paperwork? Did you ever think of giving up at any stage or were you constantly motivated?

A.  Well, giving up was never on the mind. First off, we’re very well settled with the funding we’ve raised. We had something to go on with. It was just a matter of time for us before the ecosystem really adopted LoRaWAN. Initially, there were some challenges, there was a very steep learning curve for us; We had requirements from WPC, which is a government body that regulates the wireless devices coming to India, we had challenges learning about how to deal with that, we had a challenge in terms of the technology adoption and partner ecosystem to support the technology.

For any new technology, one of the most important factors is the ecosystems that are going to drive the technology. Like the bell curve, there is an initial phase of the early adopters and influencers who can push the ecosystem in the world. We’re lucky to be a part of the LoRa Alliance as a contributed member, as we are the only one member from India. I personally sat in every meeting happening and hence we’re fortunate to be there as we form large ecosystem influencers like Alibaba, Cisco, Google, IBM everybody has joined the alliance.

There are good cues from the ecosystem that the technology is going to make it big and that’s what drives us to push this in India.

Q. You just mentioned that giving up this idea was never into your mind as you already raised enough funds to keep this going forward. How did you manage to raise this fund? Did you start a series of campaigns or reach out to individual companies/bodies to propose your ideas?

A. It was both. The thing that favored us while raising the funds was that we already were in touch with LoRa Alliance in the USA through Senet. Ali, our CEO, was earlier consulting with Senet for business development, so we had good exposure to the ecosystem and good ideas about what challenges are going to look like when we enter into a new market such as India.

Coupled with that local expertise through people like myself and Dhananjay was a plus point as we were well versed with the ecosystem. I myself have a good experience in IoT since 2011with Bosch, my own startup and Dhananjay’s telecom background. We had a good grip on the global IoT system as well as the local market. When we had to make a pitch for our investors, we already had a good idea of what the strategy should look like. It’s more of team rather than the technology that an investor invests in.

Q. Do you believe that the partnership with LoRa Alliance was a turning phase for SenRa, as it globally gave you an exposure?

A. Definitely. In fact, most of the device ecosystem partnerships have come from LoRa Alliance. Being a contributor member of Alliance gave us a lot of cookies, and we have very easy access to the decision makers from all our partners such as SEMTECH and other major ecosystem player as we can have direct meetings and even on dinners. It’s great for networking and is helpful in understanding the mindset of the decision makers to be able to influence policies for India.

Q.  Are you planning to expand your network globally or are you focusing on Indian Market and capture as many locations as possible in India?

A. We are planning to deploy extensive coverage in the Indian market. We plan to be present in 100 cities by the end of 2020. These are all going to be pro-active deployments. Additionally, we will do project-based deployment which will run into 50-100 more cities, hence looking for rapid expansion in India.

Meanwhile, we are also planning to enter into an application market, which we are soon going to announce this month. We are planning to have a beta version of our application platform called GINJER, which will address the global markets and not only for India. This will take us outside India, and, depending upon the opportunities, we could expand the network outside India.

Q. SenRa right now is now into few verticals like Smart Waste bins, Smart Parking, Smart Water Metering, Smart Street lights and Ag sensors for Smart farming. You've covered many domains in such a short period of time. Are you planning to add other verticals too apart from these?

A. Constantly. A part of my job is to convince these vertical owners to come to the Indian market. I am playing my role to attract these partners in the Indian ecosystem and implement their solutions for smart cities in B2G, B2B, and B2C space. We are actively looking for different kind of solutions. In fact, we recently are trying to switch into Industrial IoT (IIoT) with lot of use cases like RFID, logistics, tracking, mining industries and many more.

Q. What is your future roadmap? What is SenRa planning now?

A. We are omnipresent in India as far as anything to do with LoRaWAN is concerned. We have jacked up our SEO ranking to number 1 in India. We intend to be at rank 1 for the LoRa ecosystem in India, and that is our goal. I also plan to be present in more than 100 cities in India, help the government in Make in India campaign, encouraging a lot of startups in the hardware domain traditionally. I want to see more engineers getting into hardware, RF and electronics domain. I want to see an investment in companies who can develop quality firmware and quality hardware designs.

We are infatuated with quality. There are many companies providing an end-to-end solution which may be suited for some customers, but our core focus is to understand LoRaWAN in as much detail as possible and concentrate on our quality offerings. We have an RF testing laboratory here and have purchased very expensive RF equipment to do thorough testing and surveys. So, quality is right there at the top.

Q. Do you believe in M&A? Have you ever got a proposal of collaborating with another global IoT company?

A. Yes, we get a lot of collaboration requests from the Middle East, Asia Pacific region and Europe. It depends on what kind of roadmap we see for ourselves. We’re looking to collaborate, but not only with the existing LoRaWAN players.

We want to expand to telecom domain and cater to the B2C segments (households). We do get a lot of collaboration opportunities, but we can’t accept everything. We’re open to the options as we are flexible in our work methodology. If there would be any requirements of a merger, it’s a question of whether both the parties are benefitting.

Q. Cybersecurity and Privacy compliance is another major concern in IoT space. How do you see this issue?

A. With the GDPR law coming in the EU, things have become little tricky with our EU partners. I’ve been in touch with the policymakers in India, and I attended a meeting recently and major discussion happened on data privacy. For us, it’s crucial. It will make or break the game depending upon the government policies.

We are going to launch our application platform so are tracking policy changes coming from the Indian government bodies to understand their mindset about what policies they are planning to implement in India. I have heard a lot of buzz around suggesting that a few policies and laws are coming in the next quarter.

Learn more about SenRa and follow their progress at https://senraco.com.




Edited by Ken Briodagh


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