Startups, Smart Cities Are Springing Up Across India

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Silicon Valley, meet Jharkhand. The government of Jharkhand, a state of about 33 million people in eastern India and home to tigers and elephants, has signed an agreement with Oracle that, in addition to improving government services, aims to make Jharkhand an attractive place for startups.

“We want to be the top choice with global companies for investments and be India’s startup hub,” Raghubar Das, chief minister of Jharkhand, said in a formal announcement of the memorandum of understanding with Oracle.

Jharkhand plans to use Oracle Cloud services at startup centers established to promote innovation and entrepreneurship and drive employment. The state will also explore ways to use Oracle Cloud to improve citizen services and support the state’s business requirements.

Jharkhand’s embrace of cloud computing to nurture a startup culture is just the latest sign of progress in India’s fast-moving digital transformation. And it’s quite a turn for a place that is best known for its minerals and steel plants, and where as much as 80% of the population is involved in agriculture, according to the state website. Now, as part of a startup policy it published last year, Jharkhand is forming a venture capital fund.

Digital India

Equally ambitious technology-driven projects are popping up across India, prompted largely by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India initiative. Last year, the government of Maharashtra, India’s second most populous state, in the western part of the country, signed a memorandum of understanding with Oracle to accelerate the development of smart cities and drive economic growth in the state.

Given the pace of change, Oracle, which has about 38,000 employees in India, is expanding its presence in the country. Oracle announced last year that it plans to build a 2.8-million-square-foot campus in Bangalore, launch nine incubation centers in India, and provide computer science training to more than a half million Indian students. Now Oracle is rolling out a second wave of initiatives.

At Oracle OpenWorld India, which took place May 9 and 10 in New Delhi, Thomas Kurian, Oracle president of product development, revealed plans to open the company’s first data center in India, within 12 months.

“Our customers and partners in India have trusted their businesses and mission-critical workloads to Oracle Cloud for years,” Kurian said. “With this expansion, we will be able to further support customer choice, adding to capabilities already available through deployments of Oracle Cloud at Customer, as well as other Oracle Cloud data center regions in Asia Pacific.”

Oracle also announced availability in India of Oracle ERP Cloud, with new capabilities to support compliance with India’s recently enacted Goods and Services Tax, which replaces several hundred tax rates with a simplified, five-tier system. Oracle ERP Cloud can now help organizations in India manage tax calculations, liability accounting, recovery, settlement, and reporting.

Smart Startups, Cities

A half dozen Indian startups participated in Oracle OpenWorld India—some of them early members of the Oracle Startup Cloud Accelerator program started in 2015. They included ezeDox, which is developing a digital locker for storing and sharing digitally signed documents, and Sonder Connect, a not-for-profit trust founded by four women to identify and promote women-led startups in India. 

Another driving force in India’s digital transformation is the modernization of municipal services and infrastructure—including transportation, water and waste management, and smart grids—to support burgeoning metropolitan areas as more people migrate from villages and rural areas. India’s Smart Cities program, launched in June 2015, seeks to create 100 of these smart cities.

At Oracle OpenWorld India and at a nearby conference and exhibition called One Mega Event, Oracle showed its growing portfolio of smart city technologies, in areas such as public safety, parking, street lighting, and civic project management. Oracle demonstrated a smart city control center, still in development, that is designed to provide a real-time view of municipal operations, using Oracle Internet of Things Cloud Service and other Oracle Cloud services.

John Foley is director, strategic communications, for Oracle.

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