Articles of Interest
Meet CAG Member: Venkat Sarma, Larsen & Toubro Infotech Ltd. (LTI)
Larsen & Toubro Infotech Limited (LTI) a global technology consulting and digital solutions company, a diversified arm of Larsen & Toubro, an Indian multinational engaged in technology, engineering, construction, manufacturing & financial services with over USD 17 billion in revenue. Venkat has been a member of the Corporate Advisory Group (CAG) for the past two years.
We spoke with Venkat Sarma, Head of IoT & MES practice, LTI, about the value he sees in participating in IEEE and as a member of the Corporate Advisory Group for his company, LTI, which is growing on a global scale.
Please tell us more about LTI and your role there.
LTI is a USD 1.2 billion global technology consulting & digital solutions company, headquartered in Mumbai, India. LTI is helping more than 300 companies succeed in a converging world, with operations in 27 countries and 25,000+ employees across the globe.
I lead the global delivery team for IoT (Internet of Things) and the MES (Manufacturing Execution Systems) practices. We have been involved with IEEE for the last couple of years and became one of the Indian companies involved with its Corporate Advisory Group.
How did IEEE attract you as an organization to be involved with?
IEEE has been in the forefront of engineering standards and publications. It’s primarily known for its work and research in the electrical communication and electronics area, with a very good set of professionals working in this area. There is also a Computer Society, but because of the changing technology, IT companies have been a bit slow to make that journey even as individuals were part of IEEE.
Two and a half years ago, we were just starting to amalgamate different groups within our company into IoT and MES practices. Industrial IoT is experiencing a lot of growth right now in terms of smart cities, smart utilities, smart water management, and smart manufacturing.
When we started the journey with IEEE, we realized that IEEE was doing a good amount of work in the IoT area—there’s IEEE standards IEEE P2413 and IEEE P2418, and other work in Big Data, Digital, and Smart Cities which resonated with our focus segments. We are now associated with both IoT plus Blockchain and Smart Manufacturing. We felt that the concept of operations for industry—which is the physics-based model, the equipment, and the shop floor elements married with the technology part of IT—will become a very important perspective.
Everybody was getting into the convergence of the physical and the digital world. That’s why we felt that we should work with IEEE SA, to understand what companies are doing globally. IEEE SA has become a very easy way to understand what industry is thinking—because it’s not about technology applying to industry, but about industry applying technology.
What areas are you especially interested in?
Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Manufacturing, and supply chain visibility. Then smart cities—we do a lot of research on smart cities in India. A lot of blockchain applied to smart contracts—we are working with multiple players. In the manufacturing area, it’s predictive maintenance–how do you look at use cases and conception projects. So there are many things we’re working on and want to understand, and know their industry trends.
Are you in an observing mode at this point, or do you have technologies that you want to showcase to IEEE groups?
We are bringing technologies in certain areas. We are doing water projects where, traditionally you have a pipeline or a facility where data is only used on the premises. What if you were to connect that data to the cloud? How easy would it be for them to forecast consumption? Can their chemicals usage be reduced? So, you’re applying the digital elements to a physical infrastructure.
We’re also looking at smart cities using a computer vision to manage traffic. We’re looking at energy optimization of solar plants—because with these, you can’t install analytics everywhere, you can’t devote that level of resources to these remote areas. So how do you take data from them and help them forecast generation? Can you manage this and introduce analytics to predict power generation on a particular day to a 15-minute granularity, with the weather forecast given?
Do you think there are challenges India faces, that people from other regions aren’t thinking about?
To some extent, yes. The entire concept of India is, how do we make things frugal? Cost is a very important parameter in this part of the world. That’s how you must look at technology as well. We need to find ways to improve efficiency, because we’re experiencing huge growth, but the growth has a cost attached to it.
The challenge in countries like the US and in Europe is that people are a costly resource. You apply technology because you want to cut the people cost. In India, labor is comparatively cheap — it’s a matter of what’s beyond the people cost. How do you improve production? How do you improve availability?
You've been involved with IEEE for two years now — how do you feel about that experience so far?
It’s been good to talk to people, understand what is happening, and see how IEEE is trying to adapt to this new arena. CAG gives industry a voice; the usual technical society approach takes a lot of time for people to come together, and it’s very effective, but in the rapidly evolving world of technology, we also need that voice.
It has been a great learning experience for me to see the amount of effort that professionals are putting into being part of IEEE. The geographical diversity that IEEE has, especially in APAC regions like China and India, reflects the CAG’s diversity and strength in reaching global companies.
I hope to leverage my association with IEEE and continue this experience both on a corporate and individual level.