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An Opportunity To Shape Our Future

The key to success in today’s economy is innovation. Innovations fall into four categories, namely incremental, architectural, disruptive and basic research

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Wt hen you think of a “Smart City”, it evokes many images and hopes. It invokes image of a city which is well developed and it evokes hope like Priyanka Chopra’s famous song “My city”.

I have worked around the world and my first image of the US was that of a great traffic system. You land in New York City and you find cars buzzing around ­­­— symbol of a functional city, a city on the move. However, they all stop at the ‘Stop’ sign showing amazing respect for local laws. They stop when a pedestrian is crossing the road. I met with an accident in New York in 1987 and a roadside signage plate got bent in the process. Within half an hour, while I was still at the accident site, a repair vehicle came and replaced the signage. Was it a digital city or just a smart city? A city that welcomed you!

The smart cities project evokes the image of cities being transformed into something novel and future-ready. Future ready not only in terms of technology, but also in terms of business and life friendliness. A future that will allow us to scale business rapidly, with an enabling infrastructure and governance model of innovation and growth. A future that we always aspired for.

We have two options, either to wait for the smart cities project to deliver our dreams or to actively participate in it and help it serve us.

The Smart Cities Mission objectives are open and growth oriented and they are seeking revenue generating projects as they are not completely government funded. To a businessperson, a smart city project is primarily perceived as a potential business opportunity. It could also be an opportunity to improve ease of doing business and enabling innovation.

If we can configure projects, either as standalone businesses or as a group of businesses, we can participate in this mission. Creating city innovation clusters could be one such project.

An innovation cluster project could have three components: High quality, vocation-driven education could be a good business model that can generate revenue in the short run. Modern businesses outsource most of their non-core work as it is much easier now to create an integrated enterprise by leveraging digital technologies. We should leverage the technology bias of the smart cities and businesses out of the common support services needed by the businesses.

The key to success in today’s economy is innovation. Innovations fall into four categories, namely incremental, architectural, disruptive and basic research. Innovation risk can be shared by local businesses by developing shared research labs. These research labs can develop tools and capabilities that can enable different types of innovations.

While reports that suggest that the progress of the Smart Cities Mission has been slower than planned, I believe this creates an opportunity to engage with the local smart city governance body and help them succeed.
These are initial thoughts. No dream is too small and no aspiration too big. There are many more opportunities available if we harness our collective energy. These platform models can actually be a great way to start new businesses that can drive collective as well as individual growth. In the new world, we need to view the smart city and other initiatives like AMRUT, Startup India and Atal Innovation Mission as enablers and integrate them to develop a holistic vision for our cities.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Rajbir Singh

The author is CEO and founder of Value Centria

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