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BW Businessworld

When Sci-Fi Turns Sci-Fact

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Whether you like it or not, you will have to sport at least one wearable in 2015. Some of us already do — a Bluetooth headset, a Fitbit band, a Nike+ in our shoes or a Samsung Gear watch. That may be by choice. But the swarm of wearables is set to make such devices ubiquitous.
Hospitals and insurance companies will force you to wear a locket or a band to keep track of your vitals. If you check into a hotel, you will have to wear one for seamless access to your room, the hotel’s spa or the restaurants. Your car will require you to communicate via a wearable. And, entry to sports stadia will be through wearables again. These devices will be on our bodies, clipped to our clothes, even under the skin.
In more ways than one, wearables are set to change humanity forever — just as the wheel of change moved from radio in 1894 to the Internet in 1990. But, nobody really knows which wearable will endear itself to humanity.
Companies, big and small, cash-rich or boot-strapped, are struggling to create that ‘iPhone’ of the wearables industry. And that’s where Indian techies see an opportunity of a lifetime to create that killer product.
Find out how they are faring in the treacherous, ‘device-a-minute’ world of wearables in this issue’s cover package by Mala Bhargava and Vishal Krishna.
Just like wearables, a host of Indian companies see a mouth-watering opportunity in the $89-billion global drone market. China already has over 900 drone manufacturing companies, some of which can make very sophisticated drones, capable of taking heavy payloads up into the air. The US has over 200 serious players capable of creating a drone as per specifications. Indian firms are discovering why drone-making is a tough business to be in. Right from regulations to the technology. 
These are testing times for India’s largest private sector company Reliance Industries, where the GenNext Isha and Akash Ambani, children of Mukesh and Nita Ambani, have been inducted in functional roles. Even as it embarks on a Rs 1.8 lakh crore capital expenditure plan, there are a lot of things that are holding back the otherwise unstoppable juggernaut. Revenues from hydrocarbon exploration and production are shrinking and no firm recovery is in the offing. The lower gas price and the depleting Dhirubhai-1 and 3 gas fields at the Krishna Godavari (KG) basin have been weighing on the growth prospects of the company’s upstream business. Retail posted an accumulated loss of nearly Rs 1,200 crore between 2010 and 2013, though fiscal 2013-14 was profitable. Plus, the broadband business has been delayed indefinitely. All this has kept its stock price subdued. In 2014, the share price of RIL gained a modest 1.28 per cent (to Rs 900.15 on 19 December) while the BSE Sensex rose sharply by 29.48 per cent. Nevin John finds out what’s holding back Reliance.
Don’t miss Shailesh Menon’s In Conversation with Alan Krueger, an American economist and the former chairman of US President Obama’s council of economic advisers. 
(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 12-01-2015)