Kochi: The fifth edition of Techspectations, Manorama Online’s flagship digital summit, was successfully held at Le Meridien in Kochi on Friday.
The theme of the event was 'MO@25: Absorb, Evolve & Thrive in New Digital Order'. This year's Techspectations marked the 25th-anniversary celebrations of Manorama Online.
Union Minister of State for Electronics & Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar delivered the keynote address. Speaking on the topic ‘Defining the new digital order from government’s perspective’, he said there has never been such an opportunity-rich time in the history of independent India. "India today enables young minds to dream and the government paves the way for them to realise it," he said. From consumers of technology, India today is a producer of world-class technology.
Talking about the growth of India's digital economy, the minister said the narrative had been set before 2014 with companies like Infosys and HCL. "However, if the digital economy then attributed 5 per cent to the country's GDP, by 2025-26, it will become 25 per cent," he said, adding disruption and innovation are the new normal as far as technology is concerned.
9 months ago
And with that, we come to the end of Techspectations of 2023.
What a day!
9 months ago
From a performer's perspective, the one thing that I see greatly tilted with the coming of OTT is that its not so much about a star. Your business is not based purely on the presence of a star in the film. It is more about how much the actor brings to the table when it comes to being part of that content, says Mamta Mohandas
9 months ago
Shanker Ramakrishnan, however, comes out in support of OTT platforms.
This particular phenomenon is to take our film to non-Malayalam speaking spaces rather than Malayalam speaking spaces. This has given us an opportunity to take our cinema where a start-vehicle would give 100 screens this has given us 240 countries where non-Malayalam speaking people started appreciating Malayalam cinema.
9 months ago
Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval has a couple of complaints about OTT platforms.
He feels that the OTT platforms failed to expand their audience base. Partly due to the lack of promotions they do for some of the films.
OTT platforms are now looking for star-driven films alone. They should be more open to young talents and small films.
9 months ago
Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval had to edit the 'Kanakam Kaamini Kalaham', which was shot during the second pandemic lockdown in India, from OTT to theatre pattern and then when the theatres were shut again he had to re-edit it for OTT.
9 months ago
The perspective or the question of the regional itself needs to be defined, says Supriya.
"Malayalam is no longer regional. We are mainstream now. Everyone is looking at us."
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The fact that we are able to identify talent and we are able to identify stories from all across the country and give them a voice and give them a platform and have [people view them that is the most spectacular thing that happened over the pandemic, says Supriya
9 months ago
Supriya brings up an important point "We also need to redefine what is regional. I am a mainstream Malayalam filmmaker, for me, Hindi may be regional today."
9 months ago
Ultimately the art and soul of the business that we all do is the art of storytelling and if these stories are actually connecting with the person at the other end in whatever shape or form, then we are successful, then the emotions are met, says Supriya Menon
While Kiruba Shankar, CEO, Business Blogging Private Limited, beautifully anchored the sessions, Mariam Mammen Mathew, CEO, Manoramaonline, and Dr Tom Joseph, director-New Initiatives, Jain Deemed-to-be University, addressed the gathering.
Speaking about how Manorama foresaw the possibility of going digital and launched Manoramaonline at a time when Malayalis were still looking at new technology suspiciously, Mariam said: "Two-and-a-half decades ago, when Google was yet to be born, when Hotmail was the hot property and not Gmail, when Indians flaunted pagers, not smartphones, when it was simply 'chat' and not ChatGPT, oceans away from the Silicon Valley and just a few miles off Kerala's backwaters, then 109-year-old Malayala Manorama group hit the www.com world with Manoramaonline."
Global tech leaders, investors, domain experts and artists, among others, took part in the summit which saw deliberations on a wide variety of topics such as startups, artificial intelligence, luxury brands, OTT and cyber security in the finance sector. Jain Online was the presenting partner of the programme.
There were five panel discussions and one fireside chat lined up for the digital summit. Here's a summary of each session.
The first session was on ‘Startups: Building from Kerala’. Binu Jacob, MD & CEO, Experion Technologies; Jithu Sukumaran Nair, CEO, VAAN Mobility; Jofin Joseph, founder & CEO, Totto Learning; Sreejith Sreekumar, founder & CEO, Giacca & Abito Sartoriale Fashion; and Dr Tom Joseph, co-founder, USDC, shared their experiences and insights at the session.
"Once you get the kick out of running a startup, then it becomes really difficult to go back to not being your own boss and settling for a slow pace of life," said Jofin Joseph.
Jithu Sukumaran Nair said he wanted to build a global brand with VAAN Mobility and that they will be launching e-Scooters in the next six months.
Binu Jacob had a word of encouragement for aspiring entrepreneurs. He advised them to pursue their passion and inspiration no matter what and that it would definitely bear fruit.
He also had a couple of pointers for those looking to launch a startup with friends and former colleagues: "Bring together complimenting strengths, the virtue of sacrifice is important, acknowledge varied interests and always keep the small family feel in the company."
Sreejith Sreekumar shared three points that power his company, Giacca & Abito Sartoriale Fashion -- entrepreneurship is similar to parenting. One person cannot do the whole job. You need to have a vision; what you create or build will outlive you; in the bigger scheme of things, we as individuals are insignificant. Hence, it is important to be nice.
The second panel discussion was on one of the most debated topics around the world at present, Artificial Intelligence. Panellists Praveen Jayakumar, senior manager, Amazon Web Services; Soumitra Dhankar, head of solution consulting, Adobe India; and Subram Natarajan, director of customer engineering, Google Cloud, covered various aspects and challenges of AI in the session 'Artificial Intelligence & Business Intelligence'.
Subram Natarajan said AI as a technology has given us a tremendous amount of insight. He also said one need not be a computer science engineer to start assimilating AI. "Google's approach to AI is rooted in the founding principles of making sure the information is organised well and useful to human beings. It is shaped by our commitment to making all of our life simpler and more comfortable," said Subram.
When asked why we need AI, Soumitra laid out three reasons -- to discover what is hidden; accelerate what is slow; to decide when it matters.
Praveen Kumar said there are five trends in machine learning -- language models; data; ML industrialisation; responsible AI, and ML democratisation.
The Fireside Chat on ‘Building Luxury Brands from India’ had panellists Nirupesh Joshi and Mercy Amalraj, founders of Bangalore Watch Company, in conversation with Preetika Mathew, editor-in-charge, WatchTime India.
Talking about how Bangalore Watch Company came to be, Nirupesh Joshi said: Wristwatches are close to our hearts because they always have an emotional connection with us. All international watchmakers engage in storytelling, which creates an emotional connection between the watch and its owner. It could be a story about a watch that went to the moon, a watch inspired by a World War II plane etc. However, in India, there are no quality watchmakers who weave stories into the manufacturing process. This is where the idea of Bangalore Watch Company was born."
Bangalore Watch Company belongs to the affordable luxury segment. "Our watches are priced between Rs 75,000 and Rs 2 lakh. At this price point, there are only mass-produced brands in India and there is nothing unique," said Nirupesh.
Bangalore Watch Company has watches inspired by India's space programme, air force and even cricket.
Mercy Amalraj said while the response to Indian stories is good, gaining the trust of the market was difficult, especially when you're a digital-only brand. She also said Bangalore Watch Company has a repeat rate of 35 per cent.
The duo gave three tips to build for the world from India -- there can't be any compromise on quality; have a global design mindset; pick themes that have global appeal.
The fourth session was perhaps among the most anticipated, 'The Future of News’. The session saw an insightful exchange of ideas by reputed journalists. Binoy Prabhakar, executive editor, Moneycontrol; Durga Raghunath, head of news partnerships, Google India; Naresh Fernandes, editor, Scroll.in; and L V Navaneeth, CEO, The Hindu, were the panellists.
When asked about the future of news, Durga Raghunath had to say this: "There is an exponential increase in language users accessing the internet. The shift in content to make it mobile accessible is likely to throw up a lot of new models. The whole idea of bilingual and multilingual is going to undergo a lot of innovation and change in the next five years." She also said niches and expertise are coming into focus. "There is a direct relationship with the writer. Bylines are becoming as important as brands nowadays," she added.
Naresh Fernandes talked about how instant access to information has pushed more people to turn away from the news. "Ever since the birth of the modern press in the 19th Century, we operated on the premise that access to information is power and worked on the assumption that our readers and audiences really value that. Ironically, as the internet and technology now allow us to access information almost instantly, an increasing number of people are turning away from the news."
Building on his point, he mentioned a digital news report by the Reuters Institute at Oxford, which revealed that the proportion of consumers who say they avoid the news often has increased sharply across countries.
Calling it 'unplugging', a number of reasons were listed, including being worn out by too much news, lack of trust in journalists, news bringing down their mood, feeling powerless as they are not sure what to do with the information learnt, and the declining interest among youngsters as news is hard to follow.
L V Navaneeth said the future of news is very exciting and quite complex. He believes the future will be more reader-revenue-oriented than advertiser revenue. "To pivot to a business model where reader revenue is higher, one will need to look at the depth of content published," he said.
Veterans in the banking and financial sectors came together for a discussion on ‘Cyber & Data Security for BFSI’.
A Balakrishnan, executive director, Geojit Financial Services; Arvind Ganesan, business head, Akamai Technologies; Babu Thomas, senior vice president & head-IT, Federal Bank; G Venkataraman, chief information security officer, ESAF Small Finance Bank; and Shibu K Thomas, joint general manager & chief information security officer, South Indian Bank, spoke at the session.
According to Arvind Ganesan, the digital ecosystem has penetrated even far-flung areas that the physical ecosystem cannot even reach. He further said with the economy being increasingly digitised, the shift to the cloud is also taking place.
A Balakrishnan said API Application Programming Interface) is unavoidable to establish our relationship with businesses. With different businesses using varied interfaces, API is imperative for the digital world to work. "Earlier, security meant network security or application security or other interface security. However, API security is at the core," he said.
While G Venkataraman agreed about the positives of API, he said it is both a facilitator and a risk-bringer.
Talking about cyber security, Babu Thomas said due diligence is key. "Trust but verify, that is the principle today for cyber security," he said.
Balakrishnan said there is nothing called trust in cyberspace. "It always works with zero trust. As providers, we do not trust anyone just like how users cannot trust anyone," he said.
The final session saw a group of celebrities discussing the ‘Blurring Lines of Regional Entertainment’. Screenwriter and director Shanker Ramakrishnan moderated the session with cinematographer-director Santosh Sivan, Malayalam director Ratheesh Balakrishnan Poduval, Prithviraj Productions co-founder Supriya Menon, actress Mamta Mohandas and Saugata Mukherjee, head of content, Sony LIV, on the panel.
Shanker Ramakrishnan began the session by touching upon the significance of art as an agent of social change. He said art has always given our imagination shape, colour and structure.
Santosh Sivan shared how he first heard the word OTT, dismissed the idea and later, during the pandemic, learned the real power of the platform.
Saugata Mukherjee believes the biggest change that happened with the advent of OTT is the democratisation of content distribution. "For the first time, we realised that content from one part of the world was being consumed in another part of the world that is poles apart culturally," he said.
He further said Sony LIV is excited to release a string of Malayalam originals by the end of this year.
Supriya Menon echoed Saugata's opinion that streaming content has democratised content. "Anybody from anywhere can see anything that is available on the internet today and can write about it and engage with it, which as a producer is sometimes daunting and scary, but is purely exhilarating as well. The fact that we are able to identify talent and stories from across the country and give them a voice and a platform and have people view them is the most spectacular thing that could have happened over the pandemic," she said.
She also brought up an important point regarding what can be termed as regional. "We need to redefine what is regional. I am a mainstream Malayalam filmmaker. For me, Hindi may be regional today. Malayalam is no longer regional. We are mainstream now. Everyone is looking at us."
Ratheesh Balakrishnan Pothuval, who has made satirical comedies like 'Nna Thaan Case Kodu', had a couple of complaints about OTT platforms in general.
He felt OTT platforms failed to expand their audience base. While Ratheesh believes it is partly due to the lack of promotions they do for some films, he also thinks streaming services are now exclusively looking for star-driven films. He feels OTT should be a tad more accepting of young talents and small films.
However, Shanker Ramakrishnan came out in support of OTT platforms. "This particular phenomenon is to take our films to non-Malayalam speaking spaces. These platforms have given us an opportunity to release our cinema in 240 countries where non-Malayalam speaking people have started appreciating Malayalam cinema," said Shanker.
Mamta Mohandas, speaking from a performer's perspective, said: "The one thing I see greatly tilted with the coming of OTT is that it's not so much about the star anymore. Your business is not based purely on the presence of a star in the film. It is more about how much the actor brings to the table when it comes to being part of that content," she said.
The prizes of the 'Digital Changemakers 2023', conducted as part of Techspectations, were distributed at the summit.