With India's rapid growth and our strong market position, we see great opportunities ahead: Zebra Technologies

With India's rapid growth and our strong market position, we see great opportunities ahead: Zebra Technologies
(From left) Donato Montanari and Subramaniam Thiruppathi

Zebra Technologies, a high-tech solutions provider, focuses on innovation in manufacturing, transportation, logistics, retail, and healthcare. They've now moved beyond hardware to offer complete solutions, focusing on software. 

During an interview with TechCircle, Subramaniam Thiruppathi , Director ISC, and Donato Montanari, VP & GM, Machine Vision, Zebra Technologies discussed the company's plans for expansion, especially in India. They highlighted the significance of AI in improving manufacturing and logistics, showcasing how Zebra's solutions are simplifying processes for clients. They also mentioned the challenges of AI adoption, stressing the importance of starting small and gathering data effectively. Edited Excerpts:

Can you provide insights into Zebra Technologies' future product roadmap and how it aligns with the evolving needs of enterprise customers worldwide? 


Donato: Zebra has been in the high-tech game for 55 years now. We're all about manufacturing, transportation, logistics, retail, and healthcare. We've dominated these industries by constantly pushing boundaries. 

Our product lineup is diverse, spanning from mobile computers to handheld scanners, even Machine Vision Products and RFID. But our recent big leap is our software portfolio. We're not just about hardware anymore; we're all about providing complete solutions and outcomes for our customers. 
Could you elaborate on your company's expansion plans, particularly in India, and how you intend to utilise the Indian market for growth? 

Subramaniam: I've been with Zebra for 19 years now, and I'm proud of our contribution to the widespread adoption of barcoding. We've been instrumental in introducing barcoding technology, particularly in the automotive sector where RFID tags have become commonplace. Over the past eight or nine years, we've either introduced or collaborated on RFID technology, especially in tolling systems. 


India holds a significant position in our operations. We have a large development centre in Bangalore and have had a direct sales presence in India for about 25 years. India's importance has grown even more due to shifts away from China in manufacturing. With India's manufacturing sector expanding rapidly, related industries like logistics and retail are also booming. 

I'm particularly excited about our prospects in India for the next decade. With the country's rapid growth and our strong market position, I see great opportunities ahead. We have a nationwide presence, with teams covering all regions of the country, from south to northeast, enabling us to effectively manage our operations across India. 
Could you delve deeper into your perspective on the Indian market for enterprise technology solutions? Specifically, what opportunities do you see for companies? 

Subramaniam: Over the next five years, our focus will be on ramping up manufacturing, particularly in electronics, auto, and pharmaceutical sectors. In electronics manufacturing services (EMS), we're eyeing markets like South India (Chennai, Bangalore), Gujarat, and Delhi. EMS is a major priority for us, especially with big players like Apple and others investing heavily. 


In the auto sector, initiatives like Nitin Gadkari's PLI schemes are driving tech adoption. Industry 4.0 is pivotal here, with connected machines generating vast data, an area where Zebra excels. Our software and hardware solutions cater to manufacturing needs effectively. 

Retail is another key vertical for us, with many large stores adopting RFID technology, facilitated by seamless transport and logistics. The government's aim to reduce logistics costs to 9% underscores the need for advanced technology, an area where Zebra plays a vital role. 

Overall, India's growth trajectory excites us, and we're committed to supporting it through our technological solutions across various sectors. 
What emerging technologies like IoT, AI, blockchain, and machine learning are integrated into the solutions you provide to enterprises? 


Donato: As a company, we believe AI is crucial for future advancements in manufacturing and transportation logistics. While AI adoption has been slower in manufacturing compared to other sectors, we've found efficient ways to implement it into our software solutions. By combining AI with our market expertise, our platforms are highly valued by customers. 

Looking ahead, we're exploring the potential of generative AI like GPT. With our market presence, we aim to simplify tasks for our customers, particularly operators. For example, in retail or logistics, our AI can assist with specific needs. Imagine being a new retail employee and needing to find a product in a large store. With our AI, you can simply ask and get directed to the item. Similarly, in maintenance, if you're faced with a broken elevator, our AI can analyse the issue from a photo you take with a Zebra device, providing diagnostic suggestions. 

These use cases highlight the importance of digitalisation for AI training. We're excited about these new technologies and their potential to revolutionise various industries. 
Do you foresee challenges in adopting technologies like AI in manufacturing, and if so, how do you plan to address them? 


Donato: The issue with AI, in my view, boils down to this widespread misconception that AI can handle everything. People often turn to AI to solve various problems, like those in manufacturing, assuming it's a magic fix-all. But at the end of the day, AI is just a tool, like any other. 

One big problem arises when customers dive into ambitious AI projects for their manufacturing or logistics without considering the practicalities. Starting small with easily measurable projects is the key. This approach allows for quicker wins and helps teams learn how to effectively integrate AI into their workflows. 

Working with AI involves getting the basics right: capturing data accurately, storing it properly, and then using it effectively. It's a bit like a science experiment – if you don't follow the steps correctly, the results won't be impressive. So, focusing on doing things the right way from the get-go is crucial. 
Regarding Gen AI and its adoption in India, what are your thoughts on the scarcity of data? Do you believe there's a shortage, or do you have a different perspective? 


Donato: To use AI effectively, you need to rethink how you approach improvement, starting with your data. It's not just about having data; it's about collecting it smartly. Our devices, even printers, are designed to gather data. We excel at helping customers send that data to the cloud. But here's the thing: getting results from AI isn't instant. It takes time, especially to gather and organize the right data—think three to six months just for that part. So, before diving into big AI projects, it's crucial for customers to understand this and start with smaller, manageable projects instead. 

Subramaniam: India is amassing an enormous amount of data, possibly the largest collection globally. This data is crucial, particularly in manufacturing, as mentioned by Donato. To propel manufacturing growth, automation is essential, including interconnected machines and AI integration. Efficient decision-making hinges on comprehensive data collection, ensuring swift and accurate choices. To stay competitive globally, India must adopt a data-driven approach, emphasizing the importance of gathering data across various sectors, especially in manufacturing. 
How does Zebra Technologies guarantee the security and reliability of IP solutions, especially in an industry where data privacy and integrity are top priorities? 

Donato: When we digitize information and move large amounts of data to the cloud, cybersecurity becomes crucial. We invest heavily in ensuring top-notch security, collaborating closely with expert partners. Our strategic alliances focus on securing data in the cloud and working seamlessly with cloud providers. We even have dedicated environments just for our company and our customers. Our commitment to cybersecurity is sky-high, driven by our deep understanding of customer concerns and global geopolitical considerations. We adapt our approach based on country-specific protocols to safeguard data effectively.
How does your company help enterprises, particularly in India, optimize operations and enhance efficiency through technology solutions? 

Subramaniam: India takes pride in its partnerships with industry leaders across various sectors. In retail, we collaborate closely with nine out of ten top retailers, enhancing their asset visibility and operational efficiency. We streamline their supply chains, ensuring goods flow seamlessly from warehouses to stores and to customers, while also optimising reverse logistics. 

In the courier industry, four or five major companies work closely with Zebra, benefiting from our automation and visibility solutions at every step of their operations in India. 

Manufacturing stands as India's largest vertical in terms of revenue, and Zebra is deeply involved, partnering with over 80% of the country's top manufacturers. From shop floors to finished products, we manage the entire lifecycle, including vendor management and raw material tracking. 

Our presence extends beyond sectors and into everyday operations. For instance, our technology plays a crucial role in airports and ports, from printing baggage tags to scanning and sorting items efficiently. Zebra's solutions ensure smooth operations and accurate identification, contributing to seamless travel experiences. 
Can you share insights on your company's future product roadmap or upcoming investments for the next year? 

Donato: India's scale is truly unique and plays a significant role in our statement. The manufacturing sector is booming, and we anticipate it will continue to grow rapidly. Our investments in technology, such as AI-based software and generative AI, align with our previous discussions. These investments aim to simplify our customers' lives, though manufacturing, production, and logistics are inherently complex. By merging our market expertise with advanced technology, we aim to provide solutions, not just products. This marks an exciting development for us. 

Sign up for Newsletter

Select your Newsletter frequency