January 2015

'We are unique among engineering service providers'

Tata Elxsi is a global design company that blends technology, creativity and engineering to help customers transform ideas into products and services that create an impact. The company addresses the automotive, aerospace, broadcast, communications and healthcare sectors. This is supported by a network of design studios, software development centers and offices worldwide, including five offices in the US.

Sandesh Rai is the country head, North America for Tata Elxsi. An IIM-Lucknow graduate, he has years of experience in the field, having worked in leadership positions at Tech Mahindra and HCL Technologies. He speaks about the company’s plans for growth and its next gen solutions in automotive electronics, broadcast, Visual FX, wearable devices and much more.

How big is Tata Elxsi’s North America operation? What are the major verticals in the region?
North America is a key geography for the company, contributing over a third of the company’s revenues and bottom line. We provide product design and software development for multiple verticals, supported by five offices spanning the east and west coasts.

In the automotive vertical, we help global OEMs and suppliers deliver next generation electronics for hybrid vehicles, advanced driver assistance and infotainment. In the broadcast and Pay TV market, we work with leading operators and equipment vendors in the US and Canada, to develop innovative applications and services, and to reduce cost of product engineering and network operations. The other major verticals include communications, semiconductor and medical devices.

What is your exposure to Hollywood studios? Are you involved in any ongoing productions?
We have a separate division that provides animation and visual effects services for feature films, TV and games, and also creates multimedia-rich marketing and advertising content for product companies. While this is a small part of our revenues, we work with some leading Hollywood studios on upcoming feature films for animation, VFX and stereoscopic 3D work. We cannot reveal much on this front, but do look for our work in upcoming releases.

What is your expansion plan? Do you plan to invest in start-ups in the United States?
We currently operate in the US through five offices — Santa Clara, Irvine, Troy, Princeton and Philadelphia. We plan to expand our current offices and add new offices to support key customers, adding over 100 new employees in the US over the next few quarters.

We have been engaged with start-ups in the US from the beginning of our operations — some of our most exciting projects have been with start-ups innovating radically new products and services. We have been successfully operating an incubator facility called Incub@TE, which provides a platform for tech start-ups to transform their ideas into commercial viable products and services. This is also extended to US start-ups, especially those that see India as a potential market. We have also partnered with other leading global incubators and tech accelerators, to provide our incubatees a worldwide support base. Tata Elxsi is currently incubating three start-ups in the telecom, mobile and cloud-based technology space.

Can you describe your partnerships in the United States and Canada?
We have partnered with RDK Management, LLC, a joint venture of Comcast Cable and Time Warner Cable, to accelerate the deployment of next-gen video products and services. We have invested in developing interactive TV and cloud based solutions using big data and analytics around this partnership, that help operators enhance customer experience and reduce costs of network deployment and management.

We have partnered with Intel in its Internet of Things (IoT) Solutions Alliance, to accelerate the deployment of intelligent devices, systems and analytics. We are also partnering with other leading semiconductor vendors such as Renesas and Qualcomm to help product companies develop innovative products and solutions in the automotive and connected devices markets.

Automotive is a big vertical for Tata Elxsi. What are the next-generation solutions that you have introduced?
Our latest innovations and solutions include:

  • Infotainment: As infotainment systems within cars deliver more and more features, the way we interact with these systems needs to change, for ease-of-use and distraction-free driving. We have developed concepts for next gen infotainment solutions that use multi-modal interactions such as touch, voice and gesture-based controls, coupled with an intuitive user interface to ensure distraction free driving. This is available on leading hardware platforms and operating systems, including Android.
  • Driverless cars: We are developing an autonomous car framework that integrates cameras, sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. This provides a range of Advanced Driver Assistance (ADAS) features such as collision warning, autonomous cruise control and advanced features such as autonomous valet parking, etc.
  • Connected Car: We are working with leading OEMs to develop companion apps that can be accessed through the car infotainment system, or phones, tablets and other connected devices, including wearables. This also extends to telematics solutions that leverage cloud computing to provide emergency services, routine diagnostics and preventive maintenance.
  • Connected Car security: With increasing connectivity, the car is exposed to risks of viruses or even hacking of key functions. We have developed a secure communication gateway prototype that is installed in the vehicle and ensures all communication within the car network and from the outside world is secured.

We exhibited some of these solutions at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) show in Las Vegas in 2014. The response has been excellent and has led to major engagements, as these represent key areas of interest and ongoing R&D for leading car companies and suppliers.

We are excited to be previewing our latest innovations again at CES 2015, Las Vegas. Our booth is located right in the heart of the automotive zone.

How do you plan to overcome the challenges you foresee in the United States market over the few years?
We foresee great opportunities rather than challenges. We are seeing a shift in the telecom market towards open standards and technologies such as software defined networks (SDN) and increased R&D spend in new segments like automotive electronics, medical devices, IoT and wearable devices. Even the media and entertainment market, where we have a large play, is seeing a significant shift to cloud-based solutions and use of big data analytics to better service subscribers and reduce operating costs.

We are continuously listening to our customers and the market, to ensure that our service offerings are aligned for the present and the future. We have been proactively investing in emerging technologies such as IoT, software defined networks, cloud computing and analytics, and development of in-house IPR and technology solutions through an Innovation Council chaired by our chief technology officer.

We have developed a world-class design team that works with clients to help them understand end-consumers, their current and emerging needs, and leveraging these insights to create products and services that create an impact and drive strategic growth. This is further enhanced by our end-to-end service for software, hardware and system development, and the experience of over 25 years in successfully delivering projects from offshore development centres, thereby reducing cost.

This unique proposition of full-service technology and design capabilities, and our agility and responsiveness as a focused mid-sized company will continue to be compelling for our customers.

Fact file: Tata Elxsi

  • Started product engineering and R&D services in the US in 1996.
  • US head office: Irvine, California. Other centres: Santa Clara (California); Atlanta (Georgia); Philadelphia (Pennsylvania); Troy (Michigan); and Princeton (New Jersey).
  • About 30 percent of the company’s total revenues accrue from North America.
  • Number of employees in North America: 100+

 

This article is part of the cover story chronicling the Tata group's history of doing business in North America, featured in the January 2015 issue of Tata Review:
Tata Consultancy Services: 'United States is a hotbed of digital progression'
Jaguar Land Rover: 'North America is a critical market place for JLR'
Tata Chemicals: 'We are investing in the technologies of tomorrow'
Tata Steel Minerals Canada: 'Tata Steel navigates subarctic challenges'
Tata Technologies: 'We have to get to a billion dollars quickly'
Tata Communications: 'Strategy 2.0 will make us a value–added service player'
Indian Hotels Company: 'We are the keepers of heritage and legacy'
Tata Global Beverages: 'The team is excited about the opportunities ahead'
Tata Interactive systems: 'Content creation is as important as packaging it'
Tata Sons: 'We promote the group's business in North America'