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Fireside chat with Abhijit Shanbhag, President&CEO of Graymatics

Who is Abhijit Shanbhag? 

Originally from Mumbai, Abhijit completed his bachelor’s education at the Indian Institute of Technology in his home city before moving to California in the US. Being a long time serial entrepreneur led him to start his first company over 17 years ago. Abhijit is also a tech geek having done a PhD in Computer Engineering. After a stint at Qualcomm, where he was leading some of the earliest 3G Base Station efforts, he co-founded his  first company in 2001, Scintera, a leading fabless semiconductor company which developed the industry’s first programmable RF signal processor. Later, he eventually started Graymatics in 2011, and in the last year or so, the security and surveillance industry became one of the fastest-growing in the tech world. 

What’s the story behind Graymatics? 

There was a major problem with the massive proliferation of image and video content around us with very few, if any, video content-aware tools such as search, analytics, etc. With the internet being largely visual, CCTV’s becoming ubiquitous around us whilst generating massive video content, the content was still unlitized.  Search of content on video hosting platforms was entirely based on captions, and CCTVs were installed more for deterrence than for proper exploitation. We could see a massive opportunity  to create a highly scalable, versatile cognitive platform that could analyse large volumes of video content in near real-time, and convert this content into machine-understandable data. This could immediately transform CCTV’s from the passive devices to a compelling array of solutions. 

We had a clear vision to transform all video (and other rich media) content, devices and sensors around the globe into compelling solutions that will make a safer and more secure society, more efficient streamline operations and enable value-added services. The original founding team comprised some of the top domain experts in AI from Stanford University, UC Berkeley and University of Southern California, in addition to myself. The initial financing for Graymatics came from Citrix Systems, as well as Singapore’s Prime Ministers Office.

What was the most difficult part of your experience in the early beginnings? 

Our initial problem was the mindset of our clients. This new technology was an unexplored region for our clients and thus faced reluctance in terms of adoption and usage. We definitely have come a long way in terms of changing the mindset of our clients from a time when they were skeptical about using CCTVs to derive data to the present time when video analytics define decision making and operations of most businesses. 

What are you most proud of regarding your business? 

In a span of a few years since our inception in 2011, Graymatics has celebrated many achievements. To mention a few, we have been honoured to be named as the Most Innovative Indian-ASEAN Tech for Smart City and be the first company to be selected by Singapore’s PMO for their new Global Executive Entrepreneurship Award. Having tapped into an unexplored area with the best of cutting-edge AI and venturing fairly globally to make a difference to the community to make them more safe, and perhaps enhance productivity is something Graymatics might be proud about. However I’ll be most proud of our employees for whom this may have been an important career step and will continue to be the AI power-changers and missionaries. 

What is your vision for the future of Graymatics? 

We envision Graymatics to be a global AI leader that transforms all existing passive CCTV infrastructure into useful solutions that can enhance security and surveillance, operational processes and customer experience. For instance, G-Safe, one of our latest offerings, may soon become the go-to solution to manage security and operations at banks. With our innovative product solutions for various industries, we aim to make video AI analytics accessible in more countries and to more clients and partners. We do hope our product solutions will drive a positive shift in every industry, in every community and society and will create a safer and more efficient world. 

What’s your advice for the businesses that are trying to adapt to this economic climate? 

With a pandemic circling the world, many industries have been severely disrupted. At this time, the public sector has proved to be a key segment as governments are making a continuous effort by routing funds to fight pandemic threats. Graymatics perceived Covid-19 not as a threat  but as an opportunity to innovate and to promote a safe and secure environment. We leveraged on Covid-19 regulations and new norms and thus incorporated mask detection, social distancing monitoring and crowd management alerts into our technology. Therefore, what initially came as a challenge for us has now transformed into a competitive advantage that we offer to our clients in all product verticals.

Please name a few technologies which have the greatest impact on your business.

Graymatics’s mission is to go beyond the limitations of manual security monitoring. We leverage Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning to provide security and surveillance solutions in various industries, be it banks, manufacturing sites or smart cities. We provide over 100 AI-powered analytics, many of which have federated learning capability that enables continuous optimisation of performance. 

Furthermore, the backbone of any machine learning and deep learning is data. In order to harness the right kind of data, we tap into the Internet and passive CCTV infrastructures to collate and leverage captured videos. We developed substantial tools to automatically annotate data with minimal manual intervention and tools to transfer content with a different transfer style. This way, the video feeds captured from various CCTVs installed at a particular premise can be used for different types of analytics corresponding to that industry vertical. 

What books do you have on your nightstand? 

Some of the few books on my nightstand include Four Steps to an Epiphany; Competing in the Age of Artificial Intelligence; Measure What Matters (by John Doerr); The Hard Thing about Hard Things; Mindfulness in plain English.

Because of the current economic climate our publication has started a series of discussions with professional individuals meant to engage our readers with relevant companies and their representatives in order to discuss their involvement, what challenges they have had in the past and what they are looking forward to in the future. This sequence aims to present a series of experiences, recent developments, changes and downsides in terms of their business areas, as well as their goals, values, career history, the high-impact success outcomes and achievements.

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