Hardware start-ups are still at a very nascent stage compared to the other booming sectors like software and e-commerce. Though only a handful, the hardware teams are working on very interesting projects in areas like robotics, automobiles, wearables, biomedical, virtual reality and even attempting to put rovers on the moon.
Traditionally, in India most of the engineers have primarily worked on outsourced tasks from MNCs or just execution or adaptation work for the country. Most engineering jobs in the Indian industry are either very operations intensive or are of the back-end type. Very few people get to really work on the actual development. There is a lot of excitement in product development which every engineer looks forward to, but very rarely gets to do. The shortage of product development companies has also led to a shortage of talent which can work towards developing a new product.
This has significantly changed in the software and management industry thanks to our fellow entrepreneurs in software and operations domain. However the scenario remains the same for 99% of engineers in other streams. The fact being that most technology companies still hire engineers as managers and not necessarily for pure engineering work. A product development engineer ends up being a vendor developer or a production engineer ends up being a labor manager. Even engineers, including the ones from premium institutes, end up doing zero-value addition back-end work. A short interaction with any of these engineers will reveal their frustration as no one gets to do a significant contribution towards development of the product. This is a major reason why engineers from premium institutes end up leaving the country and move to places where they can finally do what they love to do.
With the rise of product startups in software and hardware alike has led to creation of jobs which need different kind of skill sets. The jobs require problem solving skills along with excellence in technical skills. These kind of roles brings in an excitement because you are no longer working for a very distant product, the product is being created in front of you and everything you do is a significant contribution. Finally with these jobs, engineers are able to do what till date only artists could do, - design and create products in India.
Though it may impact only a few hundred today, engineers are already excited about what is happening. Startup companies that are entering the field of Robotics, Drone Making, Home Automation, 3D Printing etc. have been able to attract talent which would have otherwise left the country or their core domain. We have individuals who have left jobs from FMCG, Ecommerce, Oil Rigs - to work on tech that they would love to. Considering the product that is being built, it gives engineers the chance for multi-disciplinary interaction. For example, Ather Energy is a team of stylists, mechanical engineers, production engineers, data analysts, PCB designers, Power Electronics engineers and embedded systems engineers, web developers working closely with each other and the operations and marketing team with a passion that would put the founders to shame. This multidisciplinary engineering playground is what thousands of our engineers aspire to enter.
There is still a shortage of talented engineers who can think equally good in terms of theory and design. This can be mainly attributed to lack of design opportunity in the industry. More companies and teams attempting to build new technologies and products from scratch would significantly improve the talent scenario. Moreover, if the country has to make further strides, it is crucial that we not only assemble and manufacture but also design and develop new technologies.
With the rise of hardware startups there's a lot of excitement in the engineering community. We hope more and more engineers become part of this hardware revolution by either starting up or by joining existing teams.