As demand increases and horizons of technology expand, newer opportunities for innovation and business will grow in the training kits space.
The field of electronics is expanding rapidly. New technologies have given birth to a connected and evolved ecosystem for electronics and other adjoining industries. Concepts like Industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing are the way forward to stay relevant in the modern world.
India has a dense pool of talented and capable resources that can drive the nation to become a stronger economy, a manufacturing hub and an R&D centre. Hence, it is important to investigate whether the available training and educational infrastructure are competent enough for honing necessary practical skills.
There is growing concern regarding the quality of relevant practical training being provided to engineering students. Often, institutes lack the right kits and tools for the purpose. Upgraded training kits are required to close the gap between the skill set necessary and that being imparted already.
Trainees and professionals alike are in search of reliable platforms for knowledge transfer, new skills development and re-skilling programmes that can help them become employable and industry-ready.
Experts believe India’s traditional education system is not able to keep up with fast-changing technologies. This is where private kits and training programmmes play a key role in creating the next generation of developers. New-age learning kits create a bridge between new and emerging technologies.
With the advent of advance sciences like the Internet of Things (IoT), embedded electronics, data analytics, automation and artificial intelligence (AI), it is sacrosanct to train future engineers using the most upgraded tools and platforms, to help them help us be ready for the future. So, how are the producers and dealers of these educational kits and training products ensuring this? We take a closer look.
Technology trends in modern training kits
Manufacturers are upgrading training kits to stay relevant with modern technologies that have entered today’s ecosystems. The kits are being integrated with essential technologies, to deliver accurate and seamless performance as well as provide learning opportunities that budding engineers need.
Ravi Velnati, chief executive officer, Anshuman Tech Pvt Ltd, says, “The dominant trend in today’s educational and training kits is the increasing speed of processing. Micro- and mini-circuitisation is forcing engineers to take a second look at how they can make their jobs more efficient. This drives kit providers like us to deliver the most modern training products.”
In electronics, some of the most sought-after training technologies, as mentioned by industry experts, include IoT kits, PC interface products in digital and analogue electronics, all-in-one electronic test benches and so on. In electrical engineering, latest products include PC interface electrical machine trainers and PC interface PID trainers.
Talking about the most in-demand training instruments, Dr Pravin Raut, founder and managing director, SINCOM Sindhu Electronics and Communications Pvt Ltd, says, “The Indian educational system and market demand both traditional training products as well as modern trainer kits. Traditional systems are based on analogue electronics to wireless communication.
“On the other hand, some modern trainer tools are digital communication and radio frequency (RF) wireless communication kits.
“In addition, looking at our inventory, we see a high demand of audio and video labs, digital communications and electronic components, display boards, digital voltage and current (DVI) meters and digital multi voltage and current (DMVI) meters.”
Do-it-yourself (DIY) boards are in great demand as well. Modular IoT development boards and sensors are seeing great popularity. Many kits in demand today fall under DIY tools category. Some popular kits are Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Blockly and Beagle Bone, among others.
Parimal Wagh, senior administration officer, Center for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), Pune, says, “Training programmes can make use of open source tools and open hardware to provide necessary guidance. Raspberry Pi3, Beagle Bone Black, Thunderboard React, Freedom Board and Zedboard are some boards we use.”
Many modern training kits, especially for embedded or automated electronics projects, are based on Arduino, mainly due to its cost-effectiveness and simple learning curve. Moreover, there is a lot of learning material available for Arduino, using which one can easily scale up the skill level. Jayesh Jain, director, Macfos Pvt Ltd, says that, quite a few of these kits are available for as low as ₹ 1000.
Wi-Fi modules, 3D printers and drones are some other sought-after products for hands-on training purposes.
Augmented reality (AR)- and virtual reality (VR)-based training platforms are other major trends. Both generate a digitally simulated environment that allows users to study subjects or even practice hands-on applications digitally, using a VR headset and a software platform that simulates the training environment. These training models bring new users up to speed with actual prototype building, without using physical resources and, eventually, making them production-ready.
Shaping newcomers with newer amenities
Over the years, there has been concern among industry experts about India’s educational setups with regards to whether the institutions are providing relevant courses and training to make the students industry-ready.
Ashwin Agarwal, president – strategy and operations, Phi Education Solutions, shares, “Currently, educational programmes are neither intensive, hands-on nor linked to industry needs. The market is new and evolving. Hence, training programmes need to catch up.”
However, educational setups are steadily aligning more with industry standards, aiming to shape the students into production-ready engineers.
Dr Raut explains, “These days, most universities have revised their syllabi according to the need of modern technological trends, with the aim to make newcomers more employable. The curricula now include advanced embedded systems, 4G mobile communications, WSN, robotics, mechatronics, interfacing of IoT with electronic systems and so on. Also, various software EDA tools that are widely used for design, simulation and interfacing of circuits are being taught.”
For instance, C-DAC Pune provides post graduation diploma courses on subjects like embedded system design (PG-DESD), the Internet of Things (PG-DIoT), big data analytics (PG-DBDA) and others.
Since latest technologies employ both software and hardware skills proportionately, it is crucial for today’s training tools to provide an access point to both.
Jain says, “Logic development for programming can be started with kids as young as 10 years of age. Many kits are now based on scratch programming for Arduino, which allow kids to create flowchart diagrams on tablets or PCs. The platform automatically creates and programs hardware based on those flowcharts. These new advancements in kits allow users to directly start working on their projects or new, emerging technologies without wasting much time in learning low-level programming and electronics.”
As modern technologies, like the IoT, embedded electronics, automation or AI, become more prevalent, students and newcomers need to be given the right practical knowledge and hands-on training that can help them jump into the industry and contribute without further re-skilling. This benefits them in their career and the industry in their business, alike. Essential investments allotted to training and supervising from scratch can be saved.
Modern training kits are setting these initiatives in motion as these become more relevant to the smart industry. These are helping students learn, innovate and design latest embedded projects at a quicker pace. Latest technology kits are provided with step-by-step procedure manuals, tutorial videos or animations, for easy and clear usability.
This is a major aid towards the development of skills as per industry requirement. Simultaneously, these new technologies keep the excitement among the students alive, which, in turn, brings a positive impact on the demand for these products.
India’s market and ecosystem
The education and training sector in India is quite strong and drives a significant percentage of the economy. A report by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, government of India, mentions that, India’s education sector is valued at US$ 91.7 billion, as of April 2018. It is projected to touch US$ 180 billion by 2020. Demand of training kits and products will proportionally increase with the increasing number of educational institutes providing higher education and practical training, as well as with the strengthening of technology industries.
The training products market saw a significant rise in business between 2008 and 2012, due to the increasing number of engineering and polytechnics institutions. That pace took to stagnancy afterwards, when admission counts fell, especially in electronics and telecommunication engineering. However, demand is still significant for these training kits, as reputed institutes receive enough applications for these branches and keep upgrading their laboratories with modern devices consistently.
Dilip Jain, chief executive officer, Rajguru Electronics, is optimistic. He says, “While data suggests people are not preferring electronics as their first choice of education, raising concerns regarding the demand, the reality came as a contradiction—demand is increasing every year. Many new domestic suppliers are entering the market and the competition is quite high.”
With 850 universities as of April 2018, with plans to raise ₹ 200 billion for setting up six new IITs by 2024, demand for hands-on training products will increase. Rising number of incubation centres and Atal Tinkering Labs also stand evidence to this fact.
Experts unanimously agree that demand for sensors, the IoT and robotic kits is reaching new heights. Sagar Gala, director, Gala Electronics, says, “There is a good balance between demand and supply in the kits industry. Domestic manufacturers are also playing a big role in the education industry.”
But is domestic production growing at a satisfactory scale? Agarwal answers, “Most training kit providers in the country are importers. There are very few indigenous products.”
By 2019, the Indian education industry is expected to become a US$ 101.1 billion market. It will be interesting to see new kits/companies coming up in the next couple of years, given the predictions in place.
The Indian market still suffers from many obstacles. These have impacted end products in terms of cost, stock or availability, quality and so on.
As per industry players, significant obstacles for the electronics educational kits market include high tax rates (13.5% VAT being increased to 18% GST), deviation in demand due to recession or lack of admissions in a specific engineering branch, stagnant and redundant government policies, financial stress on institutes and slow upgrade to new technologies.
As a possible solution, they advise the GST to be exempted, looking at the positive role trainer kits play in the education system. Also, basic electronics and skill-based subjects should have more focus and must be taught more thoroughly in schools. This will pique the interest of students, mold their practical skills early and, consequently, benefit the market and the industry.
Another major challenge pointed out by the industry is the inefficient local ecosystem for manufacturing kits. Agarwal adds, “The fact is, standalone educational kits are not the complete solution. Training programmes should define what these require from kits to meet learning outcomes.
“There is also a need to evangelise the market. For training programmes, the major challenge is lack of industry-academia partnerships, which need to be looked into immediately.”
Moreover, understanding and awareness among customers is missing. This has led to a trust deficit. Experts say that people in India do not easily trust Indian companies. While quite a few international brands enjoy big market shares despite providing ridiculously expensive products, that too based on old technology, India-based manufacturers struggle to create a strong footprint.
Apart from that, generic Arduino-based kits from Chinese websites (like AliExpress, BangGood and Club Factory) have started flooding the market. These are available at extremely low prices, creating a stiffer competition for domestic players. Yet, Indian companies are producing tailor-made learning kits as per market demands. This awareness needs to be spread.
National institutions like the IITs and NITs should take the onus to source more kits from domestic players to support Make in India policy of the government, the experts suggest. Velanti says, “Some IITs are still importing training kits. This needs to be addressed.
“Additionally, the government of India should give subsidies to GESS and Worlddidac exhibitions, to enhance quality and exposure of Indian products, and market these all over the world to improve exports.”
Dr Raut asserts, “Training kit manufacturers, including us, run with the motto to provide hands-on electronic systems to students. We are ready to upgrade ourselves according to various technological changes and make our products suitable for the new curricula, if given the chance.”
As demand increases and horizons of technology expand, newer opportunities for innovation and business will grow in the training kits space. However, the market already has strong competition. Jain says, “Due to increase in supplies, revenue margins are falling. On the other hand, due to increase in demand, everyone is able to get a share of the market.”
Agarwal confirms, “Yes, there is space for newcomers, but only for those with new and innovative products. These is no space for mere importers or distributors.”
According to educational data, the number of students preferring electronics engineering nowadays is decreasing, which may affect future demand.
For a new player to survive, products must align with the latest technologies and industry requirements. Experts suggest that these products must meet international standards at competitive prices.
So how can one identify where to innovate in this zone? Dr Raut says, “The area of electronics and allied subjects is very vast. Everyone cannot reach all corners. There are good business opportunities in modern technical fields. Thanks to the Internet, now businesses are global. The market is now open for online and offline business models.”
Market options: where to go
The market today is driven by many reliable dealers of training kits and products, including manufacturers, suppliers and distributors. Jain gives a macroscopic view on industry players, both local and global. He says, “There are many new companies that are specifically making and dealing in modern educational kits, like Thinnkware and Avishkaar Box, among others. Then, there are big international players including Lego Mindstrom, Makeblock, DF Robotics and Vex robotics.”
Rajguru Electronics supplies electronics components and modules for training kits. The company plans to start its own manufacturing facility in India by 2019.
Robu.in caters to the Indian DIY and makers community, colleges, research labs and electronic enthusiasts, providing components for the IoT, wireless, sensors, batteries and motors, and training solutions for projects like robotics, drones and electric vehicles.
Phi Education Solutions provides Made in India training kits and caters to educational institutions and colleges to educate the students on practical Industry 4.0 concepts.
Gala Electronics is a robotics kit solution company, providing project kits that are made in India.
Anshuman Tech Pvt Ltd supplies hardware and software training platforms across India, supported by nationally spread distribution channels.
SINCOM Sindhu Electronics manufactures, supplies and exports hardware-based electronics educational trainer kits.
Kits‘n’Spares is an online provider of a variety of training products including DIY kits (RFID, GSM, VLSI and more for beginners and engineers), development boards (ARM, Microchip, Renesas and Wi-Fi-based boards), components, equipment and e-books.
There are many more players whose solutions and services can be explored. All of these together have created a holistic and filled ecosystem with a variety of options and availability.