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Flutura Co Founder Srikanth Muralidhara – Journey towards delivering Billion Dollar outcomes

First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?

Last time this year, the COVID-19 crisis forced a sudden, new way of life upon the world. Where Flutura, as an organization, was navigating through the strategic and operational challenges of coronavirus to address the needs of their customers rapidly. My team worked intensely from remote locations and delivered great results while coping with changes in their daily lives. As leaders, we had to step up for our team members to provide a tangible impact in addressing the basic needs of safety, stability, and security during the crisis.

The needs are evolving and call for a more sophisticated approach. We started IGNITE program – a path-breaking well-being program alongside Heart-it-Out. This program will aim for an individual transformative journey emphasizing the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our team Flutura.

The pandemic materially affected our daily work lives and made the company rethink the work environment to respect individual differences – home lives, skills, capabilities, mindsets, personal characteristics, and other factors. The constant emphasis on trust, workforce effectiveness & well-being, safety & security, while also adapting to rapidly changing circumstances, has helped us thrive through these unprecedented times.

Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?

It has always been a common dream for Krishnan, Derick, and me to experience entrepreneurship and innovate something from a figment of the imagination and turn it into a viable business.  This kept coming up in several conversations, and finally, the Now or Never moment came in November of 2011. From then on, Flutura’s journey has  been a “Serendipitous Journey of Experiments.”  The journey has been a journey of knowing ourselves.

Early on in our journey and which we continue to do, we spent thousands of hours in control rooms of industrial facilities, visited several plants, and met with reliability and production optimization engineers to better understand problems worthy of solving. A common problem industrial facilities face getting 10-15x more alarms than what an operator can manage daily. On the other extreme, there are few mechanisms to detect process upsets impacting the yield or quality of the products manufactured in these facilities despite massive investments in sensors and data acquisition systems. The impact – industries lose 50 billion dollars every year due to process upsets.

These process upsets, and the solution to solve them are not at all trivial.  We concluded that intricate knowledge of plant operations and physics behind them, along with strong data science capabilities, is extremely critical.  Throwing AI or machine learning or any other technology at these will not make these problems go away.

Hence, our mission became very clear; we wanted to empower Industrial Engineers to leverage data science to detect process upsets impacting Yield, Uptime, and Netzero outcomes for industrial facilities.

How does your company innovate?

Flutura as a company is an intense learning environment.  The best way to innovate is to immerse and deeply listen to customers. Flutura encourages all team members to interact with customers very early on in their journey. Experience does not matter!  We want our team members to experience entrepreneurship and the art of the possible. We have an environment where they can strengthen their wings to fly and soar greater heights in their careers and be entrepreneurs themselves someday. We have a fantastic team of Mechanical Engineers, Chemical Engineers, Electrical Engineers, Industrial Data Scientists & Data Architects – magic happens every day when they come together and discuss solutions to problems we want to solve for our customers. There has not been a single day at Flutura where I have not learned something new from my team.

We challenge the status quo and keep raising the bar on ourselves every day and ask, “What if?” “Why not?”. Innovation has led to Cerebra being recognized among the Top Innovative Companies in the Industrial AI segment by Industry Wired, Mirror Review, CIO review, Frost & Sullivan, Deloitte, Gartner, another analyst, and media publishing houses. Recently, we have won membership with Synerleap and ABB, recognized as Global leader by Bombardier, Top AI companies to watch in Oil & Gas by Abyss. We were invited by Adipec 2020 to showcase our thought leader-led Gathering Systems Solution; the Society of Petroleum Engineers later published the paper.

How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?

The COVID-19 is truly testing times for the business as well as personal times. It is a human tragedy that has played out across the globe and has left homes, communities, companies disrupted.  While AI is helping industries grow at a massive speed, especially with arising confinements across industries due to COVID-19, there are other challenges that industries are facing.

The energy (oil & gas) industry is under twin assault from the demand destruction caused by Covid-19 and a price war between key global producers that have reduced the oil prices. The harsh realities – mobility restrictions, social distancing, and overall health concerns-have hit Process Manufacturing with a shortage of laborers in the entire supply chain.

Operations in both industries have ceased, giving us to work with limited opportunities for now.

Industrial automation activity has been slowed due to flat capital expenditure and a decline in industrial activity due to COVID. An abrupt pause in implementing AI for inventory management and AI-equipped assembly lines in Process Manufacturing will either be insufficiently developed or partially implemented. The price wars in Oil & Gas have left companies to recover from the blow may or may not include digitalized solutions.

However, we plan to divide these challenges into the buckets of mid-long-term effects of COVID and prepare to combat the situation through strategic business planning. In the short-term post-COVID, industries will still be facing the challenges of social distancing and mobility restrictions. With Industrial AI, we plan to negate any inevitable challenges by using remote monitoring, video analytics, and more technology-driven solutions for operators to mitigate adverse conditions and work safely.

Even when the biggest Oil & Gas producers shift to renewables like wind and solar and plan to reduce Co2 footprint, we have earlier worked on the renewable energy space. We now want to expand our operations to achieve net-zero goals in production. AI helps companies achieve fuel affordability through operational excellence with better resource utilization and reduced wastage/rework.

Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?

When the pandemic hit all of us, we were not sure about the extent of disruption which could happen to plan the right level of response. We immediately reached out to peers, customers, and investors to seek their perspectives and guidance on how they saw the pandemic unfold and the impact to anticipate. It became clear we had to plan for a worst-case scenario of scaled-down business traction across markets.

We returned to our team, presented our learning, and explained the situation that could potentially unfold in the market in the next 24 months. We had to take cost control measures to ensure we create a good runway for ourselves. Several senior team members and team leaders took higher salary cuts to ensure junior team members do not get affected.

The biggest lessons learned were ensuring timely communication, stating the risks we were facing, and, most importantly, instilling confidence and hope that the tough times would never last forever.  In hindsight, this really helped us, and we eventually came out strong as a team.

What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?

1 month into the pandemic, Flutura’s core think tank came up with several ideas keeping in mind the new normal that would unfold when the market slowly starts to recover. We reprioritized product features, doubled down on redirecting our effort and energy into quickly clearing our product backlog to be ready for the market when the recovery happens.

We built several productivity tools to speed up our product engineering and implementation efforts. This is paying off in a big way as we are starting to see green shoots in the economy.

We evaluated strategies for entering new verticals and markets, for which the execution is in progress.

Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?

Broadly competitors for Flutura range from incumbent players in the controls and automation space, OEMs, data analytics platform players, and start-ups like ours.

Flutura has invested more than a million engineering hours towards building a comprehensive set of data-driven engineering tools which helps in developing real-time operational decision support systems for industrial facilities. We have deployed digital twin solutions in as little as 2 weeks for customers who jump-start their journey in the digital space. Our technology has unique constructs, and design patterns for Industrial AI use cases which helps in deployment across various sectors in the industrial space. Flutura is continuously forging partnerships with key players in the industrial ecosystem like TechnipFMC to power new business models around Servitization and other value-added service offerings around heavy machinery and process automation systems.  Flutura is also soon launching Cerebra for NetZero to help reduce Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions for industrial companies.

Your final thoughts

We are excited about the several opportunities unfolding for Flutura to help us BE THE undisputed leader in the Industrial AI space. Our vision is to deliver a billion dollars of business outcomes for our customers and empower 100,000 industrial engineers by 2024.

    • Spokesperson: Srikanth Muralidhara
    • Company: Flutura
    • Website link: www.flutura.com

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