An Electronics and Communication Engineer, IIM Bangalore alumni and Samsung ‘s first Indian employee, Dipesh Shah is the driving force behind Samsung R&D Institute India-Bangalore (SRI-B) — the company’s largest software R&D centre outside Korea. He is also the first-ever Indian to become managing director at Samsung India.
Dipesh leads 'Design Thinking' methodologies and plays a key role in formulating product strategy, bringing in local differentiation and creating breakthrough innovation to enhance consumer experience across Samsung portfolio – including mobile, TVs, home appliances and more. He has a critical role in India’s growth story and is said to drive ‘Powering Digital India’ vision with a refreshed R&D strategy focusing on Open Innovation with startups, students and universities. Gujarati is his mother tongue, but Dipesh is a polyglot and speaks Korean, Kannada, Hindi and English fluently. He is an avid singer in his free time. In a closed media roundtable recently, he shared some important insight into the company’s R&D operations in the country, contribution in Galaxy S23 series and more. Excerpts:
Q. For how many months have you been collaborating for Galaxy S23? What else we can do with the growth of the R&D Center in Bengaluru, and how do you look to grow it over the next one or two years?
There are two kinds of software development. One is called platform software development. Basically, things get developed without actually keeping a particular product in mind. Platform software means what kind of camera related, what kind of on-device AI related, what kind of 5G related features need to be developed. This goes on over a long period. Typically, two years, three years, four years, no longer duration projects are done on the platform level and then when the particular product is being launched, we understand what consumer segment would be attracted to this product, what experiences these consumers need as part of that product. From the platform, those features are picked up and put as a part of the product and shift. Platform software collaborations typically take between two to four years depending on how hard the problems are to be solved and product-related software typically takes between 18 to 36 months to get into a particular product.
Answering the second part of the question, it’s all about technology, innovation and consumers. Software engineers in India have proven over multiple years, creating many important products, by collaboration with global R&D centres. That’s why the commitment to India R&D is very high. The largest software R&D is in Bangalore. In Noida and Delhi, we have R&D Centers for mobile smartphones and televisions and home appliances. The commitment to R&D in India as a country is extremely high and will continue to grow.
Q. What kind of skills are you looking at and how should a fresher skill himself or herself, to land up with a job at SRI Centers to innovate smartphone features?
We really want to be the employer of choice for the young talent of the country. If you look at it typically in the IIT hiring season, we will usually have one of the top IIT talent hiring in the country. This data was already published about two months before. In addition to this, we have programs like the Student Connect program which we call PRISM. Every three students get together and they work on the real-life project that Samsung India basically asked them to do along with their professors. These students get a chance to work on the real-life project and get a feel of the company. Through that they can actually show their capabilities. Then we hire through many other channels by which they can come here. But the skills are in exactly these four areas. It’s about wireless communications or vision related, artificial intelligence, on device AI and smart things or the IoT. In these four areas, we continue to hire people. Especially for young Indian people, AI is one area where India is very, very good because the entry barrier is very low to learn AI. Lot of AI is open source and there are a lot of open data models so people can learn without having any disadvantages compared to their counterparts sitting in Silicon Valley for example. With lower entry barriers, more people can get into AI and in R&D centres like SRI -B this talent can be put into right use to create great and great experiences.
Q. 700 engineers are particularly for the Bangalore Center or is it Samsung R&D altogether? What is the total strength? Do engineers in India get to file patents globally? When you say AI, can you just direct that in which area are you planning to hire more engineers?
About the number 700, that number was the number of engineers who contributed to create this ‘EPIC product’, only for this particular product from Bangalore. India R&D the numbers are much larger. Talking about patents, in the last 3-4 years, the government has awarded Samsung, the MNC R&D centres, Bangalore the best patent award usually because the culture of creating IP is being created not only in Bangalore, but we are trying to create an IP culture in the country. Even the PRISM program that I was talking about, even the students and professors are now creating patents with the help of Samsung. We are creating IP capacity in the country through this approach, and these are of course global patents, and then of course there are also filed in India because India is as important and market as any other global market and so on.
And about AI, today’s focus is all about EPIC (the term Samsung uses for Galaxy S23 experience). The product that has been created collaboratively across multiple R&D centres. I gave you example of the moon shot and Nightography, I’ll give you two other examples in Epic. Typically, when you go to a tourist spot and you are trying to take a picture, there’s always some people you may not want in the picture. With just one click, it identifies and helps you erase all those unwanted objects/people. Let’s say you are taking pictures of a waterfall, the part of the waterfall which was getting blocked will get recreated by AI. Another area is shadow of objects, it may be shadow of your mobile or shadow of some object near where you are taking photo. With one click, you can remove all the shadows on the picture that you are taking. This way, there are many ways where AI can be utilised and all of this is applied in EPIC products.
Q. Galaxy S23 series is the most sustainable Galaxy series yet. Would you tell us how you enable the phones and how long it take to build the first commercial unit?
First of all, thank you for noticing the focus on sustainability in this product. This is a very strong Samsung drive globally, there is a lot of commitment being made in terms of how Samsung will become Carbon zero, how we will create products that allow our consumers to reduce their carbon footprint and so on. There are hardware related sustainability initiatives like recyclable material, reusable packaging, etc.
Samsung is the only Android maker that promises four times software upgrade and five years of security update. We allow our consumers to use the device for a longer period of time. That’s another way to take care of sustainability. So that’s where the Bangalore team has a role to create software that is easily upgradable, easy security updates able to give over the period of four to five years.
Q. What was the Bangalore R&D teams' contribution towards making the custom Galaxy chipset? And how did they work with Qualcomm?
One of the key components of Epic product is this custom design Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset for us and we are saying this time it’s a 30% better CPU performance, 40% better GPU performance and 40% better NPU performance now till here it’s an hardware spec. For consumer life, how is it going to change and that’s where the Samsung Bangalore engineers collaborated is how to utilise this additional NPU power. When you have additional NPU power, you can actually take a little more frames when you are doing multi frame Nightography for example.
Q. Can you please tell us more about other innovations at SRI -B Bangalore? Other than smartphones as in your focus on creating the whole product ecosystem. Also, how are you involved in Skilling India talent in R&D?
The first question is very valid, very important because Samsung has created multiple devices that are in people's homes and in personal lives. So, in your personal life there is your smartphone, your Galaxy Buds, your Galaxy Watch, Galaxy Tablet and there’s your Galaxy Book3 that we recently launched. There are many personal devices and there are smart home devices like your washing machine, refrigerator, family hub, robot vacuum cleaner, smart television, and eventually we are an open ecosystem company for many third-party devices like door sensor, smart plug, LED light bulb, etc. So, all of these devices, when they are working independently, give you a certain amount of experience. But when they work connectedly, they just take experience to another level.
Q. The company announced local manufacturing of the new Galaxy S23 series. What are the market expectations about the new lineup this time? Also, how are the companies seeing the global shortage of electronic parts and chips and how the R&D Institute in Bangalore can help the company in order to meet the demand?
It talks about Samsung’s commitment to India. The world’s largest mobile factory, the world’s largest mobile store, the world’s largest software R&D center. All three of Samsung are in India. That’s the commitment to India. But in terms of manufacturing supply chain, frankly I’m not the right person.
Talking about demand, the second question is where I can definitely answer. Creating demand is all about meeting consumer experiences. The whole epic is built for those creators who want more from their phones. The current phones are not good enough for them, whether they want to do Nightography, whether they want to play games for a longer period of time, whether they want a completely waterproof, dustproof phone, whether they want to use that phone for four to five years because of an OS upgrade. Whether they want the best processor in town, whether they want the memory and the storage to take care of all their pictures and videos. All of these consumer needs, when it is met through R&D and hardware and products and software spec, the demand will automatically get created and you must have already heard from my colleagues how stupendous the response has been in the first few days of EPIC.
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