Xerox lends technology to start-ups to test Indian market

Part of Silicon Valley folklore is how Apple became a sensation after Steve Jobs, who learnt about the graphical user interface (GUI) developed at computing giant Xerox, incorporated it in his next-generation personal computers. The rest, as they say, is history.

Xerox, meanwhile, lost out in the technology race to Apple and others such as Microsoft and Google.

Now in India, Xerox is trying to look for hidden gems – start-ups that can potentially use its technology and help them go to market. The company plans to test the waters and evaluate if it makes sense for it to get into the business on its own, through investments or even acquisitions.

“For a large corporation, it takes time for them to say, ‘okay, let’s go after the Indian market and the education market in India’ so rather than have those technologies gather dust, we are saying ‘let’s work with start-ups’,” said Manish Gupta, director of the Xerox Research Centre India (XRCI).

Globally, Xerox has over the past few years diversified its business away from making just printers and copiers into building and providing services in the back office, medical, education and transport solutions space. While Xerox services is slowly expanding presence in India, its research and development lab in Bengaluru is tasked with looking at new avenues to use its technology for growing business.

XRCI, tasked with identifying problems that exist in India and develop solutions that can be used in the country and other similar emerging nations, has so far handpicked Indian start-ups, looking at a specific solution offered by the companies and approaching them with the lure of integrating its technology in their solution.

One of the technologies it has developed helps with the detection of breast cancer using thermal imagery.

“We’re working along with a start-up which is already in the space (breast cancer detection) and they suffer from a very high false positive rate. We are talking to them for integrating their solution with our technology and taking it to market,” said Gupta.

Using machine learning and advanced computing, Xerox’s claims its technology is able to scan a thermal image to detect cancer with a higher accuracy than traditional mammograms. The company only develops software, rather than focusing on building hardware which gets commoditised.

Pairing up with start-ups makes sense for companies such as Xerox since it is often not possible for small firms to allocate the funds, develop technology and attract the talent required for building such technology. For companies such as Xerox, however, lending its technology on a revenue share model can become very lucrative if these start-ups make it big.

“If Xerox doesn’t have a channel to market a specific solution, and typically large corporations don’t invest into a new area until they see a large business. That’s where start-ups become important to partner with,” said Gupta.

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