For long, only the big tech companies could stake claim to the haloed quantum computing technology. Not anymore. Today, start-ups are buying into it to augment the speed of rolling out new solutions and add to their tech stack at a faster pace.
They can whisper thanks to Oxford University’s theoretical physicist David Deutsch, who discovered this technology in his quest to build a machine that could determine the existence of parallel universes. His paper in 1985, which details the principles of quantum mechanics and quantum theory, is what many computer scientists leaned on to develop newer models that could crunch numbers and spew results faster.
This revolutionised the evolution of computers, from the large room-sized devices of the 1960s to smaller machines that could build applications around enterprise use cases more rapidly. Its impact on business and technology can be determined by the fact that quantum computing is expected to account to nearly $1.3 trillion in value by 2035, according to McKinsey and Company.
Big tech companies like Intel, IBM, Google, Microsoft and Amazon started investing in this technology to transform how they co-created products and solutions by leveraging global design techniques and new-age technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI).
This rush to gain a headstart is unsurprising, considering how quickly technology evolves and how tougher it has become for companies to match this pace. Quantum computers can help in this race for speed as quantum bits (qubits) perform tasks using a combination of 0 and 1 and both 0 and 1 simultaneously, unlike binary processes in traditional computers.
By doing several calculations simultaneously, the problem-solving process becomes faster. In 2021, researchers from the quantum computing firm D-wave solved a problem three million times faster than a traditional computer!
Indian Companies Take To Quantum Computing
Indian enterprises have started using quantum computing extensively to reduce the workforce’s manual efforts and gain better results in both performance and profitability. IBM has collaborated with Indian universities, research institutions, and businesses to advance quantum research and development.
Wipro, Infosys, and TCS have been exploring quantum computing and cryptography solutions for quite some time now. And then there is IISc and C-DAC, which too have their quantum research labs.
“While it is still in its nascent stages and presents unique challenges and opportunities, it has the potential to revolutionise the e-commerce landscape since it can process vast amounts of data at speeds that classical computers can only dream of,” noted Dr Somdutta Singh, founder and CEO of Assiduus Global Inc.
Karthick Seshadri, assistant professor at NIT Andhra Pradesh, believes that quantum computing can transform India’s future through drug discovery, facilitating weather sensing and other agricultural activities. Earlier developers would mimic the traditional mechanical computers, which have grown to quantum computing modelling across various universal computations, changing the whole scenario.
While quantum computing is relatively new in the country, it is gaining popularity, with major Indian start-ups embracing it to build tech stack faster. They are homing in on the fact that quantum computers are a hundred times more efficient than the fastest of supercomputers and, hence, can process the toughest of works in seconds to give diverse solutions to a single problem.
Quantum computing’s evolution is closely linked to hardware development, algorithmic advancements, and the broadening of use cases. Since start-ups often face complex problems—from optimising operations to developing innovative products or services—quantum computing can dramatically speed up their problem-solving capacity, allowing them to iterate and innovate faster. With this competitive edge, they can develop new algorithms, improve machine learning models, and optimise resource allocation.
For instance, Happiest Minds Technologies uses Amazon Braket, Dwave and IBM Qiskit as it continues to identify the most practical use cases for quantum computing. Its VP and CTO of Product Engineering Services, Ritesh Gupta, stated, “More specifically, we are bullish about the potential for us to help our customers in healthcare, life sciences, industrial, manufacturing and BFSI among others to take the quantum leap. We have been immersed in building Proofs of Concept (POCs) using AWS, Azure and IBM infrastructures to identify use cases and showcase how quantum computing can revolutionise more complex and involved decision-making as compared to classical algorithms.”
Several Hurdles To Scale
However, gaining access to quantum computers can be daunting. “The biggest challenge that start-ups or researchers face is having a physical quantum computer in the premises because only then can they establish a quantum algorithm,” says Kanishka Agiwal, India/South Asia head for Amazon Web Services (AWS) Service Lines.
He added that often, only some computational issues can be solved by a few quantum computers. “In each of these, the simulator plays a key difference in bringing this forward to the researchers. So, it drastically cuts down time and costs,” he stated.
These quantum computers have a different way of solving a problem statement. To democratise quantum computing in India, Amazon Braket now provides access to four major quantum hardware as well as quantum computing simulators.
Moreover, the existing tech talent pool in the start-up ecosystem is not skilled enough to use quantum computing. They will need lots of handholding and intensive training to learn how to harness its potential.
Despite these challenges, Prabhu Ram, head of industry intelligence group, CyberMedia Research (CMR) feels that start-ups in the country have a bright future in quantum computing. His confidence stems from the fact that government, private sector and academia stakeholders are trying to address the skills gap by investing in training programs and offering courses in quantum computing.
For instance, the National Quantum Mission provides funding for training programs in quantum computing. Additionally, some universities in India are offering courses in quantum computing. “With these investments in training and education, India is building a pool of skilled quantum computing workers. This will allow start-ups to take full advantage of the opportunities that quantum computing presents,” Ram added.
While there is no doubt that quantum computing will bring transformative changes to the start-up ecosystem, it will take some time before these computers become widely accessible for practical purposes.