5 questions with Quantum Inventions

Quantum Inventions chief executive and co-founder Saurav Bhattacharyya. He says that Singapore's Smart Nation vision looks to integrate IT into all aspects of life, including transport. Transportation technology will play a key role in the changing l
Quantum Inventions chief executive and co-founder Saurav Bhattacharyya. He says that Singapore's Smart Nation vision looks to integrate IT into all aspects of life, including transport. Transportation technology will play a key role in the changing landscape of Singapore. Quantum Inventions is a large part of this technological advancement and it wants to lead the way, he says.ST PHOTO: AZMI ATHNI

Technology has brought massive disruption to the transport industry worldwide but local start-up Quantum Inventions believes the fast-changing sector provides it with plenty more opportunities. The firm, which is known for its Galactio brand of navigation software used in GPS devices for cars, specialises in technology for intelligent transport systems and mobile and navigation devices. It was wholly acquired by German automotive manufacturing group Continental earlier this month in a deal put at about $40 million. Jacqueline Woo speaks to Quantum Inventions chief executive and co-founder Saurav Bhattacharyya to find out more about where the company is going.

Q Tell us more about the acquisition. How did it come about?

A Continental, known first for its tyres, has a big division called Interior, which focuses on car makers. Interior provides in-car electronics for everything from drivetrains (components in a vehicle that transfer power from the engine to the wheels), body and safety systems, to info-tainment and connectivity.

As car makers concentrate on cleaner and greener energy alternatives, they see a need to get into the next big thing - the transportation ecosystem, through intelligent transport systems (ITS). In fact, Continental's Interior division even has a business unit by the name "ITS".

As a young company, Quantum Inventions has been growing leaps and bounds across the automotive, logistics and ITS sectors. And we saw that Continental was keen to do so as well, through its own ITS division. Further to that, we as a company needed to grow globally, and Continental brought the one thing to the table that money can't buy - that is relationships.

Q What will it mean for Quantum Inventions?

A We are to continue as an independent growth engine, because Continental is keen to keep our young and fast-growth culture.

We were looking at three parameters before deciding on an exit. Firstly, what market channels or access the company can bring us. Secondly, the company has to understand research and development (R&D) investment because without that, a technology firm cannot grow. Lastly, we also considered the value of the deal itself. We felt that the acquisition route with Continental fulfilled all of these parameters.

(The acquisition) also makes sense for Continental because if you look at transportation businesses today, the traditional model is being disrupted, but it also helps to put more cars on the road.

There are more rental cars today on the road, and no matter how the service model evolves, sheet metal (in the shape of cars) will still be required. Whether it is electric or combustion engines and so on, we need better access to it as a service.

So Continental needs to evolve into this domain, and that is where Quantum Inventions fits in. We bring on board the software engineering and ITS technologies.

Q Has this brought about a change in plans for growth?

A Overall, Quantum Inventions will continue to plod through its current growth plans and will explore synergies with Continental's global relationships, while remaining independent in operations.

I can't be specific on the cities we are looking at, but Continental's heavy presence in other countries will create many opportunities for us in global locations. We look forward to growing our businesses in these countries.

Q Last year, Quantum Inventions was selected as one of four firms to provide journey-planning applications to commuters in partnership with the Land Transport Authority. How is that coming along?

A The journey-planning application is coming along well in terms of R&D. We have tested a beta version with a select group of users. We are now exploring the synergies with Continental's existing strengths, such as Park&Go and our Galactio applications, to forge an interesting path forward towards Total Mobility applications with services.

We are also a part of several key ITS projects in Singapore, most notably in a consortium with two other companies, NCS and MHI Engine Systems, which won the deal to build Singapore's next-generation road-pricing system. We are not at liberty to reveal much more at this point in time.

Q What are prospects like for the transportation technology sector? What will this mean for Quantum Inventions?

A Singapore's Smart Nation vision looks to integrate IT into all aspects of life, and this includes transport. Transportation technology will play a key role in this changing landscape of Singapore.

We are a large part of this technological advancement, and we want to lead the way. Our initiatives will help Singapore to streamline issues such as traffic flow, and we want Singapore's roads to be every bit as advanced as other aspects of the country.

The next generation road-pricing system is going to be key in achieving smarter and more efficient transportation. Data generated from such a system could be used in real time to create "mobility intelligence" to manage congestion.

Looking ahead towards autonomous driving or driver-assisted systems and driverless fleets, you have higher levels of compliance from cars. That is where a city scale model can help manage congestion centrally in real time.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 22, 2017, with the headline '5 questions with Quantum Inventions'. Print Edition | Subscribe