With the recent acquisition of Twilio IoT by KORE Wireless, the IoT market will only see more consolidation. Romil Bahl, President and CEO of KORE Wireless, joins Ryan Chacon on the IoT For All Podcast to discuss IoT market conditions and the Twilio IoT acquisition. They also cover hyperscalers, what makes certain IoT companies succeed and others fail, challenges in the IoT market, and the success model for IoT companies going forward.

About Romil

Romil Bahl serves as President and CEO of KORE. He brings nearly 30 years of experience delivering high growth among SaaS and IoT companies. Prior to KORE, Romil served as President and CEO of Lochbridge, a leading technology consulting and solutions provider in the IoT and digital enablement space. Before that, as EVP and GM of Global Industries for CSC, Romil led the industry go-to-market dimension across the ~$9 billion commercial business unit, creating global growth strategies and expanding CSC’s global footprint into offerings such as cloud, cybersecurity, and big data. Earlier, Romil was CEO of a data analytics-focused public company and had leadership roles at Kearney, Infosys, and Deloitte. Romil earned an MBA from The University of Texas at Austin and a Bachelor of Engineering degree from the Directorate of Marine Engineering & Technology in Kolkata, India.

Interested in connecting with Romil? Reach out on LinkedIn!

About KORE Wireless

KORE is the global pure-play IoT hyperscaler and provider of IoT Connectivity, Solutions, and Analytics. Through a robust portfolio, they simplify the complexities of IoT by allowing their customers to Build, Deploy, Manage, and Scale IoT. KORE has a depth of solutions and experience offering products and services for their key verticals of Connected Health, Fleet, Industrial, Logistics, and Communications.

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(00:52) Introduction to Romil and KORE Wireless

(02:26) Twilio IoT acquisition by KORE Wireless

(07:37) IoT market conditions and consolidation

(11:07) What is a hyperscaler?

(14:47) What makes certain IoT companies succeed?

(19:55) Challenges in the IoT market

(24:14) Success model for IoT companies in the future

(26:37) Learn more and follow up


– [Ryan] Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast, I’m Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode we have the President and CEO of KORE Wireless, Romil Bahl. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with KORE, they are a global pure play IoT hyperscaler and provider of IoT connectivity solutions and analytics.

And we are going to talk about current market conditions, KORE acquiring Twilio IoT, what a hyperscaler is, what companies need to understand and know in order to really give themselves the best chance to succeed when it comes to deploying and adopting an IoT solution. Prior to getting into this, we’d truly appreciate it if you would give this video a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel if you have not done so already, and hit that bell icon so you get the latest episodes as soon as they are out.

But other than that, let’s get onto the episode.

Welcome back to the IoT For All Podcast. I appreciate you taking more time to talk with us today.

– [Romil] Well, thank you for having me back.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. Exciting stuff to discuss. But for audience who may be hearing from you for the first time, I’d love it if you do a quick introduction about yourself and the company for them.

– [Romil] Absolutely. So my name’s Romil Bahl. I’ve been CEO of KORE now a little over five years. Started out private equity stint, private equity owned stint, and then we went public about 18 months ago. And I’ve been CEO twice before that, once a public company and one was a private equity company.

So come full circle here. KORE is an IoT pure play. We think we’re a one of a kind company that really provides a series of connectivity solutions and analytics services to IoT end solutions provider. So large enterprises delivering anything from connected health, remote patient monitoring, decentralized clinical trials, or fleet management solutions.

On and on and on. There’s tens of thousands of use cases at this point that are out there. We don’t deliver those end solutions, but we provide a series of services to enable customers and grow with them as they grow.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. Since we last spoke, it feels like there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening on your end. I know we usually don’t talk a ton about news related things, but I think given the impact that a recent announcement from you all is likely to have on the industry, I wanted to talk about it just to catch our audience up.

You all recently acquired Twilio’s IoT business. Just for our audience who may have read it and been curious as to the motivation behind it, what’s the goal moving forward, what was the thought process behind it all, I’d just love to get caught up from your firsthand perspective.

– [Romil] Yeah, no, absolutely. I guess I’ll start by just saying we obviously announced our intention to acquire Twilio’s IoT business. This transaction is not closed, it is on track however, at least where I stand today with to close on June 1, which is the date we set on our last earnings call that it would close.

We’re excited about having what is really a great team of people, as you’d expect, right? A name like Twilio attracts world-class talent. And so we think their team will bolster and fit right into ours and similar cultures, values, and so forth. We think that Twilio IoT’s both people and customers, importantly, several of whom I’ve now had a chance to speak with on an introductory level, who will really benefit from being part of a company that is 100% focused on IoT, right? What really happened was that Twilio sat back and said, look, strategically, our core businesses are gonna be these, and it turns out, Ryan, it’s really hard to do IoT on a part-time basis or a small unit that does IoT doesn’t really work that well.

So we think that they’ll be very happy with this move. And there’s just a whole series of points that I can go through from a strategic rationale standpoint. But let me make sure you want me to go there before I talk for another five minutes.

– [Ryan] Well, I guess at a high level, yeah, we don’t have to go crazy in detail, but I’d love it just to get a sense of what this enables. What does this allow what you all do currently to do better?

– [Romil] So, the promise at KORE, and I mentioned this during our introductory comments about KORE, is IoT connectivity, IoT solutions, IoT service, and analytics service. What we’ve long said now at KORE last, certainly the last four plus years since our strategy for KORE 3.0 as we call the strategic era, is that what we do is help our customers deploy, manage, scale, right?

So deploy on an accelerated basis. Take a 24 month type IoT deployment and turn it into 24 weeks. That promise of a one stop shop. Manage, help our customers manage seamlessly as a series of managed services and then confidently and securely scale. So we’ve been saying deploy, manage, scale connectivity solutions and analytics. Simplistically, Twilio’s business goes, the bulk of it, right into our IoT connectivity business because that’s the biggest part of their revenue today. We have, we think, an industry leading eSIM proposition. They have probably the industry’s leading multi MZ proposition in Super SIM. And so it really bolsters our connectivity, global independent connectivity offer greatly and goes. As a part of that, they’ve built an absolutely world-class KORE network, a cellular KORE network.

They have a fantastic team in Germany that is their engineering team. And so we’re very excited about having that as a potentially best to breed as we pick the technologies from each side. We also think they are the industry’s leading digital experience developer, persona digital experience, and that’s how Twilio was born.

That’s how they’ve grown up. And our next step at KORE was to actually build out that digital experience and a console and that kind of thing. And so we’re getting some technology and IP from them that will shorten our build period, that will save us cost, but most importantly, we get a team that was born in a digital developer led way, API everything way of doing business.

So we think that’s really powerful. And the last thing I’ll say is, we’re gonna move from deploy, manage, scale in terms of what we do to build, deploy, manage, scale, because a smaller part of the Twilio IoT business, again, because they’re so focused on that developer channel, is to let them rapidly configure, build, if you will, devices, right? Because if you can unlock that, getting things moving quickly at the front end, it’ll help IoT adoption and growth. And so we look forward to becoming combined, build, deploy, manage, and scale. So those are some of the key rationale points.

– [Ryan] Appreciate you diving into that. Yeah, it’s exciting stuff to follow along for sure. I wanted to ask as it relates to this topic, just higher level, when it comes to the current market environment, consolidation that’s happening in the market, what are you seeing from your perspective, just across the IoT industry as a whole?

Are there other market factors or trends playing a role in the industries, current state of where we are? Just how do you see it from your view?

– [Romil] Yeah, look, there’s certainly consolidation happening now, right? We’ve- and by the way, this is sorely needed slash was going to happen. And why? Because there was just too much fragmentation. In fact, our opinion at KORE is that what held IoT back, right, certainly over the last decade, 2010 to 2020 type decade, was the fragmentation, was the number of moving pieces, was the complexity created by telling our customers to put all these pieces together yourself please if you need an IoT solution. It just doesn’t work, right? It’s and- that’s why two thirds of all IoT POCs, pilots, et cetera, were stalling or failing at one point in time. That’s why the analyst predictions of 20 billion connected devices, 25 billion connected devices by 2020 were missing by a long shot.

Now we started to get our act together towards the end of that decade, ended up with 12 billion, which, but it’s still half of what people thought, right? And so really the consolidation has to happen, we have to provide more preconfigured solutions, we just have to make it easier. Just so like Twilio’s been doing with their build, and we’ve been doing it what we call preconfigured solutions, connected health telemetry, fleet, video telematics solution, just more ready to go plug and play type of world.

So there’s a lot of consolidation happening, number one. Number two, and I alluded to this earlier because I figured you might ask me about the industry direction, but it is hard to do IoT part-time, right? We see somewhat schizophrenic behavior from some very large tech players, very sophisticated, world-class technically and engineering, network engineering players, the MNOs themselves come in, flirt with IoT, maybe even take it seriously for a while, release, talk about it, and then they disband their groups over time. Very few have actually stayed focused. And the reasons are obvious. If you’re a 30, 40, 50, a hundred billion dollar business and you have a little, few hundred million dollar IoT business, it’s just really hard from a corporate strategy standpoint and a management focus and attention standpoint to do it.

And you take something that’s very complex to do, and you try to do it not half-heartedly, but just not your core focus. That’s a recipe for disaster. And so we’re seeing these carve outs happening, right? Obviously the one from Ericsson, the one here from Twilio, we’re going to see more of it.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. It’s something actually we’ve mentioned for quite a while, and you obviously alluded to it. It’s been coming and we’ve seen it in bits and pieces, but the consolidation of the industry was just a natural thing that was going to happen with all these platform companies, all these connectivity companies, they weren’t all gonna be able to survive.

So, we were gonna see consolidation in some fashion. One of the things I read is talking about becoming a, being able to, for companies to become hyperscaler. When you use that term, what does that mean or how should our audience be thinking about that versus other IoT companies? What is the difference in your mind?

– [Romil] Yeah, so we very deliberately use the term IoT hyperscaler and our, intend to be one of those, whatever, 2, 3, 4, there will be when all this consolidation is said and done. So there’s obviously a scale part of that conversation, but what the hyperscaler means to us more than anything else is, right, if you think about the AWS success story, right? When the first hyperscaler that was built, you think about the concepts of the flywheel and getting that going. From the Jim Collins of the world. That’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to get this flywheel going of make it easy for our customers to deploy IoT and then they want more and right?

And now that flywheel gets going, but what is the essence of the hyperscaler model? It is taking what again was hard. You had to put the blocks together. You had to buy lots of servers. Now you have to manage them and data centers. And say, look, all you have to do is buy our compute services, buy our storage services, and we will, in a centralized way, manage that for you.

We will make investments into security and other elements of providing storage services and compute services that you can’t afford, and certainly individually, all these companies doing it versus one place, it just makes sense. It’s efficient, so you can pass along those efficiencies. And oh, by the way, I’ll make it really easy to consume digitally.

Just, log on, let’s go get an account and let’s start using my services, and then I’m gonna start to provide all these additional value add services, including the world of IoT, right? Various of these guys, certainly AWS is the most successful, have these IoT services out there that you can plug into so that more and more devices can use their core business of selling more storage and compute.

So we think about IoT connectivity, which by the way is nowhere near as simple as just, quote, “reselling somebody’s network.” IoT connectivity is a really complex mix of connectivity management, data management, and device management, and actually making it all work no matter where in the world, no matter what technology, et cetera, right?

Simplifying that, making it easy for customers to consume that digitally. Making it even more cost effective. And oh, by the way, having the big cloud hyperscalers in the background, right? So our zero touch provisioning, global anywhere with GSMA safe standards with an OmniSIM, OneSIM, eSIM type solution back into AWS and the classic example of what we’re doing is we’re saying, Hey, we want to be an IoT hyperscaler, plugging into those guys, stopping well short of saying we’ll become that kind of size of an AWS, but we want to go on that kind of journey.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. No, I appreciate you diving into that. It makes total sense. It’s been a term that’s been thrown out and people have been using it for a little while now to talk about where the industry’s going with these hyperscalers being created or existing building kind of thing.

And so I’m glad you were able to shed some light on what that exactly means from your perspective. Let me ask you this. So as you look at, and you obviously been in the IoT space for a while, as you see companies succeed, and you see other companies fail, are there anything that really stands out to you as the things that companies do to give them a better chance of success versus the ones that maybe don’t make it?

– [Romil] You know, this applies to generally to business in general, I suspect. But all else being equal, right, the company with the best strategy wins, right? It’s just the way it is, right? And I don’t throw strategy out there lightly either. It’s just like the hyperscaler word, right? It means something really specific about where to compete and how to compete and when to compete, right? And being thoughtful about those decisions and revisiting them. Every six months or so, we revisit them with a light refresh. And certainly annually we do a major refresh, right? So I think having the strategy is right.

Having the right talent and culture, you can’t do anything without people, is right. Specifically to IoT, being another, you said the term before, how many platforms do you need? Does the world really need 300, 400 IoT platforms? No. Half of those will no longer exist here in another couple of years.

And so I think picking- well, it comes a little bit back to strategy, picking where to compete and really solving a real customer problem is critical. And then you’ve gotta stay at it. This is not for the fainthearted. It is a complicated, sophisticated space.

Takes a while. But we just celebrated, our 20th year anniversary was just earlier this week actually. We had a global webcast. We launched a company song and had a little bit of fun around it. But, if you stick with it, it can be a very rewarding industry to work in.

– [Ryan] Yeah. I think, to your point of really knowing where to compete is important for our audience to understand because we’ve talked about this in the past and about at least personally, I’ve noticed a shift from companies really focusing on trying to stand out with their technology and promoting their technology up.

And then now it’s transitioning into more showcasing their solutions and what IoT technologies can do. And I think it’s allowing certain companies to really find their niche, find the verticals that they have domain experience in, build solutions specifically with those end users in mind and target those companies to give their company an opportunity to grow. As opposed to being what used to be the case is a horizontal IoT platform, we can build whatever you need. And I just don’t know if that really has resonated well with buyers as opposed to being able to say, look, we have a solution that we understand your problem, built with you in mind, easy to adopt, get it going, gives ’em a better chance of hopefully success through that pilot stage, and then to scale where we’re all hoping to get to.

– [Romil] No, that’s really well said, and we would entirely agree, which is why after spending what I call KORE 2.0, building a global independent platform larger and with 46 backend MNO integrations and satellite integrations and we said we can’t rest on those laurels.

We can’t be the pure horizontal play. We have to add more services, add specific expertise, and focus on certain use cases in the five industries we focus on, right? Connected health, fleet, industrial IoT, asset, the ones you would expect because that’s where 80 plus percent of the IoT dollars are going.

So, yeah, but that’s exactly right. And what’s really interesting for us is we’re not going out with that end solution again, right? We’re not saying we’re gonna be the next Samsara and take fleet by storm because by golly, our fleet management platform’s gonna be better.

Look, I mean that- if somebody has the confidence to go do that, has the significant Silicon Valley funding to go do that, good on you, good luck with it. I just wanna serve you with the stuff that I do and grow with you if you become that unicorn, right? And so we are, we think of ourselves as a vertically oriented, use case focused, but yet an enablement play, right? A diversified bet on what we know is gonna happen. We’re gonna turn into a connected planet, right? We just wanna help many people do it so.

– [Ryan] I totally get it. Yeah. I love the approach. Let me ask a question about, as the industry has evolved over the years throughout the life of this podcast, we’ve always asked guests on here about the challenges that they see companies face or the industry itself face, and I think that has slowly evolved and some of these challenges have become less of a thing that needs to be focused on.

But there’s been other challenges that obviously have come up as the industry has grown. What have been, if any, some of the bigger challenges that you’re seeing the market face moving forward that companies listening to this really need to be thinking about focusing on and potentially your advice on how to overcome those main challenges.

– [Romil] You know, there’s various challenges to truly getting IoT moving, right? Whether you’re an enterprise and deploying an IoT solution for yourself, right? Meaning you’re enabling a process, you’re getting remote equipment monitoring, remote asset monitoring type stuff deployed so that you can not rely on labor and when they can actually get out there to test stuff.

You can remotely monitor, you can take actions quicker. All of the preemptive type maintenance things that one hears about, there’s just dozens and dozens of examples, but the challenges are the same, whether you’re an enterprise doing it for yourself or you’re a solution provider and you’re bundling together again, like a fleet management solution or a connected health solution or a pet tracking solution, right?

Whatever those use cases are, the number one issue used to be, right, the sort of lack of in-house IoT expertise and resources. And that was ex- that issue was then expanded by the fact that we don’t exactly work in the simplest of industries. Lots of interoperability and compatibility issues.

And when the industry, when the telco industry said, boy, we gotta solve for this IoT problem, we gotta have low power wide area type networks, and then we launched even more, right? Now there’s NB, IoT narrowband, IoT and CAT-M and CAT-1 and the plethora of networks and choices is actually expanding.

Oh, by the way, we’re gonna do generational shifts and cause trauma out there as 2G and 3G goes away. And that’s before you get into industries like health and fleet. One of the main reasons we focus there is because of the complexities around compliance and regulatory aspects.

And if you can get all of those pieces right, now I actually have to do something with this massive amount of data. It’s not just big data, it’s big data streaming all the time at you. And at KORE already, we have over 15 million connections out there and just that data coming into our global data cloud, right?

It’s- we think of building the best IoT network on the planet. Just getting that data to where it needs to go is a challenge, but then to use it and process it for our customers is yet another challenge. And then you talk about the fragmented ecosystem we’ve been talking about. So there’s challenges out there and I still haven’t gotten to the one that’s, I think is the biggest one coming, which is security. 75 billion devices by 2030. I actually believe- I mean some people think hundred, a hundred plus. I think 75 billion’s a realistic number by 2030. Simplistically put, that’s 75 billion ways of getting into your network. How are we stopping that? And how do we- and so for each of these challenges, I think there’s things we can talk about.

Obviously, if I just take the last example first, we talk about designing security in from the beginning, right? When you’re doing your strategy around your solution, you’re building your business plan, you better be designing security in and by the way, at each stack, each layer of the stack, because security isn’t just about, oh, I have a SIM, so I’m secure. Well, your network access is secure, but the device is insecure. Device security, I mean, security back at the application layer and on and on and on. So lots of challenges. I think the question is back to now where to compete, right?

Figure where you’re playing. Get those issues that you need to deal with solved and play well in the ecosystem because IoT will still remain in ecosystem play for a while.

– [Ryan] Totally agree with you. I mean, the partnership angle and just has value of finding the right companies to compliment what companies do to bring things to market is critical, has been for forever. Last thing I want to ask you before I let you go here is, as we’ve talked about a lot of different really exciting things, challenges in the space, current market conditions, all that kind of good stuff, if companies want to succeed moving forward in this industry and where we think it’s headed, what types of companies do you feel will prosper in IoT? Or what can companies be doing to give themselves the best chances of success? And I know we’ve talked about like focusing on solutions and the ecosystem angle, but just if you were to sum it up for people listening to this just to like hey, if you want to succeed, here’s the things you definitely need to be thinking about or doing to give yourself that chance.

– [Romil] Yeah, and I, again, I think we’ve touched upon a number of the dimensions here, but taking more of that solution mindset, being vertical segment, use case focused as much as possible. In fact, one of the tests I have when I’m interviewing a sales candidate for our health group, for example, is do they even use the term IoT?

I’d prefer they don’t. Because the business problem they’re solving is getting remote patient monitoring working, right? When they walk into a continuous glucose monitoring diabetes type provider, that’s what they need to be solving for. Same thing with fleet, right? We’re hiring experts that have grown up in the industry of fleet that were running fleet management companies, those are the kinds of people that are now running our practices, right?

And then they hire salespeople that are credible. So I think it- just being the horizontal guy, what kind of SIM do you want? Yeah. Not so much anymore. And frankly, that’s where MNOs, that’s why I think more carve outs will continue to happen.

Ala Twilio, ala Ericsson, from MNOs that had their own IoT units, I think they’re gonna break these apart break, break these loose because if you’re only solving the connectivity problem, it’s nice, it’s not enough, and they gotta come out and they gotta get more solution focused, more use case focused.

– [Ryan] Absolutely. Yeah. That echoes a lot of what I’ve seen, so I’m glad that’s backed up by somebody in your position that’s seen the same stuff. So that’s fantastic. Last thing I’ll ask you before I let you go, is for our audience who wants to learn more about what you have going on, follow up on this conversation, reach out, anything like that, what’s the best way they can do that?

– [Romil] Yeah, well look, obviously come to our website, send questions in if you’d like. Alisa Moloney. So it’s amoloney@korewireless.com. If you’ve got a specific question, she’s our fantastic marketing front end for not just your podcast here, Ryan, but for a lot of our regional marketing activity across the Americas, she will know exactly who to connect you to to get you what you need.

– [Ryan] Perfect. Well, I really appreciate your time again, it’s always fantastic to have you on. A lot of exciting stuff going on over at KORE that I’m looking forward to staying in the know with. And our audience is, I’m sure gonna get a lot of value to this conversation, so thanks again.

– [Romil] Thanks so much for having me, Ryan. Good to see you again.

Special Guest
KORE, the global leader in IoT, helps simplify the complexity of IoT with streamlined, comprehensive solutions to empower organizations to deploy, manage, and scale IoT.
KORE, the global leader in IoT, helps simplify the complexity of IoT with streamlined, comprehensive solutions to empower organizations to deploy, manage, and scale IoT.

Hosted By
IoT For All
IoT For All
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.
IoT For All is creating resources to enable companies of all sizes to leverage IoT. From technical deep-dives, to IoT ecosystem overviews, to evergreen resources, IoT For All is the best place to keep up with what's going on in IoT.