Market for quantum tech growing faster than anticipated

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The Bengaluru-based quantum security technology company, QNu Labs is really in its infancy but it has big dreams for its own business and for India’s planned foray into the super-competitive world of quantum computing. Here in an interview with Shalini S. Dagar, he shares his insights on the emerging market for quantum security. Edited excerpts:

Q: Quantum computing has been acknowledged as a frontier technology which will change the world. How do you assess the market as such?

A: When we go to customers they say quantum technology is good, but where is the use case? (laughs) We love this space. Right now we are working with them (the customers). We have some healthcare and pharma companies.

These are early days. These are the 15-20 percent of those who will adopt new technologies. So I would say that we are in an early stage, but we are evolving very fast.

To answer your question in another way. Three years ago, we thought it would be five more years before our products will be adopted (in a big way). Today, we feel we are already there. So it is two years faster than we imagined. And it is the same all over the world.

Q: How has the Covid-19 pandemic and accompanying geopolitics affected this situation? Has that had any impact?

A: Yes and no. The coronavirus has given us a very good metaphor. Earlier, I used to say that quantum computers will come faster than we imagined. And people would say, we will come to know when that happens. (In the interim,) we will wait.

Now, coronavirus has come unannounced. It has upended lives. Enterprises are struggling. People are unprepared. That is why we saw a 600 percent increase in phishing attacks post-coronavirus.

This is an eye-opener. People need to realise such risks (exist). The World Economic Forum had already listed among the top ten risks infectious diseases and cyber attacks from unknown sources. The health pandemic has already happened. It is not that that risk was not known, but people were not anticipating a bigger epidemic.

Similarly, large scale quantum computers will also arrive unannounced. Imagine what will happen then? Encrypted data would start getting exposed. There would be no way to go and recover it.

Q: So the ecosystem has really evolved to make your product much more relevant?

A: That was expected because with passing time, hackers will have much better tools and technologies. And that is what we are seeing. And coronavirus has really exposed all the weaknesses.

Q: Recently, the US quantum computing company, IonQ announced that it will become the first quantum computing companies to go public. Any thoughts on QNu Labs’ journey? Are you looking at raising funds?

A: No, we are at an early stage. As of now we have put in a lot of our own money and angel money to build this technology. We are not as yet venture capital (VC)-funded.

We have started making revenues but it will be another couple of years before we make profits. At the same time, we are continuing to invest in R&D. It is a very high cost technology.

So for the next two to three years, a significant amount of money is already planned for R&D.  We are definitely looking at growing at a very fast pace in the next three to five years. We are definitely targeting $50-$100 million in the next 3-5 years depending on how well the market takes off. How well India and the world grows given the situation. Our idea is to be one of the top three players in the world in the next few years.

There is a lot that still needs to be done. The idea is not to generate profits right now, but to grow our revenues, increase our deployments, go to the US, spread our products and deployments across the world.

Quantum cryptography itself is growing at 20% CAGR. Even cyber security is not growing at that pace. There are still only a handful of players that have commercially deployable products. New players will come up but the market itself will expand. New use cases will also come up. Now there are large scale deployments happening with the telecom players across the world. Very soon we will see large enterprises deploying. Some are already doing field trials.

Read also: Part 2 of the interview with Sunil Gupta: ‘Cybersecurity is all about tomorrow’s technology today’

Read also: Part 3 of Sunil Gupta’s interview: Slow start to India’s quantum plans poised to change

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