Dear Sam Altman, it’s your country’s digital governance that’s hopeless!

OpenAI founder Sam Altman said it’s pretty hopeless for Indian companies to try and compete with them as far as ChatGPT is concerned

Sunil Rajguru
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OpenAI CEO Sam Altman stirred up a hornet's nest recently when he said on India building foundational AI models; that to challenge them on ChatGPT was completely hopeless, and we shouldn’t even try it.


This issue came up at the DQ Leadership Conclave held in New Delhi recently in a fireside chat featuring Info Edge Co-Founder Sanjeev Bikhchandani (,, etc) and Tech Mahindra CEO & MD CP Gurnani.

Bikhchandani said that there is large local market available in India. Payoffs are larger over time. Companies will get built out of India, for India. He pointed to the financial aspect of Altman’s statement. You may not be able to build ChatGPT with the kind of money we have and the shortage of the requisite engineers right now. But if we can get capital, they will come. India has both the data and intelligence to do so; almost everyone in the Indian IT industry is super smart.

Gurnani added to that saying: If we can put $10 billion behind anything, we can do a lot more! (That's the amount of funding that Microsoft gave OpenAI) He pointed to the fact that Aadhaar and UPI were done at a fraction of the cost and pointed to the reality that ChatGPT is not the only Generative AI around. There are many other models following soon. Finally, human intelligence and AI means applied intelligence. Indians can provide much better services with its large population. 


Gurnani pointed to the importance of R&D in catching up with the world…

Earlier on over his Twitter account he had also taken on Sam Altman…


Where the US is woefully behind India

Nobody denies that Silicon Valley is the pinnacle of technical excellence, the richest zone in the world, full of geniuses, billionaires and innovation. But apart from filling their pockets, how have they impacted national governance and the poor of America? Their biggest achievement in that regard is probably giving the world mobile addiction and social media addiction.


India has a dynamic digital ecosystem in the form of Aadhaar while the US is languishing in paper and looks like a primitive nation. India switched to seamless electronic voting ages back. In the US elections, both identification (which is riddled with contradictions) and paper voting are probably a joke.

If you look at the allegations that fly after every US election, you could be forgiven for thinking they were a fourth world nation or the Bihar of the 1980s. Millions of Americans are convinced that the elections are totally rigged and even stormed Capitol Hill believing that. It looks to be getting worse.

When the pandemic hit us, we seamlessly came out with digital CoWIN certificates so much so that it is being expanded to the national digital health mission. The US continued to languish in a paper world.


UPI has already become a global giant and the NPCI stated that they were just at 25-30% of their journey. While UPI was launched in 2016, the US is thinking of launching its own UPI (FedNow) in 2023, seven years later!

India Stack is globally the largest Open API platform, and the US (or the rest of the world) has nothing that comes even close to that. Altman doesn’t realize that the real goal of technology is not to achieve massive company valuations but to give digital governance to every common citizen. And they are the very people who shout inclusivity from the rooftops.

Altman had a message to India about building foundational AI models. Well, I would like to replay his quote back at him and America…


“The way this works is, we are going to tell you that it's completely hopeless to challenge us in national digital governance, and you shouldn't even try it. And it's your job to still try it anyway. And I believe both those things. I think it is pretty hopeless regardless.”

Silicon Valley is not going to stay at the pinnacle forever. As they say, “Apna time bhi aayega!” (Our time will come) India is already the world’s No. 1 Digital Democracy, the No. 1 IT services and consultancy power and the third largest startup ecosystem in the world.

We have the largest population with probably the largest enthusiastic youth and working population. It is not inconceivable that we will be the world’s No. 1 tech and economic power by Mission India2047.

And maybe even a Generative AI giant or of all its succeeding technologies!

If today belongs to America, tomorrow belongs to India.