During the Dataquest Leadership Conclave held at New Delhi’s Hyatt Regency on June 8, there was a panel discussion on the “Digital ecosystem to enable the $5 trillion economy”. Pradeep Gupta, Chairman, CyberMedia Group, was the moderator. He asked, how do you see 5G, etc., as part of the economy?
Ashank Desai, Principal Founder and Chairman, Mastek, and Co-founder, NASSCOM, said that the IT industry’s role is about $1 trillion, out of $5 trillion. We can improve the economy with Deep Tech. That includes e-commerce, etc. Deep Tech will allow Indian IT companies to do much larger business.
In India, we have not used technology to that extent. However, it is changing fast. New platforms are emerging. Some of these are impactful economic activities. Multiple technologies becoming mature, and simultaneously impacting is yet to happen. They will, eventually.
CP Gurnani, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Tech Mahindra, noted that IT and communications have merged. Now, there are new businesses coming in. Clearly, online does not work if there is no communication! In this connected world, communications, software, and businesses are all interlinked. You cannot have the dream, without having the skills. A question to ask: Is the Indian academia generating cyber security experts? With the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, cyber security is now a huge opportunity. There is an opportunity all over, and we need to get our heads together and make that happen.Gupta said we have a government where policies are coming in. He asked Desai of his experiences. Desai said there is a learning lesson from software exports. In the early days, India exported about $50 million worth of software. We were lucky to have a bureaucracy that was learned. There were some respected academic leaders, who were heard by the government. Later, NASSCOM played a great role in bringing all of them together. Government listened to us, with support. NASSCOM and the government were the early catalysts. We have been lucky to get good people in the government. We hope that the trust continues for a long time.
Gurnani said that we need to become a little better. We have continued to do well. We now need to leapfrog. We have a very great policy initiative for semiconductors. However, getting Foxconn to set up a plant is not enough. We need to take into account the Make in India program. We need to have the technological edge. We need to have better use cases and foodchains. We have to do a lot more in order to leapfrog.
Ajay Sawhney, former Secretary, MeiTY, said that we are looking at a $5 trillion economy. Electronics manufacturing has to play a significant role. We published a report in 2019 on the digital economy. We have made significant progress. It is now our day to show what we are capable of now. We have looked at examples from WeChat and Alibaba, etc. In China, a number of companies have been exceptionally successful.
India has succeeded in creating the national public digital system, with low entry barriers. UPI is designed to give players a chance to succeed. We have brought the entire banking system together, and created a unified payment system. Google looked at UPI, rather than any other, and preferred that. It has paid off, as Google is among the strong players. We also have PhonePe, PayTM, Bhim, BharatPe, etc.
We need to provide the same system across other verticals, such as agriculture, etc. India has plenty of pain points. Companies that grow on those, the opportunities available are going to be envied. There will also be strong, home-grown companies. There are irrigation-related entities, electricity, fertilizers and crops, etc. All of these have to come together to make something good happen in agriculture. It may probably be the most rewarding for all.
Talking about his Jharkhand experience, Desai said it was an eye-opener. Large groups of families were made skilful. We are now underestimating ourselves. The Jharkhand government was very supportive and gave us permission for skill building. The talent exists in the state. It can be the same for all the states.
Gurnani said that we need to have the $5 trillion economy and ESG go together. We need to marry sustainability goals and ambition. Each one of the areas is a business opportunity. India’s power remains 1.35 billion people. We need to make India stack as a large company.