How do you get India & Bharat together?

Thompson P. Gnanam, MD and Global CEO, 3i Infotech, looks back at the tech changes that have taken place in finance along with the future.

Sunil Rajguru
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Thompson P. Gnanam

Thompson P. Gnanam, Managing Director and Global CEO, 3i Infotech, looks back at the tech changes that have taken place in finance along with the future of Bharat & India; mainly how every problem is also an opportunity. Edited excerpts from a video interview.


Looking at the 1980s and 1990s

In the 1990s, India was graduating away from being a socialist to a capitalist or centrist country. The 1991 Liberalization helped us in getting access to Western technology. The core elements of the financial and tech sectors took off with the telecom revolution because that was the backbone before we entered the computer era. That was the clear starting point. C-DOT brought in one of the first major changes. Our first software technology park was set up in Bangalore. That gave birth to the pioneers in the technology industry.

At the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s was the death of the typewriter. Because we had the PCs with Windows, a more user-friendly interface with LAN and a transformation started happening.


Like any industrial revolution, there was resistance to change. We had a contract with a bank and one service engineer came back and said that the system was getting down every now and then. We found that one of the bank staff hated the new computers, so he used to pull out the cable to ensure that the computers were down. That is the level of change management that we had to do.

From a banking perspective, technology transformation started happening from 1996 onward with the launch of IDRBT (Institute for Development and Research in Banking Technology) and INFINET (Indian Financial Network) in 1999. INFINET was the start point in secure transactions.

The millennium bug and the 2000s


Every problem is an opportunity. Y2K was an important milestone and built the Indian IT industry today and took it to the next level. It gave access to our engineers to work in American banks. There was a big IT and banking convergence. The banking industry was the single biggest consumer of technology.

I still remember, when I was doing my engineering, we had all these mainframe systems with COBOL and UNIX terminals. They used to be unfriendly to the user. But now there was the symbolic death of the mainframe and moving into the more modern-day computing. That was a big transition point. The whole philosophy of core banking started after Y2K. It started streamlining operations. It started improving efficiency of the banks. Y2K was a reset.

After the acceleration of the Internet, online banking started evolving. Then we had mobile phone banking and the payment systems; NEFT and RTGS started evolving. These were all the building blocks.


India surges ahead

Maybe even 5-10 years ago we could say the Western world was far ahead and we were in catch up mode. But with the foundations we laid as I have mentioned, we accelerated as a country. There is phenomenal innovation happening in the startup ecosystem today. It’s exciting how so many companies can pick up a problem and solve it. The microfocus is amazing. All of them say: I am a technology company trying to solve a business problem.

Today all the components are available. In the good ole days, you had to build everything bottom up. But if we are clear about a business problem, we will be able to quickly orchestrate a solution. Today’s architecture is leading into microservices and is API led, or in simple English, it’s all configurable and plug & play.


In terms of digital payments, we should be proud as a country. We’ve come a long way in terms of digitizing it. On a lighter note, I was telling some colleagues in the Western world, even if unfortunately, somebody needs to ask for alms in my country, he carries a QR code today. That’s the advancement.

There are a lot of lending FinTechs who can bridge the gap between the traditional banks in a particular segment. Even we at 3i are working with some of the government institutions to do some technology at the backend to help SMEs.

Convergence of blockchain, Edge & cognitive computing


Today the pace at which technology is changing increasing. We used to have the click generation, the children who were born clicking a mouse. Then we got the touch generation (the smartphone touchscreen) and now we are in the generative AI generation. This is the era of ChatGPT and cognitive computing. There’s no end to it.

The power of AI and cognitive computing, if used for the right positive outcome it is good, but it can be used for negative outcomes. So now we need to think ahead of the curve to protect ourselves from cybersecurity threats, being able to proactively predict.

If you look at it from a banking perspective, I see the adoption of blockchain will be the important aspect of it because I feel the convergence of blockchain, Edge computing and cognitive computing is inevitable. They cannot happen independently but need to work together. Blockchain will give you smart ledgers. We can reduce the chances of bad transactions and have the trails.


Can we overlay intelligence at the Edge, which is more AI and more cognitive? Can we also protect the Edge? Cybersecurity’s weakest link is Edge devices. As a country which is fast growing into a developed economy, one of the biggest issues that has cropped up is cybersecurity. We need to strengthen our data privacy and data sovereignty laws. We are moving in the right direction.

How do you get India and Bharat together?

For us to continue in this path of growth, maybe we should learn from the mistakes of the Western world. It’s very important. We cannot create the same mistakes. What I recommend is that we should build it for the future. We should build these strong foundations which will help us to accelerate.

The biggest problem and challenge for us is we are a 1.4 billion-sized country. That’s massive. How do you manage? How do you get India and Bharat together? That’s the single biggest opportunity. Whatever works for India might not work for Bharat. We’ll have to figure out a way to how to make Bharat included in this. Then I think this country is going to grow in a massive way.

We always look at India, which is probably just 10%. Bharat is 90%. We need to build technology and solutions for Bharat. That’s a fantastic model in terms of scale, and socio-economic growth and it is inclusive growth for everybody. We need to democratize technology and opportunities.

(Catch the complete interview at the CyberMedia Series YouTube channel)

Thompson P. Gnanam

Managing Director and Global CEO, 3i Infotech

By Sunil Rajguru