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Learnings from 2020, and paving the way for 2021: Industry leaders

Industry leaders share their views about the most unprecedented year that 2020 was, and what can be expected in the upcoming year

The most unpredictable year in recent times is finally coming to an end. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, not only did the year bring about unexpected challenges and hardships to businesses, but it also gave rise to various new situations that organisations are still grappling to come on terms with. Nevertheless, on a positive note, this situation also gave rise to several valuable learnings, innovations and opportunities. In the same spirit, industry leaders from across domains share their view on the year that was, and the year that will be.

Ashwani Rawat, director and co-founder, Transerve

For years most of the influential data-driven innovations have taken place in centralized glass-walled rooms, data centers and mega clouds. Edge computing is tremendously transforming the way data is handled, processed and delivered from millions of devices around the world. It is a distributed computing paradigm that brings computation and data storage closer to the location where it is needed, to improve response times and save bandwidth. This technology trend will surely make cloud computing and IoT devices faster in the upcoming years. Presently, the world is undergoing tremendous changes as the new digital future takes shape. We are entering the times where the bulk of new data will be processed at the Edge, outside of corporate and cloud data centers. Edge is the place where the digital world and physical world intersect with each other. It’s where real-world data is generated, securely captured, often processed and analyzed, and, ultimately, where intelligent systems can take actions based on the results of immediate data processing and analysis. We’re talking about a sea change here. In this new technology advanced era, the data gravity is greatest at the Edge, not in the large-scale data center. This new, distributed paradigm for data analysis is packed with a promise — but only possible if the enterprises have the right technology in place to capture, connect, process, analyze and act on data as it is captured.

Praveen Kumar, Vice President, Digital and Innovations, JK Technosoft

As Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to evolve, newer technologies will be developed to solve problems faced by consumers, businesses, and the world at large. By the virtue of convergence of broader availability and compatibility of big data, along with the power of cloud computing platforms, the use of sophisticated AL/ML algorithms have disrupted the tech solution industry. Data being the centre of these solutions, there needs to be an assurance to use that ethically.

It is the subsequent stage of evolution of technology solutions for different industries, along with AI/ML, almost all technological advancements will incorporate some form of AI or Machine Learning. This will enable humans to interact with data and devices in every possible way.

As we move forward especially in the post-COVID-19 times, our reliability on AI will deepen which will inevitably cause many ethical issues, especially in the industries where personal and business data is at stake. BFSI and Healthcare are two of the most impacted businesses. Therefore, organizations should start thinking of educating and upskilling employees as AI will incorporate a great deal of work alongside human workforces. It is very important to ensure and avoid techlash that might cause companies to miss out on the advantages derived from AI.

It is of utmost importance to consider the necessary and adequate governance mechanisms carefully and proactively for ensuring ethical considerations in the deployment of AI tools. Building trust in technological solutions and tools must be our principal goal so that humans and the planet can benefit from its use as much as possible.

Anuj Kapuria, Founder and CEO at Hi-Tech Robotic Systemz

This year 2020 has totally changed not just consumer behavior but also how organizations view their supply chain and related digitization and automation needs. There will be a significant rise in the adoption of AI and Robotics in the coming year, perpetuated by the social distancing norms, contactless deliveries and higher productivity along with less manpower dependence. While the vaccine availability will ease and smoothen the restrictions in business operations, it is AI and Robotics that will lead the way in heralding the new normal.

Ashneer Grover, Co-Founder and CEO of BharatPe

2020 has been a ‘See – Saw’ year. Post the lockdown, the pandemic acted as a catalyst to the growth of digital payments in the country. UPI itself doubled from 0.9 billion transactions to 2.2 billion transactions. I believe that 2021 will see a further acceleration in the adoption of digital payments in India. UPI and WhatsApp Pay will continue to be the driver. Also, I believe that next year we will see tier-2,3,4 cities as the key growth drivers for UPI and digital payments in the country. We have set ourselves a target of 5x growth and aiming for US$30B TPV by March 2023.

Dr. Ajay Data, Founder and CEO, VideoMeet Pvt Ltd. (Parent company of VideoMeet App)

The year 2020 has proven to be a boon for the IT and tech sector. With the entire world being restricted to their homes for close to 70+ days, the industries and businesses rushed to adopt this transformation, wherein they can be fully equipped to multitask on virtual meeting and conferencing platforms. E-meeting platforms became the mandatory integration in every working professional’s life. More so these tools also became a big aid in facilitating social gatherings, informal meetings, online classes, etc. Indian IT ecosystem is fast developing with start-ups rising and dominating a fair market share. India’s growth projection has scaled from 29K start-ups in 2014, to 55K start-ups by the end of 2020. The year has also been elemental due to the Chinese applications ban, which has further created a void to be filled by Indian counterparts.

The upcoming year represents a vast number of opportunities for virtual meeting platforms, even if the vaccination begins; the convenient and cost-effective option will continue to stay as long-term practices. Sectors such as healthcare, education, corporate, government affairs are likely to utilize most of the virtual meeting applications; even the app upgrades and features will be dependent upon the needs of user base.

Rajiv Bhalla, Managing Director, Barco India

2020 has been a transformative year and it has changed the way we work. A growing trend in hybrid working enabled with digital transformation was witnessed through 2020. A key learning has been that every business needs to be a digital business. Resilience, adaptability, and lifelong learning have been key skills that stood out. The leadership structure and work culture underwent a sea change as organizations strived to limit the pandemic backlash and drive a digital and hybrid transition. Learn, unlearn, and relearn became the new superpowers as leaders tried to accelerate automation and enterprise sustainability. Many organizations worked towards ensuring business continuity employee wellbeing and pivoted towards adapting themselves to navigate and survive through the storm. As we enter 2021, organizations will focus on talent strategies, leadership, and culture, combined with a focus on deep tech, and reskilling, will boost our resilience and stand us in good stead during future upheavals.

Anku Jain, Managing Director, MediaTek India

2020 has set the stage for 5G to go mainstream and in 2021, driving the next level of innovation across sectors, be it remote working, gaming, healthcare, manufacturing, video and data consumption, setting the pace for a smarter and faster-connected devices ecosystem. This will also lead to an increase in demand for next-gen 5G smartphones, newer applications and smart devices like smart TVs, tablets, phones integrated with voice interface, etc. 2021 will see a bigger trend towards improved remote work capabilities with 5G SoCs taking smartphone and smart device experience to the next level. The pandemic has acted as a great catalyst expediting digitalization and faster adoption of transformative technologies like Artificial Intelligence, IoT, Robotics and Cloud Computing, among others.

Gautam Vohra, VP and Business Head, Telecom and Engineering Staffing, TeamLease Digital

2020 was an unusual year for all sectors including telecom but for telecom technology talent it was a busy year in terms of employment. The pandemic opened many opportunities in the sector for talent. From replacement hiring that was the feature till COVID, the hiring in the telecom sector witnessed a growth. The year saw a 15% increase in demand for talent and this surge in hiring was driven largely by telecom infrastructure companies, Mobile enabled services and Telecom OEM. In fact, with greater as well as wide spread adoption of internet, demand for better telecom networks and roll out of 5G technology the need for talent in the space is expected to grow further in 2021. The sector is expected to see a  18- 20% increase in demand for talent in 2021. Some of the profiles that will be sought after are RF engineers , Fibre Laying ,Testers, Quality check engineers, Field engineers, etc. The government’s thrust on encouraging equipment manufacturing by offering sops like PLI will also boost to hiring. This will help in providing  job opportunities in the sector of transmission equipment,  RAN and wireless equipment, Cpe, IoT, enterprise equipment manufacturing hubs in India. It can also lead to increase in the number of R&D centre’s and even semiconductors catchments.

Lt. Gen Dr. SP Kochhar, DG, COAI

Like any other sector, the telecom industry was also impacted by the pandemic with a sharp fall in the number of subscribers in March and April. However, business and individuals adopted digital ways, the telecom industry emerged as a saviour. Many telecom players have benefitted from a surge in the traffic of data and voice, due to which the telecom sector is performing well compared to other infrastructure sub-sectors. In the first quarter of this fiscal year through June, customer spending on voice and data services increased 16.6% year-on-year, amounting to Rs. 35,642 crore (US$ 4.80 billion). The growth of data services was primarily triggered by the use of OTT platforms for voice communications, chat, online meetings, webinars, entertainment and more.

As an outlook for 2021, the 5G launch is expected in the later part of the year. The technology is poised to open up a plethora of possibilities in terms of business models, better education, healthcare, smart cities, smart manufacturing, intelligent logistics, and overall, enhanced lifestyles for one and all. With the focus on AtmaNirbhar Bharat, revenue from the telecom equipment sector is expected to grow to US$ 26.38 billion by 2020. The number of internet subscribers in the country is expected to double by 2021 to 829 million and overall IP traffic is expected to grow four-fold at a CAGR of 30% by 2021.

However, Industry continues to be financially stressed and we seek the support of the government in enabling the industry to truly play its role as an enabler of horizontal growth and a boost to the nation’s economy. Some of the top challenges faced by our member TSPs today are those related to Liquidity, Rationalization of the regulatory levies, AGR issues, spectrum pricing, Right of Way (RoW) rules, and cell tower radiation. COAI has been pressing the government and TRAI on these.

Keshav Dhakad, Group Head and Assistant General Counsel- Corporate, External and Legal Affairs, Microsoft India

This year brought unprecedented change for organizations across the world and had deep implications for trust and cybersecurity. Trust in technology has perhaps never been more important. With most of the world connecting remotely, cybersecurity today is a strategic priority for every organization to protect their data, while ensuring the privacy, security and digital safety of their workforce.

Since the start of the pandemic, there’s been an exponential rise in cyberattacks, targeting individuals, organizations and often critical first responders like hospitals and public health authorities. With cybercriminals and nation-state attacks becoming more sophisticated, a strong industry collaboration is required for sharing threat intelligence and protecting against cyberattacks. It will need multiple parts, but perhaps most important, it must start with the recognition that governments and the tech sector will need to act together.

Looking ahead, cybersecurity will continue to be critical as hybrid work environments fuelled by cloud and mobility solutions become the new normal. Organizations will need to have a strong cyber resilience plan pivoted around a zero trust strategy to manage their needs across identity, security, management and compliance.. This means a shift to more robust security tools and protocols, powered by cloud-based threat monitoring and analytics. As we move towards a digital economy, building trust in technology will be critical for every sector as people will only use technology that they trust. Security and privacy therefore need to be at the heart of how organizations and governments build and deliver products and services and cannot be an afterthought. No single organization can go the distance alone-we have a collective responsibility to build a tech ecosystem grounded in trust and strong ethical principles.

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