Ever thought of entering a time-capsule that takes you not many eons away but just a decade back–to help you capture how much the country has changed with just a few forces silently at work? Let’s do that now.
The PLI concept, the boost to semiconductors and electronics, and the bolstering of India’s strengths in non-software areas—are questions that can open an entire treasure chest of ideas, struggles, and lessons. Sunil Rajguru, Editor, Dataquest did just that as he dusted off this box of precious insights in a freewheeling conversation with Ajay Sawhney, Former Secretary MeITY.
The Rear-View Mirror
Sawhney was generous and candid enough to escort us into a world that we know not much of. “We were not pulling our weight as a nation in electronics. In the first 10-12 years of this century—this situation persisted. But then the government started to change it. In the five years just before the pandemic, we were able to grow at a fairly respectable rate–at 23 percent YoY in Rupee terms. When the pandemic hit us, even then, we plateaued and did not go down. This year too we have seen a growth of about $85 to 90 billion. We are actually on the way to becoming a fairly significant economy for electronics. We have grown from a very low base.”
In the next five years, we should see growth upwards of 25 percent YoY, and in the future, we should cross 30 percent YoY—he hinted. Major brands like Apple and Samsung are now manufacturing in India. PLI has taken deep roots. He assured that electronics is an area where, in the next few years, India should see significant growth and end up as a major manufacturing hub.
He also brought the spotlight on how UPI and digital disruptions have helped the country. “Starting with Aadhaar, we have seen many catalysts for the nation’s digital revolution. Similarly, UPI turned out to be a system that leverages all of India’s banking and creates competition by bringing in independent payment service providers.
So would we be a world-class nation? Replying to that question Mr. Sawhney took the wheel toward the future and gave an unusual peek into what lies ahead – “We are among the best users of systems coming from the world. We help the world make the best use of them. One segment that has grown rapidly, and consistently, is that of software research centers of the largest IT companies in the world. So India should make a dent in the area of software products. That run has begun with some recent policies. We have seen the emergence of many software products that cater to not just domestic, but global, requirements as well.”
Mine has been a very fulfilling journey. Working with IAS has given me a chance to see a big change happening in the country. I have spent about 20 years working in IT and electronics. I am very satisfied with this opportunity. I hope I can continue to build on these areas.
Till 2019 we were on track, and then with 2021 we are roaring back—what should we read into it—Rajguru wondered? Sawhney interpreted the turbulence well. “India has a lot of resilience. Even when there was tremendous uncertainty, the Indian IT industry never reneged on its commitments to the world. Despite severe circumstances, people adapted beautifully to working in a new way—and kept the systems running. We kept working and empowering the rest of the world. Even in a gloomy time, we did not go down but grew 7-8 percent. There’s more growth on the way now that we are galloping again.”
Like he said—in 2021 my biggest challenge and achievement was – staying the course. He also explained how India’s world-class healthcare strengths, start-up power, opportunities for Indian entrepreneurs, and other new forces are going to completely change India’s weight on the global map.
We are moving forward with something that has been eluding us for a long time—which is now being changed with the National Semiconductor mission. It addresses an important area that we have not focused on. We are also making good progress in making our ecosystem well-rounded.
Still looking to the future
Nothing reminds us more of this truth than his own words –“Mine has been a very fulfilling journey. Working with IAS has given me a chance to see a big change happening in the country. I have spent about 20 years working in IT and electronics. I am very satisfied with this opportunity. I hope I can continue to build on these areas.”
Today he is looking way ahead into the future—just the way you expect a smart visionary to do. With a time machine that he knows well by now—an industry that is ambitious, humble, and hungry for more.
(Catch the complete video interview on the Dataquest YouTube channel)
By Pratima H