What will it take for India to be a leading AI product player?

In India we have access to one of the largest pool of engineers in the world and our IT Services companies enable the largest corporations who are also the biggest buyers of technology in the world.

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AI is changing our lives. The revolution imagined in movies over the last few decades is now actually here. Off course, the machines are not taking over the world like the movies, but AI is certainly improving people’s lives rapidly. AI-enabled inventions are everywhere - from the simple conveniences of digital assistants on phones, to power saving in homes and manufacturing, to predicting problems in healthcare and assisting doctors. AR and VR are improving our lies through entertainment, better shopping experiences and sometimes even for managing stress and other medical conditions. Software and hardware integration as seen in drones, medical care and manufacturing robots is driving innovation at a pace last seen at times when the internet enabled a leap in progress 20+ years ago.


AI is part of this group of deep technologies which includes machine learning, robotics, IOT, blockchain and more.  Many of these innovations take a longer period to mature and commercialize. During that time the founders, startups and technologies must be nurtured and an environment conducive to that must be created.

Why it matters – the opportunity is huge

The Global AI market size was valued at $27.3 billion in 2019 and is projected to be growing at a CAGR of 33.2% to $267 billion by 2027 according to Fortune Business Insights. Apart from the growth in software and related sales of this technology, the impact created will be gigantic and by some estimates even bigger than that created by the internet. In 2021, artificial intelligence (AI) augmentation will create $2.9 trillion of business value and 6.2 billion hours of worker productivity globally, according to Gartner, Inc.


A CBInsights report ranks 100 AI startups annually. In the 2020 report, 65% of those are based in the US and less than 10% each come from UK, China and Canada. India based startups are yet to feature.

While there is a lot of work to be done, we do have some advantages we can use. In India we have access to one of the largest pool of engineers in the world and our IT Services companies enable the largest corporations who are also the biggest buyers of technology in the world.

To capitalize on these advantages these are some of the things that need to happen


There are four key enablers for India to become a dominant AI player:

  1. Stronger collaboration between industry and academia.

    Programs and policies to promote collaboration between academia and industry are required. The talent pool coming out of our academic institutions needs to be nurtured and help startups and larger corporations drive the innovation. Industry in turn needs to seek the help of professors and researchers to carry out their projects. Some of this may simply start by establishing regular connect and collaboration.
  1. Easier access to capital

    Many of the technologies require funding at the research stage which can be enabled by government grants and collaboration with industry. When early-stage startups are formed they need access to capital from investors. Making the process to raise capital easier and gaining access to capital from outside of India when not available domestically will be important.
  2. Free the data: AI technologies are fed and enabled by data. Limited access to data and the volume of data available often act as constraints when building AI systems. As a country with the second largest population and rapidly modernizing systems such as UIDAI, UPI and more we are generating and capturing huge amounts of data. Easier access to use this data with the proper regulation and enforcing of privacy guidelines can provide a tremendous boost to budding AI product innovators from India. There is a lot of noise around “Vocal for Local” which must translate to making it easier to access data sets, compete for local requirements deploy solutions locally.
  1. Building a network of ecosystem enablers

    This effort requires a collaboration between various stakeholders – academic institutions, college-based incubators, corporate accelerators, IT services players, Government of India and players that enable collaboration between startups and industry. NASSCOM DeepTech Club was started in 2017 to enable such an ecosystem and with a mission of making India a world leader in Deep Tech Product.

From inception the club has helped 78 startups, helped raise over $70 million in funding and is powered by a pool of 60 plus volunteer mentors. To achieve its goal of enabling 1000 startups in the next 5 years the club is now expanding to partner with multiple stakeholders - incubators from IIT Bombay (SINE) and IIT Kanpur, corporate accelerators of Intel, Cisco and NetApp and collaboration enablers like T Hub. NASSCOM DeepTech Club is also actively seeking applications from startups, mentors and others interested in building a stronger ecosystem.

The author is Kaustubh Patekar, Mentor, NASSCOM DeepTech Club. Kaustubh is founder of The ProdZen, a product and strategy consulting company.