Karnataka held a technology summit recently, where industry leaders and the government brainstormed to identify new growth areas for the sector. While the traditional information technology outsourcing is disrupted by automation and shifts towards digital, IT Minister Priyank Kharge said in an interview with Ayan Pramanik that there are many opportunities to tap in from emerging technologies. Edited Excerpts:
How realistic is hyperloop transport in Karnataka or anywhere in India?
If I had told you that we would be launching 104 satellites five years ago, would you have believed me? If I had told you we were developing the Mangalyaan from Bengaluru at probably 25 per cent of the money that NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) spends, would you have believed me? No. Science allows you to doubt and to experiment. Feasibility report is a must and it gives you a sense of things. And in six weeks they (hyperloop) are going to identify the probable routes then they will give the cost, but that will take longer time.
Start-ups offered solutions to some key problems. What are they? Some examples?
I would not say they have solved anything. There are hundreds of start-ups who are ready to work. Through four grand challenges we have identified eight start-ups and they are working with us across sectors such as agriculture. For example, one start-up has brought in a solution that will help in applying medicines to coconut and arecanut trees without climbing them.
On city- (primarily Bengaluru) related development, start-ups are working in mobility, traffic optimisation and portability of drinking water.
Karnataka has recognised the first trade union in IT industry. How will it help?
The labour commissioner (labour department) has recognised it as a trade under their act (Trade Union Act, 1926, and Karnataka Trade Unions Regulations, 1958). I have to amend the IT Act. No union has been recognised under the IT Act, they are still under exemption. We are still friendly and the ease of doing business is the same. It is my responsibility to hear problems of the IT employees as well. But there is a thin line between investment and creating employment. My job is both. Yes, we are here to listen to the employees, we are trying to do something that can be worked out between the employees and employers.
Where does Karnataka stand in the country’s overall technology growth?
One thing everybody has to agree upon is Karnataka is the most progressive state (in the country). If you look at all the sectors that are technology related, we are leading. We are pushing the entire country with 51-55 per cent of all exports happening here. We are growing faster and better than the national growth. If you look at the export numbers, the national growth is nine per cent and we are growing at 13 per cent. We are the leader in aerospace, bio technology and Internet of Things (IoT).
Our policies are keeping us ahead and that is a result of our good relationship with the industry stakeholders. How will you rate Bengaluru Tech Summit, 2017?
The success of this tech summit will be determined only after a year. We learned a lot last year. We realised we had skill shortage in aerospace and we started a centre of excellence. We revamped the AVGC (Animation, Visual Effects, Gaming and Comics) policy. So, across every sectors, be it manufacturing, defence electronics or cyber security, there has been a complete shift with new policies coming in. With convergence of technologies such as IT, BT, nano technology, animation and cyber security… this is going to stick for a long time. This will chart the course for the future of emerging technologies in the country, not just the state.