How Indian IT can drive global innovation

Amid talks of a slowdown and a general air of insecurity across global economies, India’s information technology (IT) and business process management (BPM) industry remains bullish about driving growth through innovation and skilling. Our ability to scale up these efforts will be essential to the growth of the sector across the world.  

India is set to lead a wave of optimism and innovation for industries world-wide. Its abundant intellectual and human capital will see it become a powerhouse of global innovation.  

Think digital, think India

The fourth industrial revolution that we are currently witnessing is being defined as the new age of automation, driven by unprecedented technological advances. With the entire gamut of work activities being increasingly automated, the implications for the global economy are manifold — the changing nature of work, job roles being re-defined, and certain job roles becoming redundant, leading to growth in new occupations and new roles.

India continues to prove its ability to deploy digital at scale. The role of the Indian IT industry is to position India as a global hub for innovation and co-creation by imbibing the ideology of “think digital, think India”. The aim is to drive the focus towards emerging technologies, digitally skilling talent and ensuring that the pace of transformation in the country meets the global standard.

The six growth drivers 

The global digital transformation market is expected to grow from $445.4 billion in 2017 to $2.28 trillion by 2025 at a compound annual growth rate of 24.3 per cent.  Every country ought to take this opportunity or threat (depending on how one sees it) most seriously. If leveraged well, you increase your competitive advantage exponentially; if not, the risk of being relegated to oblivion increases by as much as 50 per cent. What are the drivers to grab this opportunity? 

There are six digital technologies which are primarily driving the industry’s growth — blockchain, immersive media, internet of things, cloud, robotics and intelligent automation. India leads developed countries such as the US, UK and Japan in deployment of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation-based technologies.

Ours is one of the fastest-growing internet economies, with more than 560 million internet subscribers, of which nearly 540 million are mobile internet subscribers as well. To put it simply, 90 per cent of the Indian population has access to mobile phones, half of which has access to the internet, one way or the other. The government’s avowed vision of a trillion-dollar digital economy by 2025 is actually well on target, which is likely to be 18-20 per cent of the country’s nominal gross domestic product by then.

Skilling and scaling up

As India paves its path to be a global economic powerhouse, it is imperative to equip its working population with employability skills. Today, India is one of the youngest countries in the world with more than 62 per cent of the population in the working age group (15-59 years) and more than 54 per cent of the total population below 25 years of age.

That said, as a host of emerging technologies change the future of work, the IT-BPM industry faces massive disruption. Of the industry’s four to five million employees, 1.5-2 million are expected to require re-skilling in the next four to five years. 

Even though it’s the need of the hour, re-skilling is a gradual and steep learning curve which is based on value creation and not a quantitative number. Businesses, workers and economies must finance and implement a re-skilling revolution as a critical investment. The problem is too large to be handled alone, and needs a collaborative industry-level response. The IT-BPM industry has stepped up to the challenge, propelled by Nasscom’s FutureSkills initiative. The immediate objectives include transforming 100 universities to supply digital talent, and up-skilling an additional two million professionals by 2025.

India is steadily working to become a pool of market-ready talent for the world at large, and not just for domestic needs. 

Overhauling the grassroots

Although industry leaders will drive innovation and technological best practices, ingenuity is a skill developed at the grassroots level. There is a need to equip young Indian minds with the perspective, talent, and resources to navigate a future marked by constant change. There is a shift from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). STEAM is not new, but the urgency to incorporate it in today’s time is critical. 

Lots of hands-on learning opportunities are emerging in schools and institutes all over the world, encouraging collaboration in learning and discovery, using science and tech resources such as soft circuits, embedded video, game creation, data art, and more.  

A consistent culture of innovation and growth builds legacies of the future. Despite the chatter of austerity and conservative business growth, proactive and aggressive development is the safest and smartest route to progress.   
The writer is group CEO, WNS Global Services, and chairman, Nasscom

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