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NISC 2019 – Capturing an Unevenly Distributed Future

Kolkata houses about 600 IT SMEs out of the 15000 that there are in India. It isn’t very high from a numbers standpoint, and yet, the sheer energy we witnessed at NISC 2019 (NASSCOM International SME Conference), one couldn’t be faulted for thinking the City of Joy to be the vortex of all SME activity.

Surely, in those two days (10 – 11th Jan) it was, what with 1400-odd participants coming under the summit’s aegis to be part of multiple discussions, showcases, networking opportunities, usual camaraderie and more. The 80 speakers we had, held us in thrall over 100 sessions and covered almost all angles adequately. Moreover, the expansive outreach was most impressive and we had participants from faraway places like Chandigarh and Kochi. The event was truly democratized in its maiden venture itself.

All the usual tech trends were adequately covered including on data, insights (the real gold), privacy, deep tech – particularly, how they can be made to greatly enhance just about everything including productivity, customer satisfaction and revenue.

The President of NASSCOM, Debjani Ghosh set the tone and tenor. The impact of digital disruption has been profound so far and in the next 10 years it is likely to unsettle at least 70% of the leaders across industries. She emphasized on the key shifts such as, “Experience First” overriding everything else, working in collaborative economy, fostering a culture of open innovation through value-based trust and talent.

CP Gurnani, MD & CEO Tech Mahindra had much to say about differentiation strategy and the importance of acting swiftly in his session, “Fuelling Your Growth: Where to Play and How to Win”. On the one hand there’s great change and on the other there’s market saturation in some quarters (read traditional markets) as well. While combatting these challenges, companies have to move forward at a healthy pace.

In “100 X Now” Google India MD, Rajan Anandan, spoke about scaling up in the digital economy and the examples he gave, drew in much cheer. He drew an instant connect with SMEs in the room. Ammar Malik, Executive Director of Dubai Internet City addressed on building the entrepreneurial ecosystem to get ahead. In less than 50 years, the landscape of Dubai has changed beyond recognition. Tech has played a huge role in its modernization journey. Currently there are 1000 + IT companies and he welcomed IT SME companies (NASSCOM members) to come forward and set up shop. Special benefits will be extended, he promised.

Nivruti Rai, Country Head Intel India spoke on the omnipresence of AI and highlighted some of the tangible benefits across industries. There’s a clear and strong business case in its favour but we have to be quick to act and integrate it with the mainstream. This is one bus we cannot afford to miss.

Dr Amit Mitra, Minister In Charge – Finance, Industry & Commerce Information, Technology & Electronics, Government of West Bengal delivered the Plenary Keynote on Day 1 in which he highlighted the progress of the state in attracting IT investments. The state is moving from strength to strength and fostering an ecosystem which encourages innovation. Presently in Kolkata there are more than 600 IT SMEs.

A special mention has to be made of the 4 Masterclasses spread over two days which got tremendous response:

  • Anatomy of a Compelling Brand with the Chief Strategy office of Lowe Lintas, S. Subramanyeswar.
  • Scaling Organizations: Hard Facts, Half Truths and Damned Lies with Prof Vasanthi Srinivasan of IIM Bangalore.
  • Design Thinking from Insights to innovation with Prateek Sinha, Partner & Experience Leader, PwC.
  • Double Your Profits Working One Day in a Week with Rahul Jain, Founding Director, Business Coaching India.

Other plenary addresses included: Dr Omkar Rai, DG STPI; Keshav Murugesh, CEO WNS Global on Taking a Stalling Ship to a Cruising Speed: Cogitate, Revamp, Sustain; Sameer Garde, Cisco India & SAARC President on Building Boundaries, Unexplored Frontiers: How Connectivity is Transforming the Business Ecosystems; and, Krishnakumar Natarajan, Executive Chairperson of Mindtree who addressed on Building a Memorable Company.

Having a risk appetite is essential for SMEs and startups. Conferences like these help in strengthening the ecosystem, building connects and providing direction. A great beginning indeed!

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