While we awaited the arrival of our Chief Guest, the Hon’ble Vice President of India, Shri Hamid Ansari, our emcee shared interesting titbits about the venerated position (Shri Hamid Ansari was the 12th Vice President of India); the electoral process and even salary - would you believe it? Though there was some confusion whether it was “CTC”(?), “gross” or “net”, as the rest of us indulged in corporate plainspeak. Mr CP Gurnani, the Chairman of NASSCOM had an interesting observation to make. “The Hon’ble Vice President of India”, he said poignantly, “would be the man to help NASSCOM re-boot, to take the IT industry from 150 billion USD to its much avowed prediction of 350 billion USD by 2025”. It was analogous with the campus inauguration, coupled with the fact that the industry was yet again at the crossroads, facing a new wave.
Shri Hamid Ansari, Hon’ble Vice President of India address NASSCOM
In his opening remark, Shri Hamid Ansari said that it was most appropriate that the apex body’s first ever campus should be in Noida, a tech hub and amongst the fastest growing in the country. The edifice was laid for NASSCOM to reach even greater heights, in the years to come.
In the early decades, the IT industry faced a tremendous battle against crumbling infrastructure, inadequate manpower, rising instances of job losses, and with almost no support from the government. It was industry body NASSCOM which played the advocacy role most effectively at that time, to establish connects with diverse stakeholders and the government. The IT sector’s overall contribution to employment generation, GDP growth, e-governance and tech education remains unparalleled. But, not one to be seen resting on its laurels, the industry has been making rapid progress towards achieving its twin revenue objectives of 225 billion USD by 2020, and 350 by the year 2025. In process, 1.2 billion people will be added for earning the next 100 billion USD industry revenue.
Seemingly calm waters, but the churn brewing beneath the surface was unmistakable. Companies will have to address these challenges which are to do with new-age technologies including Cloud, evolution of SaaS, Products and shifting manpower needs. Futuristic business models will be driven by innovation, dictated by the need of the hour - to seek out innovation partners, rather than just software partners, as was the erstwhile practice. Most encouragingly, the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi is hugely supportive of the idea to create India as an innovation hub. He believes that the world is changing very fast, at times even faster than what we would like, but we cannot remain oblivious to that. Innovation does not happen in a vacuum.
Recently, industry doyen Shri Narayana Murthy had posed this question to IISC students – why is it that in the last 60 years, India has not been able to come up with any earth shattering innovation? The answer may not be so easily forthcoming and has to be reflected upon. But if we do some soul searching, we will see that India ranks 66th in the Global Innovation Index, and though the country has jumped 15 ranks in the last 2 years, India is well behind its peers - China at 25th, Russia 43rd and South Africa at 54, for example.
Why have we failed to become another Silicon Valley, though contentious a question, but it may be worthwhile to ponder over a few indicators:
- Our education system is steeped in imparting training, but lacks in implementation.
- A “play safe” attitude that has become the sine qua non of its people.
- Startup funding ecosystem is not robust enough, in comparison to the Valley.
- A slow-paced legal system which is deterrent to the spirit of innovation.
The Atal Innovation Mission was an initiative that he mentioned, which has the vision of addressing global shifts, such as, from industry to innovation. On the same breath, Shri Hamid Ansari underscored the opportunities that lay ahead, in govt and tech companies working together and investing in R&D to create intellectual capital. An “Innovation Mission” of sorts which will focus on skill development and correct the imbalance that exists in education, skill building including culture and attitude.
The erstwhile Governor of RBI had once remarked at IIT about “keeping the idea factory open” to enable competition and challenge authority. All ideas must necessarily be subjected to critical examination and be dismissed only after adequate empirical tests have been conducted. The right to question and challenge should not be intentioned to hurt others, but to create an ambiance which encourages revolutionary rebels with scientific temper.
What can NASSCOM do to catalyse this shift?
Help India be a tech innovation hub.
- Foster and incubate the next generation of startups, so that the next TCSs, Wipros, Infys etc come out of India once again.
- Empower more than a billion Indians who are at the cusp of digital revolution.
- Continue to work closely with the government to create a conducive regulatory framework which supports this shift.
His address kept us in thrall, despite a noisy air conditioner playing truant at times. Finally, we had the Vice Chairman of NASSCOM Mr Raman Roy delivering the closing remarks. He is one of those rare individuals who has seen the industry grow from 1 billion USD to 150 billion USD, and been at the helm all through. An industry veteran and a close friend of NASSCOM he was absolutely joyous on this occasion. The startup warehouse in the Noida campus would soon have three promising ideas being incubated. His closing remark was most positive. He was hopeful that the next disruptive solution to tackle the menace of pollution, would be from NASSCOM’s first ever incubation centre in its Noida campus.
It was time for the Hon’ble Vice President of India to leave. As a mark of respect, we rose from our seats, as the National Anthem was played.