In 1985, when the first satellite dish was brought in a bullock cart to be installed at the offices of the newly established Indian operations of Texas Instruments in Bengaluru, only few would have thought that it would be the heralding of a revolution in India’s economic growth story.
Information Technology (IT) was the reason that India found its rightful place in the new world order. Today we are one of the youngest countries in the world where most of the population is technology literate. And a young India, with a large digitally-enabled middle class is asking for growth and change.
The panel, ‘India ascends – The next tech superpower’ at TechSparks 2022 that featured Subram Natarajan, Director of Customer Engineering, Google Cloud; Amit Zunjarwad, Chief Product Officer, ShareChat; and Shradha Sharma, Founder and CEO of YourStory, discussed how technology is bringing innovation, information and talent together to transform India into next global tech superpower.
Adoption, partnerships and community
The internet and technology have today become a medium of inclusion and democratised opportunities. According to Gartner’s forecast, $100 billion will be spent on technology in India and the country is going to take several forward leaps in cutting-edge technology solutions.
“We have witnessed how payments have modernised over the years. In a similar way today for the average Indian, the entire shopping experience has changed and has become experiential now. In my view, we need to continue to create industry leading cutting-edge solutions, build our strong technical base primarily in the areas of emerging technologies like cloud, data analytics, security, collaboration to get to the technology leadership position,” said Subram.
As India embraces emerging technologies at a rapid pace, it has also led to a big transformation across sectors like governance, job creation, creating equitable opportunities for everyone. The power of social platforms today give voice to a fruit seller, who can become an overnight sensation with the jingle that he or she may be singing. “Large scale, democratic and equitable platforms that offer serious outcomes is what technology enables. What is unique to India is that we are leapfrogging. An example being that we went from unorganised retail to online organised retail and that has been the key where we have understood customer needs and built easy-to-use, yet disruptive technology products,” said Amit.
India has a tremendous opportunity landscape which is 1.3 billion plus people, with currently only 50 percent accessing the internet. There is so much scope to partner in multiple areas, be it in providing grassroot level citizen services to all the way to large enterprises with global solutions and reach, partnerships can be within enterprise to enterprise, or enterprise to individuals where we can look at skilling for different sections of the economy, or building innovations that reach a global market among such opportunities. “Whether its products or services, the question is how can we leverage the internet to reach the external world through various meaningful partnerships that add value and reach everyone without any barriers,” Subram said.
Another important part of the journey is also to nurture entrepreneurs from the startup ecosystem. From Google perspective, Subram shared that tech giants have the ability to provide the right platforms on which entrepreneurs can start building on from the start. “At Google Cloud, we have nurtured entrepreneurs through our mentorship programs. We know how to mentor, forecast what obstacles entrepreneurs may face and how we can provide inputs to help them grow,” Subram added.
Building for Bharat
The starting point for building for Bharat starts with users. Indian being an open economy has a competitive landscape and has unique needs. Added to this pace of adoption, the Central Government is also enabling technology at scale, both at an enabler as well as an application layer. India is at a stage where from creating building blocks it is now launching meaningful businesses which is a great route towards evolution of the country.
“India is a very unique market with very unique needs. At ShareChat we identified the need for Indian users to consume local regional content, get engaged and then create a large-scale creator economy on top of it. It is really a homegrown build platform with a deep understanding of Indian users and then creating large-scale meaningful business,” said Amit. Focusing on users, understanding the needs of individual users and content creators across a wide segment that includes towns and villages and creating avenues for them to achieve meaningful outcomes is the fundamental to building for Bharat, he added.
Another important aspect to build for Bharat is taking into account India’s diversity and tailor making content that takes into consideration regional language aspects. “India, as a market provides a unique opportunity to build products that can scale regionally, at the same time, provide an opportunity to build a large scale platform at India scale level. At a broad level, there are regional aspects, which means there are micro markets and opportunities, which global players find very hard to penetrate,” Amit said.
However, India still has a long road to travel, as compared to China, where 25 percent of social commerce is happening over short video platforms. This is still an emerging segment in India, where the Indian ecommerce market according to Amit is still under 7 percent of penetration. “This is something big waiting to be leveraged. If you can get an influencer who does the social proofing in a regional language then it’s a great concept to explore,” he added.
Talent creation for techade
As India aims to become the next tech superpower, it is also imperative to build a strong talent pool of engineers and technologists, who can power this transformation, noted Shradha. “What measures do we need to take to create more employability in the country,” she asked the panelists.
People often equate talent to finishing courses and certificates for employment, noted Subram. “Talent building and management is more existential from an individual or an enterprise level. At Google we provide a lifelong learning culture at scale which drives innovation,” he shared. Upskilling and learning and development need to be built within the culture of the company and the scope has to be defined with the larger goals of the company in terms of building dependable teams, nurturing a risk-taking environment to enable innovation, and putting a non-punitive environment for those risks. The culture of learning needs to become the central piece of talent development, Subram added.
Today 65 percent of companies feel that they don’t have enough talent, noted Amit. While at the grassroot level the government is working towards more research-oriented curriculum and also reimagining courses that are based on emerging technologies, at a startup level while there is no dearth of talent, it is important to create efficient conduit for them to acquire emerging technologies and get upskilled, he added.
“At ShareChat we work towards creating an equitable fabric for everyone in the organisation to understand how a particular technology is driving us. For me it is about making talent meet the opportunity and skill building happens along the way,” Amit added. Embracing emerging technologies, enabling everyone to adopt it, building a culture of collaboration, creating unique and interesting ways for upskilling are some points that would push talent creation for the long term, he said.