Inside India - The world’s next tech superpower

When you think of India, do you generally think of cheap staffing costs, outsourcing and a low level IT offering? It might be time to think again as the sub-continent is in a prime position to not only join the global technology elite, but lead it.

It might surprise you that the Indian IT sector has grown at a rate of more than 30 per cent every year since 1993; its revenues have rocketed from a modest $150 million to $150 billion. These are figures quoted by Kris Gopalakrishnan, a founder and former CEO of Infosys, the Indian IT giant that employs nearly 200,000 people worldwide and has annual revenues approaching $10bn.

As impressive as that might be, we are on the brink of an Indian tech sector that has the real potential to surpass even these incredible achievements. I studied for my undergraduate degree in the UK, and regularly conduct business in the US and Singapore and so I am in the advantageous position of seeing the future of technology from the vantage of East and West. The general perception of India from North America and Europe as a cheap source of low-level IT services will quickly become outdated. We will see an Indian tech sector that will deliver innovation as the key selling point of its products.

India has the potential to become the world leader in e-commerce, analytics and Internet of Things technology among other specialist fields. And it won’t take long for this to happen. We are talking a few years at most. What has been the catalyst for this bold prediction? Well, the ingredients were there to begin with in the riches of India’s large pool of engineers and scientists. We have a tradition in these fields and with a population of over a billion it is a resource that gives a real advantage in bringing together many different but complementary skills together. All that was needed with a domestic market of 1.3bn people and a large talent pool was something to ignite the innovation that would surpass past achievements.

The catalyst is not just investment but the arrival of incubators and tech hubs. This driver of change only started to be established two years ago but the impact did not take long to materialise and now it is impossible to ignore.

Just a few words about India’s economy: it is the 7th largest by GDP and 3rd by Purchasing Power Parity – the latter ranking is particularly important as it shows the real buying power within the economy. In other words, there is a ready domestic market that Indian companies know better than anyone else. This is the reason why Uber was spectacularly unseated by homegrown company Ola Cabs, as it understood the market and how customers wanted to use and pay for services.

One of other things to consider is that the service sector contributes 59 per cent of the Indian economy’s GDP. The tech industry’s contribution has not been lacking, up from 1.2 per cent in 1998 to 7.5 per cent in 2012, according to NASSCOM; the sector aggregated revenues of $147 billion in 2015, where export revenue stood at $99 billion. The Indian government is now keen to support this growth although admittedly it has been slow in the past with supporting the pace of change.

In 2015, PM Narendra Modi launched ‘Digital India’ to improve Internet infrastructure and digital literacy. Tech is a sector that is in constant development and this means that if you were once behind, you can be at the forefront of the industry for the next cycle of innovation if you are prepared. 

Mobile computing, cloud computing, virtual reality, machine learning and software-as-a-service (SaaS) are rising and India will be there, regardless of anything that we missed before. This is the beauty and the opportunity technology provides. It is something I am using, in my case cloud computing, to drive forward my business. I do not believe I am alone in my vision for the Indian technology sector. I want to see great products and services that create value. If this is achieved, then revenue will come and in so doing we can create impact and change. It is not all about money!

This new breed, as with many US tech entrepreneurs and other tech enthusiasts, do what we do because we love it. It is the biggest motivator there is. In India we have plenty of top professionals with this outlook. I will leave you with the words of Takeshi Ebihara of Rebright Partners who commented at the Asia Leader’s Summit: “India’s economy now is exactly the same size as China’s ten years ago and follows a similar growth curve. India’s economy will likely surpass Japan’s in several years.

"While India is still growing, China is slowing down. 33.2 per cent of foreign founders in Silicon Valley are Indian, way more than from other countries. 30 per cent of Asian unicorns are Indian.” Is it time to think again about India’s tech industry?

Harshvardhan Kariwala founder of V-Comply

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