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The Indian Tech Sector

Through the Lens of Talent, Innovation & Trust

TALENT

Nothing moves without this. While many developed nations are saddled with an aging population, India’s median age is 29. The benefits of the demographic dividend will span across the next 20 years or longer if we can play our cards right. Currently, the 181 billion-dollar Indian tech sector employs 4 million people, of which 0.7 million are skilled in digital. It’s a large base when it’s seen across the world that there’s a shortage of niche talent availability. However, we have set the bar a lot higher and the reskilling drive is on full swing. It should fetch us another 2 million (digitally trained people) in the next 4 – 5 years.

The demand for specialised talent in digital is galloping at a 35% CAGR and should stay on course for the next few years. The nation produces about 2.4 million STEM graduates every year, so the pipeline is long enough. The challenge is whether it is robust enough to sustain high growth. While on the one hand it’s about acing the hard skills – AI, ML, Big Data and the likes, on the other it looks at newage soft skills which are about collaboration, continuous learnability, work-life integration, alignment with gigs and not seeing digitalisation as a threat but as an enabler. 

At NASSCOM we initiated a reskilling program called FutureSkills. It’s gathering momentum rather quickly. We have over 0.2 million registered users from 100-odd companies. Buoyed by the success, the government has agreed to support its expansion to include other industry sectors, students of higher education and government officials too. This should impact another 0.4 million users in the next couple of years.

The mode of re-skilling is also very different from traditional “degree-based” classroom learning in premier institutions. Here, byte-sized information dissemination has been found to be most effective which can be transmitted through a hand-held device even to administer flexibility in learning hours. This has led to a whole new world of opportunities for IT Solutions Providers in MOOCs.

INNOVATION

Innovation is about decoupling revenue growth from an equivalent talent addition.

Innovation is about moving away from the labour arbitrage regime and be considered as an equal partner by the end client due to the strategic value created, which goes way beyond traditional delivery to touch the realms of outcome-based pricing. Innovation is also about high quality made widely accessible at affordable price points. Clearly, Indian IT has proven to be the best-in-class on these counts.

The nation has a population of 1.2 billion people. The storied success of Aadhaar is one of its kind. Approximately, 1.1 billion Indians now have a unique identifier (Aadhaar Number) which sets them apart from their compatriots. Levering this, government benefits can now reach the beneficiary without the interference of intermediaries, thus ensuring leakages are plugged to the tune of millions of dollars.

The 181 billion-dollar Indian tech sector employs 4 million people, of which 0.7 million are skilled in digital

The best example of tech-driven Indian innovation which I can think of has a special mention of Fintechs, and the manner in which it has disrupted the traditional bastions of banks and financial institutions to offer digital payments, investment advisory, insurance aggregators, trade finance and peer-to-peer lending. During the 2016 – 19 period, there’s been rapid growth of 22% in transactions. In transaction value terms, the expansion is from 33 billion USD (2016) to approximately 73 billion USD, expected early this year. In other domains, such as healthcare, retail, and agriculture, the examples are no less inclusive. India has a vast population of underprivileged people and technology is bridging these gaps.

In the last few years, the industry dynamics have changed beyond recognition. In a VUCA environment, things like “structured” or “process-driven” may have diluted its overall influence. Marked by high complexity and uncertainty, it’s innovation and its sandbox approach that will sustain. In global rankings (on innovation), the nation is currently on a high-growth trajectory.

The innovation labs in India leave you with a sense of abundance with limitless possibilities. The people who work there have a tremendous ability to re-imagine a future hat may seem a bit distant today, but it’s just a matter of time when most of it gets aligned with reality. There’s a new term – “phygital”. It’s a “space” where digital meets the physical world to open up infinite possibilities. Essentially, the customer is at the centre and technology works around them to provide a unique experience in multiple ways. Instant gratification is what people want, and we have to find multiple ways to deliver it at scale. This is what the EXPERIENCE-led economy is all about.

WINNING IN THE AGE OF TRUST

The currency of trust is perhaps the most valuable of all. The criticality is obvious – very hard to earn but remarkably easy to lose. Indian IT has covered substantial ground in the last 4 decades to claim its own as a trusted partner. Spread over 80-odd countries in 760 offshore locations, we have left our mark deep and wide.

This block needs to be examined through many angles. Primarily, it raises the question – is my data safe, secured and being used in a manner for which I have signed up? Our Personal Data Protection Bill has been tabled in parliament. It went through hundreds of rounds (literally) of consultations. NASSCOM would have featured in at least a dozen of them. The Bill identifies clearly who are the participants and beneficiaries in the entire chain of processing personal data, their roles, responsibilities & liabilities (in case of a violation) and also the circumstances under which exceptions can be made.

Secondly, in a shared economy, we are constantly witnessing partnerships, co-innovations, M&As, acqui-hiring, Public-Private- Partnerships, academia-industry engagements, start-up engagements, and the likes. It only means that IP is being created at a blinding pace and being shared across, equally furiously. That’s really the crux of what we call “exponential” growth.

Finally, in a value chain, the strength is determined by its weakest link. This is a very sensitive area. You can get all the other blocks right, but even the minutest of slippages in matters of trust can lead to catastrophes and brand equity can be severely compromised. So that’s it! The three currencies – TALENT, TRUST & INNOVATION. The Indian tech sector is well placed in these areas and as it inches closer to the 200 billion dollar mark, we have to ensure that we are agile enough to align ourselves in a landscape that is characterised by its archetypal tectonic shifts.

 

Author: The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) : NASSCOM is a not-for-profit IT industry association that’s the apex body for the 180 billion dollar IT BPM industry in India. It was established in 1988 and its aim is to constantly support the IT BPM industry.

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