"In the last 12 months, there was a fundamental shift in how we think about technology," Debjani Ghosh , president of IT industry body Nasscom , said at last week's Times Techies webinar with Nasscom.
The way this industry has demonstrated resilience, agility, and the ability to adapt to crisis (during the pandemic) has been acknowledged globally. We had analysts, customers all saying, we did not expect this to happen in India. We as an industry have shown we are absolutely trustworthy.This would not have been possible without government support. Because of certain laws and regulations, it wasn't possible for a large part of our industry to work from home. Overnight, we got regulations changed, and the government was with us all the way.
During the lockdown, she said, technology became the lifeline to survival, for individuals and businesses. "Till then, we knew technology was important, we didn't realise without it we cannot live, we cannot learn, we cannot work," she said.
Rishad Premji, chairman of Wipro , said everyone in this remote, distributed way of working, has had to depend on technology to connect with stakeholders. "That bodes well for Indian technology services companies, technology product companies, and BPM companies," he said.
Ghosh noted that the Indian tech industry adapted to all the changes extremely quickly. "We didn't wait a day. We decided we would make remote working a reality in india. We got the laws changed, policies changed, the government was with us all the way. Within about 10 days, we moved around 99% of people and assets home, and we are a 4 million+ industry," she said.
We kept the lights on for global clients without missing a beat (during the pandemic). Every client worked closely with industry players to co-create cyber security solutions and proctoring solutions that could monitor how our people were working (from home). We built trust with everyone of our clients. Cloud, cyber security, customer experience, collaborative tools were all put to the test with great intensity during the pandemic. And because of the outcomes we delivered, the most qualified employees want to be part of this industry.
Keshav Murugesh, group CEO of BPM firm WNS Global Services, said that with Covid, the BPM industry had to overnight build the future ahead. "We had to think on our feet, we had to work with Nasscom, with government, with clients. There was no choice of Indian BPM saying we can't service you because of this crisis, because global clients are totally dependent on us for many of their most crucial services. And we kept the lights on without missing a beat," he said.
A big worry for global clients was how secure it would be if BPM employees were working from home. So every client, Murugesh said, worked closely with industry players to create cyber security solutions and proctoring solutions that could monitor how the employees were working. "We built so much currency for Indian industry. The naysayers who had not accepted this model are all now clamouring to get on to this model before the next pandemic hits us," he said.
The new model of exchange and engagement with customers is about experience transformation, it's about being customer centric, human centric. This new model is all about operations transformation. If I'm a retailer, how do I profoundly think about my warehouse value stream! This new model is also about leveraging new age technologies for new age offerings to customers. How do you drive fan engagement better! How do you drive personalisation more dramatically!
Premji said a couple of trends have profoundly accelerated in the last 10-12 months that have helped the industry. The first is the relevance of collaboration technologies. "More and more I talk to customers, they are now thinking more impactfully about these technologies, how do they measure that, drive that, improve that," he said. Collaboration technologies are improving so rapidly that many companies are looking at having a good proportion of their employees working from home even after the world comes out of the pandemic.
The second trend, Premji said, is that cloud has become an accelerated reality. "The flexibility, the scalability, the speed which it allows customers to engage and transact has dramatically changed," he said.
AI is another area that is having a profound impact on global enterprises, and India has become core to developing solutions around these and delivering them. Srikanth Velamakanni, co-founder & CEO of Fractal Analytics, one of India's most successful analytics companies, noted that underlying collaboration, cloud, cyber security, customer experience or digital transformation, is the idea of running a smarter business. "It's about incorporating everything that's going on, make sense of what's going on and make the right decisions. That requires the ability to manage the data, build algorithms, and really predict the future. So AI is at the heart of the technological transformations," he said.
When I started Fractal, it was the winter of AI, there was no talent to speak of. Now, India is No. 3 in the total number of research papers published in AI. And if you look at Indian diaspora, my educated guess is that one in three people in the AI field is an Indian.Underlying AI is mathematics. People have to really get comfortable with math to code in AI. India produces one of the most mathematically gifted talent anywhere in the world. We have the supply to cater to the world's demand. What is needed is a little mentorship.
Velamakanni said India has a big advantage in the space. "If you include the Indian diaspora, my educated guess is that one in three people in the AI field is an Indian," he said.
Ghosh noted that the skilling programmes by companies and Nasscom have created a massive talent pool of digital talent. "When the startup momentum started, Israel said we are the startup nation. I think this is an India moment to go out there and say we are the talent nation," she said.
As the industry heads into its flagship event, the Nasscom Technology & Leadership Forum, on Wednesday, strengthening this digital talent will be a major discussion point. The longer term strategy, Nasscom said, will also have to include partnerships with hyperscalers, acquisitions of innovative companies, and building out intellectual property (IP) on top of cloud platforms.
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