I spent last week in India, first at Nasscom Indian Leadership Forum (ILF), in Hyderabad which was this year combined with the World Congress on IT (WCIT) and then a couple of days in Mumbai including visiting the TiE Global Summit. India is going through massive change while maintaining strong economic growth. Just this week India has overtaken China to become the world’s fastest-growing large economy again, reporting fourth-quarter GDP up 7.2% again the same period in 2016, although growth on average through the year was nearer 6%.
It’s a cliche for people from the west to visit India (I’ve only been there three times) and see potential everywhere and project a bright short-term future only to be disappointed when they return and things look the same. But the signs of change are everywhere and have been there for some time. Walking around Mumbai, you can see the ongoing construction of the new metro system, part of which has already opened. The tagline on the boards protecting pedestrians from the construction – ‘Connecting the Unconnected’ struck me as an unusually frank and appropriate one. Infrastructure connects people, enables them to get them to work efficiently and to do their jobs effectively. Infrastructure matters as we know, but it’s a while before it becomes invisible. What do I mean by that?
Invisible Infrastructure is one of the four themes of 451 Research’s 4Sight project, our vision of where the world, powered by technology is heading over the next decade. This is as true of India as it anywhere else in the world. Major change can happen when people have infrastructure that just works, without them having to think too much about it.
But infrastructure takes many forms. There’s the physical kind such as the metro or even Richard Branson’s proposed Hyperloop from Mumbai to Pune.
Then there is legal and financial infrastructure. India’s legal system certainly has issues but it could prove a major advantage for it in the long term versus China.
Financial infrastructure has been one of the main focus areas of Prime Minister Narendra Modi administration, including the sudden withdrawal of two major bank notes in November 2016 due to corruption and tax avoidance. And the Aadhaar identity system is providing an infrastructure for all sorts of innovative financial products; once again, connecting the unconnected.
And technology, of course, plays a massive part in this – as it has done in the changes in India over the last 30 years or so. In his address to the Nasscom audience (via video link to avoid a massive security scrum at Nasscom), Modi launched Nasscom’s Future Skills platform that seeks to train 4 million existing and new IT workers in eight technology areas, including machine learning/AI, virtual reality, robotic process automation, IoT, big data analytics, 3D printing, cloud computing, social and mobile.
Technology is also key to enabling India’s 200 million small rural farmers to make a decent living from their land, where apparently 65% of them have less than one hectare. A session at TiE in Mumbai on the subject was packed solid and the audience rushed the stage at the end to network with the presenters and swap cards. I found the proposition of Happy Roots particularly interesting.
Just this week India has overtaken China to become the world’s fastest-growing large economy again, reporting fourth-quarter GDP up 7.2% again the same period in 2016, although growth on average through the year was nearer 6%.
There’s still plenty to do – I found in Hyderabad for instance that Uber barely worked for me, and neither did my mobile, which steadfastly refused to move beyond 2G, although colleagues of mine had a better experience on other networks.
But when you see the business and technical talent up close in India and you think how powerful that can be once it’s easier to do business in India as its infrastructure becomes invisible, it is incredibly exciting.