India can become a hub for digital solutions

Written by Anand J | Updated: Feb 3 2014, 07:24am hrs
Even as the $108 billion Indian IT-ITeS industry has seen an upbeat momentum over the last three quarters of the current fiscal with growth coming back in its largest markets, the sector is still uncertain of the impact of the impending US immigration bill. The annual Nasscom India Leadership Forum, 2014, which will be held in Mumbai from February 12-14, will charter the new roadmap for the industry. Nasscom senior vice-president Sangeeta Gupta tells Anand J about the upcoming event, the outlook for the coming fiscal and the lobby completing 25 years.

What will be the focus of this years Leadership Forum

The theme of this years conference is the building of digital enterprise. Earlier we were focussing very much on outsourcing and but now there is a new opportunity in the digital enablement and we believe that India can become a hub for digital solutions. Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT, in his opening key note will talk on how machines will take over a lot of work we do on a day to day basis. This is about the future of a digital world, automation and how do you bring digital illiterates and train them, going forward. We will also have discussions on how the enterprises and customers see this digital opportunity and what competencies are needed. We will also have discussions on 10 disruptive technologies that will impact India. It is also important for the industry to look at the India market and opportunity.

What role does the forum play in addressing the changing business dynamics

Two things have happened since the 2008 economic crisis. One is that uncertainty and volatility has become a way of life. Secondly, it is no more about the change, but the pace of change. So how do we excel in this environment. We believe that one of the key imperative for the Indian industry is to target digital opportunity and for which we need leadership skills that are very different. We have got lot of people outside of the industry from India and other parts of the world to talk about how they see the transformation.

Of late Nasscom has been focussing on IT product and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Will the Leadership Forum also deliberate on this

The digital opportunity can be collaboration between these players; the innovative product companies and IT service companies. There are multiple initiatives within Nasscom like the Product Conclave and the 10,000 Startups that are for evangelising entrepreneurship. We will also have few of the successful product companies speaking at the forum also and we will continue to drive the message that new ecosystem is about collaboration. Our focus is on establishing the connect as global customers are coming for the forum and how will you evangelise the product ecosystem to them.

Has the Forum become more like ritual that has to happen every year

If that is the case, why would we create many new events and platforms. This forum is our platform that evangelise the future of the industry with a new theme every year and this year, the whole focus is on crafting a digital enterprise and can we become the hub for digital solutions. It is about defining the road map for the industry. We dont have the time and effort for a ritual.

Nasscom has completed 25 years of existence. What is its role beyond an IT industry lobby and how is it changing

What we do has always been beyond what a lobby does. If you look at two or three big priorities of Nasscom going forward, 10,000 startups is one, where new breed of companies are being established. The industry in India was always talked about and seen as a cost and labour arbitrage. The 15-20 years of a relationship between a company and client has gone beyond that cost and labour and that is a story not been told. So how would we bring the customer centricity for the outsourcing industry.

Third is the India opportunity in the market. Traditionally multinational companies have invested here, but we want to look at what kinds of partnerships can be enabled with the sector and domain expertise to leverage the large volume of the India opportunity and it has to be done from a long-term perspective and not from a cost arbitrage. Fourth is the focus on skill development as the environment is changing rapidly and so are the requirements. From soft skills, today we are talking about mobile, cloud technologies, cyber security and data science. Our focus is not on capacity building anymore, but maintaining occupational standard under the Sector Skill Council.

Hiring pattern in the IT industry has changed and it is no more the bulk job creator. How do you see that influencing the governments decision making in terms of incentivising the industry

Currently we are not getting any incentives from the government for job creation or exports unless you are in a Special Economic Zone and it has not been there for two years now. The government needs to look at creating jobs in the tier 2 and tier 3 cities and incentivising them so that they dont need to migrate to tier one cities. Can we support that and why should a domestic BPO operate out of a tier one city. So we will see emergence of new hubs and the pressure on tier 1 cities reduce. And for a capable technology person is not going to be hired by IT sector but education, healthcare, media and entertainment sector, banking sector and so on will hire them. And if you look at the startup boom, they are the potential employers of tomorrow.

How do you see the industrys growth for the current fiscal and FY15 Most of the companies have performed well in the December quarter.

The outlook we maintained for FY14 is of 12-14% and we continue to stick to that numbers. We have factored in the fluctuations. The next fiscals outlook will be given in early February at the forum. It will be better, but not dramatically different. We now have a large base and cannot grow at 30%; that era is over. Some big companies are above the Nasscom average, but they are also not in the 30% range in dollar terms. The job outlook should be better in 2014 than in 2013, but the model of large campus hiring has changed.