Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran was the guest at the Express Adda in Mumbai last week.
On the fear of machines replacing human beings
In general, whenever there has been a technology disruption, it has dramatically increased the market opportunity and has created a huge number of jobs. This was true at the time of steam engines, electricity, you can go back and look at any big disruption or technological breakthrough. But the problem is that there is a period when this disruption happens and then the impact happens with a lag and there is a period where there are a lot of jobs that are lost. But from the technology disruption that we are currently talking about, AI and Mission Learning and whatever else that we can bundle together, IOT (Internet of Things), Cloud, and everything else, there are two points I want to make. One is, this will create jobs here and now, but coming specifically to the book (Bridgital Nation), which is focused on India, I think the opportunity clearly is immense. India has fundamentally a lot of demand and we have a lot of supply in terms of talent. And we are trying to solve the demand problem differently and the supply problem differently. As a result, we are not getting both to meet.
What do we mean by that? We have a shortage of healthcare. Our patient-to-doctor ratio is one of the worst in the world. If you take rural areas, it’s even worse. Same thing can be said of education, judiciary, physical infrastructure, and we don’t have the luxury of time and the luxury of capital to be able to do it the traditional way. So the only way to solve this problem is using technology. If you can bring this technology to the common people, then it dramatically changes the equation.
On the government and private sector working together
Unfortunately, we have a problem in our country. We either blame the government, or we blame somebody. I think this will require everybody to play a part. Private sector can play a big part. The problem is that the environment has to be created for the private sector. Let’s say, for example, we want to fix primary healthcare. It can be done. It will require government and private sector to work together. Not necessarily in terms of JVs or anything like that but clarity has to be there on who does what.
On GDP numbers and economic slowdown
You can’t react to one quarter’s GDP. I believe this market has huge potential. There are a number of trends and these trends are irreversible. Rising aspiration of people is irreversible. Whether it is a political mistake, whether it is an economic slowdown, it doesn’t matter. These things will happen. But what we are going through is also a correction process. We have had excesses. These excesses have to be corrected. Only thing is we are taking too long to correct those excesses. If so much NPA is there, the fact is, it’s there. It has all accumulated in front of our eyes. So this correction has to happen, but it has to happen fast.
On whether the headlines have affected what foreign markets think of India
You see, the problem you have today is very different from seven or eight years ago. Earlier, if there was a problem, there would be a newspaper article in the morning and after that people would forget it. But now what is happening is there is a tweet, everybody is a reporter, and (there are) WhatsApp groups. So the negative perception of anything is of a different magnitude.
On whether we need to become more protectionist
It’s a case by case phenomenon. There are areas in which you need to open up and areas which you need to calibrate. We have to calibrate, there’s no question. We can’t just say that everything is fine. There are repercussions if already the small and medium entrepreneurs, people in a particular sector are suffering, and you just have to take that into account. Because we have so much of growth potential, we need to make sure we have the right environment to capture the growth potential, competition is always a good thing. But at the same time, we have to calibrate. We can’t just say that we are open for everything. It cannot be done like that.
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