By S Ramadorai
India’s 75 years of independence upholds the glorious history of its people, culture, and achievements. India’s remarkable developmental journey is well-attributable to the entrepreneurial zeal and ingenuity of its people, rooted in the idea of peace and harmony. At present, the Indian economy is the world’s third largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) and the fifth largest by nominal GDP. It is also one of the most diverse economies in the world with a wide range of traditional and modern industries. As the world undergoes immense technological and political transformations, India’s rise as a self-defined and technologically competent democratic power holds great promise for a new world order.
The post-independence period of India was marked by economic policies that tried to make the country self-reliant. The economic reforms followed the socialist principles with emphasis on the growth of public and rural sectors. In the mid-1960s, the government initiated the ‘Green Revolution’ to modernize the agriculture system and improve agricultural yield. New irrigation projects were undertaken, and the rural banks were set up to provide financial support to the farmers.In the mid-1980s, the initial steps towards economic liberalisation were taken through a few radical decisions, such as removing price controls, minimizing constraints on capacity expansion, lowering of corporate taxes, and allowing foreign investment. These factors enhanced the rate of growth and imports, which eventually led to huge fiscal deficits and a worsening current account as Indian businesses were earning in rupees and paying in dollars.
As is widely known, it was in 1991 that India adopted the liberalisation policy. This transition from an inward-looking socialist economy to outward-looking trade policies and market reforms, connected India to the global market, and created unprecedented opportunities for Indian companies. It also marked the rise of the Indian IT industry. The next decade saw the exponential growth of IT companies like TCS, Infosys, Wipro and several others that started exporting software services and products to international markets.
Today, India is regarded as a major IT hub and is recognised as a key contributor to the global technology landscape. India’s IT sector is set to become a $ 227 billion industry in FY22. On the other hand, India’s technology-driven ‘start-up culture’ is on the upsurge and is driving skilled technologists and professionals towards innovation and commercialisation of new products, processes, and services. The Indian start-up ecosystem has emerged to be the third largest in the world and is seen as a source of world-class tech products. India’s unique attempt to build a public digital infrastructure through India Stack has democratized the process of digital development, andis providing greater impetus to digital inclusion and the growth of start-ups.
As a nation, we must recognise new patterns of opportunity and have the vision to pursue them. In today’s context, Industry 4.0 technologies and Intellectual Property assets hold tremendous opportunities for the future of India. Indian companies have filed 1,38,000 tech patents in the country and over 9,500 patents in the U.S. from 2015to 2021. There is a need to strengthen Intellectual Property Rights in India, which will have a positive ripple effect in the economy. We are set to witness unprecedented digital disruption with the adoption and rollout of 5G. When 5G is used in combination with AI, extended reality, edge computing and the Internet of Things, it will enable businesses and the society to realise the benefits of other emerging technologies.
For instance, we can improve our public healthcare system with the use of 5G, aided by IoT, AI and robotics, and build a new and connected healthcare ecosystem aligned with the concept of ‘4P’ medicine—predictive, preventative, personalised and participatory. We must work towards developing such an ecosystem.
Similarly, in a future lower-carbon energy landscape, electric utilities will need high levels of agility and control, including the ability to predict and manage distributed renewable energy sources, and enabling consumers to track and minimize energy use. 5G will be a cornerstone of such smart city applications worldwide, and we must explore the entrepreneurial and employment opportunities that come with it.
A better digital infrastructure will also facilitate mobile education that can revolutionize India’s vast network of rural and semi-urban school network, and mitigate the challenges of shortage of teachers and quality learning content.To be able to truly use the technology-driven opportunities ahead of us, we should continue to focus on skill development.
For India to fully measure up to its idealistic future, and attain its aspirational goals in social, economic, and political spheres, it is imperative that markets and opportunities become truly inclusive and accessible to all sections of the society. The fastest way to achieve this equity is possible only through the adoption of technology.
While economic possibilities with Industry 4.0 and 5G remain infinite, we must remember that climate change is the greatest threat that humanity is facing today. The need of the hour is to bridge the gap between economic growth and ecological sustainability. We must develop frameworks that put in place the right checks and balances, and create adequate awareness to instill a sense of climate ownership amongst the citizens so that we can harness social innovation and local action.
The author is former vice-chairman at TCS