An Indian-African entrepreneur is planning to use the ‘Digital India’ model in South Africa as a global case study to incubate innovative digital start-ups that will propel the continent towards faster growth. Ramesh Awtaney is the founder and chairman of iSON Group, Africa’s leading IT conglomerate, who is executing his own vision of ‘Digital Africa’ inspired by the Indian government’s digital drive. “The Digital India programme has picked up remarkable pace over the last few years. I am sure that ‘Digital India’ is on its way to become a global case study that will inspire many countries,” he told PTI during a recent visit to the UK to attend the London Business School’s Africa Business Summit.
“Through my latest venture, iSON Innovation, I am contributing to a similar vision for a Digital Africa, wherein I want to support and incubate innovative digital start-ups that will propel the continent towards faster growth,” he said. Awtaney, who has over 28 years of experience in global technology, market development and business process outsourcing (BPO), highlighted the need for India to move up the “value chain” towards Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO), which is more “cerebral and offers a better price”.
“I predict that Africa can replicate India’s growth story in IT/ITeS in just 10 years. We saw this opportunity early and have been investing in new centres across Sub-Saharan Africa over the past seven years, which have helped catalyse the ecosystems for growth in these countries,” he said. The iSON Group chief, whose companies have a presence in 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa alone, also believes in big scope in India and Africa collaborations in the IT industry.
“The IT and ITeS industry in India is very evolved. India can export this Process Intellectual Property to Africa, which will create capabilities and capacities onshore. This will be a winning proposition for Africa too, which will benefit from immense skilling and employment opportunities,” Awtaney said. Given the changing IT dynamics across the world, Awtaney played down the threat of US President Donald Trump’s increasingly protectionist policies.
“There is more hype than substance in this perceived threat. The industry has always followed the economics and while in the short-term there would be some noise, yet in the medium-to-long term, businesses would compel the logic to prevail and global IT industry would refocus on its growth trajectory,” he said. Under his leadership, the iSON Group has been on an expansion spree and has invested over 20 million dollars in Africa in the last seven years and plans to invest an additional 20 million dollars in setting up four new centres, which will create 4,000 more jobs.