New Growth Story: ‘The time is ripe for betting on India’s young generation’

Despite the massive demographic opportunity, we have skill gaps plaguing millions of Indian graduates

Participants attend a counseling session given by the University of Southern California (USC) at the United States-India Education Foundation (USIEF) in Mumbai, India, on Wednesday, March 8, 2017. For decades, the U.S. has lured thousands of foreign students who’ve been quickly hired by the likes of Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Now the Trump administration is trying to slash immigrant visas, while Republican and Democrat lawmakers are introducing bills to curb the number of work visas. Recent violent attacks against Indians—several fatal—have raised the specter of physical danger among Indians who have fantasies of a life in the U.S. Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg

By Kulmeet Bawa

As per reports, around 80% of India’s engineers still lack the relevant digital skills needed to be employable. Unless we create world-class training facilities and a hotbed for innovation right here, we might witness a “brain drain” that has already seen talented individuals leaving the country.

In the two years since the pandemic took hold of the world, digital technologies have blurred the borders at an unprecedented pace. Hybrid work patterns are now part and parcel of the new normal. In a borderless climate where work is possible from “anywhere”, the opportunities to leverage and enrich India’s young human capital must be  grabbed with both hands. Mobile devices and affordable internet have only made it easier to learn new skills and track global trends. I am hopeful that with the right environment and training, India’s technology, science, math, and engineering graduates will shape the future of innovation globally.

Startups and tie-ups
Along with young Indians, young Indian businesses too have the power to change the world. They’re already challenging the traditional corporate order, solving modern problems, bringing in big investments and attaining, almost overnight, market valuations that established players took decades to achieve. I remember reading how tier-II city start-ups (many offering cloud tech services) have raised over $1 billion in the last six years alone. This number will only go higher. This year may well see the convergence of corporates and startups take place at a deeper level.

It’s no surprise that IIT-B graduate Parag Agrawal and Kolhapur-educated engineer Leena Nair were named CEOs of Twitter and Chanel. They join an illustrious list of professionals of Indian origin who rose through the ranks to lead billion-dollar global businesses. There’s no shortage of talent in India, but are we providing them the right conditions to succeed?
The time is ripe for betting on India’s young generation. With our working population likely to surpass the number of dependents soon, India is all set to reap the benefits of its “demographic dividend”. Despite the massive demographic opportunity, we have skill gaps plaguing millions of Indian graduates.

This partnership will not only help the big fish create new markets but also aid digital natives to develop their products and scale up. When knowledge is shared, the wheels of innovation start to turn. And when such partnerships take place at a pan-India level, their economic benefits will have far-reaching effects.

Securing a greener future
If we can harness India’s potential as a massive talent pool, growth will naturally follow.  However, mere growth appears to be too narrow a long-term objective for India and the world. Studies reveal that India’s top 250 companies emit 36% of the country’s  green-house gas emissions. At a time when climate change remains among the biggest threats to human existence, each stakeholder (be it India Inc, the government, or social organisations) must act towards ensuring a sustainable future.

India’s pledge at the COP26 meeting in Glasgow touched upon efforts like the phasing out of coal and increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix. Corporates need to not only aid these crucial directives, but also adopt sustainable business models and take steps to heal the environment via CSR initiatives. Along with the top line and bottom line, the green-line will take an equal seat and mindshare at the boardroom as conversations on climate change become a necessity for a better tomorrow.

India remains a land of aspiration, and is on the cusp of a new growth story. Being deemed the world’s fastest growing major economy for 2022 isn’t a cause for celebration but a call for action. By harnessing the power of a young population, emerging technologies and sustainable solutions, we can unlock immense value for millions of families and businesses and bring India to the forefront of the global economy. With the right tools and support, the sky is the limit for India’s spirited citizens trying to make a difference.

So let’s reach for this sky, a sky full of limitless possibilities and clear of any pollution.

The writer is president & MD, SAP Indian Subcontinent; Views are personal.

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