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BW Businessworld

IT Industry Wants To Collaborate With Government, Academia For Reskilling

This Independence Day, the Indian IT industry seeks independence for more open government collaboration with industry to empower the Digital India mission

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It took just 25 years for IT to become pervasive in India. The proliferation of mobile phones, reduction on duties for components, coupled with the Government of India’s Digital India and Make in India policies, have been the main drivers of this growth. Data and call rates are at an all-time low, and handset prices have greatly reduced – further accelerating the adoption of digital technologies. Yet, there are some pot holes on the information highway that could cause India to lose its IT superpower status, at a global level. These deficiencies could also slow down digital transformation in Indian companies. BW Businessworld spoke to analysts and heads of IT companies to get their views. The main points emerging from these conversations are: reskilling, jobs, indigenous manufacturing, protection of IP, and taxation.

Karan Bajwa, Managing Director, IBM India said, “As India turns 70, I wish for our nation to lead the world in digital transformation. The Digital India program envisioned by the Government of India recognises the transformative power of technology and envisions this as a game changer and driver of immense progress. Accelerated implementation of these programs, and greater transparency is essential to make the vision of growth a reality.”

Bajwa is optimistic about the new set of opportunities. “Digital transformation will see the emergence of a new set of jobs known as the ‘new collar jobs’ – jobs that combine technical skills in areas such as cloud, cognitive, security, data science etc. with a knowledge base rooted in higher education. These new roles will require forging deeper relationships with ecosystem partners and acquiring ‘in-demand’ skill-sets,” he said.

But these opportunities will not come if India does not reskill, said Deepak Visweswariah, MD and SVP, NetApp India. “As a young nation at 70, with around 50% of our population below 25 years of age, we seek skilling of the workforce at an early stage, and reskilling at every stage of growth. This is paramount to not only increasing employability, but also ensuring that India maintains its edge in IT over the world,” he said. “We seek independence from barriers to it (digital transformation) – to make the process as inclusive as possible for greater partnerships. This Independence Day, we seek independence for more open government collaboration with industry to empower the Digital India mission.”

Gokulakrishnan G, Head – Asia Pacific region, Servion Global Solutions echoed this sentiment. He said, “This Independence Day, we look forward to support from the Indian government to help in collaborating with colleges all over the country, to improve the skills of students in the areas of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning; and equip them with the necessary tools to be a valuable contributor to the global workforce.”

The IT-BPM space has been the leading sub-segment in the IT industry, with a large pie of the revenues coming from IT services. It has also generated lakhs of jobs and contributed significantly to the economy. However, with the latest developments in Western countries, India’s advantage may be diminishing. Reskilling is essential to maintain its leadership position.

Susir Kumar, Executive Chairman, Intelenet Global Services, said, “Currently, there is an ongoing evolution underway, with businesses and clients redefining the requirements they have from the IT Services industry. This sector has been well poised to meet changing business demands, however there is a need for the industry to reskill its talent in line with the revised needs. This independence day, we hope to break this misconception about our talent and ensure that the business world understands the value we as a country bring to the table.”

Apart from skills, there are some other issues that the government needs to address.

Sanchit Gogia, Chief Analyst, Founder & CEO, Greyhound Knowledge Group said, “A lot is being said about the Make in India Campaign. But a lot is being done on ‘assembly’ and not so much on ‘make’. The industry is looking for indigenous manufacturing supported by policies. The mobile manufacturing that they (Lava and Apple) speak of, is pretty much assembly lines. We also need robust and standardised laws to support IPR. We need to align ourselves to global standards for IPR. And thirdly, we need adequate bankruptcy laws to support startups and companies that close shop. We need more visibility on the bankruptcy laws; bankruptcy needs to be managed better by the government, as is done in other countries. These are needed to protect their internal (employees) and external stakeholders (partners, suppliers).”

Jaideep Mehta, Managing Director - India and South Asia at IDC said, “The IT industry will certainly benefit by gaining independence from heavy taxation. IT should be treated as a building block of modern India and given its due, beyond the sloganeering.”

Alok Ohrie, President & Managing Director, India Commercial, DellEMC says, "While the Modi government is aggressively pushing for a Digital India, and has made significant progress in this journey, it is now time for the country to focus on involving each citizen in this digitization drive. India’s claim to be a digitized nation can only be justified when each citizen becomes a Digital Indian, with access to and knowledge of utilizing technology infrastructure. The industry and government should come together to create a bottom-up approach and ensure technology is accessible across India. Every individual must become an advocate of Digital India, and this is only possible when every citizen is empowered with technology and understands how it can enhance their lives."