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View from India: Fresh frontiers for future-facing companies

Global GDP (gross domestic product) is now around $80tn - up from $11tn in 1980. India's GDP has grown over the same period, too, from $180bn to $2.8tn.

To a large extent, India’s growth can be attributed to those industries that have leveraged digital computing. It’s pertinent that the Government of India (GoI) has brought out a slew of legislations such as tax incentives for software technology parks. The Government of Karnataka (GoK) is creating sandboxes for autonomous vehicles, in a similar way to what the Reserve Bank of India is doing for fintech startups. 

Such large-scale initiatives point to fresh frontiers. “We are now at the threshold of a new wave of computing comprising telecom, sensors and physical-digital-biological tenets. All these put together make for Industry 4.0, whose underlying technology is artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning,” said Kris Gopalakrishnan, chair, CII AI Forum.

These technologies have enabled industry by easing and simplifying processes which have improved productivity and standards of quality.

Digital computing facilitates business processes through which professionals write and program algorithms and feed them into the computer. This automates business processes and tasks. We know how to solve the problem and this has brought us here.

Things take a different meaning when it comes to technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. These technologies enable machines to learn through data which is curated and tagged. Machines are trained to recognise processes and the technologies allow them to solve problems that were not solved by machines before. “India is home to 4.5 million IT professionals. They need to be re-trained to use AI and machine learning,” said Gopalakrishnan.

The re-skilling process should also address issues like machine training and writing algorithms for them. Another aspect is data, which is in abundance. If re-skilling falls into place, huge businesses can be created. It’s also the time for professionals to seek opportunities in areas such as fraud detection. Three decades ago, we learnt programming when the personal computer came into use. Today, we train machines and curate data on them.

“Early adopters of technologies like Internet of Things (IoT), AI and automation have raised the bar for business and service models, besides ushering new norms for safety standards,” said Pratik Kumar, chairman, task force on AI, IoT & Robotics, Wipro Infrastructure Engineering. On a large scale, the challenge lies in adaptation. It still needs to be seen whether the workforce is ready for the transition and if they can switch over in a seamless manner.

India has leap-frogged ahead in telecom and fintech. In fact, as technology continues to grow at exponential speed and innovations happen at a rapid pace, most industries have been affected by some sort of disruption. Understandably, those companies that have chosen to explore opportunities in the less-explored tech solutions have enjoyed success.

The future holds a great deal of promise. We are not too far off from the time when lifeforms can be created in labs. In fact, one might even be able to programme the child however he or she wants (serious ethical concerns notwithstanding). To meet the upcoming needs of the industry, CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) has rolled out an AI Forum to help industries to make the required transition to keep pace with these fast-changing times.

“The event has thrown light on the role of technology as a change-agent in the construction and equipment industry and factors responsible to accelerate the industry’s pace. The advent of technology has touched our lives in multiple ways. It is no surprise that even in this sector the products and services are creating new experiences for all of us,” Kumar said, summing up.

These views were discussed at CII EXCON 2019. 'Smart I-tech – Next Gen India@75' was the theme of the event.

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