The Indian tech industry has seen significant growth and transformation over the past few decades, positioning itself as a global leader in various domains. In a recent conversation we had with us K S Viswanathan, who is the Vice President for Industry Initiatives at NASSCOM. In this role, he’s committed to fortifying India’s technology landscape, encompassing both traditional and emerging digital sectors, to uphold India’s global IT leadership.
Boasting over 37 years of industry experience, KSV has held pivotal roles at prominent organizations like Wipro Infotech, Dell, and Azim Premji Foundation. He served as Senior VP and Chief Executive at Wipro Infotech and took the helm as Managing Director of Dell India. Notably, he played a crucial part in establishing the legal framework for Azim Premji University.
Vishwanath’s recent inclusion in the Advisory Committee of CSIR- Fourth Paradigm Institute, Bangalore, underscores his industry influence. A graduate of Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, he holds an MBA in Marketing from Madras University.
As a prominent figure in the industry, recently discussed the keys to sustaining India’s leadership position in the tech sector. In his address, he highlighted several crucial aspects that have contributed to the sector’s growth and proposed future directions for maintaining this leadership.
The Tech Journey: From Hardware to Software Services
Viswanathan began by reminiscing about the tech industry’s journey in India. He acknowledged that the industry has come a long way since the late 1980s when it was primarily involved in selling imported hardware. In those days, the concept of software and software as a service (SaaS) was virtually non-existent in India.
A pivotal moment arrived with the Y2K opportunity, which opened doors for India’s services sector. Industry leaders, including Viswanathan, saw the potential and embarked on a journey to evangelize the creation of NASSCOM in 1988, enhancing the voice of the industry on a global scale.
Tech Leadership and Collaborative Success
He emphasized the need for industry leaders to collaborate and demonstrate leadership during the Y2K opportunity. He discussed how leaders collectively aimed to reach a $10 billion export target by 2006, and remarkably, they achieved it. This success showcased the industry’s aspiration, excellence, and collaboration, which laid the foundation for further growth.
India’s tech industry now stands at a remarkable $250 billion, employing millions of people and offering equal opportunities for inclusivity, including women in the workforce.
Leadership in Startups and Innovation
KSV shifted his focus to the growth of startups in India. He mentioned that a few years ago, India was absent from global startup conversations, with Silicon Valley, London, China, Berlin, and Israel dominating the narrative. However, India’s startup ecosystem witnessed explosive growth, becoming the third-largest in the world. The success of this ecosystem demonstrated the tech industry’s ability to lead and adapt to changing trends.
In an interesting turn of events, Viswanathan shared that multinational corporations now seek India’s expertise in startups when engaging with global tech leaders. This was a testament to India’s impressive startup ecosystem.
Digital Public Infrastructure (DPI) and Leadership During COVID-19
One of India’s most notable achievements was the creation of a robust digital public infrastructure (DPI). This infrastructure played a pivotal role in the successful management of the COVID-19 crisis. The DPI enabled India to provide vital services and information to its citizens during the pandemic. It garnered global attention and respect from various countries, showcasing India’s digital leadership.
India at the Cusp of an AI Revolution
Viswanathan underscored the importance of India’s role in the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution. He encouraged the tech industry to create a significant impact in AI, mentioning that India had been rated as the top AI-ready country in the world. This recognition was due to India’s ability to create a talent pool essential for AI development.
He also stressed the need for India to establish cloud sovereignty, data sovereignty, and ethical AI practices. With a focus on AI, India could take the lead in creating foundation models and solutions catering to the country’s unique needs and language diversity.
Promoting Gender Diversity and Women’s Representation
Within the tech industry, K S Viswanathan (KSV) also emphasized the importance of promoting gender diversity and ensuring adequate women’s representation. He highlighted how, over the years, India’s tech sector recognized the need for greater inclusivity.
KSV discussed how the industry aimed to create an environment where women could thrive and contribute significantly. Initiatives were taken to ensure a safe, equal, and empowering workspace for women. These efforts were seen as essential for the industry’s growth and success.
The industry worked on increasing the percentage of women in technology roles, leadership positions, and on boards. It was understood that diverse teams brought a broader range of perspectives, which was crucial for innovation and tackling complex challenges. KSV encouraged organizations to continue these efforts and underscored the significance of nurturing women’s talent in the tech industry.
In conclusion, sustaining India’s leadership position in the tech sector involves a combination of past success, ongoing adaptation, and a focus on emerging technologies. Collaboration, innovation, and a commitment to diversity and inclusion are key drivers in this journey towards maintaining India’s prominent role in the global tech landscape.