TECH TALK: The Discovery of India: A Changing World

Take a look of some recent technology headlines:

  • IT Doesnt Matter, Harvard Business Review, May 2003

  • Coming of Age, Paradise Lost The Economist Survey of the IT Industry, May 10, 2003

  • The Software Party is Over, Business India, April 28 – May 11, 2003

    Even as the worldwide recession in technology continues, the leading Indian software companies are witnessing an erosion of margins and a reduction in profitability. As Ludwig Siegele wrote in The Economist: “So far, information technology has thrived on exponentials. Now it has to get back to earth.” So, is this the end of the technology story?

    The answer is Yes and No. Yes, this is the end of reckless technology spend. Yes, there is a slowdown in the absorption of technology by the developed markets of the world. No, innovation in technology continues. No, the worlds emerging markets beckon.

    Wrote Kevin Werbach in

    Linear progressions, such as the consistent improvement in processing power heralded by Moore’s Law, are fundamentally boring. They are like driving for hours on a straight, featureless highway: You know you’ll eventually get to where you want to go, but the trip itself becomes a blur. If instead the path forward involves stair-step transitions, through which the entire ecosystem reconfigures itself, life is far more exciting. Change is no longer measurable by one variable. It arrives in waves of interconnected developments whose relationship we only dimly discern.

    That’s what’s happening today. The technologies and concepts generating buzz at industry gatherings like PC Forum, O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology Conference, and Supernova include social software, the semantic Web, Web logs, rich Internet applications, Web services, unlicensed wireless, grid computing, digital identity, broadband media. The more one looks at these developments, the more hidden connections appear. They are pieces of a larger whole, which we don’t yet have words to describe.

    Even as a new world beyond the PC and beyond the Web emerges in the developed markets of the world, others like India and China comprise the worlds next markets. As income levels rise, technology can be the force that helps them take not incremental, small steps but giant leaps. This is where the next set of opportunities lie.

    Lets look at India. We call ourselves an IT Superpower. An IT Superpower? With annual sales of 2 million computers about 1.5% of the world total? With software piracy levels exceeding 70%? Where is the domestic consumption? Where are the software products with a Made in India tag? Where are the visions for tomorrows world from Indian tech leaders? No, IT Superpower we are not. We may be a Global IT Services Provider, but Superpower we are not.

    Indian technology companies have a significant opportunity ahead of them to take up leadership in the global technology marketplace. Let the existing set of software and services companies focus on the worlds developed markets. We need a new crop of firms that can focus on solving the problems of the domestic market in India and then take these solutions to other markets like ours. Let us first discover India, and then conquer the New Emerging World.

    How do we begin? Here are three questions whose answers each lead to large potential markets. How can we make a connected computer accessible to every employee in India? How can we make software part of the DNA of Indian engineering colleges? How do we transform rural India?

    Tomorrow: SMEs

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.