February 17th-19th of 2021 marked the 29th NASSCOM Technology & Leadership Forum (NTLF), an annual event attracting many leaders from the global $190-billion technology ecosystem. NTLF 2021 hosted 1,600 participants from more than 30 countries and more than 30 products were showcased during the three-day event.
The theme of this year’s event was “Shaping the future towards a better normal” and aimed to achieve three primary objectives:
- Celebrating technology which has served as a backbone to boost businesses during the pandemic crisis.
- Drawing a roadmap for the way ahead towards building a better future.
- Bringing out the importance of trust and responsible tech in this hyper virtual world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the inaugural address, praising the resilience and growth demonstrated by India’s information and technology (IT) sector during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When the chips were down, your code kept the world running,” he said. “When the whole world was restricted to the four walls of their homes, our IT sector ran their projects with the same commitment and dedication.”
The Prime Minister also talked about government policy initiatives that will help entrepreneurs and innovators overcome challenges, including providing aid to agriculture and health sectors with technology and artificial intelligence (AI). AI in Agriculture, for example, will enable the monitoring of soil, water, and fertilizer management on a large scale. Modi also urged start-ups and innovators to explore how India can create world-class products that will set the global benchmark on excellence.
Other highlights and takeaways from NTLF included talks by industry leaders including:
Eric S. Yuan, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Zoom
Yuan said that the focus for the platform will remain on customer service and maintaining simplicity while adding new features for the platform post COVID.
“When we all go back, it will not be the same way as we worked before. We all need to pull back from office. Hybrid (model) will be mainstream. Down the road, employee or employer are going to make a decision; either two or three days a week in the office, or two or three days at home. Having said that, I think tools like Zoom will stay.”
Arvind Krishna, CEO, IBM Corp
Krishna believes that India needs to push for digital education, so that millions can be trained and deployed in areas such as AI.
“Data regulations, a culture of innovation and risk-taking, and up-skilling in relevant technologies can help India leverage the opportunity created for the IT industry post the Covid-19 crisis.”
Growth will improve in 2021 he said, referring to the latest IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) survey where for the first time, technology came ahead of talent and strategy in the priority list. And technological innovation has presented multiple opportunities and hence it is imperative for key players to partner with each other for developing an ecosystem.
Upskilling and training
On the topic of upskilling and training, several industry leaders weighed in on solutions:
- Accenture India's Chairperson Rekha Menon stated the need to continue investing in upskilling talent in smaller towns, as a large tech base will enable India to emerge as a digital talent nation. For this objective, she pointed to the need of collaborating with multiple stakeholders to build digital skills at the school level.
- Genpact's CEO Tiger Tyagarajan requested the government to support STPI centers in small towns and strengthen data protection laws to enable people to work from their hometowns, which will positively impact the economy and education in Tier 2 and 3 cities.
- Wipro's Chairman Rishad Premji noted that the government should look at setting up institutions like the Software Technology Park of India (STPI) in India’s small towns to foster a culture of innovation and growth. Wipro’s CEO Thierry Delaporte agreed. “As automation takes over, there should not be any fear of fewer jobs and the focus should be squarely on upskilling and reskilling.”
- HCL Technologies CEO C Vijayakumar add, “We need to do a lot more about upskilling and bringing the latest technology focus among the whole education including the work-life that is one.”
COVID Accelerating Transformation
Industry leaders acknowledged some silver linings during the pandemic.
- Infosys CEO Salil Parekh said digital technology products and services have seen rapid growth in the last few months, adding that all large enterprises were looking at digital transformation and that this is driving growth for IT services companies.
- Tech Mahindra CEO, CP Gurnani said Indian consumers had embraced digital technology during the pandemic, and that it is now up to Indian companies to make sure that they are ahead digitally.
- “The pandemic has accelerated the situation to a point now where we do understand technology, we embrace technology, our people love technology”, said Wipro CEO Thierry Delaporte, “We are now in a world where technology is more important than ever, but what matters the most is business issues, understanding of these issues, and leveraging technology to address those business issues.”
NASSCOM is the premier trade body and chamber of commerce of the Tech industry in India and comprises over 2,800 member companies including both Indian and multinational organizations that have a presence in India. NASSCOM focuses on accelerating the pace of transformation of the industry to emerge as the preferred enablers for global digital transformation.
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