In many ways, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the Silicon Valley and his discussions with the global tech titans is as much an extension of the ‘Digital India’ initiative that he launched in July as it is about saluting innovation. There can be no dispute that in the last 50 years computer-enabled technologies and the Internet have turned out to be the biggest example of creative destruction to have impacted our lives. It has made communication times faster and empowered billions of people by democratising knowledge and information flows. Technology is now more than an enabler and has ensured that we are leading lives that were until recently the stuff of sci-fi movies. If cloud and fuzzy logic are a given now, the future could be of technologies that are exponentially more efficient.
‘Intelligent’ and ‘Smart’ reflect the degrees of sophistication that technology has achieved making present-day lifestyles infinitely more well-organised than those of earlier generations.
There is no gainsaying the fact that India remains one of the fastest growing markets for both the Internet users as well as personal technology. In the next few months there will be more than a billion mobile phone subscribers in India. At current trends, in the next five years the number of smart-phone users in India should cross 500 million. Already about 95% of the Internet traffic in India comes through mobile devices. According to the July estimates of the Internet and Mobile Association of India, at more than 350 million, the country is already the world’s second-largest in terms of base of Internet users. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, 700 million to 900 million people in India could be online by 2025.
Mr Modi’s visit to the Tesla Motors plant to see first-hand the inventions on renewable energy and electric cars is demonstrable evidence that the PM attaches an extremely high premium to innovation. ‘Disruptive’ hyper-efficient innovations will drive business decisions. Companies that focus on lateral or horizontal thinking will stay ahead of the competition as revenue models will have to foresee or, at the very least, keep pace with technological developments. So, while smart-phone penetration and ‘appification’ of personal technology usage through handhelds can help India offset the costs of conventional Internet access through desktops and laptops, it is about time for India now to create an eco-system with an appropriate system of rewards and incentives that fosters original thinking. Making innovators such as Apple and their peers to set shop in India is a good first step as precision engineering, organisational processes and innovation gets embedded in India’s mainstream psyche.