Is Make in Tech India on track?

by June 1, 2022 0 comments

Edited excerpts from an exhaustive interview with Ajai Chowdhry, Founder, HCL & Chairman – Board of Governors, IIT Patna

“I am very deeply involved in the whole ecosystem of the startups. To my mind the products and the work that they are doing are not a fad. They are really creating global world-class products. Ten years ago, we all used to ask this question in the drawing rooms: Why doesn’t India have a Google? I think that’s history now. What’s been proven now is that many startups have created products in India which are not just Made for India but are Made for the World. You are seeing companies that are amazing and happening.

Look at Zoho. Their headquarters are in a village in Tamil Nadu, but they are catering to the world. There has been a huge movement from services to products. Startups have taken the lead in creating products in India, not the large companies. I do believe that the valuations are very stretched today. But we are going towards being a product nation and that makes me very happy because it is products that will make us be recognized globally.

Our leadership position with India Stack

One very good thing that’s happened in India is that because of the initiatives of the government and some of the organizations like iSPIRT, there is a huge growth of India Stack (Editor’s Note: The largest open API in the world). This is driving a lot of the product development growth that is happening. India today has an absolute leadership position in the world as far as this is concerned. If we want to do soft marketing of India globally, the government should take this up and do a G2G agreement with many governments, and very softly we will be in the minds of the world, just like China. The US and Europe don’t have what we have.

Collaboration between academia, research institutes, industry

Academia and research are really important if we want to be a world-class tech country. I think it’s our weakest link. Academia and research organizations still do not work very closely with the industry. I think the linkages are pretty much very poor or broken. A lot of times numerous top institutes wait for the industry to come and talk to them. It should be the other way. Academia and research institutes should go out and talk to the industry and give their knowledge, their skills, and their capabilities to the industry. They should involve startups, students, and industry in research at an early stage. Worldwide universities grow with research and not just with teaching.

Something like this happened during Covid. That was very interesting. The government did a great job of bringing research, academia, and startups together. They had so many schemes, campaigns, and strategies that they put together to create products in India. So suddenly when we had a shortage of PPE, we grew by a hundredfold. Same with testing kits. I was part of a team from IIT Kanpur that created a ventilator in 90 days.

The roadmap for the future

There’s a large shortage of AR-VR Metaverse type of skills that you see today. Shortage of blockchain and full-stack skills. We need to scale up the education system to keep up with that requirement. A huge amount of work needs to be done on creating the newer IT skills that are missing today.

If you look at software, yes in terms of products we seem to be on track, but if we don’t have the right skills that are required for today’s products, then we are going to have a situation where products will become more expensive and will take longer to develop.

As far as hardware is concerned, we have just got to start doing designs. We need to bring back the brands of India. A lot of times people say if we are doing so well in software how does it matter whether you are not doing well in hardware. I think that’s completely incorrect. Because the real situation is that today the boundaries between hardware and software are blurring. A lot of hardware has a lot of software. There’s no way you can create a hardware product without understanding AI and ML. Very importantly you need to integrate these things even when you design chips. That’s what is required for the country. We have to Make and Design in India.”

These are excerpts from a video chat with Editor Sunil Rajguru and part of our PCQuest 35 Years Series on the Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow of Technology.

Check out the complete interview…

 

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