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Putting our best digital foot forward

March 12, 2019

Chandrajit Banerjee   

Director General of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

Looking ahead from the vantage point of 2019, the Indian economy is expected to remain one of the best performing established economies in the world, with a GDP growth rate of over 7 per cent for the next decade and beyond. In addition to one of the youngest of workforces in the world, India’s growth story has been given further impetus by transformational economic reforms like the Goods and Services Tax, among others.

The Indian Government has launched multiple initiatives designed to accelerate investments and drive growth. While Make in India aims to galvanise the manufacturing sector and create new jobs, Digital India and Smart Cities programmes intend to accelerate India’s passage toward technology and urbanisation.

The effects of this journey are already becoming visible. According to the Global Innovation Index, India is now ranked as the 57th most innovative country in the world, up three places from the previous year. In the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, India jumped 53 places in just two years to rank 77 out of 190 economies when it comes to ease of doing business.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) believes that holistically embracing the digital economy is not an option but a necessity to keep India and its businesses at the leading edge of today’s digital world, which will also increasingly benefit the global market. The digitisation of an economy is a proven engine of growth, however, it’s clear India has a fair distance to cover in this regard.

Even as CII works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, and bringing together industry, Government, and civil society, we have partnered with Tata Communications to help organisations leverage the full power of digital technologies. The CII–Tata Communications Centre for Digital Transformation will help Indian corporates towards adopting digital technologies to enhance their competitiveness. Additional partners like DELL-EMC have joined us in this initiative and we expect many more to join us in this transformational programme.

What will digital transformation entail in India?

To enable Indian businesses to transform and stay competitive in this digital age will require a high degree of openness to change. It will also require adopting the appropriate technologies, putting in place a robust and secure infrastructure, and skilling our youth not just on these technologies but also in complex reasoning and innovation. It is important that the downstream effects of digitisation spread far beyond urban clusters, and that the socio-economic impact of all such initiatives is tracked.

In the field of enterprise technology, there’s no one size that fits all. However, CII’s current focus is on five:

  1. The cloud, as a scalable platform that encourages experimentation and rapid prototyping;
  2. The Internet of Things (IoT), since it leads to a quantum increase in productivity and operational flexibility;
  3. Big data analytics, to transform information into actionable insights;
  4. Mobility, given its success in circumventing last mile challenges to inclusive growth;
  5. Info-security, since the explosion in data that digitisation engenders will lead to challenges regarding its safety and privacy.

For instance, in response to volatile business environments, supply chains that underpin all business, are rapidly evolving digitally. Auto Data Exchange (AutoDX) – a secure, cloud-based platform for invoices, orders and shipping notices – seamlessly integrates Indian automotive manufacturers and their component suppliers. While AutoDX has already streamlined the Indian automotive supply chain, it is great to see that the company is now set to adopt blockchain technology to create one of the biggest open ledger initiatives in the country.

Another example can be found in banking: as a CII-PwC study discovered, India’s six largest cities account for 10 per cent of the country’s bank branches, while eight districts in the north-east have just two or fewer branches each. The study highlights that an alternative distribution channel based on mobility and smart devices is the only option to ensure financial inclusion while balancing supply-side challenges, regulatory requirements and cost pressures.

Bringing technologies such as these to bear on issues confronting businesses and the nation will also require a pool of exceptionally talented people. India and the world are staring at an enormous digital skill gap at present. NITI Aayog’s National Strategy for Artificial Intelligence states that India will have a demand-supply gap of almost 200,000 data analysts in just the next couple of years. Another study estimates that 40 per cent of IT professionals in the country need re-skilling just to stay relevant!

Skilling can’t just be about technology – there’s a critical need for socio-emotional and cognitive skills like problem-solving, complex reasoning, creativity, and innovation. Recent studies recommend using digital learning tools in combination with on-the-job training to bridge the skills gap.

If academia, government, and industry proactively skill, re-skill and upskill our workforce, we could turn our current adversity into a wellspring of opportunity by transforming India into a global digital skill hub.

Digital transformation might sound like an impossible dream but that’s what makes it such a potent agent of change — its ability to take on seemingly intractable problems and triumph!

Find out more about the work Tata Communications does with CII Centre for Digital Transformation.