Powerful nations and economies are built by their people.

India has a clear opportunity, set to boast a 500-million-strong workforce by 2030. But whether they are skilled employees or entrepreneurs, the new Indians in the workforce will need to be equipped with the right skills and supported by a dynamic ecosystem to succeed.

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In our view, Indian business and government leaders will need to push ahead with three key actions.

1. Upgrade the basic education system to create a skilled talent pipeline

Improvements in basic education are a must. While the power of technology to achieve the right scale is a no-brainer, we must now think of leveraging it to delivering the right educational content.

There are many efforts underway to use technology to reach every last child and to make learning interesting and simpler. One of many examples is a computer-assisted learning program in Gujarat. Computer games incorporated as a part of this initiative enhanced the students’ learning experience and encouraged their consistent participation in the program. The outcome – increased ability to crunch numbers as well as better language skills.

2. Make skills relevant to high-growth sectors

Manufacturing, retail, infrastructure and construction are among the key sectors that will serve as India’s growth and employment engines. These sectors will require not cheap labour but a skilled workforce capable of harnessing the power of knowledge and technology.

To achieve this goal, public and private agencies, in collaboration with industry, will need to radically overhaul the way they impart skills. Two models that are working successfully and that we could customize to suit Indian conditions are Germany’s vocational skills partnership with Industry and Australia’s apprenticeship model, with its emphasis on mentoring assistance from a locally accessible, experienced workforce.

3. Nurture an ecosystem for digital entrepreneurs

India is rapidly digitizing. Not only industrial supply chains and retail, but public services and governance are all on the fast track to digitization. More importantly, many of India’s youth are already very comfortable using digital tools.

These changes need to be built on to foster digital entrepreneurship. India now needs an ecosystem that can support digital entrepreneurship even in remote regions. Indeed, the nation stands to gain tremendously if this goal of creating a skilled, entrepreneurial workforce is achieved. According to an IMF Working Paper, if properly harnessed, India’s demographic transition could add as much as 2% to the country’s annual growth in per capita GDP over the next two decades. That should be a powerful impetus to action on the part of leaders throughout the country.

Authors: Rekha M. Menon, Chairman, Accenture, India and Raghav Narsalay, India Lead, Accenture Institute for High Performance

Image: Students display Aakash, which means sky, dubbed the world’s cheapest tablet computer, after its launching ceremony in New Delhi October 5, 2011. REUTERS/Parivartan Sharma