India

The 5-trillion-dollar question: how can business build a digitally native India?

A researcher works on his laptop at the Microsoft India research centre in Bangalore June 24, 2009. Staffed with about 60 full-time researchers, many of them Indians with PhDs from top universities in the United States, the centre is at the cutting edge of Microsoft's R&D. It covers seven areas of research including mobility and cryptography. Its success, including developing a popular tool for Microsoft's new search engine Bing, underscores the potential of R&D in India at a time when cost-conscious firms are keen to offshore to save money by using talented researchers abroad.   To match feature INDIA-R&D/ REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe (INDIA SCI TECH BUSINESS) - GM1E57L0LK401

A focus on employability and skills for India's huge youth population is crucial Image: REUTERS/Punit Paranjpe

Deb Deep Sengupta
President and Managing Director, SAP India & Sub-Continent
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India

This article is part of: India Economic Summit

As India moves along the trajectory of digital transformation, the growing penetration of digital technologies in Indian society presents huge economic opportunities. The government has set its sights on transforming India into a $5 trillion economy by 2025. For India to reap the economic rewards of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the participation of the government, large enterprises, micro, small and medium enterprises, start-ups, entrepreneurs and society at large is required. For India Inc., this is an opportunity to seize with both hands.

Businesses at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution must take the initiative to raise awareness and provide technical expertise and guidance for all citizens to ensure a future-ready India.

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National treasure

With the introduction of new, cutting-edge technologies almost every single day, organizations are becoming aware of the need to don the digital mantle. They are increasingly adopting innovative solutions that can help them stay relevant in today’s hyper-competitive environment. According to a recent McKinsey Global Institute report, roughly 14% of the global workforce by 2030 will need to switch to new occupational roles under categories such as digitization, automation and data management and analytics. Moreover, 35% of existing job roles will be non-existent by 2022.

Half of India’s population of 1.3 billion is below the age of 25. Since the country has a huge youth population, a focus on both employability and skills will stimulate the country’s growth. In recognition of this need, the Indian government has initiated various youth-centric programmes and schemes, including the Skill India Mission. Indian corporates have been encouraged to follow suit and some institutions have launched university-level programmes to upskill youth in line with the government’s vision.

Stakeholders must unite to create a future-ready workforce

The obvious first step towards accomplishing all the goals discussed so far is to equip current graduates and students with the right technical and non-technical skills, which will serve them well in the long run. There is a need to improve the employability of people who will soon enter the workforce. This requires a collective effort from the government, industry, citizen groups and civil society.

In line with this, corporates are pushing for inclusion through initiatives undertaken in association with civil society groups and local administrations and with the aim of improving young people’s skills and employability. Corporates are preparing a digitally inclusive future by introducing mentorship programmes and encouraging upskilling across campuses in India. The fruits of this labour are tangible. We are a witness to it: SAP India has introduced initiatives such as Bharat ERP, Code Unnati, Next-Gen, to name but a few, in collaboration with corporate giants, the Ministry of MSME and various university and community level programmes. We have only just started, but more than 8 million students and young people across the country have already benefited.

Digital inclusion for all

Digital inclusion is the process of empowering people through information and communication technology. Strong public-private partnerships will help us accomplish it more quickly.

Online training programmes and the inclusion of machine learning, data analytics and the Internet of Things, plus increased automation in the existing education curriculum and corporate training programmes for early-career youth can help catapult India far into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

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Given India’s diversity, there will be hardships – both technological and behavioural – as new technologies and ways of working emerge. Yet, with steadfast collective efforts, any and all hurdles can be overcome. Technology education that is transformational and not transactional is what we need right now to create the workforce of the future.

By putting people first and digitally empowering them we can lay the foundation for a digitally native India.

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