“During the pandemic, the entire world kept running because the Indian IT industry figured out how to make the situation work.” Kris Gopalakrishnan believes that this sector has a history of turning adversity into opportunity.
The co-founder and former CEO of Infosys – and one of Crayon Data’s investors – was in the Chennai office recently. In conversation with founder and CEO of Crayon, Suresh Shankar, and co-founder and COO Aarti Ramakrishnan, he shared insights from his new book, and the state of tech and AI in India.
A few key takeaways from the chat.
The IT Story of India
“The world knows about Infosys. But there are several other companies that contributed to the success of the Indian IT industry. I wanted to capture this from their perspective,” says Kris.
He says that there was no expectation of India creating a world-class industry. There was no money or VC funding available. So, how did this happen? This is what he and his co-authors N Dayasindhu and Krishnan Narayana have explored in the book. According to Kris, part of the success factor lies in the fact that “India can do things at a scale and a cost that cannot be achieved anywhere else in the world”.
This history is also important to understand why the tech industry is structured the way it is. Only then can it be redesigned or restructured to suit evolving needs.
On AI in India
India’s large consumer base of 1.4 billion people means we have talent that’s as good as anywhere else in the world. Coupled with government initiatives like Make AI in India, there is a huge potential in this area feels Kris.
“The whole space of Big Data and AI is in transition. We seem to have infinite processing power and memory. So, we can use the power of computing not just to come up with knowledge and inferences, but also take actions based on them. It’s a new, possibly scary, world. But the opportunity exists,” he explains. It is fortunate that the government understands that this technology has to be leveraged for the common good. This will ensure that the tech will be affordable and accessible.
In other countries, this kind of data control exists with companies. Whereas in India, says Kris, we are taking the democratizing route of saying that all tech should be available to all. On top of this, companies can innovate and build proprietary systems or components. This is a powerful opportunity, and it’s great to see that it is planned across industries and verticals.
On India becoming a tech superpower
“When we look at large transformations of a country, it has to be led by the government and the regulator,” says Kris. The creation of the IT industry in India was possible because of government support. There were tax incentive schemes, special economic zones, accelerated approvals… This allowed the industry to operate with minimal challenges and roadblocks.
So, does Kris see India as a tech superpower in the next 10 years? “It’s very difficult. It requires us to think about building world class companies across industries. If we believe we can do it, if we then work hard at it, we can do it,” he says.
It won’t happen just because the opportunity exists. That opportunity has to be converted into businesses and products, with great leadership. It has to be built step by step. When it comes to software, we built an industry that defined how software R&D is done globally today. It was a conscious effort to develop this. And will continue to require a similar or increased level of effort to continue this growth and evolution.
Watch the full session on our YouTube channel.