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How the G20 presidency is a huge opportunity for India to showcase its technology prowess

How the G20 presidency is a huge opportunity for India to showcase its technology prowess

The G20 presidency gives India a vital platform to take its prow-ess in creating population-scale digital goods to the global stage

Vinod Dham, Member, Advisory Committee, India Semiconductor Mission Vinod Dham, Member, Advisory Committee, India Semiconductor Mission

IT’LL BE A watershed moment for India as it hosts the G20 Leaders’ Summit for the first time in September this year. Made up of 19 of the world’s largest economies and the European Union, the G20 members account for roughly 78 per cent of the world’s trade, 85 per cent of the global GDP and two-thirds of the world population.

Initially conceived during the global financial crisis in 2008 to facilitate economic cooperation in a rapidly globalising world, the G20 presidency for India has come at a time when the world is grappling with the Russia-Ukraine war, and intensifying geopolitical tensions in the South China Sea. What’s more, the world is still struggling to recover from the widespread upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The major disruptions in food, energy and various other supply chains have left nations looking for greater self-reliance, while establishing new partnerships. This presents India with an opportunity to assert its role as a trusted partner in the post Covid-19 world.

India has aptly chosen a timely yet timeless theme of “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam” for its G20 presidency. This Sanskrit phrase taken from India’s old scriptures that means ‘The world is one family’, highlights the crucial need for unanimity amongst humanity in our interdependent and interconnected world, which is a pressing need of our times.

Having spent the bulk of my adult life in Silicon Valley and participating in innovating technology and watching its exponential impact, I have become a firm believer that technology has and can continue to solve the big global challenges of the world. With this conviction and an unwavering belief in India’s talented youth, I had set up my first cross-border incubator, New Path Ventures, between Bangalore (now Bengaluru) and Silicon Valley, in 2002. My goal was to expose India’s youth to the world of innovation and entrepreneurship. We built four start-ups around designing chips for computing, networking and telecom industries.

Shortly thereafter, I set up an early-stage venture capital fund in Bangalore in 2005. A few of my fellow Silicon Valley non-resident Indians also launched around half a dozen similar funds. Our common goal was to pioneer a Silicon Valley-style VC ecosystem to India. Our efforts ended up sparking a start-up wave in the country. Now, in less than two decades, India’s start-up ecosystem has grown to become the world’s third-largest, and accomplished the rare milestone of creating over 100 unicorns. These start-ups are innovating groundbreaking solutions and technologies that are revolutionising industries and reshaping markets in sectors like e-commerce, SaaS, energy, healthcare, life sciences and telecom, along with a host of emerging themes from AI to spacetech, etc.

Recognising early on the vital role technology will play in India’s future, Prime Minister Narendra Modi put India on the path to become a ‘Digital Nation’ in 2015. It unleashed a massive effort to deploy high-speed networks across the country’s remote, rural regions and urban areas, connecting over 800 million people via their mobile phones. Today, the rapid spread of digital connectivity and smartphones is enabling half a billion Indians to leverage the digital ecosystem to make their everyday life more productive and financially rewarding.

Under PM Modi’s leadership, India has led the world in creating a replicable digital public infrastructure with population-scale APIs and a home-grown “India Stack” to connect its 1.4 billion people. Using the Aadhaar number and a set of APIs, the country has connected governments, businesses, start-ups, developers and users to do everything from pay taxes and book railway tickets to apply for passports and access scores of day-to-day services. This has improved efficiency, transparency and reduced corruption. A prime example is the real-time payments network Unified Payments Interface (UPI) that has clocked the highest number of digital payment transactions in the world since its launch in 2016.

The fault lines exposed by Covid-19 has alerted nations around the world to diversify their supply chains and seek trusted partners, and avoid disruptions to their industries during times of war and geopolitical uncertainties. This has created a golden opportunity for India to become a hub for the world’s high technology and innovation needs. Consequently, India recently unveiled incentives worth tens of billions of dollars to create an ecosystem for electronics systems and semiconductor manufacturing in the country. India, with its great track record of respecting and protecting intellectual property and its large talent pool, is being actively looked upon by the West as a trusted partner. Apple’s recent plan to produce its latest iPhones in India is a prime example.

Further, the spread of internet at the turn of the century brought India Inc.’s skills and talents in the IT and software space to the fore. Now, it is building on its core tech-savviness to become a thriving centre of innovation in semiconductors, AI, cybersecurity and quantum computing technologies, among other emerging technologies. And today, India has the fastest-growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the world. Further, the fact that Indian-origin talents lead some of the largest tech companies of the world today is a testimony to the growing clout of India’s tech talent.

India is rapidly transforming into a decisive, far-sighted and strong nation under the astute leadership of PM Modi. After decades of diffidence, it is ready to play a more prominent role in the new global order emerging in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Relying on my experience with technology, I can say that an exponential change starts gradually, then accelerates suddenly. India is on the verge of just such a transformation. By deepening its global footprint and asserting its commitment towards a just world that is collaborative, equitable, and one that democratises opportunity for shared peace and prosperity, India is marching forward to claim its rightful place on the world stage.

The author is Vinod Dham, Member, Advisory Committee, India Semiconductor Mission (Views are personal)

Published on: Aug 26, 2023, 4:54 PM IST
Posted by: Priya Raghuvanshi, Aug 24, 2023, 4:35 PM IST