A ‘techade’ that could lead to a spurt in wealth creation

The roaring ’20s will be about Asia taking lead by leaps and bounds. In this, India will cement its position of eminence as we march towards 2030. Secondly, 50% of Fortune 500 companies will shift base to Asia; a massive urbanization drive is already underway. Thirdly, this “urban-sprawl” will overwhelmingly bring in millions of new people, under the fold of middle-class, fueled by their higher earning capacity. Being digital-natives they will be decisively individualistic in their consumption preferences to continually nudge innovators to raise the bar of experience. There’s no gainsaying that the competition from China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand will be fierce.

Our research indicates that 600 million Indians will be urban dwellers by 2030. We will need to provide for better roads & transportation, affordable housing & healthcare, better education, a cleaner environment, food self-sufficiency, greater financial inclusion, physical security & employment, and a more penetrative digital infrastructure. Very soon, the 5G rollout will transform the landscape beyond recognition. Technology will unlock billion-dollar opportunities in all these areas by connecting the consumer with the solution provider, in real-time. Information will never come at a deficit and this factor will impact market equilibrium.

For instance, shared mobility and geospatial mapping should make life easier for the average commuter. Inasmuch, the availability of health-related data coupled with AI/ML-led insights will render a new reality – preventive healthcare. And, non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cancer should lose their vice-like grip on Indians. With Precision Agriculture driven by Analytics, IoT and Cloud Computing, a farmer can expect better yields and prices. Education is likely to be rolled out in byte-sized modules and Indians will even learn while travelling. In every sphere, the role of the intermediary will see a steady decline because technology, device proliferation, network connectivity, and data will remove mismatches and entry barriers to create a level playing field.

I believe, this is the decade when we will see the perceived generational gap reducing significantly because for the first time we’ll have all three generations – X, Y & Z rubbing shoulders (on equal terms, we hope) at the workplace and social sphere. WEF estimates Liberalisation’s true children (born in the late 80s – 2000) to be ~700 million and this is the lot that will drive consumption, define the new social order, respect the planet’s limited resources and will cut no corners to get themselves educated. The compelling need to stay relevant is not lost on them. At the same time, there’ll be millions of Indians who’ll be the first in their families to access higher education. Granted, technology will enable democratization but make no mistake, the price (effort) will be very high for these people. Without an adequate number of role models in their immediate social structure, how do we motivate these people to engage in intensive skilling/learning throughout their lives?

Empowerment will drive aspirations to soar. It will not be easy for successive governments and the private sector to meet these expectations all the time. It may be the trigger point that will inspire millions of young people to chuck 9-to-6 jobs and go the entrepreneur’s way to address the unmet needs. Frugal innovation in India has never been in short supply and it’s time we institutionalized these ideas to drive scale.

Design-thinking will undergo massive change. In a crowded marketplace, consumers are unforgiving. A faulty design will lead to market-share erosion, impossible to regain. Beyond aesthetics, the element of functionality, bearing the stamp of human-centricity, will be crucial. The market will be flooded with vernacular medium software and this also needs to be factored in.

The latest Budget revealed that the focus on deep technology remains reassuringly strong. Yet again, the government reiterated its commitment towards leveraging technology to the fullest to drive wealth creation.

The future is about Machine-2-Machine communication generating zettabytes of data. We don’t yet have common industry-wide standards in place to regulate this kind of surge in data generation through multiple devices and dispersed vendors. This raises genuine concerns around cybersecurity. At the same time, sufficient legroom is required for new technologies to grow its outreach before they come under scrutiny. This is an angle that successive governments in the future will have to consider – how much do you regulate something which is still emerging?

By 2030, we aspire to be a high middle-income economy by more than doubling the current per capita annual income. With 850 million smartphones and 930 million internet subscribers (Re: CBRE), the country will have an extremely high rate of data generation. Enabled by deep-tech (at one level) data will drive hyper-personalization. At another level, data privacy will take an altogether new level. “Is my data safe”, “Can the data fiduciary be trusted”, are some of the concerns which will dominate our mindshare.

The ‘20s decade is going to be about wealth creation at every step. We are responsible for ensuring a far more equitable distribution and that Ease of Living impacts many more millions of Indians than what was possible earlier.

The author is president of NASSCOM

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