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innovation

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vivek wadhwa

The South Asian giant risks repeating the mistakes of Japan and Korea

Complacent India faces rude awakening Vivek Wadhwa is distinguished fellow at Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Engineering

lumbering, crumbling networks that You can see it in their faces, hear it in their wire their industries together. The advent voices. The Japanese and Koreans – on of secure cloud computing means that top of the world in the 1980s and 1990s – a growing proportion of companies are want the good old days back. When I meet doing away with servers altogether. Japanese and Korean companies these The Western contracts that are days I find their executives among the keeping the Indian IT sector in riches most attentive and determined of any in won’t disappear overnight. Company the world. Years of economic stagnation IT infrastructure takes decades to does that to you. Who doesn’t want to escape from a malaise? Willing alone won’t deconstruct. Corporate IT strategy moves at the rate of molasses. There will bring back the boom times – and I’m not be business for a few years yet. But the yet ready to forecast a Northeast Asian eventual outcome is set, no matter how renaissance. What I am ready to do is much Indian contractors would like to predict a South Asian retrogression. The complacency that caused Japan and wish it away. There are $100bn opportunities South Korea to lose their edge at the end elsewhere in the digital of the last millennium space that India has the is about to afflict India. expertise and capacity This is not to denigrate The Indian tech to exploit – yet it shows the talent base on the sector could be no evidence that it is subcontinent – Indian developing artificial likely to take them. digital expertise remains intelligence, robotics Instead, many Indian world-class. It is a and smart cities executives seem happy question of attitude to plough on with more – an unwillingness to of the same, listening face the reality of the to the warnings without changing course. industrial shift that is coming. Most of their companies face becoming Much of India’s IT wealth comes from the Kodaks of tomorrow – anchored to an Western outsourcing of IT services – outdated business model that is destroyed managing New and Old World corporate by disruption. IT systems and the mainframes upon The Indian tech sector could be which they run. Yet about a decade ago, developing the artificial intelligence, the balance of computing power started to robotics and smart cities that will frame change to favour individual users. the new sector long after the cables and Home computers, handheld devices keyboards of corporate tech systems have and personal smartphones are now been dismantled. American factories are frequently more powerful and up-tonot geared up to do it – most don’t have date than the ageing tech found lurking the know-how. in corporate headquarters. The surge of When I talk to Indian chief executives, remote- and home-working has given they recognize the threats of digital employees even greater incentives to transformation – and can see the upgrade their home technology. opportunities for diversification. Yet There are exceptions. But – very they turn away from our conversations frequently – professionals in public to focus on closing another legacy administration, the legal profession and financial sector command more processing outsourcing deal – fiddling while Bangalore burns. power on their own devices than on the Q1 2018 Dialogue

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Dialogue Q1 2018  
Dialogue Q1 2018