My Experience @NTLF 2021 (Goes virtual for the first time!)
Blog: NASSCOM Official Blog
Last one year, has seen a plethora of disruptions, in myriad industries and IT has absolutely not been an exception. And with the drastic changing pandemic scenario worldwide, the IT industry had to mould and re-mould time and again, to keep at pace with the new normal. Especially, the Indian IT services industry had been adjusting, amidst all of this unprecedented chaos. The way the industry has shown resilience and adaptability, it is evident that as an industry we are matured now and the future is definitely for us to shine bright.
The accentuate the point further, many of the renowned global annual events from the mega tech vendors had been cancelled and postponed, but the pandemic could not evade NASSCOM from organizing this huge event in a virtual format first time ever. And surprisingly I saw an abundance of advantages of having this event in an online format. The participation was truly global this time, even more than earlier years. There was equal representation from the two global Tech hubs, namely the Bay Area, US and Bangalore, India. But Europe and APAC were also not far behind in terms of representation.
The event was kicked off by the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi. He mentioned that Indian IT industry has gallantly served the global demand while the IT world kept ignoring the India market for many years, even after the dawn of the dot com era. But the scenario is changing fast and changing for the better, and the Industry is now shaping the dreams of a tech-transformed digital India.
Emerging Tech and New Age Workforce
The focal point for most of the panel discussions were around topics like Emerging Tech (Cloud, Automation, IOT, AI/ML), Sustainability, Talent & Diversity. Some of the speakers who brought out intuitive insights on these topics with exceptional clarity were Patrick Forth (BCG), Debjani Ghosh (Nasscom), Sudhir Singh (Coforge), Debashis Chatterjee (Mindtree), CP Gurnani (TechM), Pravin Rao (Nasscom), Arvind Krishna (IBM), Pravin Rao (Infosys), Rajashree R (TCS) among many others.
There was equal & enthusiastic participation from both the customer/core industry side and IT side in all these aforesaid discussions. The CEO of Capgemini (Aiman Ezzat) narrated the anecdote of a successful workforce transformation during the pandemic. He emphasized on the topic of holistic development of the skilled workforce. He further went on to elaborate that many of the entry level colleagues might be staying in small houses with couple of room mates and while they work from home, the boundaries between the private and office life seems to blur. Also, with a more stringent lockdown in many parts of the world, these colleagues were stuck at home for numerous days at a stretch. So, it is very important to take care of their mental health and Capgemini took multiple initiatives to ensure the same. Daily discussions were arranged without any particular work agenda, the management addressed the workforce every fortnight to keep them aligned on the key decisions that were being taken. Later, at the conclusion of the event on the 3rd day, Gary Kirsten (cricketer) also harped on the issue of mental health and how it is equally important for Athletes and IT professionals to manage stress!
Unlike the earlier years, this year in every discussion we could hear the word “Innovation” multiple times, in fact in almost every alternate sentence. Eminent speakers from industry like Jen Baxter (GSK), Elisabeth Staudinger (Siemens), Balaji S (Investor, Author, and Founder), R Srikrishna (Hexaware) and many others spoke about the significance of Technology driven innovation.
Balaji S, was the most out of the box speaker of the event, with some radical ideas and opinions. He is an avid promoter of bitcoin and blockchain tech and he even tips the Uber taxi drivers in bitcoin, tough to imagine right? He mentioned that distributed of things (e.g. distributed ledger): is the way to go and the era of central control of money and media by a handful of giant traditional players (mostly based out of Wall Street) is over. Distributed technology (like blockchain) is going to democratize Money market, Media and Content, at the same time it is going to give immense power and riches to the mass.
The Top League
One of the most insightful & interesting panel discussions was on the 2nd day, where 3 of the big names of Indian ITes came together (Thierry – Wipro CEO, CVK – HCL CEO, Salil – Infosys CEO) and the conversation was on key contemporary topics like Large Deals, Large vs Mid-Size IT players, Service vs Product/Platforms. CVK mentioned that in next 4 to 5 years there would be additional tech spend of 1 Tn$ and Indian IT industry should ideally grab 20% of the same. And if turns out to be a reality, then we get additional 200 Bn$ in next 4-5 years which will double the size of the industry which is currently at close to 200 Bn$ already. Thierry mentioned, that technology is of paramount importance in current times, so much so that even if some organizations go through a lean patch at the business front, they don’t really want to curtail their Tech spend. And that is a colossal opportunity for the tech players. He also believes that the bigger players would have an erudite advantage over the mid-size ones if they are able to bring scale and agility to the table simultaneously. Salil mentioned that software products provide the largest profit pool in Tech sector and we should have a keen focus on developing more IP and Platforms which will essentially develop scalability and growth.
What needs to be done better
Few very pertinent points were brought to the table when Mckinsey unveiled their new study report during the event on Technology spend and roadmap. Anuj Kadyan and Noshir Kaka from Mckinsey mentioned that in future Hyperscalers would either control or influence 50% of the service revenue. They brought to light that Indian IT services players had been late starter in IP/Platform/Product development, hence there is a necessity for us to board the train fast. Another key aspect that they mentioned was, that tech enabled ecosystem is another 125 Bn$ business opportunity in next 5 years.
The disruptors and the Start ups
Everybody knows which organization gained the most due to COVID-19 disruption. No wonder the CEO of Zoom got a separate discussion slot in the marquee event. Eric Yuan joined the meeting with Taj Mahal in the background and narrated the story of his company’s sharp & crazy growth in last one year. From Jan to April in 2019 his user base increased 700 times and his team worked 24X7 to keep customers happy & satisfied. The users came from sectors that Zoom didn’t even anticipate in a pre-pandemic world. The target market for zoom was originally Business Enterprises but today 125,000 schools across 25 countries use zoom to teach the students, even wedding ceremony happens through zoom and believe it or not wedding via zoom has been made legal in some countries. That is quite something !
The summary will be incomplete without touching upon the retail industry, because it has faced the highest amount of disruption with spiking demand and the whole brick and mortar business going upside down to an online and omni-channel format. Praveen Shrikhande from Aditya Birla group brought out some key points in this regard. He mentioned that after the lockdown ABG retail started fulfilling online orders from everywhere – not only from warehouses, meant for online order fulfilment but also from retail stores which earlier never catered to the online segment. And now, with the retail store footfall coming back, he faces the novel challenge of juggling between online and offline customers and trying to provide a delightful experience to both the cohorts. ABG retail has also done some experiments with Digital Retail and Immersive Technologies like smart mirror etc, but Praveen believes that AR/VR tech and related use cases are still in its early days and there are lots more to come. Dr. Gorur Shrinivas from Target India, in a different panel discussion, spoke about the importance of data and how the customer data analytics has assisted Target to predict the customer demand at different phases of the pandemic.
Some notable Quotes
Thierry Delaporte (Wipro) – India is “Mother country of Technology in the whole world Today”
Eric Yuan (Zoom) – “Money doesn’t bring you happiness”
CP Gurnani (TechM) – “The purpose of business is to benefit the society; shareholder value comes along with it”
Narendra Modi (Prime Minister of India) – “Dia tale Andhera” (Refers to Indian IT not serving its own country during the initial years)”
Julie Sweet (Accenture) – “Our purpose is to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity”
We all know that technology has changed the world for years and has made our lives better. Technology companies need to take the responsibility in future to build technology for the betterment of mankind. They need to combat with the constraints of profit vs purpose and come out victorious. The event ended with an inspirational talk by Gary Kirsten where he spoke on the topic, we are most passionate about, as Indians – Cricket and Performance!!! Let me close by putting a quote from his website garykirsten.com which almost sounds like bridging the digital divide, doesn’t it?!!