It’s the season for looking glasses and sagely predictions so let us don our predictive glasses and peer into the future. What technology trends will have the greatest impact on India’s markets, companies, technology landscape and society at large? Let’s try to push the futurology envelope and call out the top technology trends likely to impact India the greatest.
(1) Explosion in the Indian entrepreneurial ecosystem
Entrepreneurial spirit is bubbling up at every street corner across the nation. Engagement levels across all levels of society are at an all-time high. Concerns about stigma attached to potential failure are being thrown into the wind. Over 100 incubators nationwide are nurturing startups of all shapes and sizes, at least 25 privately managed accelerators are spewing out batches of startups per every couple of quarters and demo and pitch days seem to be an every-week occurrence. A dozen new angel groups and micro VCs have emerged as active dealmakers at the seed stage. The largest Fortune 500 companies are setting up corporate accelerators in India, and world-class experts are both funding and mentoring local startups in earnest.
The 2013 NASSCOM Product Conclave was larger and better attended, hosted deeper content, and hosted more international attendees and speakers than any technology product conference ever held in India. Startup meet-ups and hackathons are constantly sold out and literally overflowing. We are starting to see M&A and corporate development teams begin to engage. Lastly, the aspirations and the collective ambition of India’s startup founders are bigger, bolder and more audacious than ever.
We predict history will look back at 2014 as the watershed year for technology entrepreneurship in India when she clearly established herself as a global hotbed of innovative entrepreneurial activity.
(2) Technology tsunami swamps Indian politics and elections
On the political front, India faces not just a parliamentary election in 2014, but this is also the year when the dominant long-tenured parties are being credibly challenged by the winds of change with new political parties emerging. The 2014 election will see unprecedented use of technology. Big Data analysis, real-time strategizing and competing statistical models will be developed for all electoral entities and analyzed in intricate detail. Every voter will be deluged by social media digital grassroots outreach and 140-character press releases will be the new norm. Mobile-enabled personalized communications will be exploited with unprecedented intensity.
We can expect the party that forms the new government to be superbly expert at leveraging social media and relying on Big Data analytics for their tactical decision making. Old-school politicians will finally realize they need a dramatic 180-degree makeover and substantial technology socialization to survive this upcoming tsunami. The rampant injection of technology-driven platforms and communications channels will ensure candidates speak with a more authentic voice, engage in debate to starkly flesh out their position on all matters and are held accountable for their promises post-election more than has ever been the case in Indian history.
Thanks to these numerous technology-enabled changes, the art and science underlying Indian political campaigning will be reshaped, redefined and reengineered dramatically in 2014. All of these forces will help drive greater citizen participation and higher levels of information transparency than in any previous Indian general elections.
(3) The Aadhaar opportunity
In 2014 over 700 million Indians will be Aadhaar ID-card enabled, creating the world’s largest biometric identity database live and ready for transactions. Combine that with 900 million mobile phones, nationwide, Internet coverage increasing by the day, super-low data usage fees and advent of 4G networks. Instantly verifiable identity combined with always-on phones linked up to personal bank accounts provides a platform with limitless opportunities for large and small companies alike to innovate. Education, health, banking, retail, HR and transportation are just a few sectors impacted.
The Aadhaar platform will hit operational tipping point in 2014 and give rise to a slew of innovative devices, applications and services that will help deliver greater efficiency, lower costs and reduced fraud across a wide range of government programs. India also has the opportunity to leapfrog a market where it has been way behind. The best of these Aadhaar identity integrated productized solutions could be exported to dozens of other emerging markets.
(4) India IT services firms deliver healthy growth
With the start of every year, we witness stories predicting the impending demise of the top IT services giants. We live in an accelerated VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) world; every major industry is subject to the constant forces of change, technological disruptions, political shifts and macro-economic transformations. The IT industry is no exception and it’s certainly not spared these gyrations and tectonic shifts. The entrepreneurs and executives that built up this $100 billion+ services industry are entirely mindful of the need to adapt and adjust their course to reflect the realities of this new landscape that envelopes them.
Beginning in 2014 we will see these aircraft-carrier-size organizations reimagine their future and initiate the necessary course corrections to adapt and leverage the new opportunity spectrum.
(5) Growth in product ecosystem
This year we will witness the emergence of “Made in India Software Products” on the global stage. There will be more SaaS offerings, mobile apps, cloud infrastructure offerings, advertising and social media optimization platforms, Big Data and analytics tools and innovative product offerings built in India across numerous categories targeted at the global market than in any previous year. The Indian product industry is doubling in size every year and is rapidly maturing its product-oriented skills and talent. We will see angels and VCs investing in a healthy mix of product companies and some very good bootstrapped companies break through independently.
Don’t be surprised if a subset of the best early-stage companies is acquired by larger players in M&A deals as technology and talent pick up in 2014. The next 12 months promise to be a very exciting year on the product landscape.
So there you have our predictions for 2014. Regardless of the accuracy of our insight, we can confidently add one final prediction — that 2014 will be a tumultuous year, a year of great change and ambiguity, and a year of action, growth and excitement! Cheers!
Ravi Gururaj is chairman of NASSCOM Product Council and is on NASSCOM Executive Council. A serial entrepreneur, his recent venture, VMLogix, was acquired by Citrix in 2010, where he served until August 2013 on the CTO office team and was VP Products in Cloud Platforms Group. Previously, he headed Trilogy’s India subsidiary and founded UberWorks. Ravi is an angel investor / mentor to early-stage technology ventures, and chief evangelist for the Aadhaar (UID) Diffusion Project.