Indian science legend, Bharat Ratna and Nobel laureate Sir CV Raman once said, “We need a spirit of victory, a spirit that will carry us to our rightful place under the sun, a spirit which can recognize that we, as inheritors of a proud civilization, are entitled to our rightful place on this planet. If that indomitable spirit were to arise, nothing can hold us from achieving our rightful destiny.”
India recently completed seven glorious decades of being a democratic superpower. Being the second most populous state on the planet doesn’t just make us the largest democracy but also a country abundant with science and technology potential. Add engineering to the mix and you get a nation well on its way towards becoming the innovation pole-star of the world and there are multiple cylinders powering this growth. From putting a hundred satellites into space in one launch to connecting hundreds of cities via smart technologies, India is well its way to be the global engineering epicentre.
Numbers validate India’s Growth Narrative
Recently, IMF projected Indian economy to grow by 7.5% in the 2019-20 fiscal year, keeping an ascendant trajectory as the rest of the world slumps. IMF also stated that India will continue to be the world’s fastest growing major economy and forecast the country’s growth to clock 7.7% in 2020-21. This is nearly twice the global growth rate of the world which stands at 3.5% in 2019 and 3.6% in 2020.
Complementing this economic impetus is the augmenting engineering potential of India. India’s Engineering and R&D (ER&D) ecosystem is all set to skyrocket due to increasing industrial focus on new-age technologies like AI, IoT, Big Data and Machine Learning as well as Cybersecurity, Advanced Robotics, Mobile Applications and Digital Reality. According to NASSCOM, India’s ER&D sector is set almost double to USD 42 billion by FY2022 as compared to USD 24 billion in FY2017.
Winds of Change for Engineering in India
A multitude of research reports also point out that ER&D outsourcing has been on a rise in India. According to ResearchGate, by 2020, around US$ 125-150 Billion would be spent on engineering services outsourcing. Of this, India is expected to garner a share of around 40%, equivalent to US$ 50-60 Billion. Total outsourcing spend on engineering services is estimated to be growing 3-4 times the rate of total expenditure on engineering.
According to the analyst community, a consistent increase in demand for engineering services contracts and IoT deals have helped ER&D business grow faster than the traditional IT services. NASSCOM states that product and services development will continue to grow driven by strong demand in autonomous services, electrification, connectivity and shared mobility. Regulatory support through several initiatives such as Make in India, Digital India and BharatNet among others will only complement these factors.
Problems? No problem, India shall overcome!
It is certain that where there are opportunities, there are always challenges. Indian ER&D environment faces three major impediments which can potentially derail the pace of industrial growth as well as technological and socio-economic development.
Firstly, it is a bitter-sweet truth that while India is among the top adapters to global technological and business developments, it lags in being a trend-setter itself. Major Indian industries, especially manufacturing and automotive have not yet tapped into the global wave of ER&D innovations such as automation and analytics. Secondly, the workforce in India is not at par with their global counterparts as far as digital skills are concerned. Lastly, India’s education system has underperformed in delivering industry ready engineers who can take the industrial innovation to the next level.
Interestingly, the process of seeking solutions to these issues start in the reverse order. First of all, India needs a stronger focus on science-based education in schools to develop a natural inclination towards engineering and associated courses. The colleges and universities need to upgrade their curriculum, and this can be possible only through strong collaboration between industry and academia. IIT Hyderabad has recently announced launching of a B.Tech program in AI; hopefully this is one of many welcome changes to come.
According to NASSCOM, up to 65% of the 4 million jobs in the industry today is likely to change over the next 5 years. Such massive skill disruption requires Indian enterprises to build a talent pipeline for the future and enable existing workforce to get reskilled. This way, Indian industries will be able to take up projects with greater complexity that will enable them to innovate more and establish themselves as among the leaders of new age of industrial revolution.
‘India of the Future’ can be realized only when we stop playing catch-up to global innovations and develop & execute original ideas much like our space agency ISRO has been doing for a while now. This culture of innovation is possible only when the entire ecosystem from institutes to industries embrace a mindset of engineering transformation. Centuries ago, India was the epicentre of science, medicine and trade and it won’t be incorrect to state that ER&D will pave the way for the new ‘silk-route’ that will reposition India as the golden bird of the world.
Authored by Dr Keshab Panda, CEO & MD, L&T Technology Services