The world’s leading technology executives have ranked India second among countries most likely to come out with disruptive innovations. Increased urbanisation and a younger, more educated demographic are making India a global hub for technologies like AI, IoT, 5G, cloud, robotics, 3D printing, among others, that could significantly shape our future.
The 2020 Global Technology Industry Innovation Survey by leading consultancy firm KPMG threw up an interesting finding. The survey, which captured the views of the world’s leading technology executives, found India and China tied in second position behind the US as the most promising market for developing disruptive technologies.
This trend is helped along by tailwinds in the form of increasing urbanisation and younger and more educated demographics across India. Caveat: The impact of Covid-19 and the new normal of work-from-home has not been captured by the survey.
In the survey, Bengaluru broke into the ranks of the Top 10 cities in global disruptive innovation map, ranking ninth, a jump of nine places over its rank of 18th the previous year. Mumbai, too, made it to the list of Top 20 cities, coming in at #16.
These rankings are in line with India’s consistent rise up the ranks of the world’s most innovative societies. The Global Innovation Index 2020 released by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in September last year showed India at rank 48 out of 131 countries, an improvement of four places compared to 2019 and a massive 33 spots since it was placed 81st in 2015.
“India’s climb to the second position in the survey rankings lends credence to how we as a country are committed towards setting up strong innovation ecosystems. Bengaluru’s entry in the top 10 rankings is another sign that the city is doing well in the areas of modern infrastructure, attracting skilled talent and investment funding,” said Satya Easwaran, Head, Markets Enablement & Technology, Media and Telecom, KPMG India.
“With the country seeing tremendous evolution across various spheres, the coming years will be crucial to overcoming hurdles which exist. This would be imperative for India to gradually and slowly move towards becoming one of the world’s leading economies in innovation,” he added.
Companies like online education platform Byju’s, the innovative B2B portal Udaan, electric mobility solutions company Ola Electric and investment firm Paytm Money, which offers investments in direct plans of mutual funds from all asset management companies in India are among dozens of start-ups that are at the forefront of making disruptive technologies accessible to 1.35 billion Indians in their everyday lives.
The Narendra Modi government, which has set a very ambitious target of achieving a $1-trillion digital economy by 2025, has encourage the adoption of new age technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and Cloud Computing. The sectors most affected by these technologies are healthcare, electronics, telecom, e-commerce, IT, IT-enabled services, financial services and media and entertainment, among others.
Some new sectors have also emerged as hotbeds for disruptive innovations in India. These include 5G telephony and mobile internet, 3D printing, blockchain, largescale energy storage, voice-driven software, building information modelling (BIM), advanced robotics, autonomous (self-driving) vehicles, gene sequencing and genomics.
Many of India’s disruptive innovators have already piqued investor interest and become unicorns. A Credit Suisse report from March this year said India had more than 100 unicorns.
As has been widely reported, Jio Platforms, the technology arm of Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), has developed the entire suite of 5G technologies and equipment in house. Media reports have said the company plans to offer it to other telecoms companies after it rolls out its own 5G services in India. These reports claim the Jio Platforms technology will be at par with and cheaper than those offered by competitors from Europe, South Korea and China.
If these reports are true, this will be the most disruptive technology to come out of India.
Then, companies like Ola Electric, which has received investments from the likes of SoftBank, Tiger Global, Ratan Tata and many other Indian and global investors, is leading India’s drive to e-mobility in public transport. Founder Bhavish Aggarwal has recently announced a $325 million plan to produce 10 million e-scooters a year by 2022.
Although existing two-wheeler companies dismiss the plan, it could disrupt the Indian, and even global, two-wheeler market if it succeeds. So, regardless of whether it succeeds or not, it will go down as the first attempt by an Indian company to disrupt the global dynamics of an established legacy industry.
There is Udaan, which has disrupted the Indian e-commerce sector, by providing the benefits of online commerce to farmers, manufacturers, wholesalers and others in small town India and enabling them to reach a wide market across the country. In a short time, since its launch in 2016, Udaan has become India’s fastest growing unicorn by disrupting supply chains that have remained largely unreformed for a century or more.
However, there are also significant challenges confronting the Indian innovation economy. The biggest of these is antiquated laws and law enforcement. The Modi government has de-notified dozens of laws that have outlived their purpose, but many dozens more remain in the statute books. These pose a significant risk to innovation.
Then, the blowback from traditional industries impacted by the growth of new industries and the development of new technologies have also not been fully factored in. The possibility of short-term job losses and temporary economic dislocation from the adoption of disruptive technological innovations poses a significant political risk.
In sum, however, India is likely to remain at the global forefront of disruptive innovations and technologies that challenge the existing order.