Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

How can companies brace for the digital future?

Indian IT services industry should be 'celebrated', Tata Sons chairman designate, N Chandrasekaran says

Varsha Meghani
Published: Feb 15, 2017 08:26:38 PM IST
Updated: Feb 15, 2017 09:00:56 PM IST

How can companies brace for the digital future?
N Chandrasekaran, Tata Sons chairman designate
Image: Danish Siddique / Reuters

Businesses across the world are in a flux of change, as advances in technology impact them in fundamental ways. So how can companies brace for the impact? N Chandrasekaran, Tata Sons chairman designate, shared his views on the subject with Nasscom chairman and Tech Mahindra CEO C P Gurnani, at the annual Nasscom India Leadership Forum 2017 in Mumbai on Wednesday.

“Fundamentally every business will be pretty much powered by technology…Earlier, technology used to be embedded in businesses; now businesses are embedded in technology,” points out Chandrasekaran. According to him, technology will transform every industry in the years ahead. Even so, “there will not be turbulence ahead. Only opportunity.”

To make sure that is indeed the case, companies will need to restructure and focus on capacity development. According to him, there will be a fundamental change in business models and so companies need to remain “100 per cent agile”. It is not that existing functions will not be carried out, just that they will be carried out differently, he said. Companies will need to “re-skill their talent”, as newer skills will be required to deal with the increase in automation and enablement of data, he added.

To a question posed by a member of the audience on why Indian IT companies have been “technology followers” rather than “technology inventors”, Chandrasekaran said that instead of “rubbishing” the IT services industry, it should be “celebrated”. “Our companies have done very well when it comes of quality of service delivered and customer satisfaction. Just talking about labour arbitrage is a gross injustice. In that case we should have 100 companies from different parts of the world doing what the Indian IT industry has done.” He added that while the Indian IT sector has thus far focused on services, product companies would also emerge in time to come.

On the government’s digital push, Chandrasekaran says, it is “significant”, however, he believes that the various initiatives like Make in India, Smart Cities and Digital India need to be woven together, else each will “grow in an isolated manner”. Technology, he believes, is the fundamental factor that will connect these.

Given that every business will be re-defined by technology, according to Chandrasekaran, the IT industry is perhaps the “most exciting one to be in”. As for the other industries that will be shaken up by technology, Chandrasekaran says, “We cannot get overly paranoid. There is a huge opportunity as long as we remain positive.”

The Nasscom India Leadership Forum – an annual affair, now in its 25th edition – is a three-day extravanganza of keynotes, panel discussions and masterclasses on technology related matters. This year’s sessions are organized under the theme, “Reimagine, not Re-Engineer: The Digital Inflection Point”.

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