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Satya Nadella, Chairman and CEO, Microsoft. Image: Justin Sullivan/ Getty ImagesSatya Nadella commenced his India visit on an upbeat note, highlighting how far the country has come in AI adoption, and also subtly prodded a room full of industry leaders to not miss the bus when it came to AI.
Nadella, who recently completed a decade as Microsoft CEO, addressed a gathering of business doyens on next-generation AI solutions in Mumbai on February 7. He announced a skilling initiative in India aiming to equip 2 million people with AI skills by 2025.
Through the ADVANTA(I)GE INDIA initiative, Microsoft will partner with India’s Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and 10 state governments to provide basic and advanced training in AI to 500,000 students and job seekers in 100 rural vocational education institutions and training centres. In addition, Microsoft will provide in-depth AI technical skills training for 100,000 young women through 5,000 trainers at higher education institutions in Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. They will also train 250,000 government officers on generative AI and increase their AI fluency.
“Exactly a year ago, I was here [in India]. Obviously, AI was in the air then, but AI is really, really in the air now in terms of the rate of diffusion. Quite frankly, I've not seen anything like this,” said Nadella. He further highlighted being part of four big platform shifts in India: “I've been coming to India through all the four big platform shifts I've been part of as part of Microsoft, whether it is the PCs and client servers; subsequently, it was the web and the internet; and then, of course, mobile and cloud. But this is the first time I feel what's happening in India and the rest of the world—there is no impedance, there is no gap.”
During his address, Nadella highlighted how Microsoft Copilot, along with the company’s other AI solutions, is driving measurable productivity gains for people and organisations by helping them complete work faster. Launched in 2023, Microsoft Copilot is a chatbot based on large language models (LLMs). Many organisations in India, like Axis Bank, Infosys, HCL Tech, and LTIMindtree, are using Copilot for Microsoft 365 and GitHub Copilot. For instance, IT consulting firm Infosys is one of the early adopters of GitHub Copilot in India. More than 7,000 of the firm’s developers are using it.
Nadella, who recently received an honorary doctorate from Georgia Tech, also spoke about how organisations in India are seeing an average of $3.86 return for every dollar spent on AI projects. More than 150 organisations are already innovating with the Azure OpenAI Service across industries such as agriculture, aviation, ecommerce, and fast-moving consumer goods.
For instance, ITC Limited developed the chatbot Krishi Mitra for farmers. The app uses Microsoft’s voice-to-text technology to understand and respond to farmers’ queries in voice and vernacular, making it accessible to those with limited literacy skills. Krishi Mitra is specifically trained for Indian farming environments. Another company, Air India, has deployed a generative AI virtual agent that has answered over half a million customer queries since its launch in March 2023 and manages over 6,000 queries a day in four languages.
Microsoft has invested in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT. It has incorporated AI into all its products and services. Last year, Microsoft announced AI integrations for all Office 365 apps and services, powered by OpenAI's GPT-4 technology. The company has also incorporated ChatGPT into the Bing search engine.
Nadella’s next pit stop will be Bengaluru, where he is likely to meet Indian AI startups such as Sarvam and Krutrim.
2024 has started on a good note for Microsoft, as it surpassed $3 trillion in market valuation and also beat Apple as the most valuable public company.