India-Sweden Relations: Where technology and innovation take centre stage

CP Gurnani, MD and CEO of Tech Mahindra, writes about the recent Swedish-India Business Leaders Round Table, and the opportunities of collaboration between the two countries

Updated: Jun 18, 2020 03:21:48 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

With a history of collaborating on the business front going back almost 120 years, the relationship between Sweden and India has since grown considerably stronger, especially over the past few years.

Job skilling has recently emerged as a key focus area that is high on the agenda of both countries. India’s nationwide ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill India’ initiatives have made Swedish companies take skilled local talent on board to boost their businesses in the country. National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) recently signed MoUs with both Business Sweden as well as with Skilled India, a joint venture between Kunskapsskolan Sweden and Manav Rachna Educational Institutions. It provides opportunities for vocationally trained Indian citizens to meet the specific skill sets required for industrial jobs in India.

Swedish-India business leaders’ round table
The Swedish-India Business Leaders’ Round Table or ISBLRT is a high-level platform for business leaders from Sweden and India to identify joint challenges. Facilitated by the Sweden-India Business Council and the Confederation of Indian Industry, it takes on projects to forge a strong and durable relationship between the two countries.

We concluded the recent session on June 16, graced by the presence of Swedish banker and industrialist, Marcus Wallenberg, and business leaders including Tom Johnstone. I believe Sweden’s robust technological ecosystem, a vibrant and thriving start-up environment, and world-class universities, coupled with the inventive minds that graduate from India’s technical universities, offer vast potential for both societies and economies to learn from each other.

There is an opportunity for India to capitalise on its demographic dividend and partner with countries like Sweden, which is famed for its innovation and entrepreneurship, to combine synergies and accelerate the pace of technological advancement.

Digitalisation: The need of the hour
Sweden’s national digital strategy has increased penetration of the internet and greatly improved the utilisation of the opportunities afforded by digitalisation. India, too, in recent years, has made a huge push through ‘Digital India’ to revolutionise the nation’s way of life and work.

The global shift towards contactless and voice-driven technologies is soon going to accelerate the use of emerging technologies such as drone delivery, 3D and additive manufacturing. Currently, both countries have taken significantly different approaches to Covid-19 and can derive considerable benefits by sharing strategies implemented, outcomes obtained, and best practices implemented in the realms of medicine and disease control. With more than 10,000 new Covid-19 cases being added every day, India urgently needs innovative solutions like telehealth, virtual care and app-based tracing, monitoring and reporting. Improvements in last-mile connectivity in rural India is absolutely essential to ensure testing and proper medical care reaches all communities.

Take the example of precision medicine. India’s huge population promises to be a treasure trove of medical data for the Swedish medical sector with its rich experience in cutting edge bio-molecular research. The developments from this collaboration can have a major positive impact on India’s collective health.

With 5G connectivity fast becoming a reality, I look forward to having the best of AI education being easily and widely available in India. The potential benefits that can be unlocked with cooperation between leading Indian institutes and the Wallenberg Foundation are immense.

Do start-ups hold the key?
Sweden has an extensive start-up support ecosystem, ranging from government, academic and corporate incubators. These platforms pair start-ups with the investment community and the right skills. All of this, with a vision for start-up members to become global game-changers. Stockholm is home to some of Europe’s fastest-growing start-ups and second only to Silicon Valley when it comes to ‘Unicorns produced per capita’. As per Nasscom, the expected cumulative valuation for India’s start-up ecosystem will reach around $350 billion to $390 billion by 2025. Clearly, the way forward is to foster and nurture an environment of innovation and growth by creating platforms for start-ups to meet and collaborate with investors and corporations.

The way forward
Apart from all the positives in the relationship, the challenges that the two countries face centre on the current business environment, which is less favourable than earlier, as well as apprehensions about the investment climate over the next three years. Sweden and India are looking to build on each other’s strengths to deepen cooperation and to collaborate in the areas of smart cities, defense, digitalisation and life sciences as well as developing their start-up communities. Other areas of collaboration that have been identified and are well on their way are e-mobility, road safety, space research, and the traditional Indian medicine systems of Ayurveda and Naturopathy.

This keen interest from both countries for interventions in mechanisms for climate accountability and unlocking potential in areas of workplace equity, economic realignment and green technologies, ensure that the future of Sweden-India relations is definitely on the upswing and poised to keep growing.

The writer is MD and CEO of Tech Mahindra

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