My future

Inclusive growth is a political, social and economic necessity. Ensuring this growth would require action across multiple fronts. It’s clear that information technology (IT) would play a key role.

The ability to access and share actionable information transcending time and distance has changed the way people and companies manufacture, sell, distribute and market.

However, the benefits of this change have been limited to a small section of the people which has participated in the global knowledge economy. While a lot has been achieved, it’s time that users – hardware and software companies – come together to usher in the next revolution of software as a service.

Fundamentally, we have to make technology cheaper to use, simpler to use and more accessible. The icing on the cake would be that while India meets its political objective of inclusive economic growth, we also develop viable business models for the bottom of the pyramid which is a market estimated to be upwards of $15 trillion.

These models would allow us to dominate traditional industries, globally.

Cheaper & Easier Access: Today, we struggle between emails, phone calls, across multiple devices and passwords. The reason for this complication is the multiple devices which are the consequence of multiple transmittal media.

Clearly, we need to move our communication, entertainment to a single-transmittal medium and internet is best positioned. This is happening but not fast enough, thanks to video conference, instant messaging, email, internet protocol television, and voice over internet protocol.

What we need, going forward, is a single identity with the ability to move between voice text and video and access devices.

Recently, I saw my son playing a video game and asked him who he was playing with – his virtual friends in different parts of the world. He said that he could also have instant messaging, video chat, picture messaging and send text.

This was done through ‘X’ Box live. The familiarity of the young with digital communication tools is phenomenal and needs to be incorporated into the work place providing the flexibility and capabilities that can be provided by a mobile device and the net.

Communication: Fortunately, with liberalisation, we have been able to, both reduce exponentially cost, as well as, extend geography. Telecom carriers have invested substantially in telecom infrastructure resulting in a phenomenal increase in users.

Further, investment is expected in 3G once licences have been issued. Cheaper access devices like mobile phones and PCs that can be shared real time would change the landscape for millions of people. Joint ventures between telcos and banks could provide inclusive banking and supply chain benefits to millions of people on a profitable basis.

Fundamentally, the bank rides on the connectivity and distribution of telcos to provide banking services to millions of cell phone users. The same model could be used to substantially extend the reach of the retailing models of

Reliance, Shriram, Godrej, Mahindra’s, etc. It could also be used to create supply chain across the rural landscape.

HDFC Bank has already submitted a proposal jointly with a telco to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), which could be implemented almost immediately. The proposal would allow people in the vast interiors of the country to store, transfer and cash money through their mobile phones.

This would eliminate the last-mile problem as well monetise into usable savings money under the mattress and/or, gold. It would also start to set up credit history for the bottom of the pyramid. More importantly, we are underestimating the enterprise of people.

We, at HDFC Bank, had a lady taking micro-finance for a cell phone. The enterprising lady was running a mini-telephone exchange and was charging users by the second with a fair mark-up.

The industry is also moving towards visual interface to solve the issue of illiterates using PCs. Simultaneous use of PCs by up to 40-50 people is also becoming a reality.

Cheap Computing and Storage: In order to explode the adoption of IT in India across the government, SME, consumer and public and private sectors, we need to address key issues. The major ones are:

Cost – Computing must become a service which can be paid for based on usage or subscription. This would bring in users who are unable or unwilling to bear huge upfront costs, investment in IT management and obsolescence risk.

Speed & Scale – Proof of the benefits of technology in live environment plus the ability to scale without huge capital costs will bring in the uninitiated.

Storage – Cheap horizontally scaleable storage e.g. files, databases and other searchable storage, coupled with networking services providing application and content to users across the globe will expand the market.

        (2013, The Future of Information Technology, 29 May 2014.)



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