The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought forth the vast potential of the digital way of life. It is allowing people to carry on with professional and personal tasks even as they work from home to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and maintain the social distancing norms.
It has also provided an impetus to the businesses, large and small and medium enterprises, to digitize their operations to maintain business continuity and to support work from home measures. The COVID-19 pandemic has acted as a catalyst for the digitalization of the Indian businesses. Besides, it has accelerated online learning programs.
All this is in keeping with the Indian Government launched the Digital India initiative in 2014 to help the country transition into a knowledge economy. E-governance initiatives to simplify and enhance the efficiency of the government processes are at the heart of Digital India.
To turn the vision of Digital India into reality, the Indian Government needs to form public-private partnerships, especially so with startups and Indian telcos. Startups are crucial to coming up with India-specific use cases. The innovative out-of-the-box thinking of the Indian entrepreneurs will enable the Government to find a distinctive solution to the problems.
India has a vibrant and dynamic startup community, especially in the digital space, which continues to come up with several innovative products and services. The country has the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, according to NASSCOM.
The total number of technology startups has gone up to 8,900 to 9,300 as per the NASSCOM report. The startups have created around 60,000 direct jobs and 1.3-1.8 indirect jobs, according to the NASSCOM report. More importantly, India has witnessed the addition of seven Unicorns, company with a valuation of more than $1 billion, till August 2019. With this, India has a total of 24 technology Unicorns.
Clearly, the startups need to play an active role in building a reliable and scalable infrastructure, which will enable to support the Digital India vision of the Government. The Government already realizes this with its Atma Nirbhar Bharat (self-reliant India) initiative which is designed to help the country rebuild in a post-COVID-19 era. The five pillars of the Atma Nirbhar program include economy, infrastructure, system, vibrant demography, and demand.
Being self-reliant involves will giving preference to the Indian entrepreneurs and vendors, so the people use local products and services as much as possible.
The recent ban of 59 Chinese applications, coupled with a growing sentiment against Chinese products and services is a massive opportunity for Indian startups. It is up to them to come up with products that appeal to the public. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already launched the Digital India Atma Nirbhar App Innovation Challenge asking the startups to build a robust app ecosystem. The objective of this challenge is to create an ecosystem of Indian apps and help realize the vision of Digital India.
The communications networks have emerged as a lifeline of the economy and people in the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote working and learning are likely to become a way of life as people continue to perform more and more chores online.
As the country tries to become self-reliant, digital dreams must be supported by a robust, reliable, and programmable communications network. Today nearly 50% of India’s 1.3 billion people are connected on the internet.
This number will rise dramatically as the telcos expand the coverage in remote and yet-to-be-connected areas. Affordable smartphones, coupled with low-tariffs, will lead to the growth of digital consumers in the country. Further, the growing digital ecosystem and Government initiatives will drive the digital way of life.
The existing networks need to be upgraded and modernized to support the dreams and aspirations of new India. The service providers need a network that can easily scale, whenever required. The service providers can provide better security and improved performance even as they are able to bring down capital and operational expenditure of network management.
A programmable, agile, and open network will fuel innovation and adoption. Several new-age use cases and technologies, like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Industry 4.0 demands a virtualized network.
The startups, service providers, and the Government have to work in tandem to promote innovation at every level not just to secure the digital future of the country but to become a self-reliant $1 trillion economy in the real sense.