Euronews Next sat down with IT minister Ashwini Vaishnaw to talk about what makes India’s thriving tech scene tick and the challenges it faces.
As the tech world descends on Paris for the Viva Technology conference, one country has made a splash at the event and could teach Europe a trick or two about start-ups.
India’s start-up game is strong and currently ranks third in overall unicorns created, behind the United States and China. While France has 27 Unicorns, for instance, India has 100.
India is making its first appearance at VivaTech, and it has featured as the "country of the year".
At its pavilion, which mixed antique Indian doors and racing cars, as well as some of the country’s exciting start-ups, the Indian multinational Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) announced this week it would launch a new research centre in Paris' business district in October.
Euronews Next sat down with India’s Minister of Communications and Electronics & Information Technology, Ashwini Vaishnaw, as well as TCS’s Chief Technology Officer Ananth Krishnan, to talk about India’s thriving tech scene.
Euronews Next: What makes India’s tech scene so strong?
Ashwini Vaishnaw: The ecosystem we have developed is basically a series of digital public goods and many digital public platforms. So for example, digital identity of more than a billion people [and] a payment interface, which can take billions of transactions every day.
Those kinds of things which are now available to everybody as open-source solutions and people can use those building blocks and create solutions. That's the ecosystem we have created and that is helping our start-ups to rapidly scale up their missions.
Ananth Krishnan: The fact that we've done better than what we thought we would do is quite gratifying. But we are not resting with that and say, all right, then this is it, and know we can't go any further. You have to be creatively dissatisfied with where you are to progress.
Euronews Next: Which sectors are India’s start-ups thriving in?
Ashwini Vaishnaw: So fintech is there. There are many start-ups in education, many in healthcare, and agriculture. Lots and lots of start-ups are applying their creative energies for finding solutions to large-scale problems.
Euronews Next: India's giant IT services company Tata Consultancy Services announced at VivaTech it would launch an advanced tech research centre in Paris in 2022 called Pace Port. How will it boost the tech partnerships between France and India?
Ashwini Vaishnaw: The tech research centre will always be very contextual in the sense that if there is research done in basic sciences, then that is universal. But in the case of technology, the applications are always localised. What works for France may not work for somebody else, right? So if we are to provide good solutions for France, then the research should be focused on French problems and as far as possible it should be very close to France so that we can come up with the right solutions.
Euronews Next: The Tata centre will provide enterprises with new ways through which they can tap into the Internet of Things and the latest advances in artificial intelligence from TCS Research. What else will it do?
Ananth Krishnan: It will be the sixth global Pace Port for TCS after the ones which are already active in Tokyo, in New York, in Amsterdam, in Pittsburgh and Toronto. So it is designed to bring together its own research and innovation labs with the local ecosystem and of course, our customers and the society in which Pace Port is located in.
[It will] bring these four constituents together to innovate at pace and innovate at scale. And what does that mean? Essentially, it means to go from great ideas, which might come from any part of the ecosystem, including ourselves, but also all the other participants, students, faculty, start-ups, government and other stakeholders.
Customers, of course, brainstorm goals, use tools like design thinking to shape the problem statement, find potential solutions, actually build those solutions up to what we call the minimum viable product or the first prototype and prove that it can be done. Then the larger TCS will take over and then actually build it out as a potentially societal or a commercial application.
Euronews Next: How strong Is India’s connection with France?
Ashwini Vaishnaw: I think India and France have been longstanding strategic partners. And this is a relationship which is built on trust, which is built on shared values, which is built on a shared destiny going forward. So this is a relationship which will get stronger. And then I'm sure and I hope that many Indian start-ups find European partners and translate those solutions to Europe, and vice versa.
Euronews Next: What are the challenges for India’s tech ecosystem, given the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, impending recession fears, and supply chain disruption?
Ashwini Vaishnaw: The big challenges are the supply chain disruption, which has happened due to multiple reasons because of the pandemic, because of geopolitical situations. And now we need to have a resilient supply chain, a more trusted supply chain.
And we believe that India can be a great partner for the entire world in this quest because the supply chain challenges are faced by everybody and India can be a very reliable and trusted partner.
Euronews Next: And finally, what can we expect to see next for India’s tech scene?
Ashwini Vaishnaw: We definitely will be creating more public digital platforms which are once again open to any number of start-ups who would like to come and create their solutions. That is one thing.
Secondly, there are certain technologies which we are definitely going to master. For example, we have created our trusted 4G technology stack for end-to-end for networks such as radio and telecom equipment, everything. We have developed it and now we are starting the deployment of it. Similarly, we are developing the 5G network for the entire ecosystem.
And there are certain green technologies we are developing such as hydrogen technology for a hydrogen ecosystem and also electrolysers, and storage solutions. Then we want to apply that for vehicles, application for trains. And the first hydrogen train should be running in the middle of next year. So those kinds of initiatives will be covered in our technology strategy.