Indian Techies Have To Be Trained For Artificial Intelligence Skills


By Anjan Roy

There are reports in the financial press that the International institutional investors are moving their funds out of the Indian technology scrip. The reason: there is the calculation that the Indian ITeS sector is not getting tuned to the new artificial intelligence tools and therefore likely to fall behind the market.

The technology sector indeed is fast changing in the post generative artificial intelligence regime. The ChatGPT4 and its subsequent avatar ChatGPT4o are capable of revolutionising the entire technology sector. Some feel that the basic functions of a call centre —the backbone of Indian business process outsourcing business— can easily be performed by the generative artificial intelligence products.

That’s huge stake for the Indian ITES sector. The industry provides employment to roughly fifty lakh young people in India, if not more. Besides, there are those who are working abroad on various assignments. Any further substitution of humans by machines in these areas could have disastrous impact on employment.

Additionally, ITES exports are the principal backbone of India’s services sector. Entire services growth model of India will be threatened by the emergence of the more sophisticated generative artificial intelligence products. The five leading technology firms of America are actively investing on development of these artificial intelligence capabilities.

It is not that the leading Indian technology companies are unaware of the threats to their existence. They are currently behind the curve. But if they are aware of the future challenges and take appropriate anticipatory steps, the situation in future may turn to their advantage. But begin they must and immediately.

India should develop a broad two-pronged strategy to meet the new situation. First, of course, would be for a huge thrust and crash programme for developing Indian artificial intelligence capabilities. The stepped up generative AI products might just as well be from Indian firms. All we need to do is to attempt such a transformation in earnest.

An old English song in the heydays of empire and colonialism was a jingoistic lyric: “We don’t want to fight/ But if we have to/ We have the ships/ we have the men/ And we have the money too”.

The current situation is nothing short of an war-time emergency. The developed countries, and China, are showing tearing hurry to augment their AI capabilities. So far, the major technology companies are really at the forefront and showed it. After all, the best and newest products are being released by their companies, like OpenAI.

China is also a dominant player, as it did realise the importance of AI for the future and invested heavily in the sector. They have developed capability mainly on the back of their money power and availability of data, which is the fuel for development of these products.

But apart from America and China, if anyone is placed to emerge as a major player in the sector, it is India. Three factors are favourable to us: we have the men capable of developing the artificial intelligence sector; admittedly we do not have as much money flowing into AI/ML development effort, though we have such big IT companies; but, the next hopeful sign is that we have the entrepreneurship in the form of ability to launch lean and sharp technology start-ups.

India has close to half a million people who have AI and machine learning skills, after America’s count of around 800,000. The next biggest manpower pool is in China of 400,000. What is a more hopeful sign, based on a count of Linked In profiles adding AI/ML skills, India has the largest additions. That is, more people are learning and announcing they are AI/ML literate than anywhere else.

In terms of investment, India is the seventh largest private investor in AL/ML. United States is, of course, way above the pack both in 2023 as well as cumulatively between 2013 and 2023. China comes a distant second, and United Kingdom, which is laggard otherwise in overall economic performance, is the third largest private investor in artificial intelligence sector.

If you are not investing enough in the sector, you will have fewer new companies entering. India is the seventh largest in terms of newly established private AI companies. America has over 5,500 such new AI ventures. Against that, we have just 338. China is far ahead with 1,446 such new companies.

Actions which are needed are clear from the data. We have to perk up our efforts in developing the AI/ML sector with alacrity. Private investment has to flow, for that the centre might evolve some special schemes and make available cheap venture capital, as China is doing.

India has a bright future in AI/ML nonetheless, going by the prognostications of the one the leading player in the segment.

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Alphabet, owner of Google, observed in the company’s annual conference, that India is the number one country in terms of its AI tools user base.

This is what he said: for a lot of Google’s AI products India is the number one user base. He said he was committed to bringing the same AI tools that Google is offering in developed markets. Seeing a lot of development activity on Google’s existing products base. …India will be well positioned as the AI sift happens.

Let us start working so that the global investors pulling out of Indian technology sector have ample opportunities in future to rue their decisions in leisure. (IPA )





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