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India is well placed to achieve digital leader status: Nitin Seth

NewsIndia is well placed to achieve digital leader status: Nitin Seth

Digital is a mega-trend, but it is a large and complex change that is not easy to manage. In his new book, Nitin Seth answers key questions on how to win in the digital age.

New Delhi: Nitin Seth is the author of the book “Winning In The Digital Age,” a Penguin Random House published bestseller. In the book, Nitin brings clarity to the digital transformation process, breaking it down into seven building blocks and presenting how best to master them. The book is also a practitioner’s guide for professionals and students alike on how they can realize the amazing opportunities the Digital Age offers and achieve their true potential. Excerpts:
Q. What is it that prompted you to write “Winning in the Digital Age”?
A. Given my unique set of experiences from Mckinsey, Fidelity, Flipcart and now as CEO of Incedo, I felt I had something unique and extremely practical to share. From my career long journey I have the unusual and rare perspective that goes from foundational strategy to successful execution.
Coinciding with my career was the emergence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution as defined by the World Economic Forum- the Digital Age. It is changing everything- what we consume, how we live our lives, every business both large and small, the entire economy of India and the world. This wave ofdigital transformation is supported by investments of trillions of dollars by companies globally. Unfortunately, over 70 per cent of digital initiatives do not realize their full potential. With my unique experience, perspective and training I felt compelled to share the frameworks and solutions in my book to close that large gap.
Q. Your book examines disruption brought about by technology, what did Covid do to that disruption?
A. Without a doubt, Covid disrupted everything. From a purely business perspective, it revealed going digital is no longer a choice. Covid entirely eliminated that choice. If there was a question or indecision pre-pandemic by business and public sector leaders, the conversation has leaped dramatically forward to What and How: What do you do, How do you do it, How do you scale up?
Covid accelerated digital adoption across industries, companies, and our lives. Digital implementation objectives companies had set 3-5 years out happened in months out of economic necessity. The models and frameworks in my book were further validated and reinforced by the business and cultural results we are experiencing and living with now.
Q. You reference India frequently in the book and its significant role in the digital revolution. What are your thoughts on India’s future?
A. I mentioned earlier we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution- the Digital Age. In every Industrial Revolution there has been a reshuffling of the deck as new countries emerge and take the lead in technology, culture, and economics. The first modern Industrial Revolution, linked with colonialism, shifted economic power from the East to the West, and Europe emerged as a leader. In the Second Industrial Revolution, the age of machines and electricity, the US emerged as a leader. During the Third Industrial Revolution, the Information Age, the US surged ahead as the primary superpower. Other countries also vied for leadership, such as Japan for a brief period, and China too, but the US is the central power of the third age. I believe the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Digital Age, will see another shift and rise of a new superpower.
I posit that the democratization of access to information, knowledge, and technology are unique enablers that position India to be a leading superpower contender in the digital age – high smart phone penetration, low cost of data, UID JAM, global IT leadership, and a young demographic profile. Let me explain:
1. Smart Phone penetration – India has over 1.17B wireless subscribers, and among the largest base of population with internet access at +750M people due to low cost and wide mobile network availability
2. Low cost data – India has the lowest cost data access in the world, ~$3 ARPU in India vs ~$20+ ARPU in developed markets- a significant advantage for fueling innovation at every level of society
3. UID JAM – With over 1.2B citizens enrolled in the digital service, India is leading globally by investing in the technology that enables Indian citizens access to modern and protected online transactions and services, which can support unprecedented growth in the public/private sector
4. Global IT – India is the Information Technology engine of the world, supplying over half of global IT services headcount, simply put, India fuels innovation and is at the leading edge of data technology for the globe
5. Demographics – Over 50% of India’s population is under the age of 25, 65% under the age of 35- with over 850 million people it is the world’s largest cohort of digital natives
These powerful factors are unique to India, and critical to realizing the benefit of the democratization of access and data brought about by the Digital Age. Widespread mobile devices, low-cost data, a standardized infrastructure, leading IT knowledge, and a young, digital native population is a formula for explosive growth and dramatic innovation in the Digital Age leading to India’s high potential to be the Digital Age leader.
Q. What ways can India increase the likelihood of becoming the leader of the Fourth Industrial Revolution?
India is well placed to achieve digital leader status, but there are four important areas for differentiation built on a concept I identify as “Digital First” that need focused attention to build a foundation on digital technology and the new business rules put forward in my book. Based on the unique enablers, India can increase the odds of success by pursuing the following:
1. Global IT leadership – Continue to nurture, fuel and grow leadership in IT services
2. Innovative global business in India – Create the next generation of new, innovative Digital Age businesses and “unicorns” like Google, Facebook and Alibaba
3. Digital transformation for conventional industries and enterprises – Redesign existing conventional industries and enterprises such as pharmaceuticals, steel production, or the automotive industry based on digital transformation and the new business rules
4. Public services and enterprises –Build on public services continuing to lead by using digital technology to offer more effective and available services to the Indian population
All of this has to be supported and driven by unleashing waves of entrepreneurs. The waves of entrepreneurs with innovative new businesses and rapid digital conversion of older industries will fuel another groundswell of entrepreneurs, who each reach a higher level and drive the next higher cycle of innovation and growth.
It’s very encouraging that many key elements are in place for the next set of leading global technology companies to emerge in India. There is immense potential that by focusing on Digital First, we can quickly unleash John Maynard Keynes famous economic “animal spirits” and the prospects of over a billion people.
Nitin Seth is the CEO of Incedo Inc, a high-growth technology services firm focused on Digital, Data and Analytics. Prior to Incedo, Nitin was Chief Operating Officer of Flipkart, Managing Director and Country Head for Fidelity International in India, where he also led Global Offshore Operations and Business Strategy for Fidelity’s International business; and Director of McKinsey’s Global Knowledge Centre in India, where he conceptualized, developed and led many new knowledge and analytics based capabilities that have had far reaching industry impact.

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