New Delhi: The last time Navin Shenoy, senior vice-president and general manager, Intel Corp. (cloud computing), was in India in 2012, Paytm was an unknown commodity. On a visit last week, he realized he can make payments to a fruit vendor instantly, which he thought was not possible in India 2-3 years ago. Such dramatic changes, including India’s adaptation of 4G and Digital India, make him an “unabashed India bull”.
In an interview, Shenoy talked about the Indian IT industry, advent of Reliance Jio and technology evolution in India. Edited excerpts:
How do you see growth in Indian IT especially with the current situation in this financial year?
I’m an unabashed India bull as it pertains to prospects for technology in India and I am probably more of a bull than I have ever been largely because of the fact that India has even such a notion as the Digital India initiative from the prime minister and proliferated through the rest of the country.
As I travel around the world, there are very few countries that have a digital initiative from the head of the country and so I think the recognition of the government that the digitization of the country is the only way to advancement for the next couple of years, decade is something obviously that we are aligning ourselves to… But if I think what is next for the Indian IT industry, it is really about much like other countries, a much broader proliferation of technologies.
The cloud infrastructure in India is not ultimately where it needs to be, the computing infrastructure—many people have mobile phones but still don’t have computers. So I think as I look at the next few years, development in these areas is going to be important… I remember the last time, it’s been four years since I have been here, the fact that you can go to a fruit stand now and use PayTm to buy something, I would never have imagined we will be here so soon one or two or three years ago. So, I am bullish I guess and I guess the conditions are right for the technology industry to continue to grow here. It is the only way India will continue to grow at 7-8% in terms of GDP.
What kind of impact do you see of Donald Trump winning US presidential elections on Indian IT industry?
It is way too soon to say. It is a pretty broad leap to think of impact right now. There are a lot of unknowns. So we will see how it goes. At the end of the day, India has so much potential that political events are going to happen around the world all the time and there are going to be bumps but if you look in the long term, there is no doubt in my mind that technology is going to be inextricably linked with the progress in India. The two will go hand in hand, and like I said before I am an unabashed bull about how Intel will do in India and the course of how industry will develop in India. We are at a tipping point in India where the next 5-10 years are incredibly bright.
You just talked about Paytm at a fruit shop. A lot of it is happening because of demonetisation, so what is your take on that especially considering digital and e-payment revolution that will step in? You think it’s positive for technology?
I am not an expert on the demonetization policy. I can tell you that I think from a government point of view, it’s a bold step and probably the right step for India in the long run. But with as most bold steps, there is going to be some bumps. Ultimately it’s inextricably linked with technology, you cannot do demonetisation and not also apply technology in a much broader way. I think it will accelerate the adoption of e payment and modernization of banking system. The fact that 90% plus of the transactions in India are done through cash is not how you build a technology economy, you have to be able to leverage technology.
This new company Reliance Jio is bringing its network entirely on 4G LTE. What is your take on it?
I think they have been incredibly disruptive, I think they chose to do it in a way that is going to at some point be written about in business school case studies because they did a pan-India service, free voice service, they did their own hardware devices. They really thought it through really well. And I think they have probably accelerated it, it was inevitable that it was going to happen at some point but they have acted as an accelerator.
When do you see 5G coming to India?
I have that conversation with Reliance. You know the prime minister here is pretty progressive when it comes to technology and I think it will be interesting to see how quickly India moves but I don’t have an exact date but based on everything I have seen so far, it certainly won’t lag the rest of the world like 4G did. I think India will be closer to the 5G evolution and transformation as opposed to kind of later on as perhaps it was on 4G.
And what would 5G mean to your business in India?
It will accelerate our business in a major way—5G will be much different than the 4G transition. The 4G transitions were largely about mobile phones and computers. The 5G transition will have a much bigger impact because it will be about infrastructure that will get deployed, it will be about automobiles being connected to the Internet, it will be about hospitals being connected to the Internet, it will be about drones being connected to the Internet and literally about every electronic device being connected to the Internet in some way, IOT (Internet of Things) devices and so I think will have a much broader impact on transformation which will be one of the reasons why government and enterprises in India will adopt 5G much faster.