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Digital transformation has been on the agenda of businesses and governments for quite some time now. The current pandemic crisis that has removed the last doubts about the importance of information technology and the role it is bound to play in all spheres of human life going forward. The consensus is that the extraordinary circumstances of 2020 have accelerated the speed of global digital transformation dramatically. It is also clear that those countries that started this transformation early and had robust digital government, including healthcare, as well as a digitally savvy private sector and population when this crisis began, showed more resilience and coped better with its devastating consequences.
This paper takes a fresh look at India’s experience with digitisation, paying special attention to the distinctive features of India’s digitisation profile, as well as India’s achievements in realising some of the opportunities presented by the profound digital shift, with particular focus on the areas that, in our view, are of global importance. The authors looked at the influence of the pandemic crisis on India’s economy and the latest opportunities that it opens up for the new digital India. They analysed some of the socio-cultural aspects of the digital metamorphosis of a complex society such as India, trying to evaluate how deep are the current changes and whether the digital revolution might put some of the fundamental strengths of India at risk. Also the report could not avoid assessing Russia’s perspective on India’s digital trends, as the two countries share a deep understanding and political partnership, and are now going through a similar and rather complementary realignment of the technology sector.
In the view of the authors, India’s digitisation trajectory, has certain features that make its story unique and deserve special attention. One of them is the role of the government, that has built a tailor-made digital foundation for the country, maintaining and extending it further, as a public good. Another India-specific feature is the role of tight public-private partnerships, and of Indian business and its forward-looking captains, in making the internet accessible and affordable to all Indians in a matter of just a few years. One more specific aspect is India’s relationship with its foreign business partners, which has always involved complex manoeuvring, balancing the interests of strong indigenous players as well as the risks of disrupting socially sensitive sectors such as agriculture, for instance, with the need for help in lifting up the economy, creating jobs and technological advancement. The new digital era has highlighted these difficulties yet again, reminding those international businesses queuing for access to the lucrative Indian market that India is open for business partnerships that help the country address the challenges that it is facing. This report also describes how digitisation has helped address India’s acute need for broader financial inclusion. The success of the multidimensional campaign aimed at bringing millions of Indians into the banking system is surely one of the highlights of India’s digital turnaround.
In this report, the authors also focus on areas that they find particularly impressive, thought-provoking and influential on a global scale. Given their strong multiplicative effect, they aimed to study each one of them in three projections – as a phenomenon, as a lesson and as a global influencer. One of these areas is entrepreneurship. The entrepreneurial spirit of India is remarkable. Digitisation has helped it take off to a truly unprecedented extent. The government of India supports the entrepreneurship drive, seeing it as a significant contributor to employment generation, economic growth and India going global. The other area where India’s digital breakthrough is having a global impact – is education. Some of the strongest and fastest-growing educational companies are now based in India. They help address India’s massive need to educate and re-skill its population and will no doubt take on the world, addressing the global challenge of providing affordable and effective education for all.
The report also looks at the companies, the institutions and the personalities that make up the face of the new digital India. The authors believe that these stories of digital change-agents can be inspirational to readers. Although the selection is not exhaustive, it serves as a vivid illustration of the process of transformation, as well as providing additional background for those not very familiar with today’s India.
SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Market Studies
Dr Lydia Kulik
Head of India Studies, SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Market Studies (IEMS), Research Fellow, Centre for Indian Studies, Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences
Associate Professor of Business Practice, Senior Research Fellow, Moscow School of Management Skolkovo
Supervision, Academic Director, SKOLKOVO Institute for Emerging Market Studies (IEMS)