India, which is now moving fast up the value chain from low-cost software services to manufacturing, offers tremendous opportunity in the areas of deep technology and technology driven transformation, according to eminent experts.
“I am very convinced about the opportunity in India, and I saw this when I was in the Obama administration,” said Arun Kumar, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service (USFCS) in the Obama Administration.
Currently, a Managing Partner with Celesta Capital, Kumar says this is driven by some good fundamentals, availability of international-standard talent, digital has become ubiquitous, making ground for tremendous amount of innovation; advance manufacturing, which makes India competitive in manufacturing and finally advancement of India-US relationship under the Modi-Biden leadership.
“Overall, it’s a very upbeat story on India,” Kumar said during a recently concluded TechSurge conference in the Silicon Valley presented by Celesta Capital at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.
The US-India Initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), which was advanced recently by meetings between the two countries’ National Security Advisors laid out commitments to building a robust innovation ecosystem between the two countries covering collaboration in artificial intelligence, high-performance computing, defence and space technologies, semiconductors and next generation telecommunications.
“Normally speaking, or at least until five or six years ago, we were used to India not doing very well. India is having a lot of trouble and so on, and the rest of the world is doing much better. It’s the other way around now,” said World Bank Chief Economist Indermit Gill noting that India has made significant progress since 2014 in ease of doing business, a metric that the Bank had championed though it discontinued it in 2020.
“If India does well in attracting investment, this could be India’s time,” Gill said.
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Deep tech in India
Stanford University Emeritus Professor Arogyaswami Paulraj said the priorities of deep tech in India will be driven by semiconductors and energy, decarbonisation – green hydrogen and electric vehicles.
In the US, the deep tech sector contributes USD 550 billion or 2.5 per cent of the GDP, but it underpins almost 40 per cent of the overall GDP. India imports almost all its deep tech needs today and therefore building local capability is a national priority.
The deep tech segment is a globalised industry with widely spread supply chains. Therefore, a reasonable target for India is to join the club of deep-tech countries, and capture, say five per cent of the global market share over the next decade.
That will translate to USD 150 billion of value-added revenue representing a market cap opportunity of well over USD 1.5 trillion. The first thrust in deep tech for India is the Indian Semiconductor Mission that aims to build capability in this most foundational technology, he said.
“Looking at India today, I’m very, very optimistic. One thing is I do think there’s a lot of political consensus on the direction of the country. Whether it’s the current government or a new government, the country’s economic model is, well put, they’re gonna be very stable. So, I think that’s a big plus,” he said, adding that the digital India transformation is proving to be very successful.
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Celesta’s founding managing partner Sriram Viswanathan observed that India is moving up the value chain from low-cost software services to manufacturing and deep tech development such as semiconductors and other hardware-related industries. Very sophisticated companies are being created in India in semiconductor design and in manufacturing automation and robotics.
“There is a huge opportunity in India over the next decade. I see this growing in an exponential manner. In India, nothing, nothing goes in a linear manner,” said National Infrastructure Investment Fund (NIIF) managing director Anand Unnikrishnan.
He described the success of NIIF operating as a public private partnership. He pointed to the vigorous entrepreneurial ecosystem and venture capital investment environment in India today.