As the Indian IT industry, we strongly believe that the pandemic has given us a rare opportunity to shape the next normal. Magic doesn’t create the future. The actions we take today do. And when I look at the priorities the industry has embraced and the actions we are taking, I am extremely confident that we are creating a future that will be better than what we had.
We have been working with the industry to prioritise the key building blocks for the foundation of the next normal. And they are: trust, talent and inclusion, people-first innovation, resilience, and agility.
Trust, we believe will be the core currency of the next normal. In a hyper-digital and largely contactless world, trust will be the key factor for decision-making. With safety and security becoming the cornerstones of business continuity, companies across the world will put a hefty premium on these two and prefer to work with partners that they trust, to ensure the least disruption to businesses. Employees will come back to work only if they trust the employers enough to do the right thing and keep them safe. Leaders will need to trust employees working remotely, to do the right thing without constant supervision. Consumers will trust companies that they believe are taking the right steps to safeguard their well-being and health and yes, this applies to tech companies more than ever in the age of AI. Are we taking the right steps to ensure our AI solutions are being used for good and not causing harmful addictions, biases, etc.? Ethical AI will become a key expectation from the industry. In short, if you are not seen as trustworthy in this new world, it is going to be very difficult to survive, let alone succeed.
Talent is the other key pillar of the industry. As a knowledge industry, it is our people that help us differentiate and build our competitive advantage. We have always known that. Now, we have the opportunity to work on a few things to get the talent story right. First, ensuring that we are developing the skills that will define the jobs of the future. Second, building a truly diverse talent pool. The world desperately needs more diversity in data science and other areas. This is the only way we can reduce the bias in AI. Let us not forget that technology is neither good nor bad. It’s a tool that is shaped by humans. And if we have all men or mostly men building the solutions or writing the codes, we do have a problem. I am encouraged to see the growing awareness of the issue in our industry and companies taking conscious steps to address the same. We just need to do more and act even faster.
Innovation has always been the core strength of the tech industry. But Covid-19 has changed the world view on innovation. It is no more about how cool the technology is. Instead, it is about how big a problem you can solve and how much of an impact you can make on humankind. At the start of the year, we had called out the need for the industry to embrace ‘people-first innovation’ and make India a leader in responsible and impact-driven innovation. Today, it is a must do and no more a nice to do. On one hand, the pandemic has not just shown us how fragile we are but also magnified the problems we have in pretty much all aspects of society. And, on the other hand, it has demonstrated the true power of technology as a problem-solving tool. We have in our hands one of the most powerful tools to solve some of the most challenging problems we face from climate change to water scarcity to good access to healthcare and education for all. We have to act on it and the industry has to lead the charge.
Last but not the least, we can do all of the above, but if we do not do it fast enough, we will not reap the full benefits of the transformation. Agility is going to determine the leaders of the new norm and so will resilience. No one will get it right at one try. We will have to have an adaptable mindset above all in this journey and learn from our mistakes and successes as we go along. As one of my mentors said, it is so important to ensure we don’t just fall, but fall forward and start again—wiser and even more determined than before.
By reinventing the foundation that supports our industry on these building blocks, we are confident that we will not only build a stronger and better industry, but a stronger and better world. And it is our dream to ensure that India plays a leading role in shaping that next normal. As we say, when the world thinks digital, the world must think India.
And on Friday, we took a major step forward as TCS became the world’s most valuable IT company. What an incredibly proud moment for all of us in the industry and in India. TCS has shown us that Indian tech companies can lead the world. Let us make sure that as we do it, we also lead the change to a better future.
Views are personal. The author is president, Nasscom.