Rajesh Soundararajan on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/rajeshsound
In my previous article, “Happy 75th, India – Next 25,” we paused and reflected on India’s journey of seven and a half decades. We celebrated India’s 75 buoyant years and anticipated the promising next 25.
Many lived through the iconic turning points and paradigm shifts, particularly those from the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, when India was perceived as a slow-paced, industry-unfriendly zone. Today, the canvas that India paints could not differ more. Through the lens of the cognitive biases that often cloud our collective memory, this article delves deeper into the significant chapters of India’s transformative journey – from being a talent supplier to starting to become a global leader in technology.
As one among the 1.3 billion hearts beating in India today, I felt compelled to extend the narrative, especially for those who bore witness to the transformations from the 60s to the 80s. As the memory of India being a slow, socialist, industry-hating economy still lingers, it’s crucial to acknowledge that the reality couldn’t be more dissimilar today.
Unhooking from the Cognitive Biases
Often, the human mind clings to the present, succumbing to cognitive biases, such as the ‘recency effect’ and ‘bandwagon effect’. In this 24×7 social media era, these biases get amplified, subtly nudging us to ignore or undervalue the path tread. The transition from the reluctance to reveal our Indian identity overseas back in 1999 to assertively proclaiming one’s origin as “Bangalore” by late 2001, is a testament to the sea change in perceptions. This shift underpins the impact of major events like Y2K on our collective psyche and, indeed, the global image India projected.
Banking, Investment, and Technology: the Early 2000s
It was during 2002-2007 that the seeds of massive transformation were sown. As the new millennium unfolded, India emerged as a major investment hub, fueled by an influx of Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) into the technology and automotive sectors. This period ‘marked’ the initiation of full-scale banking reforms in India. Banks across the country adopted and integrated cutting-edge technology, creating an incredible foundation for the banking sector in the years to come.
Resilience also became India’s middle name amid global crises: the expensive crude oil at $200 a barrel, the 2008 financial meltdown, and health scares from SARS to swine flu. Despite the odds, India managed to keep inflation within check – a noteworthy achievement considering the global economic scenario.
Telecommunication Revolution in the Palms of the Common Man
Fast-forward to 2005. A small, mobile device, courtesy of the stunning ₹500 Monsoon Hungama offer, began reaching the majority of Indian households. This significant turning point signaled a shift in business models, particularly those aimed at the ‘Bottom of Pyramid.’ Cellular technology’s diffusion had a profound influence not only on the way businesses operated but how society communicated, engaged, and consumed services.
The initial charm of feature phones gave way to a thirst for smarter, faster, and more versatile devices. By 2013, 3G-enabled smartphones were no longer the toys of the affluent but tools of necessity. This rapid evolution helped pave the way for services like home delivery of groceries. A concept pioneered by Fabmall in 2000-2001, paralleling the services offered by Amazon Pantry in the present day.
The Aerial Revolution – Making Everyone Fly
In parallel, the aviation sector was undergoing its transformation, catalyzing the idea that everyone can fly. Low-cost airlines emerged as a game-changing concept between 2003-2014, toppling the traditional paradigms in domestic travel. Airlines like Air Deccan started offering tickets at jaw-droppingly low costs – as affordable as ₹500. The Indian sky was teeming with choice and the potential that affordable travel could unlock across the Indian landscape.
Auto Industry Transformation – Becoming the World’s Workshop
In the auto sector, the revolution was no less significant. Major car manufacturers – GM, Ford, Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes Benz – expanded their operations in India, setting up vast factories. We moved away from being net importers to significant exporters of vehicles across the world. Brands like Hyundai became synonymous with quality and affordability in international markets, making their Indian plants major export hubs.
Companies in the auto ancillary sector, such as Sundaram Clayton and TVS groups, furthered this growth. Tata Motors’ audacious acquisition of Jaguar and Land Rover, glorified India’s prowess in auto manufacturing on the global stage.
Expanding Footprints – The Forays of Airtel & Tatas
Indian companies didn’t limit themselves to just enhancing domestic capacity–they went global too. Airtel set an example by spreading its operations into Africa, providing affordable cellular services to millions. Likewise, Tata Group, with its vast array of business interests, expanded its footprint into Europe and other global markets.
Embrace and Scale: The Story of Aadhaar, UPI, Direct Cash Transfer & More
Concepts that were pilot-tested during 2012-2015, such as Aadhaar, UPI, Direct Cash Transfer, established the potential that technology had in transforming governance and public services. These initiatives presented scalable models that could positively impact the lives of millions, further strengthening India’s standing in global technological innovations.
The Unseen Backbone – How Global Tech Transformation Enabled Local Growth
Behind these triumphs lies an unsung contributor that fueled India’s technological ascendance – the silent revolution that internet and global technology transformation brought. WhatsApp, bought over by Facebook, evolved from being merely an instant messaging app to a platform that enabled small businesses to connect and interact with consumers like never before. The rampant penetration of 3G, followed by 4G networks, pushed the envelope, transforming India into a mobile-first nation.
In this context, key sectors’ convergence, visionary leaders, and competencies of Indian scientists, engineers, and technologists came to a crucial juncture. The driving message behind this narrative is acknowledging every football field run, every player’s agility, every strategy employed, and every triumphant goal that has brought us to this juncture – from the Y2K-stimulated IT revolution and telecom wave to the banking reforms, auto industry leap, advancement in mobile Internet, Aadhaar integration and beyond.
India, as we witness today, is a significant actor on the scientific and technological world stage—a testament to several decades of consistent toil, tenacity, and innovation. As we derive pride in today’s breakthroughs, let’s also pay tribute to the journey that has brought us here and prepare to navigate the exciting new chapters yet to unfold.