Adoption of digital technology is the greatest opportunity for all, says N Chandrasekaran

Mumbai | Updated on August 05, 2020 Published on August 04, 2020

N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons   -  PAUL NORONHA

“Today, the new India I speak of can be the global leader in R&D, science and technology, AI, advanced manufacturing and next-generation products and services,” said Natarajan Chandrasekaran, Chairman of the board of Tata Sons, the holding company and promoter of more than 100 Tata operating companies. He was speaking at the 26th Lalit Doshi Memorial Lecture, which was held virtually on Tuesday.

“We have the right human capital. We have the scale. It’s time to make the right investments. We need to start with our fundamentals,” he said.

He started the speech by talking about the Spanish flu, which ravaged India in the early 20th century. “The challenges ahead are daunting. I do not doubt that. But a century ago, a political revolution emerged from the ashes of a devastating pandemic. The lesson from a century ago is this: the worst crisis contains within it an opportunity for profound change. And today, if we’re brave, we too can imagine a new way of living,” he said.

Covid-19 could be a catalyst towards the adoption of digital technology which will open health and education to millions, he said. It could be a catalyst towards a more resilient economy, and towards a more sustainable future, he said. “These are the three things we need to do to repair and fortify the fabric of the country. This is the springboard into a new India. This is the promise hidden in this crisis,” said Chandrasekaran.

The adoption of digital technology is the greatest opportunity of all, he said.

“In a few short months, Covid-19 may provide as much digital acceleration as the many billions of dollars of venture capital invested over the last decade. Many trends, already underway, have sped up. The decline of bricks and mortar retail. The rise of e-commerce. The decline of offices. The rise of remote working,” he explained.

The smart application of technology is key to transforming the other access problem exposed by the pandemic: health, he further stated.

Designing education system

Chandrasekaran also spoke about the need to design an education system based on five principles: digital skills; twenty-first century skills, new-age apprenticeships, lifelong learning and entrepreneurial thinking.

He also emphasised the importance of women and the SME sector. “It is not an exaggeration to say that the future of India lies in the hands of its women. Or, perhaps more precisely, how India cares for its women,” he said.

We need to give SMEs access to the services enjoyed in India’s entrepreneurial hubs and to do this, we should create a national digital platform that aggregates and localizes business services, he said.

“We must ensure all our SMEs - in every corner of our country - have access to the financing and technological knowledge required to succeed. It is something we have needed to do for many years,” he said.

Now, in this moment of upheaval, we have the chance to act, and stabilize our economy for decades to come, he said.

“The Covid-19 crisis should inspire us to get ahead-of-curve and invest in R&D in future growth sectors - and there are few sectors more promising than renewable energy. Within two decades, nearly 20 new energy sources could be powering the global economy. Fuel cells. Small, modular nuclear-fission reactors. Even nuclear fusion. Fossil fuels will be part of the mix, but dwindling oil reserves and environmental pressures will bring renewables to the fore,” said Chandrasekaran.

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Published on August 04, 2020
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