I support my government having access to my data: Mohandas Pai

M Ramesh Chennai | Updated on February 11, 2020 Published on February 11, 2020

T V Mohandas Pai (file photo)

Former Infosys CFO is all praise for China for building firewall around data

Former Infosys Director and CFO, TV Mohandas Pai, supports the Centre on data localisation.

Delivering the keynote address at the Annual Convention of the Madras Management Association recently, Pai said: “If my government snoops on me, I can go to the Supreme Court; if the US government snoops on me I can do nothing.”

Data localisation refers to keeping servers that store data from transactions in a country — be it from Twitter or credit cards — within the borders of the country, as opposed the servers being placed abroad. As of now, the storage devices are not necessarily in India.

When you search for something on the net, Google shows you what it wants to show you, not what you want to see, Pai said, stressing that he is very scared of the dominance of the “evil empire” — the digital world. The digital world controls our minds, he said. “Google decides access, it controls your mind.”

That is why “I support (my) data being in my country; I support my government having access to my data to protect me,” Pai said. He spoke approvingly of China, which, he said, built a big firewall of security around the data so that it “knows exactly who is doing what, where.”

‘Digital colony’

Pai noted that India will soon become a “digital colony” with all the global majors competing here for dominance. The American and Chinese companies are coming here in a big way “but there is no Indian company” he said, singling out Reliance Jio as the sole exception.

Pai expressed displeasure over Indian capitalists not investing sufficiently, saying that the only risk they would take is with bank money. He observed that a great start-up movement is underway in India, but 90 per cent of the money came from abroad.

Today, there are about 45,000 start-ups, employing 750,000 people and creating $150 billion in value. Of these, 35 are unicorns (companies with a valuation of more than $1 billion); 19 of these unicorns are headquartered outside India. By 2025, India will have 100,000 start-ups including at least a 100 unicorns, all employing 2.5 million people, said Pai, who is today a partner in many investment companies.

Since 2014, Indian start-ups have raised $60 billion, of which about 10 per cent, generously estimated, is Indian capital, he noted. India had 65 billionaires but they hadn’t put $ 500 million in start-ups, he said.

Digitisation in India

Touching upon how digitisation is changing India, Pai said that because of demonetisation India leapfrogged two-and-a-half years in terms of digital transactions. Digital transactions have soared from a little over 250 million a month in November 2016, when ₹500 and ₹1,000 currency notes were banned, to 918 million a month now. Without demonetisation, the transactions would have been at around 450 million a month, he said.

Pai noted that in October 2019, there were 12.3 million unique GST filers, up 340 per cent from 3.6 million in April 2014 — which reflects the formalisation of the economy. The number of transactions over UPI (Unified Payment Interface) increased from 2.4 lakh a month in September 2018, to 8.47 lakh a month a year later.

Published on February 11, 2020
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