In Hindi, the word for revolution is ‘Kranti’. This ‘kranti’ for India has a larger meaning. KRANTI is Knowledge, Research, and New Technology in India.
The world’s largest free market democracy has become the strongest adopter and creator of emerging technologies. More than a billion Indian citizens and consumers are getting direct benefits as they leapfrog over several legacy challenges.
Since 2014, the fourth industrial revolution has swept the country where a billion plus people are getting last mile delivery of products and services both from the government and an entrepreneurial private sector. This scale of last mile delivery using tech platforms has no precedent in the history of democracy in the world. Technologies like AI, blockchain, drones, IoT and 3D manufacturing are changing India’s economic landscape.
A few statistics here would help. Food delivery apps have crossed 2 million food deliveries in a day. India’s digital payments infrastructure United Payments Interface (UPI) crossed 8.7 billion transactions in March. UPI allows various money-financial transaction applications and is important for those who have not been part of the formal banking system. Over $4.5 billion of welfare support has been given to 160 million citizens with transparency. Despite the odds, over 115 tech based unicorn companies have a combined valuation of over $350 billion.
All this has been made possible by a technological revolution which has taken root in India. In Hindi, the word for revolution is Kranti. It has been associated mainly with India’s fight against British occupation, but now it reflects the deep and widening spread of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This kranti for India has a larger meaning. KRANTI is Knowledge, Research, and New Technology in India. Indian industry is now being incentivized to invest in research and knowledge.
In recent years, India has begun to innovate and technologize to solve the unique challenges of the country. The fourth industrial revolution democratized access to many emerging technologies. Indian innovators seized this opportunity to create solutions which could help domestic businesses to improve their products and services rapidly. Artificial intelligence, internet of things, drones, virtual and augmented reality and automation brought efficiency and transparency to businesses. The charge of the digital brigade has allowed India to claim success as a tech creator. The number of tech patents in India have seen a steady rise. Industry body Nasscom says that Indian companies have filed 1,38,000 tech patents in India and over 9,500 patents in the US during 2015-2021. More than 60% of these patents were filed by Indian companies and start-ups, while 17% of the tech patents were filed by individual inventors/academia research outfits. These patented technologies have been deployed in various sectors such as finance, health and logistics. Reports suggest that India already has 127 patents for 6G technology which will underpin Web 3 and metaverse technologies.
Much of the rise has been made possible by public private collaboration and the Jandhan Aadhar and Mobile trinity model created by the Narendra Modi government. New models have allowed last mile delivery of products and services. While the private sector has innovated for consumers and government backed projects brought welfare schemes and financial inclusion for citizens. A Niti Aayog report says that digital platform based gig economy will give livelihood to 23.5 million workers by 2029-30 from just 7.7 million today.
Cutting edge technologies are getting attention too. The government has approved the setting up of a National Quantum Mission with a funding of over $730 million. India joins the league of countries which are investing in emerging technologies which will shape business and innovation. Quantum technologies include applications like computing, communication, simulation and sensing. These can be used in sectors like materials science, energy, drug discovery and defence.
While quantum computing has been around for decades, the last few months have seen tremendous interest from investors and government. Quantum computing uses principles of physics where sub-atomic Qubits can store and process information in a way that traditional computers can’t. The scale and speed of quantum computing is far ahead of what even a supercomputer can achieve. Some tasks that a classical computer may take a week to complete can be done in just one second with quantum computing.
India has brought emerging technologies to the farm sector. A recent report by World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Centre for Fourth Industrial Revolution captures this trend. “Using Technology to Improve a Billion Livelihoods” report that the use of drones in agriculture can create a $100 billion GDP boost and help millions get better livelihoods. “Drones are poised to be an effective tool to support farmers reduce their operating costs and efforts, while at the same time optimizing their input use. There are multiple uses for drones, including surveying, seeding, spraying, pollination, etc. that are at different stages of technology and business model maturity,” the report says.
There are several areas where drones are making their presence felt. These include seed propagation; pesticide spraying; yield prediction; land records; insurance assessment; and crop monitoring.
Several policies of the government are now promoting the manufacture and use of drones not just in agri but other sectors. A mission on agri mechanization will support the use of drones, while the Drone Shakti programme will promote drone-as-a-service across the country. The PLI and export promotion incentives are expected to bring $50 million of investment in the drone production.
In India companies like Tech Mahindra and Infosys have launched industrial metaverse solutions for domestic and global businesses. “Tech Mahindra is geared up to harness the power of Metaverse to bring imagination to life and offer futuristic experiences now. Network of the future, 5G, will form the backbone to provide enhanced experience to customers in the metaverse universe,” the company says.
With the roll-out of 5G in India, metaverse applications will be accelerated across the industrial spectrum. High speed connectivity and low latency is critical for any real-time application and usage. Companies using metaverse-based solutions will also have to change their internal business and manufacturing processes. If many of the design and quality check issues are avoided with digital design, many physical steps may become redundant.
India’s efforts on bringing the digital revolution to languages is being recognized and lauded. The Bhashini project led by the Ministry of Electronics and IT “aims to build a National Public Digital Platform for languages to develop services and products for citizens by leveraging the power of artificial intelligence and other emerging technologies.” As millions of Indians join the digital mainstream, they will need information and services in their own languages. Companies that want to deliver their products and services to India’s growing consuming class understand the need to use local languages. The Bhashini project is bringing together industry, academia and innovators to create an open repository. Translation applications will be created between several languages. From Tamil to Assamese. Or from Punjabi to Kannada.
Institutions and individuals can contribute in the four pillars of language understanding: Suno (to listen); Bolo (to speak); Likho (to write); and Dekho (to read). Since Bhashini is a public project, everyone can contribute but no one company can have a monopoly to use or license. The open source framework will help it grow with crowd contributions
DIGI YATRA, DIGILOCKER, DIGI EVERYTHING
More than 160 million citizens of India have now signed up and loaded important documents and certificates on the Digilocker platform. Seeking, saving and managing important documents of identity, tax and assets in a digital format has freed citizens from the tyranny of paper files. Launched by the Ministry of Electronics and Technology in 2016, the Digilocker platform had a slow start. Till 2020 the number of registered users on the platform were about 38 million. The number of users more than doubled in just one year to over 91 million by 2021. These users have stored and saved over 5.5 billion documents on the platform.
In another first, several airports in India are now accepting face recognition based DigiYatra app for flight passengers. Users can link their identity cards saved on Digilocker to the Digiyatra app.
The Digital India mission has become all pervasive and is spawning solutions for 1.4 billion people. Cutting edge technologies to low tech solutions applied is scale is bringing efficiency, transparency and affordability in the services they need. This is the new Kranti of India.
*Pranjal Sharma is the author of India Automated and Kranti Nation.