India Gets Ready to Lead 1.3 Billion People into the Digital Future

India is poised for a digital transformation like no other — here’s why that’s a big deal for global enterprises.

by Kulmeet Bawa

posted on 11-01-2018

The South Asia region is home to eight of the 18 developing economies – known as ‘outperformers’ – that achieved 5 percent annual growth in GDP over the last 20 years.

It’s no small feat for any economy and a clear signal India is ready to step into a leadership role in the global economy. For all of this tremendous growth however, there’s still work to be done — specifically, policymakers and business leaders must embrace the region’s ongoing digital transformation.

If this can happen, there’s no end to the region’s potential — productivity would skyrocket and GDP could double. Imagine the possibilities.

Digital India leads the charge

India reported economic growth at an annual rate of 7.2 percent in the last quarter of 2017. This meteoric growth puts India ahead of China as the fastest-growing major economy in the world — and we aren’t slowing down. Indian economic growth is projected to increase to 7.8 percent by the end of 2018.

Driving this growth is the rapid adoption of digital technologies. A recent report awarded India the top spot in terms of digital transformation success among all advanced economies. According to the study, 97 percent of Indian businesses witnessed improvements in customer experience as a result of digital transformation, with 84 percent saying they were better able to differentiate themselves from the competition.

It’s a change that’s been a long time coming. “This revolution will transform India the same way automobiles changed America 100 years ago but at 10 times the speed — computers, laptops, and tablets will be marginalized as India leapfrogs to mobile 4G by 2020,” explained Vijay Govindarajan and Gunjan Bagla in Harvard Business Review.

For businesses ready to grow in the Indian market, this means rigorously adopting a mobile-only mindset and strategy. It’s impossible to do business in India without a mobile mentality, and this, unquestionably, is central to the Digital India transformation.

The digital leadership mindset

It’s clear that there’s tremendous push for digital transformation and innovation in India. However, despite the momentum and ongoing success, less than 10 percent of companies see themselves as digital leaders.

That said, there’s a clear desire to better define a vision for digital enterprises in India and to ensure the workforce has the skills needed to deliver that vision — both in the boardroom and across the enterprise.

A number of things are driving India’s rapid change in mindset and movement. For example, the size of the population forces companies to be innovative and creative with the digital products they produce, but also provides an enormous market for those who succeed.

C.K. Prahalad, as he writes in The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, rightly highlighted the potential for this to drive not only commercial success but also profound changes to society. Today’s enterprises can’t reach the masses in India with the same technologies that have been used to appeal to wealthier markets. It will take creativity and innovative technology to succeed.

Acquiring the skills to thrive

Enterprises that investing in technology need to invest equally in the creative skills of their employees. The past few decades have seen numerous clarion calls for organizations to become more adaptive, to be able to pivot and reinvent themselves according to changing market needs. It’s a skill that historian and best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari recently argued will be key for workers to thrive in the future, too.

My colleague Ram Seshadri, director of solutions consulting for Adobe India, says India is the land of engineers, and the country has a well-deserved reputation for its technical skills and capabilities. However, he notes, there is also a lot of creative talent in India. This coming-together of creative and technical skills will be essential to India’s digital transformation — design-driven companies outperform their peers 84 percent of the time.

Much of this mindset and skill shift falls to the Indian education system, which, like many other global education systems, is struggling to adopt digital tools and resources in the classroom. It’s a crossroad, in many ways. Today, cutting-edge digital devices can work alongside uninterrupted connectivity to truly transform the way we learn. The question is, when will they?

Along with changes in the education system, companies must also step up to the mark and invest in skills development. Top performing companies were twice as likely to invest heavily in skills and development as their peers — skills and development that span the analytical and creative. This ensures companies have in-house talent who can both understand and draw insights from data and then apply those insights to create the next innovations.

Building exceptional customer experiences

There is one overarching goal that defines India’s digital transformation: creating and delivering exceptional customer experiences (CX). It’s proven that companies who fully commit to CX outperform their peers, and Indian enterprises are no exception. By putting customers at the heart of digital transformation initiatives, Indian companies can truly benefit from the promises of such a transformation — being able to design and deliver experiences that will give them an advantage in the marketplace.

If you are ready to be a part of India’s growing economy, don’t focus first on the market size. But do come ready to help us further transform the Indian economy into a data-driven, results-oriented force that is fueled by creativity, innovation, and the human spirit. Together we will lead 1.3 billion people into a digital future.

Topics: Future of Work, Digital Transformation, Industry