Building Technology Companies in India: Challenges and Opportunities – Hyderabad (May 7, 2016)


Enabling Technology-led Transformation

Q&A with Professor Deepa Mani, Associate Professor and Executive Director, Srini Raju Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy, and Reema Gupta, Associate Director, Srini Raju Centre for Information Technology and the Networked Economy.

How does the Centre’s research relate to the government's Digital India initiative?

A key focus area of the Centre is the role of technology in urban transformation. Specific areas of focus include the role of technology in education, healthcare, and overall citizen empowerment. We are the impact assessment partner for various technology initiatives of the Telangana government, including their digital literacy mission; TS-CLASS, which introduces technology into the classroom for better access, teacher empowerment and improved student learning; and the public Wi-Fi services of the government that aim to empower citizens by providing access to more, timely and diverse information.

Smart cities are an important element of the Digital India initiative of the government. In this context, we have developed a smart city maturity model (SCMM) that is backed by archival and qualitative research data. The model helps a region assess its physical and social infrastructure and in turn, its technology readiness in absolute and relative terms. Consequently, the city can implement a “smart” solution that is uniquely aligned with its resources and capabilities. It is our hope that SCMM will help governments grow and expand their cities as urban centres by identifying technologies and processes and enabling policies that help the cities deliver citizen services in a reliable, sustainable and efficient manner.

What, in your view, is the most important way in which technology is impacting the modern organisation?

The fundamental challenge confronting modern organisations involves recognising and responding to the forces of digitisation. Technology-led forces such as digitisation, the interactive web, the long tail, on-demand computing, and modular and big data are giving rise to new products, processes and business models that are potentially very disruptive to legacy businesses across diverse industries. Indeed, these new business models are often a radical departure from the incumbent’s model and involve a fundamental shift in resources, capabilities and value networks. Planning for this change in a traditional way may be futile since the planners themselves may be at risk from the results. Our research in this space finds that firms in many traditional industries such as the auto sector, medical devices industry, etc., are increasingly becoming software companies, as reflected in their stock of technology patents and technology spend. As this trend accelerates, the ability of firms to transform themselves into technology companies to respond to the forces of digitisation will be a key part of their competitive advantage, or lack thereof. An integral part of such transformation involves organisation of the company’s digital assets. Firms cannot do it all alone. Alliances, contractual relationships and other partnerships are integral to creating an agile, unencumbered organisation that is able to experiment while reducing the costs of failure. Competition today is between value networks and not between firms. In turn, the ability of a firm to discern what digital assets to own versus buy as well as to build the right portfolio of technology alliances will also be a critical source of competitive value.

Vis-à-vis technology, what is your perspective on the current start-up scenario in India?

The start-up scenario in India, driven by a combination of factors such as improvement in ease of doing business, improved digital literacy and access, and better access to risk capital, is certainly vibrant and promising. We want to point out two distinctive characteristics of the start-up activity in India. First, most of the start-ups in India are in the space of business model and process innovations that, of course, solve some fundamental consumer problems and needs. However, we have very few science-based start-ups in this country. Entrepreneurial activity is highly correlated with multinational corporation (MNC) activity in the country and, not surprisingly, the above-mentioned nature of entrepreneurial activity resonates with the innovative activity that MNCs engage in here. Our research suggests that the MNCs in India largely work on adapting global products for local markets through new processes and business models. The individuals engaged in these innovations subsequently leave the MNC to start companies that are aligned with their experience. From a policy perspective, this points to the need to think about how we can create more science-based start-ups.

Second, towards creating radical innovations, it's important for us to strengthen primary schooling and higher education in this country to promote creativity and independent thinking in addition to academic rigour. Radical ideas come forth from people who colour outside the lines and have an irreverence for rules. We need to reform our schools and other institutions of learning to allow for that space.

What kind of opportunities are available for alumni to collaborate with the Centre?

The fundamental objective of the Centre is to be a leading knowledge hub in the Technology and Analytics area. It promotes analytical, empirical and field experiment oriented partnerships between researchers and industry. We provide a platform for meaningful collaboration between the global Information Systems (IS) research community and the burgeoning, global-scoped Indian IT/ TeS industry. We welcome initiatives that provide us with datasets and field experiments which further our research agenda, provide opportunities to co-create white papers and case studies, and promote participation in and sponsorship of industry events and workshops and guest lectures in technology courses.

Activities of Note:

The ISB Digital Summit is a two-day digital marketing event where industry experts, business leaders, marketers and academia unite to discuss the latest innovation and marketing models.

Based on cutting-edge research and global best practices, the Certificate Programme in Business Analytics, provides a framework through which participants learn to enhance their management skills, expand their knowledge of Business Analytics, and gain a strategic perspective of the industry.

Published Cases:

IT-led Business Transformation at Reliance Energy
Sony Music (India)
Microsoft’s Go-to-market Strategy for Azure in India

© 2016 Indian School of Business.