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INDIA-RUSSIA Formidable ‘Digital’ Partners

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CP GurnaniBy CP Gurnani

CP Gurnani is the MD & CEO of Tech Mahindra. An accomplished business leader with extensive experience in international business development, start-ups and turnarounds, joint ventures, mergers and acquisitions, Mr Gurnani led Tech Mahindra’s transformation journey, and one of the biggest turnarounds of Indian Corporate History – the acquisition and merger of Satyam. His inimitable style of leadership, combined with his sharp focus on customer experience has helped Tech Mahindra emerge as one of the leading digital IT solution providers of India.

It is time to strengthen India-Russia collaboration by leveraging the emerging opportunities on the digital front. Through initiatives like India-Russia Strategic Economic Dialogue (IRSED), both countries are now looking at forging partnerships across new areas including infrastructure, connectivity, banking, transport and digital.

India has set its eye on becoming a five trillion dollar economy, and carve a trillion dollar digital economy alongside. This ambitious goal cannot be fulfilled by a status quo, this will need a whole new canvas and collaboration with strong partners like Russia to unlock next wave of exponential growth. Russia and India are trusted and strategic partners for decades, Be it defence, space research, security, nuclear energy or technology, both countries have ably supported each other’s aspirations to shape new geopolitics with a multi-polar world order. Both nations have enjoyed a strong economic relationship in the past with Russia being one of India’s biggest trading partner and supplier of defence technology since as early as 1991.

But, is it enough? Clearly there is huge headroom for more. Even after 70 years of fruitful association, the trade relations between India and Russia are less than desirable (in 2018-19, the bilateral trade between the countries stood at USD 8.3 billion), indicating the immense scope for Indo-Russian ties to expand their collaboration. It is time for us to ponder: What has been achieved so far, and what can be done to further consolidate this bilateral-friendship?

New Age Digital Economy is an Opportunity

The Strategic Partnership agreement between India and Russia which has been built upon the five key pillars of politics, trade, defence, nuclear energy, and space research, emphasises the need for all-round development to boost bilateral cooperation.

Now it is time to strengthen this collaboration by leveraging the emerging opportunities on the digital front. Through initiatives like India- Russia Strategic Economic Dialogue (IRSED), both countries are now looking at forging partnerships across new areas including infrastructure, connectivity, banking, transport and digital. Government officials, business leaders and experts are ideating on ways to enhance collaboration to leverage Russia’s prowess in new-age technologies like Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, Cloud Security and Digitization.

Russia continues to be a leader in cybersecurity with necessary laws in place to combat cybercrime and ensuring overall business security. The future calls for easy knowledge share between the two countries along with specialized training to build necessary skills to improve cybersecurity preparedness. With the objective of shaping the digital economy, both countries need to discuss the potential for collaborations across various sectors such as digital banking and payments, start-ups, transport, research and development, education, and skilling.

Further, India’s Aerospace and Defence vertical expertise has significantly improved over the last two decades, covering areas like sophisticated engineering and manufacturing processes, mechanical designing, software development and testing.

Further, India’s Aerospace and Defence vertical expertise has significantly improved over the last two decades, covering areas like sophisticated engineering and manufacturing processes, mechanical designing, software development and testing. This could be another area for enhanced synergies between the two countries to collaborate and be a part of the global supply chain. There are at least 20,000 qualified engineers in India from this field and this can be a win-win scenario for both.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Exports can play a decisive role in India’s journey to 5T

If we were to do a scorecard on ICT and digital economy between the two countries, it will come out to be negligible and this is for a country which now exports ICT and services to about 130 countries. We need to change that equation. India’s vision to be a five trillion dollar economy offers the perfect pitch for Indo- Russian relations to bloom further. Going by research estimates, by 2025, digital could transform India’s economy, sector by sector. Thriving global demand for digital could enable its core digital sectors such as IT and business process management, digital communication services, and electronics manufacturing to double their potential value to USD 435 billion. There is a scope to build an inclusive, digital India and there are areas where we would be able to take help from Russia. As we set out on the journey to build the desired digital ecosystem for India, we can leverage Russia’s rich digital expertise, especially in ensuring the security of its connected ecosystems.

Collaborating to build a global sustainable future

In order to elevate India’s growth story to the next level, both nations need to build together synergies to strengthen economic cooperation by facilitating trade and investments. India can garner significant edge by collaborating with Russia in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, and nanotechnology. Innovations in sectors like sustainable energy, agriculture, manufacturing, food-processing and mining can also be harnessed to enhance trade relations between the two countries.

India can also cooperate with Russia on upgrading its basic research and education facilities. It is time of us to discover new areas where we can combine Russia’s technology, and Indian talent and scale to unearth new possibilities for a better future. India can even provide requisite workforce to Russia in sectors like agriculture and construction.

Russia’s universities continue to power innovations that are required to build the ‘economy of tomorrow’. India can take cue from this trend to encourage industry-academia collaboration to integrate breakthrough technologies in building a new economy for the country. Strategic planning on initiatives like ‘Make in India’ need to be introduced to ensure that we start collaborating and creating software and embedded systems right here in India. Together, both countries can help in driving the re-skilling agenda to shape the digital workforce of future.

Action Plan: Building an ICT Task Force for Digital Collaboration

As per the latest reports from the commerce ministry, India and Russia have called for diversifying and deepening of economic ties in priority sectors to meet the bilateral trade target of USD 30 billion by 2025. To execute this plan, we need to build a task force to identify and understand how we can collaborate better to remain competitive. How can we globalise together and benefit from each other’s digital economy? As industry leaders, the onus is on us to envisage new ways of transforming this association and sustain the same for the benefit of future generations.

India can garner significant edge by collaborating with Russia in the fields of artificial intelligence, robotics, cybersecurity, and nanotechnology. Innovations in sectors like sustainable energy, agriculture, manufacturing, foodprocessing and mining can also be harnessed to enhance trade relations between the two countries.

India and Russia need to leverage their strengths in science, technology and research, to bring in the much needed stability across the region which will help in attaining mutual socio-economic growth. We have our task cut out, and there is a lot of work which needs to be done. We have the appetite, we have the urgency—it is time to leverage the strengths of both the economies to fuel future growth.

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