The AI Influence on the Future of India

Even though it’s been around in some form or other for over sixty years, the last decade has seen the rapid growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI) globally thanks to massive technological advancements in the field. The result is that AI – which refers to computer systems that are able to perform tasks which normally require human intelligence – has become part and parcel of everyday life.

But as personal digital assistants like Siri and Bixby become the norm for consumers, technological revolutions are brewing across the world with companies and economies looking to leverage AI-related advancements to boost growth. In India, businesses like Swiggy and Zomato, which have invested heavily in AI over the past couple of years, have witnessed the power of technology to both sustain and increase growth -- and this has steered the discussion towards AI’s potential.

According to a recent Accenture study, AI can add US$957 billion (15% of current gross value added) to India’s economy by 2035. It’s no surprise then, that the government has introduced bold, multi-pronged initiatives to augment labor productivity and innovation with an eye to driving growth.

Your interaction with AI happens right in the palm of your hand. AI powers features such as smart assistants as well as the portrait mode in your phone’s camera.

Music and video streaming services that recommend songs and playlists are powered by AI.

AI influences the decisions you make on social media. It lines up the feeds in your timeline and is responsible for the notifications you receive.

Drone delivery programs will soon be a reality, with many large tech firms currently exploring and investing in the area.

Banks and financial institutions rely on AI in the area of customer service, and to protect against fraud.

direction and
investment in
new tech and AI

But despite ranking high in terms of the number of AI start-ups, India lags behind other G20 nations, in particular the United States and China, in innovation and tech development in the field.

Nevertheless, an allocation of $480 million in Budget 2018 for research, training and skills development in robotics, digital manufacturing, big data intelligence and AI underlines the Indian government’s commitment to new technologies that are seen as key to boosting economic and social development. The announcement of a national program this year, that will see the establishment of a hub for AI to be supported by centres of excellence, further proves the country’s determination to winning in this field.

Policy makers have also put together a roadmap for emerging technologies and established a task force which outlines how AI in India will:

Workforce Readiness

Notwithstanding the promise all this holds, India still faces hurdles on the road to becoming a global AI powerhouse. Chief among the concerns, which include language barriers and socio-economic issues, is the readiness of its workforce.

Distribution of Artificial Intelligence companies

Global India
World distribution of Artificial Intelligence companies India distribution of Artificial Intelligence companies

In 2016, the country produced 2.6 million graduates with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skills – the skills required to build AI technologies. However, practical proficiency levels as well as the employability of many graduates have remained low. It is for this reason that more than 80% of Indian executives believe the workforce isn’t, as yet, ready to turn India into an AI market leader.

% of AI professionals by work experience in India

% of AI professionals by work experience in India

Around 2,400 freshies were added to the AI workforce in India in 2017.

Almost 55% of AI professionals in India have less than five years of work experience.

The average work experience of AI professionals in India is 6.6 years.

To overcome these hitches, companies must invest in training and effect major changes to performance and talent acquisition strategies.

and the AI Proposition
for India

The Accenture report indicates that robust AI ecosystems are based on five pillars: universities, large companies, start-ups, policy makers and multi-stakeholder partnerships. While the roles of these five vary from market to market, in India, the first pillar – universities – holds the key to unlocking the future.

A number of centres which focus on different areas of research – in speech processing and expert systems among others – have already been established at the likes of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research and the Indian Institutes for Science.

These hubs have been crucial in spurring India’s entrepreneurial activity in recent years and there is every reason to believe they will prove as important to the nation if major breakthroughs are to be achieved, both for India and for other countries.

Current business applications using AI:

Nearly 80% of businesses and IT executives said AI would transform the way they work in three years – a fact already being seen in the operations of organisations in the following sectors.

  • e-Commerce

    AI is being used by e-commerce platforms to interact with users and catalogue products.

    Online fashion retailer Myntra, for one, is using fashion data to understand user behaviour and predict fashion trends.

  • Banking, financial services
    and insurance (BFSI):

    Banks today are using AI to zero-in on suspicious lending activity and to flag poor repayment behavior.

    At ICICI Bank, software bots are being used to interpret information from systems, recognize patterns and accelerate workflows.

  • Education

    In education, personalised software systems and applications are being adapted to students’ learning needs.

    Microsoft is working with the Andhra Pradesh state government to predict dropout rates in government schools in a bid to ensure early intervention.

  • Agriculture

    AI technologies are helping the agricultural sector drive improvements in areas of crop yield, soil health and pesticide delivery.

    Rallis, a Tata Chemicals subsidiary, is utilising drones to administer pesticide.

  • Healthcare

    Robotics, machine learning and algorithms are revolutionizing treatments and the early detection of diseases.

    Increased use of AI technology in hospitals as the demands for personalized healthcare options increase.

  • Academia

    Experts in academia are driving innovations in AI just as much as the tech industry

    Bennett University, in Uttar Pradesh, has initiated a programme which aims to train a million people in AI-related technologies in two years.

  • Transport

    Autonomous vehicles and traffic management systems are helping change the nature of transportation.

    Indian Railways, along with RailTel, and the Indian Space Research Organisation are devising safety mechanisms using AI to make travel by train safer.

  • Smart Cities

    No longer a thing of the future, smart cities are relying on the Internet of Things to improve comfort and quality of life.

    The Indian government is developing AI models in an effort to create more than a hundred smart cities by 2020.

  • AI-based Startups

    India has seen an 86% compound annual growth since 2011 in terms of AI-based start-ups.

    India’s Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio as well as global giants NVIDIA, Microsoft and Google, are setting up AI labs in India.

AI has the ability to spur growth and cement India’s place as a market leader in the field. However to achieve that end, the country must look to leverage its capabilities and successfully plot a strategic course. Among the current leaders in AI, very few display high levels of competence. India must join them and realise its full potential.