Published: 06th April 2021
Kris Gopalakrishnan at ThinkEdu 2021: Challenging to create the next iOS, Android or Facebook in India
The Infosys co-founder also spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and what India can do to become a superpower in that sphere
It is going to be challenging for India to create operating systems like iOS, Android or Windows and also to create something like Facebook or Twitter, said Infosys co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan. "It is going to be challenging because we need a new paradigm. We also need the marketing muscle and the investment dollars to make these into a global entity. I'm not saying that it can't happen, it is just difficult for us to do," Gopalakrishnan added. He was one of the speakers at the virtual ThinkEdu Conclave 2021 and he was in conversation with Senior Journalist and Author Kaveree Bamzai.
Gopalakrishnan spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and what India can do to become a superpower in that sphere. "Firstly, we need to have sufficient capacity and capability in AI and ML - knowing that tech, how to use it, contributing to the development of the tech, the hardware infrastructure necessary to run the algorithms. As a nation, we are talking about it, investing in it. Secondly, there's data. We generate huge amounts of data but it is not stored by Indian entities. It is collected and stored by entities outside the country. We need to figure out how this data is available to our researchers and start-ups to come up with new solutions. The government is looking at policy around data and localisation requirements," he said. Gopalakrishnan also said that India needs more capital and human resources. "We need to train people in these new areas, create excitement to get into these areas and also the capital to invest. If capital comes from foreign entities, then the unicorns become foreign companies. Therefore, we need domestic capital to invest," he explained.
He also explained the problem of collecting a large amount of data. "Clearly, machines know more about us than we know ourselves," he said. "Machines can not only collect and organise the data, they can also run algorithms on a particular individual's data and also on population-level data. This data gives so much information about how to influence the person. Unknowingly we can be influenced to buy stuff we don't need, vote in a particular way. This is a problem that the entire world is facing and the concentration of this data with a few companies is where the challenge and problems are," Gopalakrishnan said.
Elaborating on a concept called a positive virtuous cycle and why India needs to create it, Gopalakrishnan explained, "Positive virtuous cycle means that we create new knowledge, innovative companies, scale them up, create wealth and then that wealth gets invested back in research. This is how Silicon Valley works, how capitalism works. We need to unleash that engine in India. We need to create a positive virtuous cycle of research, innovation, entrepreneurship and start-ups and also motivate our youth to focus on these areas." He also stressed how the new National Education Policy (NEP) is headed towards that. "NEP is talking about problem-solving skills, creativity, multidisciplinary studies, transferable credits. All these are important changes to create the right skills, enable research and gives flexibility to students to take up subjects that interest them," he said.
Speaking at length about the Indian IT industry, Gopalakrishnan also said, "India has done really well in the services category. Five in the top 10 companies in the category are Indian. That's an area we are dominating and I think we will continue to dominate because we have a professional base that understands how multinational companies work." He said that Indians also have the service ethos. "We are also starting to create vertical applications that will become global products. The top two or three products in the banking services industry are Indian or of Indian origin. India also has great e-commerce and payments apps and we are also starting to create unicorns. We believe that the number of unicorns will become 100 pretty soon and this year we are looking at 50," Gopalakrishnan stated, adding, "I am quite optimistic about the gaming sector and some global companies coming out of this area."
The Axilor Ventures Chairman also talked about how ancient texts can help develop the ideas of consciousness and intelligence. "Knowledge in India goes from practice to the lab. We have certain practices and we need to need to understand why we do certain things and why it works. In Western countries, the norm is to go from lab to practice. We have a lot of ancient knowledge, we know that many of those work. There are things that we need to take from our ancient knowledge, modernise and bring to the lab so that we understand why it works. Secondly, there's a philosophical aspect. Western knowledge systems are all about the individual being the paramount. In Eastern philosophy, society comes first, the individual is subservient to the society, so peace and harmony are more important than individual freedom. Understanding what's good about both of these and marrying them will also be important to think about in the future," he said.
Gopalakrishnan is also credited as the investor of the Centre for Brain Research at IISc Bengaluru, through his Pratiksha Trust. Sharing some of the projects going at the centre, Gopalakrishnan said, "A longitudinal study of 10,000 people in over 10 years is being conducted. These people around 45 to 50 years of age at a village in Kolar district. We are collecting health parameters, brain and cognition parameters, MRI data and DNA sequencing data to see how they age. This is the first time data is being collected from Indian subjects and we are looking at their brain function." He said that along with this rural cohort, there is also an urban cohort. "We now have enough data to look at trends and according to early observations, stress levels are the same in the urban and rural cohort as is the prevalence of strokes," Gopalakrishnan revealed. The centre, he said, is also working on is mapping 20,000 DNA sequences of Indian subjects, a project that has been sponsored by the Department of Biotechnology. "We have found that no laboratories in India had such a large database. This data will be used to create a chip that can accelerate and reduce the cost of DNA sequencing," Gopalakrishnan said.