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NEW DELHI: Talent development has to become a national priority for India as the demand for new age digital skills is growing rapidly. It is eight times higher than supply today and by 2024, it is expected to be 20 times higher than supply, said Debjani Ghosh, president, The National Association of Software and Service Companies (Nasscom).

In an interview, Ghosh spoke on new technologies, work-from-home for IT companies and digital talent. Edited excerpts:

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How can enterprises and businesses unlock the potential of new technologies like AI?

We did a research with McKinsey and found that in the next few years, if India can use artificial intelligence (AI) right, then it has the potential to add an incremental of around $500 billion to our GDP. There are several gaps today, which have to be taken into account but, the secret sauce is execution. So, identifying what problems, for example, of increasing supply chain effectiveness or water conservation is a huge one where AI can play a big role. It's important for us to identify the priorities and the problems you want to solve, then build out the national data sets for these particular verticals, make sure that the protocols are in place for the utilization of data, build out the talent, and build out the regulatory framework. So that's the approach that has to be taken.


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With most companies working from home, what is the model moving forward?

We're going to move towards a hybrid model for sure. None of the large companies are going to go back 100% on campus, nor are we going to see 100% remote working. But the pandemic has taught us that there are tremendous benefits to remote working. One of them is the ability for people to work from their hometowns, which allows them more time to do things. This will also support the gig economy and spur higher involvement of communities in smaller towns. There's also a benefit of enabling people whether it is your gender or any other special needs, disabilities, where you could not go to work but have the ability to do so. Companies should have the right to decide what works for them, whether it's 60-40, 70-30, 30-70 ratio.

How will the new regime in the US impact the H1 B visa issue?

I don't do much crystal ball game gazing. We'll wait and see how it plays out but if US has to continue to lead in innovation, they need talent more than ever. Indian IT companies take less than 10% of the H1B visas. More than 90% are taken by the MNCs and the companies that are the biggest takers of H1B are also the biggest investors in innovation and R&D, which means there's a strong correlation between our talent and the innovation that's happening in US. Given that there is a need to fuel and accelerate the pace of innovation, there's going to be a stronger need, therefore, to also get access to the right talent. In today's world, honestly, it'll be great if the talent can be on-boarded and present where the customers are. But if that's going to be a problem, then the customers will come to where the talent is. But this is an opportunity for India to focus on talent. If we can ensure that we are the best place for digital talent for the world, then the world will come to us for their innovation and talent.

What can IT companies do to become more resilient in the post-covid world?

There are four things that are key to organizations becoming resilient. The first one is trust that becomes the key currency of this world. In the last eight months, Indian IT has shown that it is tremendously trustworthy. We have managed to keep businesses running of all our global clients without any disruption. We moved more than 95% of our workforce to work from home. The second building block is talent. It's the talent that differentiates my ability to build those solutions that my customer will need for their success better than you can build your solutions, you know, if we are competing. Talent is what will define competitive advantage. The third one is ability to innovate, but even the innovation lens is changing. Today, innovation is becoming about moving those ideas/solutions from lab to market, the quickest. The last is how quickly do you do it. Thus, agility becomes extremely important and resilience goes with it. These are a few things that will shape the competitive advantage, be the core differentiators of Indian IT and the playbook for higher resilience in the new normal.

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