In an exclusive interview with SME Times, Lizum Mishra, Director, Business Software Alliance (BSA) India said that without a robust software and IT platform, Indian SMEs will not be able to increase productivity and scale up their business, which will make them uncompetitive in the market.
Excerpts of the interview . . .
How can we accelerate technology innovation in India currently?
Lizum Mishra: I would first like to say that India needs great strides in IT services and IT application, development and support . . . also in BPO industry and IT enabled services. But, today I think India needs to focus also on product development i.e. the original product development where Intellectual Property (IP) is developed, nurtured and protected. I think that is where the story of India's innovation is lagging behind specially in the ITC sector. So, that is where we need to see some movement. You do not have any software product companies or IT product companies that are commodotise or are leading the industry and again changing. The primary reason for this is that we don't have a very robust environment which allows for the protection of new intellectual property right (IPR) or which allow companies to take risk so that they are able to develop new products and market them not just domestically but also globally. I think in the technology innovation there is a gap.
How is India progressing in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR)?
Lizum Mishra: Related to that what we really need is much more stronger enforcement of IP. We have good IP legislation. We have IP laws but the enforcement is lagging behind. That is why we need to have stronger focus on law enforcement and also look at IP infringement. We need to have a nationalised task-force that makes sure that there is a culture of protection of IP and also respect for IPR that is developed. It is extremely important even in the ITC space.
What kind of IT penetration is taking place right now in Indian market? What kind of development is further required?
Lizum Mishra: It is same as the first question. Other things that need to be focused on is obviously development of ITC infrastructure. So, broadband penetration needs to be developed and more access to technology even in the remote areas. Even cloud computing can be adopted more rapidly.
We know that in the remote areas there is a lack of IT penetration. What should be done next to develop IT infrastructure there?
Lizum Mishra: I think that the Indian government already has the National Broadband Plan. This plan has to be accelerated so that they form public private partnership (PPP) in developing India's broadband infrastructure.That will help the rural areas to get the broadband connectivity and access to a lot of technologies, e-governance services and some other types of technologies and facilities.
According to a report, a 10 percent increase in the Internet penetration can increase the GDP by 1.08 percent. This will help the country add $17 billion annually. What is your take on this?
Lizum Mishra: Frankly, if there is an increase in broadband penetration, there will be an increase in delivery of citizen services. Therefore, when many rural areas will get connected to broadband services, they will have access to public services via technology. They will have greater employability because they will be further educated on lot of technologies. In fact, by upskilling in the areas of IT, they will have access to jobs and better education, which will directly impact economic activity and growth. So, it is but natural that if there is greater broadband penetration or greater ITC infrastructure development, education, employability, skills and access to services -- all these will give great boost to our economic activity.
Indian Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have limited access to information technology but the requirement of IT services and products are huge among them. What is your take on this?
Lizum Mishra: I think the SME sector is a big part of India's growth story. And, they are important section of the society and hopefully the SMEs will grow into larger competitive companies. The SME sector needs to have better tools and better knowledge and skills on how to use technology to be productive. As much as the government can do to boost the use of technology, ICT and software in the SME sector, it will be a huge benefit for this sector.
How can we make SMEs aware of IT services and products?
Lizum Mishra: I think there are lots of companies that offer cloud services, cloud incubation, learning centers, etc. So, SMEs can be plugged into those where there are larger companies that mentor smaller companies. Also, the department of IT in the government of India has huge focus on the SME sector and so does the Ministry of MSME. They have all that is available both in the private universe and that in the government universe; and see what are the technology and solutions that are being developed just for the SMEs. In fact, in cloud services there are many companies that focus lots of their services and applications just for the SME segment.
Additionally, they (SMEs) should be attending lots of workshops which can help them manage their software processes and technology processes better. So, it is not about the use of technology but it is how you govern and manage your IT environment.
The software in IT today is a pervasive need for any company to do business. It is not typically for Indian SMEs. If you do not have IT platform or robust software platform, you will not be able to be productive or scale up. The scaling up is what SMEs need, to be competitive. I think the SMEs even in the start up phase need to invest in very strong technology. The mistake which a lot of SME make is that they prioritise other capital investment besides prioritising investment in strong technology, IT and strong software. They should look for all types of technologies available because this will help them to scale up.
What kind of solutions do Business Software Alliance (BSA) provides to the SMEs?
Lizum Mishra: We run programs targeted towards the SME segment. We had a program in the past three or four years where we have partnered with the state government on SME focused training program and capacity development. And, there we have focused on making SMEs understand how to manage their software access better, how to remain compliant, how to have strong governance processes over their IT and software access. It is very helpful. It helps to be more competitive and stay more compliant, free from financial and legal liabilities, and control over cost of software. This adds to the growth of SMEs.
What kind of government support is required to boost growth of Communication and Information Technology in India?
Lizum Mishra: The National Broadband plan is a very good initiative of the government. There is a need to accelerate and build up broadband infrastructure of the country. That is the key. The growth of the information and communication technology is quite pervasive. Secondly, there needs to be a stronger IP enforcement regime in India so that innovation is protected and ICT sector in India also begins to invest in new IPR and new product. Also, there should be a focus on educating the SME segment. In fact, educating in the higher education on the use of different technology platforms and applications of how to use software, technology, and productivity to scale your businesses. All these three things are great factors that government need to focus on and give impetus to so that the ICT sector can grow.