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Will the Horse Fly?

Yes, it will, and technology will play a critical role in that transformation – of today’s unicorns into the proverbial Pegasus. Top leaders across sectors vouched for it when they outlined their vision for their respective industries five years down the line.


Krishnan Ganesh got it spot on: “People are no longer surprised that Ola and Uber know your location. It is not science fiction anymore. I think the opportunity in the next five years to make the horse fly is phenomenal.” The horse reference was a play on an apocryphal story about a condemned man who promised to make his king’s favourite horse fly in a year, and saved himself from the gallows.

Indeed, as technology evolves, science fiction today becomes ho-hum tomorrow. Sample the possibilities from Alok Ohrie, President and Managing Director,India Commercial, Dell EMC: “Imagine your daily milk supplies, your daily groceries getting delivered by a drone. You can have your kids reaching school on time through driverless cars. You can have a 3D video conferencing facility on your phones that will allow you to engage with your near and dear ones in a manner that would seem like they are in front of you.” Fascinating. Such technologies open up unimagined vistas for companies of all hues.For businesses today, it is a combination of business strategy and technology that drives the future. With this backdrop,The Economic Times and Dell EMC India gave Bengaluru its tryst with tomorrow by roping in five top-notch leaders to outline their vision for their respective industries through the subject: ‘Read my lips: My Industry Five Years Later’. A riveted audience comprising mostly technology heads of companies gave a patient hearing to each of the speakers (read the boxes for the highlights), and then the evening segued into a full-throttle panel discussion and deep audience engagement on the impact of disruptive tech on businesses and industries. What unfolded in the short, sharp talks and the audience engagement that followed was a mesmerising spectacle of the interplay of business and technology in the medium term. Soumitra Bhattacharya, MD,Bosch Ltd. & President, Bosch India Group gave instances of how leapfrogging on technology is the new normal for a country like India, including the prospect of start-ups eating into established players’ arena through smart mobility solutions. “If we look at leapfrogging, it is going to be the emerging countries where affordability, creativity and innovation are going to be at the razor’s edge,” and pointed to Africa’s leadership in mobile wallet payments as an example. Ashok Reddy, MD & Co-founder of Teamlease, a temp staffing company, spoke on the future of workforce models.He said there is a need to effectively innovate at the intersection of the three Es – employment, employability and education. “Employment is about matching demand and supply. Employability is about the mismatch problem; about the interventions required to prepare the kids. Putting all of them in a classroom will be difficult. Education is about the pipeline – how we prepare the kids to be aligned to the skills that industry requires.” On the critical question of how increased automation might impact job growth, he cited the phenomenal growth of the nascent e-commerce industry: “The dynamics of the market will change, there will be employment generation that will happen across different spectrums at different points in time.” Adhil Shetty, CEO of Bankbazaar.com, spoke passionately about his belief in the power of technology to take financial products to the last Indian. “That is going to be the last-mile access, not a kiosk in every village. That is the mobile phone which is in 50 million Indian hands. But very soon every Indian will have data-enabled smartphones.” It makes sense in terms of cost economics, and eliminates inefficiencies related to intermediaries, he said. Krishnan Ganesh, Chairman, Portea Medical & Founder, Growthstory.in, started off in a jocular vein: “This five-year business is really easy.The problem we have is what to do tomorrow and next quarter!” He then pointed to how everything in India is broken – traffic is bad, you have to generate your own power, you have to get your own water, there is no parking – and the fact that these actually presented myriad opportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. Valuations for e-commerce companies would multiply five-fold in five years, he predicted. The final speaker for the evening, Dell EMC’s Alok Ohrie spoke about the exponential growth in computing power fuelling innovations and sensor technology that is being translated into the Internet of Things. Ohrie pointed out that IT transformation, workforce transformation and security transformation were the trinity of changes that companies and technologists have to consider in the future. The talks and the audience engagement struck a chord, with the speakers fielding wide-ranging questions from cyber-security to whether India’s e-commerce companies will ever make money to whether financial institutions could be trusted for neutrality, to the impact of artificial intelligence, to how new ideas and products could originate from India. As the evening brought to Bengaluru a slice of the times to come, the question remained:Will the horse fly? Well,why not?

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