Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

A Tech-Savvy India: Highlights of the Discourse around the India Mobile Congress, 2023

If one were to consult any knowledgeable economist, he would affirm that the focal point for bridging the gap between developed and developing countries lies in tech-oriented growth. India has always possessed immense potential in this sector. Notably, the conversation initiated by Hon’ble Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 has been a testament to recognising and fostering this potential. He aptly stated, “Technology is the catalyst that expedites the transition from a developing nation to a developed one.”  The recent India Mobile Congress (IMC) in 2023 served as a compelling demonstration of how effectively his vision for this transition is being realised.

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi inaugurated the 7th India Mobile Congress 2023, which is Asia’s largest telecom, media, and technology forum, held from October 27th to 29th, with a focus on ‘Global Digital Innovation’.  On Friday, October 27th, 2023, the Prime Minister had the audience captivated by his speech on India’s journey from a mobile phone importer to an exporter and the overarching technology revolution it represents for India. Equating his opposition to outdated phones with frozen screens that India was stuck with before 2014, he bids them goodbye and good riddance. In the PM Modi-induced era of “badlav” let’s accentuate the exciting happenings of the 3-day event. 

First, contextually speaking, India’s Information Technology and Business Process Management (IT-BPM) sector holds a significant share– constituting 7.5 % of the nation’s GDP, thus establishing itself as one of the foremost contributors to India’s economic expansion. Remarkably, the IT sector claims an impressive 56% share of the global outsourcing market, solidifying its pivotal role in the global technological landscape. During the fiscal year of 2022, it was projected that the IT industry generated approximately 178 billion U.S. dollars in total export revenue for India.

Entering the realm of network services in the IT sector, the PM highlighted that after launching the fastest 5G mobile network, India is actively progressing to the position of a frontrunner in 6G technology. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also expressed pride in the fact that mobile phones “made in India” were now being used globally. Furthermore, India has made remarkable developments in mobile broadband speed, significantly advancing from its previous 118th ranking to the 43rd position. Additionally, within just one year of the 5G rollout, India has successfully deployed four lakh 5G base stations.

India has received global recognition for its efficient 5G rollout and telecom services. Telecommunication equipment that is designed and produced in India is today exported to 70+ countries, which is only the tip of the iceberg. India also has the cheapest data prices in comparison to world average rates. In the spirit of expansionary policy, the nation has designated 100 educational institutions as the settings for the establishment of 5G test beds, as conveyed by the Telecom Minister. These specialised laboratories plan on fostering the evolution of 5G technology through the involvement of a minimum of 10 esteemed professors, 10 MSME enterprises, and students who will actively engage in the ongoing evolution of 5G technology. These test laboratories are poised to evolve into the very foundations upon which innovative 5G use cases and solutions will be nurtured and developed.

Another eye-catching development India witnessed in the Mobile Congress was the introduction of “SpaceFibre”. The Jio SpaceFibre represents an inclusive gateway to the booming digital society, bestowing gigabit access to vital services, including government functions, education, healthcare, and entertainment, independent of geographical constraints. This pioneering endeavour has been unveiled as a satellite-based internet network with the principal objective of extending high-speed broadband services to hitherto underserved regions. It is being introduced in tandem with Jio’s existing offerings, namely JioFiber and Jio AirFiber. Currently, Jio SpaceFiber has been deployed in four of India’s most remote regions, including Gir (Gujarat), Korba (Chhattisgarh), Nabarangpur (Odisha), and ONGC-Jorhat (Assam). It is on the verge of nationwide expansion, marked by competitive pricing strategies to ensure widespread accessibility.

All of this inculcates a spirit of progress and opportunity in the IT sector, promoting students and companies to invest time and capital alike in the generation of ideas, in the consequent development of technology and to create a conducive environment for the flow of ideas. Such an environment has limitless positive spillover effects that will continue to spurt exponential growth. This will be seen directly through the IT sector’s expansion and indirectly through the positive externality it will create by making other sectors more efficient through the creation of tech-savvy youth. 

This is a transformative journey, from a time when 98% of Indian users were using imported phones to the same percentage of mobiles being now made in India. This is foundational to an “AtmaNirbhar Bharat”. Over $10 billion worth of mobile phones were exported in 2022. Also, since 2014, India has witnessed the reduction of barriers in the telecom industry to promote the ease of doing business today. From a 230-day average to set up a simple mobile tower 10 years ago, to a 7-day average wait period, where permissions are majorly approved online, India under the Prime Minister’s vision has improved its start-up ecosystem, especially in the tech sector. 

The startup landscape in India has risen to become the third-largest in the world, boasting a remarkable count of 112,718 startups acknowledged by the DPIIT, as of October 3, 2023. PM Narendra Modi acknowledged India’s remarkable progress in this arena, stating, “India has struck a ‘century’ in terms of the rise of startup Unicorns in a short time.”  In the present year, the prestigious IMC event has introduced a pioneering program named ‘Aspire,’ strategically designed to forge meaningful connections among startups, investors, and well-established enterprises. This strategic initiative seeks to catalyze the inception of fresh entrepreneurial endeavours and collaborative efforts. The Aspire showcase at IMC 2023 boasted the active participation of nearly 1,000 startups, offering distinct zones meticulously crafted for investors, exhibitions, pitch presentations, and networking opportunities. The mobile congress was not just a congregation of influential speech and aspirational fleets but of real, hard, effort-oriented technology growth.

All of these developments were stressed in the Mobile Congress’ 7th remix, but there’s more to it. Alongside this was Nokia’s 6G network, capable of functioning as a radar system to detect objects, individuals, and motion while safeguarding privacy. Ericsson’s Reduced Capability (RedCap) solution was introduced which simplifies device complexity, extends battery life, and boosts 5G data speeds. It facilitates new 5G use cases for smartwatches, wearables, sensors, and AR/VR devices. Ericsson, Airtel, and Qualcomm demonstrated RedCap capabilities at IMC 2023, with successful tests conducted on the Airtel 5G network. All of this presents a positive outlook for where technology will take the nation in the coming years.

India stands as a burgeoning force in the tech sector, capturing the world’s hopeful and appreciative attention, leaving even Elon Musk saying “impressive”. India under the right leadership can exhibit revolutionary strides in continuing down the same path of innovation and perseverance. India’s journey since 2014 under leadership of PM Modi has indeed put India on a different pedestal of growth where accomplishments in various new frontiers of technology led developmental schemes have become more of a norm than exception for India now. We must never forget that the success of India’s JAM trinity and the successful Covid Vaccination drive pivoted on the Covin App would not have been possible without the massive efforts made by Modi Government in making digitization both affordable and accessible for the mass.  

(Ananya Agarwal is a student of Economics and Finance of Ashoka University interning at Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation. Views expressed are personal.)