Need to be ready for digital abundance: Mukesh Ambani

20 Dec,2018


Given the key influence Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director, Reliance Industries has on the Indian media, we publish here his speech at the Republic TV Summit on Wednesday, October 19.


Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am honoured and privileged to be addressing the First Republic Summit today.


Arnab, your Republic TV is less than two years old. Yours must be one of the most successful media startups in the world. It’s not easy to be so successful so quickly in the media business. You have proved that Arnab Goswami, a professional entrepreneur, with purpose, passion, sincerity and commitment backed by a talented team, can be successful in this new India. You are an inspiration to every young entrepreneur. My warm congratulations to you, Arnab and your team. And wish you even more successes in the future.


Dear Friends, The name ‘Republic’ has a profound meaning. It means that the Praja are the new Raja. Digital Technologies have empowered the Praja in ways that have no precedence in human history. Before the advent of Digital Technologies, the so-called mass media was essentially without the masses. The masses were passive consumers of media. Now the masses have become both producers and owners of media.


Look at Social Media. Its very name connotes that it belongs to Society as a whole. I believe that Digital is the greatest friend of Democracy. Let me explain why. The old media model was ‘From Few to the Many’. The new media model is ‘From Many to Many’ and ‘From Anywhere to Everywhere’. In other words, media in the digital age is “OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, AND FOR THE PEOPLE” in the true sense of the term. And this trend will continue and become more mature in the future. When Digital and Democracy work together, their combined power will produce a prosperous India – a Dhanwan Bharat.


Friends, I congratulate the inaugural Republic Summit for choosing ‘Surging India’ as its theme. This theme is as timely as it is appropriate.


Today’s India is surging ahead on the back of technology. I can say with confidence that if there is one place in the world where the transformative power of digitisation is breaking new ground every day, it is India. India’s digital transformation is unmatched and unprecedented. In less than 24 months, India has taken a leadership position from being 155th in the world in mobile data to number 1. And the impact of this unprecedented growth can be seen across all digital domains.


Over the next two decades, I can confidently say – that India shall be leading the world and shall contribute the next wave of global economic growth. Friends, Let me tell you why I am so optimistic about India’s potential… Not just optimistic, I am actually convinced. Earlier, the world had witnessed three industrial revolutions. The first was powered by coal and steam. The second was fuelled by electricity and oil. And the third used electronics and information technology.


During the first two revolutions, India languished on the fringes. It started playing catch-up in the computer-driven Third Industrial Revolution. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is now upon us. It is marked by a fusion of technologies straddling the physical, digital and biological worlds.


Data is the foundation of this revolution. This revolution will be driven by data and will be defined by humanism. India is already generating significant quantum of data. I can say with confidence that India has a chance of not just participating in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but also leading it.


And I say this because of three main reasons: First, The India of today is remarkably different from the India of yesterday The India of today is a very young nation – 63% of our 1.3 billion population are aged below 35. India’s vast tech-savvy young population is its key strength.


Just imagine the kind of connected intelligence India can create if the power of a billion-plus minds is combined! Our nation is more vibrant and ambitious than ever before on the back of its youthful energy and enterprise.


Second, India is a democracy and is run on the model of equitable and inclusive growth with a society-wide culture of empathy. And India is openly embracing the digital technologies of tomorrow. With a world-class digital infrastructure in place, each one of the 1.3 billion people of India can now productively participate in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. We can solve the biggest unsolved problems facing humanity right here in India.


Third, India is a rich and fertile ground for entrepreneurship. It has already succeeded in creating a healthy ecosystem to nurture entrepreneurs, especially young entrepreneurs. Most significantly, India has emerged as the fastest growing start-up base worldwide. Today, the nation is home to the third largest number of technology-driven start-ups in the world. Never before has India witnessed such an explosion of entrepreneurial spirit. Friends, How can India rise to its full potential, to its destined eminence?


There are five major areas, which India needs to focus on and embrace: First, we need to prepare ourselves for a period of information and digital abundance. All Indians will have access to massive computing on the cloud, and access to all information on the planet. Jio is determined to connect everyone and everything, everywhere – always at the highest quality and the most affordable price. I am proud to say that, instead of a digital divide, India today is digitally united. All 1.3 billion connected minds are going to accelerate the future. Digital platforms make it possible for many consumers to be entrepreneurs at the same time. Imagine a force of 1.3 billion networked consumers and entrepreneurs having access to all knowledge and all computational power they want at an extremely affordable price. Every single aspect of our lives – the way we earn our living, we entertain or conduct our businesses – will undergo a massive transformation… not in 100 years…. not in 50 years… but within the next few decades. Early adopters will have the opportunity to leapfrog competition, and create unprecedented societal value.


Second, we need to adapt ourselves to the scorching pace of innovation and learn to collaborate on scale. All the new technologies are accelerating in speed, rate and power. You could be an expert in any one, but it’s the convergence of two, three or four of these that’s transforming existing ways of working. Which means, collaborations will become both a necessity and a requirement for success. You may have a brilliant idea that has the potential to disrupt an industry.


We need to quickly transform the idea into a breakthrough innovation. And in order to do that, you have to master the art of collaborating with your peers anywhere in the world. In the digital world, none of us is as smart as all of us put together. Third, we have to shift from a system of time-bound education to a mode of continuous learning.


Now, it is both possible and necessary to reorient education for the new kinds of productive and creative opportunities. We have to groom our children to be digitally-savvy right from school. Schools should train students in ‘the four C-s’ – critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity. These are the skills required to build the foundation for a sustained leadership in the digital age for India. Within a single generation, we can empower and enrich our vast and young human resources to give India a competitive edge in the world.


The Fourth major task is closely linked to the third. It is to ensure that new and disruptive technologies create more employment opportunities than they take away. I have no doubt that they will. However, there is a lot of apprehension on this score. And these very apprehensions could resist or delay digital transformation of our societies. That would be a mistake. Therefore, governments, businesses and civil society organisations should put together an ecosystem for massive upskilling of our workforce.


Significantly, most of the upskilling can happen on digital platforms. And the fifth area of focus is in Data Ownership. . In this new world, data is the new oil. And data is the new wealth. India’s data must be controlled and owned by Indian people ─ and not by corporates, especially global corporations. The Supreme Court of India has mandated that data privacy is sacrosanct. Therefore, for India to succeed in this data-driven revolution, necessary steps will have to be taken to migrate the control and ownership of Indian data back to India ─ in other words, Indian wealth back to India. Data colonisation is as bad as the previous forms of colonisation. Similarly, data freedom is as precious as the freedom we won in 1947.


Friends, today, we have the opportunity to digitally reinvent all sectors of our economy – be it financial services, commerce, manufacturing, agriculture, arts and crafts, education and healthcare.


India can leapfrog competition and lead the world in each of these sectors. Let me focus on three important sectors ─ agriculture, education and healthcare. First, I have chosen agriculture because we cannot ignore the reality of underdevelopment in rural India.


Over 60% of Indians still live in villages. And by 2050, there will be 300 million more Indians to feed. Today, our average farm yields are only about 20-30 % of the best global yields. We can substantially increase the income of the farmers by encouraging adoption of technologies for water conservation, soil management, precision farming and waste reduction. There is both a pressing need, and a golden opportunity, to create a digital green revolution – an evergreen revolution.


I am sure that if we combine digital technology tools with the innate knowledge and wisdom of Indian farmers, we can usher in an evergreen revolution. The second big digital opportunity is in education. India’s youth is our biggest asset. But we need good quality education for all to make them a productive asset.


We need digital tools and innovations to break geographical, social, language and economic barriers. 58,000 colleges, over 700 universities and 19 lakh schools in India will be digitally connected, with Jio playing a leadership role. Any student, even in a remote village, can have access to the best teachers and the latest knowledge in the world. AI-based smart assistants can bring personalised learning adapted to the needs of each student. And this can overcome the gaps and constraints of classroom education —– like any age, any time and any subject learning in any language.


Thirdly, healthcare is a basic human right of every Indian. The purpose is to ensure affordable and quality healthcare to all, which is both a national necessity and a national responsibility. For the first time in history, this has become possible because of digital technologies – accessible even in remote locations.


Today, constraints of budget, physical infrastructure and trained personnel make it difficult to deliver quality healthcare to India’s large and growing population. India can overcome these constraints by adopting digital tools and innovations.


As in education, the best doctors and best diagnostic facilities can become accessible to all citizens anywhere in the country. India can design a path-breaking and affordable healthcare system that will be a model for the rest of the world. Similar disruptive and scale opportunities exist in India in virtually every domain.


Friends, Let me quote our Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi : “India’s contribution towards the Fourth Industrial Revolution would leave the world stunned.” These words will be prophetic. Across the world, the digital era is dispelling despair and bringing new hope. I can safely predict that, from now on, every new generation of Indians will live a better, longer and more-fulfilling life – than the previous generation. India must embrace this digital fourth industrial revolution with a new mind-set to create a bright and prosperous future for our nation.


As a nation we must rise to this occasion. The climb is difficult. The challenges are many. And the goal cannot be achieved by any one person, one enterprise or by any single government. All of us – 1.3 billion Indians will have to work together with a single purpose to realise this. We must have a partnership among all sections of society to realize this potential in the shortest possible time. Collectively, let us commit ourselves today to work together to make Surging India a reality. And make it Irreversible. And make it Unstoppable. And may God bless us as we embark on this most exciting new era in India’s history. Thank you.



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