Lanka to go for tech-gold - Opportunity Sri Lanka
Lanka to go for tech-gold

Lanka to go for tech-gold

• Lankan-born Google India Chief tells SL to go for tech gold.
• Sri Lanka’s IT talent pool can help traditional businesses to adopt and grow from these technological advancements,” Google India’s Chief said.
• Why should Moratuwa University, which is world-famous, restrict itself to an intake of around 100 students? Sri Lanka needs to invest further in capacity building.
• I understand not a single university focuses on data science or maybe Moratuwa has just started,” he opined.
• Sri Lanka needs to expand the computer science programs in universities.
• In next generation technology if there is no “data science” then there is no future.
• Financial technology was another new industry he identified as a high growth sector.
• By 2020 the number of internet users will rise to 5 billion and mostly via mobile and remain always connected.
• This phenomenon has changed the way businesses are built in comparison to the heavy capital required a few decades ago.

Google India Managing Director, Lankan-born Rajan Anandan, yesterday urged Sri Lanka to harness both local and international talent to successfully tap the boom in the global technology business.

“The next generation of technology and computing will open up unprecedented business opportunities.

Sri Lanka has talent but the issue is where do you focus? Sri Lanka must also look at attracting global talent, top companies and a favourable regulatory environment to benefit from this opportunity,” Anandan told the 2nd day of the Sri Lanka Economic Summit organised by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking at the session titled ‘Growing Sri Lanka’s Talent Pool – Reality Check & Pragmatic Options’, Anandan, who left Sri Lanka at the age of 17, noted that Sri Lanka’s software engineers were among the best in the world but the country needed to nurture more of them while focusing on quality and not necessarily quantity alone.

Noting that Sri Lanka only produced around 8,000 IT graduates annually, the Google India Chief said the country needed to seriously consider attracting regional and global talent.

“For example Sri Lanka will not be able to match India’s scale but drawing a small percentage and incentivising them and global firms will help build a robust ecosystem,” he emphasised.

Putting into context the neighbouring giant’s prowess, Anandan said India’s IT industry employs 3 million and IT services industry exports amount to $ 100 billion and by 2025 it is forecast to grow to $ 300 billion, nearly 4 times Sri Lanka’s entire GDP.

One of the major firms, TCS, employs over 300,000 while Sri Lanka’s entire IT industry workforce is around 80,000.

Whilst India has been riding on cost arbitrage and numbers, Sri Lanka cannot and need not necessarily focus on quantity but address quality as well.

Just basic programming alone will not help in the future because even that too will get automated,” he said adding new and growing technologies include Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Realty, Augmented Reality, Internet of Things, 3D printing, driver-less cars, etc.

“These will bring about massive opportunities and challenges.

The nature of work and doing business will change.

The future includes building application on these technologies and platforms.

In that context he emphasised that Sri Lanka needed to do whatever it took to attract talent and world-class companies with an innovative and forward-looking regulatory framework to differentiate from other destinations.

An example he highlighted on the regulatory aspect was Sri Lanka establishing a zone dedicated for testing and flying drones.

He said that although hundreds of drones were being developed it was illegal to fly a drone in India and perhaps Sri Lanka could seize that opportunity.

Anandan also recapped the extraordinary advancement in technology. Within two decades, there are 3.3 billion internet users out of a global population of 7.3 billion.

He cited the case of WhatsApp, which within 5 years built a business serving 400 million customers despite having a staff of only 55.

In 2014, Google bought WhatsApp for $ 19 billion. He also said China’s online behemoth Alibaba’s revenue was greater than the combined turnover of five of the giant offline retailers.

If the first generation of internet and computing has made a significant transformation “then what we have seen so far is just a trailer whereas the movie is about to begin. The next phase will be 100 times more interesting and exciting.”

He reiterated that traditional industries would be significantly impacted by the rapid advancement in technology and people and businesses and countries needed to be mindful of challenges as well as seize the resultant opportunities.

“I left Sri Lanka when I was 17 years. But the question Sri Lanka needs to ask is: what are the options available in Sri Lanka for the best talented 17-year-olds today and what decisions will he take.

What can the country do or need to do to retain such people?” queried Anandan.

OSL Take:

The vision of the Sri Lankan Government is for the ITO/BPO industry to become the top revenue earner for the country by 2016, with a target of US$1bn in export revenue.

Government’s employment targets are:
• To increase direct employment to 100,000.
• To increase indirect employment to 150,000.

Today, more than 300 IT and BPO companies have operations in Sri Lanka with more than 60,000 people earning more than US$400 million in exports.

However, judging by the figures given by Google India Managing Director, Lankan-born Rajan Anandan, Sri Lanka’s actual employment generation capacity is much greater and overseas investors could use this opening to come and set up IT Universities and also set up IT Parks in the “industrial cities” within the USD 44 billion Western Region Megapolis Masterplan (WRMM) with the support of the Sri Lankan government.

OSL as the leading business matchmaking entity in the island could help potential overseas investors to charter their way in the country’s development agenda with our local expertise and strong links.

Just feel free to talk to the biz-friendly OSL Team now to learn more on the scope available and the way forward.

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Article Code : VBS/AT/04082016/Z-4

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