The time is ripe for entrepreneurship, and Bangalore today provides the “right ecosystem” for start-ups, says S. Gopalakrishnan, executive co-chairman of Infosys Ltd.
In an exclusive interview to The Hindu on the sidelines of the announcement of the fourth Infosys Prize, given out by the Infosys Science Foundation promoted by the IT major, Mr. Gopalakrishnan spoke about computer science, research and entrepreneurship.
Pointing to a recent study by Startup Genome, which ranked Bangalore among 20 start-up ecosystems around the world, he said that the IT industry is seeing a “lot of change, and significant transition”. “We are seeing in the IT industry, a clear transition that is happening now — a transition towards innovation and ownership of IP. That means more research. And Bangalore, has been recognised globally as a good ecosystem,” he emphasised.
When asked if more scientific research can help solve problems in the software industry, he said computer today is a “tool” that is being used across sectors. “In life sciences, in social sciences, you need advanced computing tools for everything,” he says, adding that computers can by no means be limited to one sector or one industry alone.
Nature of start-ups
While there’s an increase in the number of start-ups in Bangalore, and elsewhere in India, he concedes that most of them are focussed on building new ways to apply existing technologies for business benefits. “The other kinds of start-up, which use computer science and work to create a new version of an operating system and all that, are quite few and far between. But that’s the way it is across the world.”
Most of the start-ups, he says, are involved with apps, and an increasing number of them are getting into the exciting gaming space. “And then there are related fields actually, for example, in the use of technology for animation. There’s a lot of science behind it. It’s amazing how now you can’t even make out what’s real and what’s animated.”
Research, IP creation
In our own sector, clearly, the investment into research and into IP creation is increasing, he says. “In the last five years, according to data I have seen, the number of patents filed out of India in computer science has increased 30 times. Of course, it’s a low base, so we can’t entirely be satisfied, but it’s actually pretty good. It’s mostly coming from industry, as industry has taken the lead in filing for patents today.”
It’s all a mix, Mr. Gopalakrishnan insists.
The way he sees it, he explains, the “flow” involves research, innovation, entrepreneurship, start-up activity and large companies, in that order.
The use of computing, he says, has to increase in every field. For instance, he says there is a significant increase in the use of computing and technologies in the field of agriculture, “all the way from looking at census on the ground, to figuring out when to fertilise and so on”.
The use of technology is increasing for outreach, for instance, farmers using mobiles to reach out to experts, or to understand how the market is working. What we need to do next, Mr. Gopalakrishnan says, is to scale it up. With mobile penetration at around 80 per cent, he adds, “I see no reason why we cannot do this, and do this fast”.
The other part is to look at newer applications and newer technologies. “That’s where I feel that collaboration with research institutions and academic institutions must happen to leverage research and science more... how do you create higher efficiency solar cell, how do you create energy-efficient building or materials that are energy-efficient. Look at Bangalore, we’re plagued by the garbage problem, we need to see how solutions can come from technology and science,” he says.