Cathy Kay’s India Journey

Cathy Kay, Managing Partner of Russam shares her lasting impressions from the India Partnership Journey March 12 – March 16 2023.

"I was delighted to have the opportunity to join my WIL Group colleagues to visit Delhi and Bangalore. For first-time visitors, it is an exceptional awakening of the senses and an intriguing, confusing, and emotional place to visit. Within a few days, you feel the possibility of change because the people here are so special, and they are doing great things. When it is time to leave, it is a wrench, because it really gets to you.

Here is a summary of my short reports posted on LinkedIn throughout the trip.

Hello from India

It’s day 3 already and we’re flying to Bangalore. My first impressions are lasting ones; vibrant colours everywhere, chaos, traffic, passion, drive, opportunity, ambition, and a unified payment system for even the simplest transactions on the streets. There are 80 startups per day providing 11 new jobs daily and a large (maybe 183m) working-age population there seems to be opportunity everywhere. And it has been a privilege to walk the floors of JV businesses in the manufacturing sector. Details to follow.

The traffic is something else… and I have mainly travelled with my eyes shut. You certainly need attitude to drive here and to be fearless, I think.

Days 3 – 4

We heard from experts on ESG, AI, and where the topics connect to provide intelligence on the most important challenges in the world. Following our visits to JV manufacturing firms, we discussed the advantages of partnerships, but we were also encouraged to go solo if you are prepared to do the work. And only the most professional will survive. All this before our flight to Bangalore. This city has a dynamic energy. Not surprising when you hear during a breakfast meeting that the optimism they generate with ‘their anything is possible’ attitudes has great value for international firms seeking a bit of that. The Global Capability Centres (GCC) are impressive with revenues of $36b and a talent pool of 1.6m. If anyone can enable transformation… recognising that the demand will only grow, they work with the universities to steer students to focus on the skills and onboard them quickly.

Day 4

Bangalore. Morning came quickly after a long day 3 but there was no snoozing during the presentation from NASSCOM. NASSCOM is an NFP industry association and the contribution they are making to the tech industry was apparent. They kind of knit all the pieces together and ensure that the players are communicating and benefiting from shared experiences. And the representatives joining us supported them entirely.

By lunchtime, we were at the Indian Offices of Microsoft. They were slick and welcoming. Their presentation quickly moved into a discussion on AI – Arthur Samuel was mentioned for those of you that know the history of AI (checkers). We discussed GPT 4 and the possibilities. We were delighted to hear how MS is tackling the digital divide ‘Bhashini’ and ‘Karya’ a language project.

With Bangalore being the Silicon Valley of India we heard about the rise of the entrepreneur and the challenge this gives the major tech firms trying to recruit the brightest talent. And then we got to meet some of the talent and something of their pitch. They were good and so HAPPY!

A quick break and we’re off to MAP. The Museum of Art and Photography which is new and a must see if you are in Bangalore. I fell immediately in love with an artist called Jamini Roy. We were also joined here by the VC and other investment related pros. The predicted growth in the startup ecosystem currently at $40bn in revenue is expected to be $200bn in the next 5 years. Other predictions were equally optimistic.

If you don’t live here and think you know something about this scene, remember it changes so quickly that you have to be ready to move with it.

Last day tomorrow – when we get to see some of the Education Infrastructure.

Day 5

After 4 days of enthusiastic, passionate presentations I am missing a bit of negative talk. But we are on our way to the Institute of Management on the outskirts of Bangalore. This is an amazing building designed by renowned architect Pritzker laureate Balrishna Doshi set in tropical gardens with the sounds of exotic birds singing… yes, for real.

Education is so important here and they would like to keep the best talent at home. I have worked with postgraduate students to find placements and jobs but here the employers are queueing up to hire the graduates.

We also had the opportunity to hear from incubator NSRCEL and meet entrepreneurs in sustainability and other interesting propositions. One captured my interest, and I will tell you more later (it’s football related and working with Man United and Blackburn Rovers). Over a fantastic lunch by the way.

Driving through Bangalore back for our wrap-up session with enlightening sessions from Link France we had the opportunity to ask more questions from seasoned founders and consultants working in Bangalore.

Taking the metro to a bar called TOIT Brewpub we saw a little bit of real life had a real beer and started preparing for our flights home.

I will take some time to review the details of the week and will mention names and companies in a post next week. What a week this was.

Reflecting on everything that I saw, learned, and heard over the week I am sure about the power of mobile banking and how the country is empowered through education and information.  It is harder to know whether India has eliminated extreme poverty as you see so much on the streets but I leave believing that the intentions are good and technology is key to change.  Innovative technology solutions across mobile banking, healthcare, water, agriculture, and education.  You can see it happening here. "



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