Technology Industry in India & Abroad

Overview, market size, growth trends, news resources

In the movie “Her,” the melancholic protagonist, Theodore, falls in love with a computer operating system, “Samantha,” that has a female voice and personality. Their romance clicks, and she becomes his intuitive, intimate companion. In the end, she goes away, but not before helping Theodore return to a life worth living.

The plot may sound far-fetched, but only on paper. If you see the movie, you will likely be mesmerised by its “sweet, soulful, and smart” narrative. And, like many film critics, you will probably insist that the story is not out of the realm of possibility.

Prophets from the artificial intelligence industry, too, aver that this story could indeed play out in the real world. Technology is becoming cleverer, and we and our smart machines are becoming inseparable. Technology seduces us. We let it, happily.

Here are brief analyses of some billion-dollar technologies and technology industries that have impacted millions.


Information technology

Introduction: The information technology (IT) industry includes companies in the computer hardware and software, semiconductor, electronics, telecom equipment, Internet services, and e-commerce sectors. All these sectors have grown rapidly, and the global IT spending is estimated to be now worth over $3.5 trillion. The Internet of Things, Big Data, cloud, and cyber security are the industry’s buzzwords.

Today, the IT industry is like a desert landscape with its constantly shifting sand dunes. Ironically, it is the big players that are being rocked in this rough terrain. They face rough winds from two directions: the ever-demanding customers, on the one hand, and on the other, well-funded start-ups with innovation and push. But these are also the forces driving the industry to new, even more prosperous shores.

Quick facts about the IT industry

Wikipedia lists Samsung as the biggest company in the IT sector by revenue with an annual revenue of $189.5 billion in 2014. Apple, Foxconn (Taiwanese component manufacturer), HP, and IBM make up the top five. The big guns in India are TCS (revenue $10 billion), Infosys ($7 billion), Wipro ($6 billion), HCL ($3 billion), and Tech Mahindra ($2.5 billion). Global technology sector exports are worth $2 trillion annually: the top five positions are occupied by China ($350 billion), Germany ($140 billion), the US ($140 billion), South Korea ($103 billion), and Japan and India ($ 99 billion).

Information technology in India

Although India initially started winning IT project contracts from other countries mainly on the basis of cost advantage, now, gradually, it is also being considered as a centre of talent and skills. That global majors have faith in India’s 10-million-strong IT workforce is evident in that almost all of them have subsidiaries in the country. India has also become a promised land for entrepreneurs—it hosts over 3,000 start-ups.

The Internet economy is expected to grow to over $150 billion by 2018. Among Internet services, the demand for cloud services is increasing, and public cloud services revenue is expected to be near $800 million.

According to data from the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, India has received foreign direct investment worth $17.5 billion in five years up to May 2015. The country received ten times more venture capital funding in 2014 compared with 2013.

Jobs in IT

The IT sector is a major driver of recruitment in the country. Given the increasing job opportunities, pay hikes are expected to be more liberal. But the rosy job market will also trigger greater attrition.


Nanotechnology

Introduction: Touchscreens might make way for touchless screens soon. German scientists are devising screens that will sense the moisture in a user’s finger close by to respond to commands. Thanks, nanotechnology.

Nanotechnology manipulates particles that are a thousand times thinner than human hair to create usable objects and materials. It has applications in textiles, advanced materials, chemicals, IT, electronics, and medicine. Products such as foods, materials for household surfaces, home appliances, sports equipment, biological sensors for the military, and construction materials are already being commercially produced.

The nanotechnology market is divided into nanotools, nanodevices, and nanomaterials. Nanophase Tech, Nanosys, and Altair and among the top companies. The US has the largest number of nanotech majors.

Quick facts about Nanotechnology

Globally, countries spend a total of $10 billion yearly on nanotechnology research. The US, Japan, European countries, Australia, Israel, and Taiwan are the big funders. Large corporations like HP, IBM, and Intel have made substantial investments. By 2020, the global nanotechnology industry is expected to be worth $75 billion.

Nanotechnology in India

In India, the government is a key investor in nanotechnology research. The Department of Science and Technology has established the Nanoscience and Technology Mission and the Nanoscience and Technology Initiative. Centres of excellence have been set up as part of the initiative in reputed institutions such as IIT Bombay, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research.

Reliance, the Tatas, and Mahindra have made heavy investments in nanotechnology research. Cranes Software, Monad Nanotech, and Velbionanotech are among the other private players. Nongovernmental organisations such as the Nanotechnology Research and Innovation Foundation are working in the field. Experts say that in India, nanotechnology can address problems related to water, energy, agriculture, health, and environment. But, despite the benefits, health and environment safety is a major concern.

Jobs in Nanotechnology

Career prospects in the nanotechnology sector are growing rapidly. Most jobs require a PhD or MSc in nanotechnology. Positions in nanopower generation, nanotoxicology, pharmaceuticals, stem cell development, bioinformatics, and nanomedicine are often advertised.


Biotechnology

Introduction: Biotechnology is the use of living systems to make or modify products for specific purposes. It has industrial applications mainly in agriculture (crops), healthcare (drugs), and energy (biofuels). Red, green, white, and blue biotechnology are the branches for applications in medical, agricultural, industrial, and marine sectors, respectively. Bioinformatics is another branch of biotechnology that combines molecular information and computational techniques for use in fields such as genomics (pharmagenomics).

Biotech is considered a high-risk sector for investments. As an industry, its applications are mainly in drug development and clinical research. Although there is potential for large gains, the chances of a venture failing are equally real. If a product succeeds, the time lag between its development at the lab and its entry into drug stores is usually very long. However, if an idea succeeds, the profits for the investors can run into billions of dollars.

Quick facts about Biotechnology

The net income for the global biotech industry jumped 231 percent to $14.9 billion in 2014. Funding for research increased 20 percent in the US and Europe in the year. Turnover for the biotech industry has grown over the past years, and the growth is expected to continue till 2020, at least. The top global biotech companies are Johnson & Johnson (US, revenue $74.3 billion), Novartis (Switzerland, $49.6 billion), Pfizer (US, also $49.6 billion), Roche (Switzerland, $47.7 billion), and Merck (US, $42.2 billion).

Biotechnology in India

India is among the world’s top 12 biotech centres and among the top three in the Asia-Pacific region. Of the top 10 biotech companies in the country, seven are engaged in the drug industry and the rest in the agriculture sector. However, the $7 billion Indian biotech industry only has a small share in the global biotech industry.

The Department of Biotechnology and the National Biotechnology Board have taken steps to project India as a global destination for investments. These include tax rebates and exemptions. More than $1 billion has been allocated in the Union Budget for 2015-16 for biotechnology research. The Government is encouraging 100 percent foreign direct investment (FDI) in biotech-pharma ventures.

Jobs in Biotechnology

Degree courses in biotechnology are available to students to make themselves well-versed in the fields of vaccines, neurobiology, and biochemistry. Biocon, Strand Life Sciences, and Dr Reddy’s have large research divisions. There are opportunities for MSc Biotech and PhD holders in clinical research and pharmaceutical R&D units, and in sectors such as agriculture, medicine, and environment. Teaching, intellectual property research, and patents are also career avenues.


Aerospace

Introduction: The aerospace industry (often known as the “aerospace and defence industry”) is concerned with the development and manufacture of flight vehicles, including unpowered gliders, light-than-air craft (balloons, airships), heavier-than-air craft (air planes), missiles, and spacecraft, as per a definition from Encyclopaedia Britannica.

The industry also manufactures flight subsystems, such as avionics and propulsion, and is a leader in the manufacturing sector in terms of value of products and employment.
The United States is the leader in the industry (followed by Russia, France, UK, and Germany), but many countries are challenging its dominance through industry and international partnerships. More than 50 countries are now active players in the aerospace industry.

The industry is categorised into the passenger aircraft sector and the defence sector. The boom in global travel and airlines’ shortened aircraft-replacement cycle are driving the commercial sector to higher revenues. However, growth in the defence sector has been disappointing.

Quick facts about the Aerospace industry

The aerospace and defence industry revenues touched US$706 billion in 2013. Although the defence sector recorded negative growth globally, the commercial sector recorded a growth rate of 8 percent. Among the corporate giants in the industry are Boeing, Airbus, Lockheed Martin, Ilyushin, MiG, Sukhoy, Bombardier, and Dassault.

Aerospace in India

The Indian aerospace industry is one of the fastest growing markets in the field, with the civil, defence, and space segments showing significant potential. With the increase in the FDI limit from 26 percent to 49 percent, more foreign funders are expected to show interest. The aerospace sector accounts for 50 percent of the total value of production of the country’s military industrial complex, $8 billion.

The defence sector largely depends on licensed production and process transfer. For example, the public sector Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, still uses imported technology. Although Indian companies—the Tatas, L&T, and Mahindra— have helped meet the requirement of the military, India continues to import defence aircraft and aerospace equipment. Foreign manufacturers have been dictating terms, and aerospace experts have stressed the importance of indigenisation to change this situation.

Jobs in Aerospace

According to a central government spokesperson, the country’s aerospace industry will need at least one million skilled workers in the next decade (2015-25). A degree in mechanical, electrical, electronics engineering or mechatronics, along with system integration knowledge, can equip students for employment. However, students will need specialised training.


Robotics and artificial intelligence

Introduction: Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) have already made their way to technology-rich societies. The robotics and AI industry may be still in its infancy, but “smart machines” may take up routine tasks or significantly augment human physical and mental effort with high technology. For AI users, questions of ethics and acceptability remain.

Quick facts about the Robotics / AI industry

Google, Apple, Microsoft, and IBM have made large investments in AI development. Some reports predict a $1.5 billion market for robots for consumer and business uses globally by 2019. However, the high cost of the technologies behind robot mobility and manipulation may hamper the industry.

Robotics and artificial intelligence in India

Tata Consultancy Services has launched its AI platform called Ignio, and Wipro has launched a cognitive computing system called “Holmes.” Infosys has acquired the US automation specialist Panaya Inc for $200 million.

The government is also active. The Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, Bengaluru, and Research and Development Establishment (Engineers), Pune, are centres for robotics and AI under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Jobs in Robotics / Artificial Intelligence

Smart machines are widely feared to cause job loss. But AI is also expected to generate employment for skilled workers. Robotic technologies are increasingly being used in automotive, defence, healthcare, and space industries.

Many academic institutions offer courses in robotics, AI, mechatronics, and automation. They include the IITs in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Kanpur, and Kharagpur; the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore; the National Institutes of Technology; and various other engineering colleges all over the country.


Online resources on the Technology industry

1. Computer World
2. Wired.com
3. Aviation Week
4. Fierce Biotech
5. MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab
6. Nanowerk
7. Aerospace Industries Association
8. Download PDF: Nanotechnology Commercialization Prospects in India

Back to the list of industries.