Episode 17 | Avi Patchava on India’s Future with Artificial Intelligence

I stumbled upon Avi Patchava because of his recent post, “The 5 unexpected reasons why Indians make it as CEOs of global companies,” and I was surprised that it was so sincerely reasoned. Avi graciously agreed to jam with me  and we talked about his journey from London/McKinsey to InMobi, the tech scene in India (the last podcast I’ve had on that topic was with Azeem here), as well as tech-talent and the failure of Indian pedagogy as practiced in India today.

He is bullish on India as thriving as an AI-exporter:

A big backbone is people that can build these systems… India has an excess supply of people who are trained in those fields – engineering, mathematics, analytics, and increasingly in data science, but the applications in India are limited… so India is become an export market in this field.

The export market notwithstanding, Indian companies are preparing to move from low-skilled to high-skilled technology work:

India is trying to find a pivot in how it engages with the technology world. And I see that on two fronts – India itself is going through a digital revolution – partly from a push from the government to digitize government services… but also more naturally in the consumer tech revolution… Wipro and Infosys have explicit strategies to move into [AI].

But it’s hard to imagine that this is scalable, given India’s education system.

The education system is moving incredibly slowly – much slower than technology and needs of industry demands… and it’s a common frustration across the board in India. You get a workforce in engineering in the millions that’s being produced, and as a whole, cohorts that are coming through have not had a good setup that engenders creative thinking, how to pose inquisitive questions that push of their science and discipline. But… it’s still a numbers game so you still do produce, by sheer luck or the genetic lottery, innovators.

We didn’t get to spend much time on this but we touched on Avi’s writing on the reasons he is bullish on Indian society being able to cope with AI much better than most Western democracies (it’s worth a read: here).

If we are going to see this mass description in jobs and on the economies, how will societies will put up with it? Because… that wave has political ramifications.