Understanding Digital Age with Mr Nitin Seth; Author of Winning in The Digital Age

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Understanding Digital Age with Mr Nitin Seith; Author of Winning in The Digital Age
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Until 2016, India was lacking far behind in digital implementation. Yes, India was progressing towards the digital, but not fast enough as compared to other countries. Most experts believed that India would take another decade before we move away from traditional mediums of information such as Print and TV. In September 2016, Jio launched its 4G services for free(first year). Jio perhaps only meant to disrupt the telecom market in India. But unknowingly they accelerated the Digital Age making India one of the highest consumers of data Globally. Then the unexpected pandemic took the world by surprise, and whoever had chosen not to switch to digital perished or struggled to keep up with the Digital Age. Nitin Seth's best selling book on digital transformation, "Winning in the Digital Age" talks about how to emerge successful in the current digital world.

 

Nitin Seth is the Chief Executive Officer of Incedo Inc, headquartered in Iselin, Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, United States. Before Incedo, Nitin was Managing Director and Country Head for Fidelity International in India, where he also led Global Offshore Operations and Business Strategy for Fidelity’s International business; and Director of McKinsey’s Global Knowledge Centre in India. He holds an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow, where he was awarded the Chairman’s Gold Medal for standing first in the MBA program, and a degree in engineering (B.Tech) from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.

 

I was able to get Nitin to correspond over email and answer a few questions about his book and understand his views on India's digital transformation. 

 

 

 

Interviewer Congratulations on your book, Winning in the Digital Age – What inspired you to write the book?

 

Nitin - Thank you. Digital has become an all-pervasive mega-trend, dramatically changing everything- what we consume, how we live our lives, every business, and the entire economy of India. It is also an incredible and exciting age of opportunity. With these ideas as my guiding stars, I felt there was a need in the market for a book that was more than theories, or projections about the future as others have done, but rather a new, hands-on, field-tested, practitioners’ perspective to bring clarity to the complex topic of Digital Transformation and Winning in the Digital Age. I distilled the experiences from my career-long digital journey into a framework of seven building blocks that I believe are necessary for successful Digital Transformation and a 21st-century career. 

 

Interviewer - Can you talk about India’s transformation journey in the last 10 years?

 

Nitin - The last 10 years have been phenomenal and incredibly transformative for India. The fact that India was underdeveloped in some areas, and technology was changing so rapidly, actually played to India’s advantage, as it was able to dramatically leapfrog other countries. We don’t realize it but because of the last decade of transformation, India is currently a global digital powerhouse and is incredibly well-positioned to participate in and potentially lead the Digital Age. 

 

First, looking at digital consumption, India is the world’s largest market for YouTube and WhatsApp. These global giants are already deeply dependent on India as a critical market. Second, UID/JAM is enabling world-leading public services- India has one of the most advanced digital commerce systems in operation. India has leapfrogged other more developed countries such as the US. Third, since India was underdeveloped in certain technology areas, and technology is changing so rapidly, it has proven to be an advantage. In more traditionally developed markets such as the US or Europe, there is an existing entrenched infrastructure built on old technology with huge capital investments. For example, India, and many other countries, moved to mobile much faster than the US and Europe, leapfrogging to faster, more advanced bandwidth and capabilities such as dramatically higher mobile commerce transactions. 

 

Finally, in the last 10 years, India has also had an explosion in its entrepreneurial ecosystem. A lot of the activity in India’s transformation has been fueled by the explosion in this entrepreneurial ecosystem. It’s not just the mega-start-ups like Flipkart, Ola, and Oyo, which are major competitors to Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb, but the hundreds of thousands of start-ups below them that were supported by this system. The explosion in the availability of capital, venture capitalists, private equity, mentors, incubators, and all the components of the system has dramatically increased in the last decade fueling dramatic growth. 

 

All of these unique factors – digital consumption, UID/JAM, technological leapfrogging, and the entrepreneurial ecosystem- grew dramatically in the last decade and will continue to fuel even more incredible transformative growth for India.

 

 

 

Interviewer - Where does India stand in Digitization as compare to other countries?

 

Nitin - India is very well positioned versus other countries in the Digital Age. I feel there are 5 leading factors for this advantage:

 

Smart Phone penetration – India has over 1.17B wireless subscribers, and among the largest base of population with internet access at +750M people due to low cost and wide mobile network availability

Lowest cost data – India has the lowest cost data access in the world, ~$3 ARPU in India vs ~$20+ ARPU in developed markets- a dramatic advantage for unlocking innovation at every level of the socio-economic spectrum

UID JAM – With over 1.2B citizens enrolled in its digital identification program, India is ahead of everyone, investing in the creation of a universal technology stack that allows every Indian citizen access to secure and safe online transactions and services, allows unprecedented cohesion in the public/private sector if unleashed

Global IT – India is the IT engine of the world by supplying over 50% of global IT services headcount, India fuels the innovation and is at the cutting edge of data technology for the globe

Demographic profile – Over 50% of India’s population is under the age of 25, 65% under the age of 35- with over 850 million people in this bracket it is the world’s largest cohort of digital natives

 

These factors are unique to India and tremendous keys to realizing the benefit of the democratization brought about by the Digital Age. India, with over 750 million internet users ranks second among the largest global online markets. Internet users are expected to reach 1 Billion by 2025. The number of smartphone users in India is estimated to reach over 760 million in 2021, soon nearly every family, even in the remotest of areas, can have access to a smartphone with an active internet connection. Widespread mobile devices, low-cost data, a standardized infrastructure, leading IT knowledge, and a young, digital native population is a formula for explosive growth and dramatic innovation in the Digital Age. 

 

 

Interviewer -Which are the most digitally mature sectors in India? Which is lagging? State reasons and solutions.

 

Nitin - One critical sector that is leading is e-commerce, which is not just about Flipkart and Amazon but the thousands of specialized players like Myntra or Swiggy. Ecommerce is a very sophisticated and complex sector, however, there is a disproportionate level of entrepreneurial activity and investment in e-commerce. In some ways, it has sucked out the oxygen from other sectors due to the tremendous focus on the area which drove a lot of the hype around digital. Another digital sector that is doing very well in India is online education. It’s very important for India given it’s such a large market, the quality of education has historically varied, and there is so much to do. What is exciting is the market growth, education improvement, and that there are a lot of Indian start-ups, like Byju’s, that could emerge as global leaders.   

Unfortunately, a lot of the traditional business sectors are lagging behind in India. Specifically, India missed the manufacturing wave and lost to China. China was able to take a dramatic lead in manufacturing over India and the rest of the world. India was left behind but I believe it is an opportunity- rapid technological advancement means India can leapfrog if technologies such as workflow automation, robotics, AI, and other advances can be effectively implemented and supported in the factories of the future. 

The other sector that is lagging behind but has a tremendous opportunity to leapfrog is healthcare. Covid-19 has revealed very vividly the challenges of a country of 1.5B people and low healthcare spend as a percentage of GDP - so how do you improve quickly? There is no other way to leapfrog ahead except via digital transformation.

 

Interviewer - According to a survey, more than 70% of digital transformation fail. What are the reasons behind it? And How can we prevent that?

 

Nitin - While digital is such a pervasive trend impacting every industry, and while most enterprises are committing significant investments to digital transformation, the impact of these investments has fallen short of expectations in many cases. 

Why is that? The failures I see are both those of strategy and execution. However, there is something more fundamental at work here. In my assessment, most traditional companies underachieve at digital because they fail to recognize that many of the fundamentals of the business have changed in this VUCA world. Customers are very demanding, data is exploding in volume, variety and velocity, technology is becoming mission-critical, the pace of change is very high and business/product cycles are getting crunched, to name just a few of the fundamental shifts. 

Despite these changes, many enterprises’ approach to digital lies in extending what has worked in their traditional business to digital. Such an approach is doomed to fail. Every enterprise needs to understand how the fundamentals of their business are changing and based on that define their ‘new rules of business’ for application to both strategy and execution to drive a successful digital transformation. In my book Winning in the Digital Age, I propose 8 New Rule of Business:

 

 

While the rules are straightforward, I spend a lot of time in the book sharing what they mean and their impact.

 

Interviewer - How important is accelerate the adoption of emerging technologies for the youth? How can it benefit them? What is your advice to them?

 

Nitin - There is an incredible opportunity for India’s youth growing up in this digital-first world. I will put it simply, the entire world needs more AI engineers, cloud engineers, blockchain engineers, and data experts and the demand is increasing. Where are they? Who can meet this need? India. Pursuing expertise in these areas as a digital native is important to a successful global career. 

 

At the same time, you have to recognize that we are in an age where technology is continuously changing very rapidly. Realize that due to the speed and rapid innovation of the Digital Age, the specific knowledge that you have captured, that knowledge half-life is quickly declining. Traditionally what you learned while attending a university held value for 5-10 years, today it may be valuable for only a few years due to rapid technological change. 

 

So, the question is – beyond specific technology expertise, what skills and competencies should a young professional focus on? In a world that is rapidly changing, that is constantly in flux, a VUCA world, it is critical to focus on those skills that are enduring and do NOT change. Skills that are not replaced with changes in technology, that can apply across industries and roles, and in life.

 

Six Key Skills for Future-Proofing Your Career

 

There are 6 key skills that are the most important for young professionals to focus on that will help to future-proof themselves and give them innate advantages:

 

  1. Problem Solving – The ability to look at any situation and be able to distil it down to the real issues so that they can be comprehended and solved
  2. Learnability – Deliberate learning, not just learning the basics but how do you master a topic and know it in-depth to be able to understand and build on that knowledge
  3. Leadership – Your ability to connect and inspire others in a complex and ambiguous world and to provide direction and clarity to shape the future- much like shining a light in a dark room and leading the way
  4. Communication – The ability to truly connect with others in an empathic way, putting yourself in other's shoes, and conveying your ideas in impactful, meaningful ways
  5. Creativity – Out of the box thinking and the ability to go beyond what is put before you, this is a close relative of Learnability, and often you must learn or know something so well that you can expand beyond it
  6. Mindfulness – Connecting to our spiritual nature- since the Digital Age is so complex it’s critical to have this anchor (especially since India is the home of mindfulness with meditation and yoga, and the West is rapidly adapting it, while we are at risk of losing our own heritage)

 

Most see these 6 skills as “soft skills” as opposed to “hard skills”. There is a need to shift from a pure focus on “hard skills,” the technical skills, to bolstering these critical 6 “soft skills.” However, none of these 6 soft skills is a quick fix- these are not skills you develop or acquire in a 3-month class. These are fundamental skills that take time and long-term foundational effort to build and refine. If a young professional invests in them early, I believe they will derive a lifetime of value. 

 

 

Nitin currently lives in New Jersey, USA, with his wife and three children.

 

Who is Nitin Seith?
Nitin Seith is the Chief Executive Officer of Incedo Inc, headquartered in Iselin, Woodbridge Township, New Jersey, United States. Before Incedo, Nitin was Managing Director and Country Head for Fidelity International in India.

What inspired Nitin to write the book?
Digital has become an all-pervasive mega-trend, dramatically changing everything- what we consume, how we live our lives, every business, and the entire economy of India. It is also an incredible and exciting age of opportunity.

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