Building India’s reboot together

By Gunjan Sharma

Economic resilience is going to lean heavily on a strong underlying digital footprint. Given the UK’s strengths, India’s COVID-19 system restart creates exciting opportunities to innovate and collaborate.

There are many sectors in India where the UK can and will make a meaningful contribution, aiding our own recovery in the process. As India emerges from this emergency, some sectors will be under scrutiny as essential to society. Here, we shine a light on three: healthcare, food security, and skills and education.

Re-imagining Healthcare: Right now, shortages of basic medical equipment are highly topical. PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) procurement has been challenging. Social distancing rules will likely create a surge in demand in robotics and telemedicine. These examples illustrate why Government and industry need to address the overall healthcare infrastructure. Great procurement, strong local manufacturing, and agile R&D collaborations on contagious diseases are essential.

This all points to increased interlinked academic and industry collaboration between the UK and India. There are significant opportunities for material research, technical textiles expertise and additive manufacturing. Alongside this, the need to increase knowledge sharing to handle contagious diseases is clear. There are significant avenues for collaboration between the UK and India in detection and testing of communicable diseases. Finally, joint drug discovery and vaccines are of course the need of the hour. More and more, artificial intelligence and use of data will be vital to harness findings and take solutions to market. The UK needs to consider now how to embed itself into an evolved supply chain.

Feeding India: At this stage in the middle of the crisis, one thing that is obvious is the need for food security. Countries with high net food imports will likely promote food production for security. India, in this regard, will look for ways and technologies that increase agricultural yield, and increase scientific farming models (be it data driven crop cycle, efficient irrigation, or AI predictive tools), which has been a longstanding pressing issue for India’s development.

This will be supplemented by the need for an efficient storage and distribution supply chain. Interestingly, the UK happens to have both the scientific know-how and the commercial solutions in place to aid India in achieving its food security aspirations.

Educating and Up-skilling: Schools and higher education institutions have already resorted to remote classrooms. The demand for real-time online classrooms, virtual content, and digital certificate courses may potentially be the new normal for education and training purposes where possible. Over the past years, we have worked with many UK-based higher educational institutions and education technology companies, who excel in and provide what the world is forced to adopt in these times. For these UK companies, this is the time to reach out to counterparts in India.

Inevitably, the future of work, and even basic goods, is pivoted on a strong digital infrastructure across these sectors. There are of course fundamental questions that will arise on personal data protocols to balance our individual rights to new collective needs. It is a regulatory matter that is likely to require debate, and once again the UK-India academia and industry nexus can influence policy solutions.

Tapping into new opportunities and thriving during and post-COVID 19 seems achievable, by identifying how and where you are most relevant in India today.

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