'We Have Started Investing In 6G’: Tech Mahindra CSO On AI, Layoffs, CP Gurnani’s Exit And More

In an exclusive interaction with Outlook Business, Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy officer (CSO) and head of growth, Tech Mahindra, elaborates on the company’s walk towards 6G and metaverse, the FY24 outlook, CP Gurnani’s exit and more
Jagdish Mitra, CSO & Head of Growth, Tech Mahindra
Jagdish Mitra, CSO & Head of Growth, Tech Mahindra

The omni-discussions around technology like 5G, metaverse and artificial intelligence (AI) have made one thing clear that it is almost impossible to imagine a future without them. With Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi unveiling the Bharat 6G Vision Document, the need to embrace technology and the work of tech companies, has only grown. 

Tech Mahindra, part of the Mahindra Group, is one such company that has established itself at the pinnacle of information technology services and consulting in India. Known as the torch-bearers of the IT revolution in India, Tech Mahindra lately, has also been going through a leadership transformation with veteran CP Gurnani’s retirement and former Infosys President Mohit Joshi’s joining as the MD and CEO. In an exclusive interaction with Outlook Business, Jagdish Mitra, chief strategy officer (CSO) and head of growth, Tech Mahindra, elaborates on the company’s walk towards 6G and metaverse, the FY24 outlook, CP Gurnani’s exit and more. Edited Excerpts:

A lot has been happening in the tech sector but the mass layoffs and grim scenario have been big newsmakers. What is the outlook on that now?

We must understand that during and post the pandemic, the tech industry got a significant flip as everyone started leveraging tech in order to thrive. The idea was that the more tech-dependent you make your business, the more resilient it becomes. Hence, you saw a huge demand in the tech sector and everyone in this industry thrived in it – product and software services companies alike. 

Now, with the slowdown in the economy, we must also understand that every industry will go through a tough time at some point. The good thing is that this is not the first time that we are seeing a slowdown; it has happened during the 2007-08 global financial crisis and even before COVID. But in 2023, while there is a slowdown in the overall market, the drop in tech sector may not be as bad as it was during the global financial crisis. All this basically means that now, technology is integral to every business and there is no discretion there because it is about surviving and thriving. 

Another thing, in the tech sector, a sustained talent shortage remains a key issue. So, even though the attrition in some companies is coming down, there is still a demand of quality tech talent. To your question about the layoffs – we need to remember, and a lot of people forget this that data shows there were more jobs added than they were lost. The growth of cloud-based skills is a good example here. So, companies may be rationalising with these layoffs but overall, the industry continues to add jobs because the demand for skills is also changing. The core is going to be all about skilling, re-skilling and re-training.

Tech Mahindra was on track to achieve about $1 billion in revenue by the end of FY23 from 5G projects alone. What is the status on that and what is the outlook for FY24? 

We have invested strongly in 5G and we did that through our software, assets and skills that we created in Tech Mahindra. We continue to be bullish about the opportunity that 5G offers – the first part of it was to ensure that we get our story right with the communication services and telecom companies, and we have done it. The second part is about the enterprises adopting 5G and this will depend on a lot of things like how fast the bandwidth is. There is opportunity for us here and we feel extremely gung-ho about the next phase of growth in 5G. 

From our perspective, this opportunity is broken into three blocks – communication providers, devices and strategy. We have also started investing in 6G, in terms of building skills and capability but it will take its own time.

OpenAI's ChatGPT has shaken the AI space. How is this advancement expected to impact the job market? Can we predict a narrow outlook for India at this point?

I have said this repeatedly that the future is going to be about getting yourself deeply immersed in tech and many specialisations will also get created. So, every company and individual will have multiple choices to make in order to understand where they see their future. For example in the cloud space, business industry solutions will become more relevant because we have invested a lot in it. So, the future is going to be about a huge amount of monetisation of investment that people have made in cloud. And this monetisation of investment will be dependent on cloud native applications, industry solutions etc.

What I mean by the next generation of cloud solutions is that people's questions will be centred around how much monetisation they can get from their investment in cloud. However, due to cloud, cyber security will become a more prominent hotspot that will keep getting more and more traction in terms of investment.

Another thing would be the ‘enterprise apps’ as they are all about software as service. Underlying all this will be deep tech like generative AI, metaverse, 5G and so on. All this will have greater implications on our business as they will drive automation and efficiency. So, all this will definitely have an impact on jobs – the mundane jobs will go away. The opportunity at efficiency and monetisation of data will define the job creation and several roles will go away as new ones will come.

How is Tech Mahindra's leadership and growth going to be impacted with Mohit Joshi's appointment as the next MD and CEO?

I believe that we have a strategy in place and have been doing pretty well on our growth strategy. In every business, changes happen but in a large organisation like Tech Mahindra, the team and the leadership are very well aligned with the strategy. As Mohit joins, I think there will be a great opportunity for us to take a view of his learnings and also share with him whatever we’ve been able to do. But overall, I don’t think there is anything major to worry about! Moreover, I think we are focused on the right things, including technology. 

Mr. CP Gurnani had the idea of deepening TechM's presence in Japan and Europe. Are we expecting this to change with his exit, perhaps any new markets?

It is difficult to say; personally, I don’t think so because we do a lot more business in America. When it comes to that market, we have a lot of opportunity to grow. We are probably among the most well-spread in terms of revenue share across the world but we have also been very aggressively focusing on driving our growth in North America, Western Europe and Japan. So, I don’t see any change there but it is also something that has to do more with what the new leader has to say. So, if he has any thoughts or views, we will follow that direction.

You have also spoken a lot about Tech Mahindra seeing growth opportunities in ‘metaverse.’ The company also has some 70-80 active deals. Can you shed some light on this?

Yes! In fact, now, there are more than 100 active deals. For us, metaverse is not just a ‘cool thing’ and we are engaging with it not just in India but also in other parts of the world. Pragatti, it is important for us to realise that the applications for all these technologies will change and the integration will be very different in different areas. 

My larger point is that as far as metaverse is concerned, I still feel that it has not even touched the tip of the iceberg. In the metaverse world, what you can do is not limited by anything. According to me, it’s the absolute transformation of imagining a world which is way bigger and where everyone gets a bigger opportunity to participate. So, I think the industry continues to be extremely gung-ho about what we can continue to do with 5G, metaverse, deep usage of AI and even sustainability tech. 

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