Although global technology spending declined 3.2% in 2020, the Indian IT sector grew through the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by industry’s digital transformation and technology adoption, according to NASSCOM’s annual strategic report.
The National Association of Software and Services Companies estimates that the Indian IT sector will grow 2.3% in the year to March 31, 2021, to around $194 billion, $150 billion of it from exports. Within that, it expects hardware sales will grow fastest, rising 4.1% to $16 billion, with IT services growing at 2.7%, to $99 billion. It forecasts revenue from engineering and R&D services will shrink 0.2%, to $31 billion.
In the broader economy, India fared less well. Global gross domestic product (GDP), the market value of all final goods and services produced, declined 3.5% in 2020 as a result of the pandemic’s perturbations, but India’s GDP fell even faster, down 8% year on year, according to International Monetary Fund figures from January 2021.
Despite this, 2020 spending on digital adoption in India rose 3.4 percent, according to NASSCOM.
Indian CEOs are optimistic about the outlook for IT, according to a survey conducted by the association: 71% of them expect global technology spend to rise significantly in 2021, and 67% expect India’s technology industry to grow significantly faster than in 2020. (Already, according to NASSCOM’s analysis, revenue per employee at Indian IT companies rose 5.5% between the first and second halves of 2020.)
Around 60% of CEOs also expect larger digitization deals in 2021, with investments forecast to recover in core sectors including BFSI, retail, and manufacturing. Their focus of spending is shifting from legacy systems to front-end customer experience, with a 20 percent increase in tech spending on digitizing the core, enhancing CX, and redesigning product portfolios, NASSCOM reports.
Digital transformation will be the topmost priority for global corporations, according to NASSCOM, which expects almost 30 percent of industry revenue to be related to such transformations.
Businesses are re-evaluating risks: their perception of the cybersecurity threat has grown 4x, with vaccine delivery seen as the second-biggest risk.
Employees were reluctant to change jobs during this challenging time: Attrition rates dropped by 50% in the second half of 2020 compared to the first half. However, the association is optimistic about job prospects for the future: It expects that by the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year, India’s IT industry will have recorded a net gain of 138,000 jobs, to 4.47 million. That hiring trend will accelerate according to CEOs surveyed for the report, 95% of whom expect to hire more staff in 2021 than in 2020.
NASSCOM conducted a census of the industry’s talent. It estimates there are 350,000 to 380,000 people with cloud computing skills in India; 240,000-270,000 skilled in AI and data analytics; around 140,000 in IoT and under 100,000 in cybersecurity.
To meet the expectations set out in the report, NASSCOM set out its priorities: building a narrative around trust, talent, agility and resilience to promote India’s IT industry; using innovation to make an impact; promoting best practices for the future of work, post-COVID; working with government to grow new markets, particularly in health care and manufacturing; and developing India’s IT skills.
IDC India’s research director for enterprise solutions and ICT practices, Sharath Srinivasamurthy, welcomed the direction NASSCOM is taking.
“NASSCOM’s 2021 priorities rightly capture the pulse of Indian IT industry. The industry has shown great resilience during the crisis. Investments in building digital capabilities turned out to be timely and positioned Indian IT as trusted partner with the right talent and agility among their clients,” he said. “These factors coupled with industry-relevant tech innovation will clearly act as differentiators for the industry in coming years.”
With governments in India and elsewhere preparing to spend their way out of the pandemic-induced recession, “Strong partnerships with governments and industry bodies like NASSCOM become critical to chart out the role of digital technologies to propel industry growth,” Srinivasamurthy said.
Although the NASSCOM report is optimistic about the prospects for India’s IT industry and its workers, it remains to be seen whether 2021 can undo the damage caused in the past year.