Last evening I was at a bar with a bunch of advertising people and as advertising conversations often go, we ended up in a debate.
One of advertising’s recent hits: is AI a boon or a bane? A copywriter had sparked this off by saying that he uses AI to write some of his copy, which to another was blasphemous. The art directors seemed to have no qualms about using Midjourney, going so far as to say that they’re better quality and we never need to buy rights or shoot again. A film director on the table quipped in with stories about how people in New York were protesting AI and even employees of an AI company joined them, fearing losses of their own jobs (sounded like a bit of an urban legend to me), while my client made a storyboard of this whole conversation using AI in the meantime.
We went all the way to data privacy, identity theft and the economic future of the country. Thank God the waiter chimed in with a crucial point - the bar was going to shut at midnight. I guess even AI couldn’t change that.
All that whiskey and exuberance got me thinking about AI and India. The Indian Government recently announced a partnership with Meta to accelerate the advancement of AI usage, training and development in the country, followed shortly by the US and India’s public commitment of openness and sharing of resources in key areas, which include AI. And I can’t help but feel optimistic that there are some unique reasons why the AI wave is going to benefit India better, or at least differently, than other nations. The quintessential nerds, we Indians have always been curious about technology and ahead in adopting all areas in the ambit of STEM. However, we haven’t been able to fully juice this quirk of ours in the past and have instead had to deal with issues of talent drain in the initial tech booms or accept becoming the world’s back office in the more recent ones.
However, today things are different. The US and the UK economies are struggling, China is going through a deflation alongside geopolitical issues that were only worsened by Covid and all eyes are on India. That means, investment is flowing into India and talent is staying put. This talent is using AI for writing code and writing movies, all in equal measure. This talent speaks English, is young by a far greater majority than any other global force and is no longer satisfied with just being the nerdy brown guy of the group. Creativity, ambition, a natural affinity for technology, wealth and a global outlook are coming together in India like never before and AI may just be the fuel that lights this flame.
In the last couple of weeks, several global corporate leaders have shared that India is becoming their center of gravity for AI research and implementation both. Adobe sees India as its fastest growing market for AI adoption, as per CEO Shantanu Narayen, while Microsoft is particularly excited about how India provides a unique canvas to develop AI technical knowhow across multiple languages. Coming off the back of the success of the Indian Digital Public Infrastructure Story, with the world’s largest adoption of digital payments, the vaccination drive post Covid and many other case studies in e-commerce, logistics, government services, etc. AI now feels like a natural next step - if India can carve its own AI narrative sharply and quickly.
Every generation in time has seen some revolutions and some countries were poised to rise off the backs of those revolutions. The wheel, the plane, the internet. They’ve made superpowers out of countries in the past - bringing them up and even tearing them down. Could AI be that next turn-of-the-century innovation that impacts everything from here on out? And can India be the country that takes away the creamiest part of this cake?
ChatGPT, quickly find me the answers to these questions please.
(The author is founder and chief creative officer, Famous Innovations.)
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