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Internal comms and the tech powerhouse that is India

Bobby KennedyBobby Kennedy·

Returning anywhere after 13 years since your last visit can be an eye opener. With the bewildering pace of change nowadays, even a couple of years can reveal transformed economic and political landscapes, for better or worse. 

And so it was recently when I returned to India for the first time since 2004, this time leading Poppulo’s expansion to the world’s sixth largest economy.

The powerful paradoxes are still all there, of course, and in some respects are even more pronounced. There’s the grinding poverty of much of the population, but in a country that has one of the fastest growing service sectors in the world  – and with an annual growth in GDP of over 9% since 2001.

When I touched down in India this time around I was amused to find myself thinking of the noisy traffic bedlam and internal communications in the same breath.  It struck me that communication between drivers is managed through a very noisy and overused channel: the inescapable cacophony of blaring car horns, with every driver subjected to a continuous barrage of honking from all directions.

I’m not quite sure how they filter the important honks from those of lesser urgency (if such exist!) but the comparison to email overload did not escape me. But it does appear that just like Poppulo makes the concept of email overload obsolete, solutions are now being put in place in India to cut down on this noise. The Executive Chairman of the Mahindra Group, Anand Mahindra recently tweeted his praise of Aizawal, the first city in India to adopt a ‘no honking’ policy.

Thankfully, when it comes to the comparison with email overload, there is no need for such a drastic measure, especially considering the new State of Internal Communication in India 2017 report which shows 89% of respondents still use central email as their preferred mode of IC. Far better to adopt a targeted approach, only delivering relevant communications which will very effectively filter out the noise.

Car horns and mad traffic aside, as well as the amazing hospitality and warm welcome I received wherever I went and whoever I dealt with, the most potent impact was witnessing at first hand the emerging technological powerhouse that is modern India.

It had a particular resonance for me, coming from a country (Ireland) whose Prime Minister is the son of an Indian immigrant. But while it was fascinating to see at first hand the Indian tech revolution, it didn’t come as much of a surprise because the facts speak for themselves:

  • India is the third-largest start-up hub in the world, with over 3,000 start-ups in 2014-2015
  • IT and software services accounted for $154 billion in revenues in 2017
  • IT is the largest private-sector employer in India.

And that’s just on the domestic front. The impact and influence of Indian-born business people in the tech industry globally is phenomenal. Here are just four of the leading CEOs who were born in India and who now steer some of the world’s most influential tech corporations:

  • Sundar Pichai, ceo Google
  • Satya Nadella, ceo Microsoft
  • Rajeev Suri, ceo Nokia
  • Shantanu Narayen, ceo Adobe

An example of the scope of technological development in India is the Digital India initiative which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015. This is a campaign to ensure that Government services are made available to citizens electronically and the initiative includes plans to connect rural areas with high-speed internet networks

Underpinning all of these technological developments, and indeed the route to elevation of the entire country out of poverty, is how education is seen as everything.

Everywhere, people speak  about the value they place on education and how it comes before everything else.  One mother told how her 10 year old son is learning about the impact of Brexit in school. And this was not about keeping up with events relating to the old coloniser, it’s a reflection of a global view in education.

As well as the pace of development, scale is massive. Take the Aadhaar project. It’s a 12 digit unique-identity number issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data and is the world’s largest biometric ID system. As of August 2017 there were almost 1.2 billion people enrolled, including 99% of Indians above the age of 18.

On a smaller, though still mind-boggling scale for someone from Western Europe, I visited an organization where at any one time they have 14,000 people in training. That’s correct, 14,000 in training at any one time – just imagine the logistics and communications involved in that!

Elsewhere, the National Association of Software and Services Companies – NASSCOMM believe that with the rapid development of technology and automation, 60-70% of the existing workforce in India will need to be reskilled to meet future needs. Wherever you go, education and learning are a constant theme.

Yet, with highly skilled and educated workforces and an eagerness for organizations to continuously learn and develop, there comes a parallel need for sophisticated internal communications, particularly as people try to adapt to rapid change.

Because everybody will not go through these changes at the same time, and because each individual can react differently to the changing circumstances around them, communicators have an important role to play, and so communication within the business must not be overlooked.

Internal communications will require targeted communications that apply to specific individuals and stakeholders, and all of these communications will need to be delivered at the right time. This communication is vital to keep everybody informed, aligned and indeed reassured, in order that  companies can continue growing cultures that accept and support learning and innovation.

But that’s not all. Communication is well and good, but how do you know the desired outcomes are being achieved? Therefore, in addition to communication, measurement will also be a core requisite. In fact 56% of respondents to the Crimson IC report already recognize internal communication measurement as a priority and 62% see it as a strategic challenge, which is encouraging as it implies that practitioners understand the value of measurable results.

All in all, very much in line with the findings of our own Inside IC Global 2016 survey.

I’m back in India again this week and once again I’m really looking forward to immersing myself in this fascinating country, with its invigorating energy, enthusiasm and inventiveness. It’s a real privilege to know that Poppulo can play a massive part in helping internal communications drive fantastic Indian companies and organizations to further success.

Even if we can’t do much about the horn honking in Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi!


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