Kerala Technology
India to chip away at the AI market

Nvidia founder and CEO Jensen Huang says AI  skills and services could become India’s exports soon. Photo courtesy Nvidia.

India to chip away at the AI market

Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on September 12, 2023
Hari Kumar By Hari Kumar, on September 12, 2023

Last week, while the spotlight was on global political leaders gathering in New Delhi for the G20 summit, away from the limelight India’s tech scene took a significant step onto the world stage.

American company Nvidia, the tech giant known for its graphics processing units (GPUs), announced that they are teaming up with Indian powerhouses Tata and Reliance to turbocharge the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) applications and services across India.

This is a big deal as these partnerships are about to open up a world of possibilities as these new joint ventures can develop AI tools tailor-made for the unique needs of India and local companies.

For instance, healthcare could see AI stepping up the game in diagnostics and patient care even in the remotest corner of the country. And in education, we’re looking at personalised learning experiences for students who are unable to access higher learning centres that are mostly located in urban areas.

Until now, companies in the Indian domestic market have primarily depended on open-source AI platforms like OpenAI, which were predominantly trained on data from developed countries. That brings in inherent biases and other limitations, requiring significant customisation for local companies integrating AI into their products.

Back in January 2020, Niti Aayog, a think tank established by the Indian government, proposed the creation of a special AI infrastructure called AIRAWAT (AI Research, Analytics, and Knowledge Assimilation platform). It had the potential to be a game-changer, but unfortunately, it never gained much traction.

In contrast, countries like South Korea and Japan have allocated substantial funds to develop their own Large Language Models (LLMs) and have already made progress in establishing their AI platforms to support local companies, researchers, and students.

As for China, the capabilities and supercomputing infrastructure it has are almost light-years ahead of India. In the list of the top 500 supercomputers (those with more than one petaflop of capabilities), China has 228 such facilities, followed by the USA (117 systems) and Japan (29 systems), said the Niti Aayog report.

Chinese companies have already released several LLM models and their aim is to eventually end the US dominance in the sector. Meanwhile in India, even heavyweight tech companies depend on cloud-based AI services like Amazon's AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Now, the Indian private sector is stepping in to bridge the gap. Reliance and Tata are gearing up to integrate AI into their business operations and have forged partnerships with Nvidia to bring state-of-the-art AI capabilities to Indian companies.

One of the most exciting projects in this mix is India’s very own Large Language Model (LLM). This LLM will undergo training on the rich linguistic diversity of India, encompassing its 1.4 billion people who speak a multitude of languages and dialects.

The potential here is vast. This could lead to the development of AI voice assistants and chatbots, bringing technology to millions who remain illiterate and offering assistance to the older generation left behind by the emerging technology divide as digitalization becomes a part of daily life for citizens.

Another significant aspect of these deals is tapping into India’s immense talent pool. India boasts one of the world’s largest AI talent pools, with 1.6 million digital wizards. Surprisingly, the number of AI-focused startups doesn't quite reflect this talent, and some experts attribute it to a gap in AI skills within the workforce.

Nvidia’s CEO, Jensen Huang, hit the nail on the head during a media event in Bangalore when he highlighted that Indian AI experts often have to travel abroad to access supercomputers.

“You have your own data, lots and lots of data. You produce more computer scientists than any country on the planet.”

 “Produce AI here. You have everything you need. Everything you need to build the AI and use the AI here in India, but you need to have infrastructure.”

Both Jio Platforms of Reliance and Tata Communications have announced plans to develop cloud-based AI infrastructure that will harness some of Nvidia’s most powerful tools, including the Grace Hopper Superchip. This initiative aims to provide high-end computing access to companies, startups, scientists, and students across India.

However, it’s not the Indian development alone that forms the core of Nvidia’s expansion plan. These partnerships the company has unveiled serve a dual purpose: they allow Nvidia to broaden its reach while strategically navigating the US-China chip conflict.

When the US imposed a ban on exporting certain high-end chips to China, Nvidia had to tread carefully to avoid being entangled in the Washington-Beijing crossfire.

Already, they’ve struck deals in countries like Saudi Arabia to expand their business presence. In India, they likely see a market with potential rivalling that of China, provided the planned projects progress as intended.

Nvidia, accounting for roughly 60 to 70 percent of the global supply of AI server chips, has witnessed an unprecedented surge in demand for its products, propelling them into the trillion-dollar company club. This surge in demand shows no signs of slowing down in the foreseeable future, as both companies and governments are eager to build their own AI platforms.

The company has been present in India since 2004 and has established four engineering development centers across the country – in Gurugram, Hyderabad, Pune, and Bangalore – employing approximately 3,800 people. Huang, who was born in Taiwan, mentioned that his company collaborates with over 15,000 AI-based startups worldwide, including a significant number in India.

“I wouldn't be surprised if around 150 or so of these startups are right here in India.”

In India, the demand for AI-skilled professionals is expected to surge in the coming years, with both domestic and international companies seeking to recruit AI-savvy talent. A recent report from LinkedIn revealed that 57 percent of company executives surveyed in India are actively searching for AI talent this year.

As the demand for AI-trained individuals and AI-powered services continues to soar, India’s recent steps in this direction couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. However, there are several challenges to address, including concerns about privacy protection and potential job displacement due to AI.

Despite these challenges, Nvidia’s CEO remains optimistic about the future. “You [India] will export more AI expertise than any country in the world. It potentially could become your largest export,” said Huang.



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