India is too big a market for Apple to ignore: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

India is a huge market for Apple, one which the technology giant will not be able to ignore, said Union minister for electronics and IT,Ravi Shankar Prasad . In an interview to ET’s Surabhi Agarwal , Prasad said that the government will soon prepare a structured response to the company.

Prasad also spoke about how the government is planning to call a meeting of the IT bigwigs along with veterans such as NR Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani to brainstorm on the future roadmap. He emphasised that the chatter about lay-offs in the Indian IT sector is overblown. Excerpts:
What is your response to the news of thousands of layoffs in the IT sector?
This campaign is a myth and is, in a certain measure, a deliberate misinformation campaign. Nasscom clearly saying that 6 lakh jobs have been added in the last six years, it is the authentic representative body of the IT industry. But I am very happy that N Chandrasekaran, the former head of TCS and now the head of Tata Sons has written an article in ET saying that in 2015-17, TCS has hired 2.3 lakh employees and in 2017-18 has already made 20,000 job offerings to engineering graduates. The same has been the feedback from other companies we have been in touch with.

Do you think the rise of other opportunities will make up for some loss in the traditional IT sector?
Indian digital ecosystem is kicking because of the sheer accelerated mode of the Digital India programme, digital delivery of services, digital education, digital health, plus a renewed stress on digitisation of the government and the corporate sector. Because there are new streams emerging, I always say it will create more jobs. In our considered view, digital economy is going to become a $1-trillion economy in the coming five to seven years, and I say so on the firm belief of the general estimate of the current size, IT sector is $150 billion, communication is $150 billion, electronic manufacturing is $100 billion, ecommerce is $30-35 billion and then there are new startups, digital payments, etc. I am only saying if it is around $400 billion already, we need just $600 billion more, therefore I have asked McKinsey to undertake a complete study.

Nasscom estimate is that you will have about three to four million direct jobs by 2025, let me contrast that with what Chandrasekaran says that the industry is on track to double that to 7 million direct jobs, and 20 million indirect jobs by 2025. I trust their figure completely. In fact, I am having a conservative estimate. Leave aside jobs going, jobs are going to become more because of the vast spread of digital India initiatives. I have decided to call a meeting, of all the major industry players in the field to give a roadmap about the promising prospects of the emerging $1-trillion digital economy.

So people like Vishal Sikka have been called for the meeting?
I have asked for the second or the third week of June. The government will unfurl in front them the entire prospect, as the government sees, and also seek their feedback and how they can contribute I am also keen on people like NR Narayana Murthy, Nandan Nilekani, ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan, etc, who have seen the industry grow.

Electronic manufacturing has really picked up momentum in the last few years but industry is concerned that after GST the situation may be reversed…
They have conveyed their concerns. I am sure that the GST Council will look into the matter. The finance ministry is aware of the concerns. Let the GST momentum start, the council can always take a view, after a reasonable time of GST rollout. I would say that the huge opportunity for demand, which the GST will create, will also have its own impact.

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