Hong Kong needs Indian tech talent to ensure Greater Bay Area success, ‘father of Indian IT’ says
Infosys founder Narayana Murthy says Hong Kong has a chance to replicate the success of Silicon Valley with China’s plan for its version of the Greater Bay Area
Part of the secret to building China’s answer to Silicon Valley may lie in attracting more Indian tech talent, according to the billionaire founder of one of India’s most successful companies.
“While Hong Kong has lots of wonderful Chinese people and people of Chinese origin, Hong Kong has to make an attempt to attract some very well-educated Indians, too,” Narayana Murthy, founder of India’s software outsourcing giant Infosys, said in an interview at the Asia-Pacific Business Forum. “They have to attract very well-educated Irish people, British people, French people, Australians – but these people must be in technology, not just in finance.”
China is pushing forward a plan for more mainland economic integration with Hong Kong and Macau under a blueprint to develop the “Greater Bay Area”, a scheme to link the cities with nine others in southern Guangdong province. The area would be home to some of China’s biggest technology companies, including Tencent, Huawei and DJI in Shenzhen.
While Hong Kong has unique attributes, such as an abundance of entrepreneurial spirit and freedom for people to pursue their idea, the city also needs to do more if it is to succeed in a bid to build a tech hub that can rival San Francisco’s Bay Area, said Murthy, who is retired from Infosys.
Besides attracting well-educated Indian tech talent, Hong Kong needs to create a borderless learning environment, an openness to accepting share options over basic salary in pay, a cluster of universities focusing on science and technology, as well as infrastructure and facilities that encourage entrepreneurship, he said.
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China’s Greater Bay Area, about three times the size of the San Francisco Bay Area, is home to three of the world’s top 100 universities, all of them in Hong Kong. This regional economy expects to surpass the Greater Tokyo and New York areas in 2030 with a GDP of $4.62 trillion, and become a world-class centre of advanced manufacturing, innovation, international shipping, finance and trade, according to China Centre for International Economic Exchanges, a government think tank.
To fit into the plan of creating a world-class technology hub in the region, Hong Kong has pledged to foster exchange on innovation and technology with other cities in the area in 2017.
In its recent budget, the Hong Kong government has pledged to set aside an additional HK$50 billion to support innovation and technology development this financial year of 2018, especially in the areas of biotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), smart cities and fintech, in addition to the HK$10 billion commitment for supporting the industries from the year before.
Dubbed the “father of the Indian IT sector” by Time magazine, Murthy built a seven-strong start-up in 1981 in Pune, India, with an initial capital of US$250, into the first Indian company to list on the Nasdaq in 1999. Murthy retired in 2006 from Infosys. The company had US$10.2 billion in revenue in the year ended March 2017 and employed 201,691.
As a beneficiary of globalisation, which paved the way for the company’s presence across the world, Murthy said innovation is the only answer for tech companies in facing the challenge of rising protectionist sentiments and policies.
“It is natural for nations to erect protectionist barriers,” he said. “But if you provide even better value for money and indispensable, people will continue to be your customers.”