Microsoft, Google Woo India Programmers To Win AI Leadership

With more than 5 million programmers, India is emerging as one of the largest pools of AI talent for startups and global businesses.

Bloomberg News

February 1, 2024

2 Min Read
photo of Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella

(Bloomberg) -- Top executives from Microsoft Corp. and Alphabet Inc. are touring India over the next week to court the country’s millions of programmers and support the adoption of artificial intelligence services in a key market. 

Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella will address developers and technologists on “discovering new opportunities with AI” during a visit next week in Bangalore, the country's technology epicenter. He'll also speak to industry leaders in Mumbai about the opportunities and challenges with next-generation AI. Separately, Google’s chief scientist Jeff Dean will speak on AI’s next frontier with researchers, developers and startups in Bangalore and then participate in a fireside chat about India's role in enabling AI to drive massive societal impact.

The dueling appearances highlight India’s importance for both companies and the broader AI sector. With more than 5 million programmers, India is emerging as one of the largest pools of AI talent for startups and global businesses — at a time when AI talent is often in short supply. During an India tour last year, Nvidia Corp. CEO Jensen Huang said the country could be the largest exporter of AI expertise in the world.

“There's a worldwide transition toward AI in the next five to ten years, and the Indian developer will be at the heart of it,” said Nandan Nilekani, chairman of Asia's second largest technology services firm, Infosys Ltd. “The Indian developer will determine which AI stack will dominate,” Nilekani added, referring to different layers of technologies that form competing AI systems.

Both Nadella and Google CEO Sundar Pichai grew up in India and studied engineering there before heading to the US for graduate studies. For both, the AI push could be career-defining. Pichai has termed the shift to AI as "bigger than the internet" and Nadella has described it as "Microsoft's moment.”

In a sign of India’s growing influence in AI, Ahmed Mazhari, president of Microsoft Asia, pointed to developer activity on GitHub, a Microsoft-owned platform for developers. “Today, one in four AI projects on GitHub comes from India,” Mazhari said in a statement. “By 2026, India will have eclipsed the US. India is very uniquely positioned to enable the adoption of AI at scale at home and in international markets.”

Microsoft recently announced that it would train 100,000 developers in India on the latest AI technology and tools. Last year, India's technology industry trade body Nasscom counted nearly half a million developers specializing in AI and data sciences.  

“It's reasonable to expect a lot more top AI companies to head to India,” said Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice president of Nasscom. She said large technology services companies like Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. and  Infosys are going full speed ahead on AI and training hundreds of thousands of engineers. “Enterprises want to adopt AI, and developers can speed up the transition,” she said.

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