satya nadella interview: ET Interview | AI to speed up India’s growth on road to 2047: Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella

India, with a “very buoyant” market and a growth rate that is “the best in the world,” is poised to gain tremendously from the era of artificial intelligence-led growth according to Satya Nadella, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft Corporation. Emphasising the role of artificial intelligence in driving increased productivity, the Hyderabad-born technocrat said it gives him “tremendous optimism” that it (AI) will further accelerate India’s growth as it races towards its goal of becoming a developed nation by 2047.

“At the end of the day, what’s the difference between being a developed country and a developing country? It’s just the rate of growth over long periods of time,” 56-year old Nadella told ET in an interview, last week. He cited the example of the digital public goods, which when “scaffolded or daisy-chained with a large language model” can create several innovative solutions for various sectors of the economy.

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He also noted that using AI, India can create solutions that not only deliver societal benefit and drive productivity for the country, but will also be “very relevant for the rest of the world.”

“India’s unique ability to use this technology to create solutions for its own structural challenges is (also) going to be a competitive advantage,” said the Microsoft CEO, whose company posted revenues of $211 billion in 2023. Microsoft’s market value crossed the $3 trillion mark earlier this year. The company has overtaken Apple as the most valuable global firm.

Nadella, who has now been at the helm of the iconic technology firm for a decade, is widely termed as the GOAT of (Greatest of All Times) technology CEOs for having dramatically turned around Microsoft’s fortunes. Firstly, with bold bets on mobile and cloud computing and now with a humongous bet on generative AI, which has led to the soft-spoken Nadella increasingly being spoken of in the same breath as Apple’s visionary leader Steve Jobs.

In comparison to the rate of adoption during previous technology cycles, India is demonstrating much faster adoption of AI, according to Nadella, who earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering from an Indian university.

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While last year, (Indian) firms were still experimenting with proofs of concepts, they are starting with “broad deployments” now, he noted. “In 12 months for that to be the case is very, very heartening to see.”Disruption in labour markets

Responding to concerns of AI triggering large-scale job losses, Nadella pointed out that “what may be a debit on one side is a credit on the other side… that is the dynamism of the labour market, ” while noting that the learning curve has come down, not gone steeper, thanks to AI, which also helps in reskilling.

In addition, macroeconomic and geopolitical concerns have continued to dent technology spending for over two years now. As such, while “there is real economic growth in countries like India, there’s also high inflation around the world.”

The Microsoft CEO was of the view that after a long period of low interest rates, there is now a different economic context but it is still unclear whether the US economy will have a soft landing. “There’s no going back to the last 15 years… but there’s a real dialogue in every business, in every country – about using resources well, and most productively,” he said.

“The technology sector cannot be immune to what is happening in the rest of the world. I always say Microsoft will do well if the rest of the world is doing well,” according to Nadella, who is only the third executive to lead the now iconic technology giant that was founded 49 years ago by Bill Gates and Paul Allen.

Under Nadella’s reign, the Redmond – headquartered firm, which had seen younger peers like Google steal a march over it, stunned the market with an astonishing comeback with its dominance of the cloud computing market. He is now driving the push towards AI with an early investment in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. The partnership with OpenAI has given Microsoft a huge edge over rivals like Google and Amazon, which are trying to catch up with their own solutions.

Reflecting on his journey at Microsoft, which he joined 32 years ago, Nadella said, “As long as I stay grounded, and Microsoft stays collectively grounded on those two things – of being the learn-it-all culture, being grounded in a mission that we do well when the world around us does well, I am very optimistic about Microsoft continuing to have a bright future.”