The chief executive officer of Cisco Systems Tuesday predicted explosive growth in Internet usage in India.
Chambers said the number of Internet users in India was likely to grow to 50 million by 2004, far outstripping Asian regions such as Thailand (3.6 million) and Hong Kong (3.4 million).
“The equalizer in life will be Internet and education. Going by those figures, by 2004, India will have 50 million Net users, and the country will soon witness the transition of economics, products & services, and technology (voice, video and data),” Chambers said.
“India has the best education system in the world at the university level. It would become a leader in Asia (in Internet technology),” he said.
However, Chambers pointed to several variables that would determine India’s preparedness for such an economic leap: development of a solid Internet infrastructure to match its army of software engineers.
He also warned of the affect of an U.S. economic slowdown. He cautioned that blistering 50 percent growth in India’s IT sector and the Internet could cool off slightly due to an U.S. slowdown.
“Any country which is a partner of the United States is bound to be affected,” he said, urging the Indian government to step up investments in IT in order to propel growth.
Chambers said Cisco was expecting 10 percent of its global revenues to come from India in the next five to 10 years, up from less than 0.5 percent at present. In comparison, China now accounts for as much as five percent of Cisco’s business. India was the second fastest-growing market for Cisco after South Korea in 2000.
“Currently, India accounts for one-third of one percent of our business worldwide and it is expected to grow five to 10 percent in the next five years, Chambers said.
India has the potential to catch up with its neighbor China, which was in the same boat only a few years ago, he said. “Unlike China, India has a strong education system for software engineers,” Chambers said. India can emerge as the main nation supplying network maintenance engineers to other nations, he said.
Cisco, eyeing India as a key base, already has two software development centers in the country in addition to approximately 1,500 dedicated engineers working for Cisco in three Indian companies.
The company also announced Monday that it will set up 34 training academies in India to produce about 100,000 Internet network executives to combat the expected professional shortage.