Microsoft’s Nadella Calls on India to Seize Opportunity of AI

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Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella urged countries to aggressively invest in artificial intelligence, making the case in India that his birth country has an unprecedented opportunity to drive economic growth by capitalizing on the technology’s promise.

“AI is really in the air now,” Nadella said during a keynote speech with industry leaders at the iconic Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai. “I have never seen a rate of diffusion of any technology like this in the 70-year-long computer age.”

He said Microsoft will help train 2 million people in India with AI skills, stepping up its commitment to the nation. Countries that adopt the technology will have the chance to expand their expertise and push up economic growth, he said.

“This new capability, AI, is going to have an impact on GDP,” he said.

Microsoft has been at the forefront of driving adoption of AI and commercializing the technology through its suite of software offerings. The Redmond, Washington-based company invested more than $10 billion in OpenAI, the company behind ChatGPT, and works with the startup on new products and services.

India is a emerging as a key battleground in the AI competition. With more than 5 million programmers, the country holds one of the largest pools of AI talent for startups and global businesses at a time when AI talent is often in short supply.

“The AI engineering community in India is second only to the US,” he said.

Nadella, who took the helm at Microsoft 10 years ago in February of 2014, is getting something of a hero’s welcome on his return home. The 56-year-old has presided over a 1,000% stock-market run over the last decade, pushing it past Apple Inc. to become the most valuable company in the world.

At the Mumbai event, he was showered with praise by people who talked about the “incredible priviledge” and “honor of a lifetime” in meeting him.

Microsoft has made big investments in Nadella’s native country, where it employs over 23,000 in cities including the tech centers Bangalore and Hyderabad. Last year, it pledged to train 100,000 developers on the latest AI tools and technologies.

In his Mumbai appearance, Nadella drew a parallel to the UK and how its economy took off after the country poured 10% of its GDP into railroads. “The rest is history,” he said.

Nadella predicted all manner of opportunities for investments related to AI, including in quantum computing, climate change and scientific research.

“AI models are like the foundries of the world,” he said.

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