Government GPU Cluster Plan: Industry Cheers but Roots for Upskilling

Government GPU Cluster Plan: Industry Cheers but Roots for Upskilling
Government GPU Cluster Plan: Industry Cheers but Roots for Upskilling

The Indian government’s plan of setting up graphic processing unit (GPU) clusters for startups in the artificial intelligence industry may be a step in the right direction but will reap benefits only when complemented with adequate development of skills and technical know-how across the country, according to a few industry experts that StartupTalky spoke with.

On September 22, Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekar said the government plans to set up a major GPU cluster under the India AI (Artificial Intelligence) program. There have also been media reports citing that the officials in the Ministry of Electronics and IT have been discussing a proposal to set up a cluster of 25,000 GPUs under a public-private partnership (PPP model) for AI start-ups.

Unlike CPUs (Central Processing Unit) of a computer which performs simple computations; GPUs perform more complex and heavy computations. For instance: processing images, special effects, highly intensive applications such as video games, and artificial intelligence.

AI Boom
Skills - Need of the Hour
Skill Development Initiative

AI Boom

At a time when the AI sector in India is expected to boom, this move by the government has sent a wave of initial optimism among startups and industry leaders. 

“...this forward-thinking initiative could be a game-changer for India’s AI startups, including companies such as Josh in the content creation space,” said Sunder Venketraman, Head of Content, Creator and Monetization Ecosystem, Josh App, VerSe Innovation. “At Josh, we’ve been leveraging AI to empower creators across Bharat and this development gives the motivation and confidence in the future of content creation in the country,” Venkataraman said.

The International Market Analysis Research and Consulting Group expects the AI market in India to witness a sharp growth of around 33% during 2023-2028 to touch $3.9 billion by 2028.

As of now, the key manufacturers in the GPU market are NVIDIA and AMD, both headquartered in California. According to global trade data provider Volza, India is the top importer of GPUs in the world as of May 2023. As of May 31, India's GPU imports stood at 31,022 shipments.

There has been a sudden surge in demand for GPUs as AI companies look to integrate them into applications and programs. During his recent visit to India, Nvidia Corp. Chief Executive Officer Jensen Huang touted India to be “One of the largest AI markets in the world”.

“India will have to walk on both legs, balancing manufacturing as well as the service sector, with the private sector driving the tailwinds of the Indian economy,” said CRISIL chief economist D.K. Joshi.

Setting up GPU clusters will eventually translate into speedier processing and a shorter turnaround time for processing vast data.

Skills - Need of the Hour

However, as automation and the AI industry mushroom in the country, there is a dire need to develop skills to complement this change.

Partner at Optimyze Finance LLP Manu Gupta told StartupTalky, “This is an important move as the world is coming to consume content in the video. The world is less about text today and moving about images and video. Tax incentives are a very powerful tool that the government has, to attract investment. But at the end of the day, this is a very knowledge-based industry. It is the skills of the people which will make somebody set up shop.”

Recently, JLL in its report said it expects India’s data centre industry to add 693 MW of capacity by the end of 2026. This sharp rise is expected on the back of increasing digital growth, digital public infrastructure, 5G rollout, and new AI applications like machine learning coupled with data protection laws and state incentives.

“To use the automation, I need to have the skill set. This learning process needs to be imparted to people. I need manpower for AI, which needs to be implemented right at school and college levels to develop the skill set. Secondly, general people need to be educated through ads or public awareness, training programs on how to simultaneously upgrade or update AI process and skill sets,” said the India operations Chief Financial Officer of a large France-based digital solutions company who requested anonymity.

Skill Development Initiative

Recognising this need, Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the recently concluded Group of 20 countries meeting in September called for a huge thrust on upskilling during his interaction with the labour ministry officials.

“We all need to skill our workforce in the use of advanced technologies and processes. Skilling, re-skilling and upskilling are the mantras for the future workforce. In India, our Skill India Mission is a campaign to connect with this reality,” Modi said. 

The government has also recently launched the Skill India Digital program which is an online platform to encourage skill development, education, employment, and entrepreneurship within the country.

Earlier this year, the government also launched “AI for India 2.0”, an online free training program on AI in vernacular languages. This is a joint initiative by GUVI (Grab Your Vernacular Imprint–an IIT Madras and IIM Ahmedabad incubated education technology company) and Skill India.

Looks like the beginning of a long road to upskilling and learning for a digital India. 

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