By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

THE PHILIPPINE technology sector is still at a nascent stage and could be developed more through partnerships with Indian companies, Indian Ambassador to the Philippines Shambhu S. Kumaran said.

At the pre-event press conference for the First India-Philippines Tech Summit happening on March 5 held on Friday, Mr. Kumaran said the local tech sector is ripe for growth. 

“I’m someone who’s very optimistic about the Philippines in general and particularly about the digital economy, because I see quite a few conditions that are necessary for the sector to grow already existing in the Philippines, like in India,” he said.

These include the country’s young population made up of skilled individuals, he said, noting that he has seen many young Filipino entrepreneurs who are aggressive in setting up startups.

However, although there is funding for these startups, it is critical for them to enter partnerships to help address challenges, he said.

“I think one of the things that is crucial is for Filipino companies and digital economy actors to look at partnerships beyond the traditional subset of partners that they look at. And I think India, definitely, is not a traditional partner in that sense for Filipino companies,” he said.

“There are also structural constraints. For example, I noticed that the cost of data is quite significantly high in the Philippines and that it is still, I would say, dominated by a few large companies, so there is a need to open up the sector, especially to young companies,” he added.

Mr. Kumaran said partnerships with Indian companies could help address issues on the development side.

“Clearly, you could try and develop a lot of these answers yourself, but I would submit for consideration that partnerships, especially with like-minded countries, will help you and your companies and individuals to leapfrog and to get into a more dynamic mode in the future,” he said.

Asked for his recommendations, Mr. Kumaran said that the Philippines could learn from the experience of India in implementing enabling frameworks and incentives.

“I think if you have a broader focus from the government in terms of infrastructure and creating the enabling policy frameworks… I think India’s experience could be useful for the government here to consider,” he said.

“I must say I’ve had very good conversations with your political leadership, including the Department of Information and Communications Technology secretary, and I think there’s a recognition that there should be more engagement with India, which is one of the leading countries in the global digital economy,” he added. “The Philippine authorities and companies need to work together to see what would work best in a Philippine context because, of course, in India, the scale is slightly different.”

However, in terms of partnerships, there is a lack of information about opportunities in the technology sector of the Philippines, he said.

“The Philippines is seen in India as an economy with extremely bright prospects, and companies are keen to explore these opportunities,” he said. “However, there is an information deficit in terms of what India can offer, and I assume Indian companies are not very well versed in the opportunities that exist in the Philippine market.”

He said the information gap could be addressed through the India-Philippines Tech Summit, which is expected to spark conversations between India and the Philippines about digital technology, covering areas including digital governance.

India already has a very large information technology (IT) service presence in the Philippines, as over 30 Indian companies are already operating in the country, employing close to 200,000 Filipinos, he noted.

“So, there’s already a legacy of engagement between India and the Philippines in the IT sector. But what we are lacking so far is a broader understanding of the transformational changes that are happening in the Indian digital economy,” he said. 

“And we thought that through this event, we would have a platform where leading Indian digital companies would have an opportunity to come and present their capabilities, and relevant stakeholders on the Philippine side could have a detailed conversation with regard to the possible partnerships that could be forged,” Mr. Kumaran added.

The summit will focus on three areas, namely agriculture, finance, and health, which are also priority sectors of the Philippine government.