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Article by Mohan Babu

Working Abroad - Indian IT: Time to focus on the positive?

Lamenting on the market slowdown is of little help to anyone, writes MOHAN BABU. The IT industry entrepreneurs in India should focus on the strengths of our people and processes and capitalise on them in the global marketplace

The downturn in global industry notwithstanding, entrepreneurship in the IT industry, especially the Indian IT industry, is thriving. I happened to attend the recently held TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) seminar on “The changing face of IT industry: Opportunity for Indian IT firms”, where the keynote speaker was Prof C K Prahalad, the renowned management guru. Judging by the reception he received and the response to his talk, one could visualise a thriving industry eager for new ideas that will propel them to a global league. People from a wide array of software companies, ranging from small bodyshops to the likes of Infosys, were there to there to attend the seminar.

In his characteristic manner, Prof Prahalad did not take long to get to the bottomline. Unlike most speakers who dwell on the could-haves, should-haves of the industry and lament on the lack of infrastructure, etc, Prahalad’s speech was upbeat, focusing on the strengths of our industry. Some of the interesting points that came out of his talk include:

* Emergence of micro multinationals: Only six firms in India have a turnover of over Rs 1,000 crore, but there are nearly 1,000 software companies which are a part of Nasscom, exporting software and services to clients around the globe. What this implies is that we have successfully explored and concept of micro-multinationals, whereby even smaller players in the software sector, aided by technologies and tools, are able to exploit the global marketplace.

* Multiple offices for micro multinationals: Unlike most regular multinationals that look for optimum infrastructure before establishing branch offices, we have taken the concept of multiple offices across the globe to a new level. A one-person office is the norm, with individual expatriates managing entire operations from their desktops in home-offices, using technologies like the Internet, instant messing, voice and data links, etc. High efficiency with low cost of operation is the norm.

* Remote delivery capabilities: Indian software vendors have refined offshore software by aggressively cutting costs while managing quality throughput. The offshore model is taking off in the global marketplace where customers are becoming cost conscious.

* World-class expatriate management: The flip side of bodyshopping has been a little noticed but interesting trend in global business management. We succeed where multinationals struggle. For instance, an Indian software company is able to effortlessly recruit a “kid” from Tumkur with a degree in engineering, get him a visa and place him in Colorado, where he not only starts working for the client but also manages to find the nearest “dosa hut”! Try getting a multinational to do the same with a “kid” from Ohio and place him in Bangalore, challenges Prahlad.

* Excellent training infrastructure: One of the leading reasons for the success of Indian software industry has been in the excellent network of training institutions that we have built. Indians have carved out a niche even in little known technologies and trends, expanding and exploiting our world-class training capabilities. * Good multi-cultural skills. The trend in call centre management has lead to a complete training industry that caters to providing training that converts college graduates with good command over English into world-class call centre operatives. This includes play acting: “Learning to live in Ohio.” Young professionals working for call centres are taught to pretend and talk like their American or British clients by play acting, watching sitcoms, etc.

* Refining recruitment and training into an art: Large companies in India have processes that can sift through hundreds of thousands of resumes in order to recruit a few thousand candidates every year while Fortune 500 companies in the US find it extremely hard to scale up their recruitment efforts. They will find this skill especially useful while emerging from the current downturn.

These points give some food for thought, especially as they come during a time when a sense of gloom and talk of downturn is pervasive across the industry. The Indian IT industry is still at a nascent stage, and is probably taking a breather, having grown tremendously during the past decade. Industry leaders and entrepreneurs need to learn to focus on the strengths of our people and processes and capitalise on them in the global marketplace. Lamenting on the market slowdown is of little help to anyone. But by focusing on some of our strengths, we are poised to go places.





About the Author

  • A Bio and profile of the author, Mohan Babu, can be found at his homepage
  • Mohan has authored a book on Offshoring and Outsourcing (Publisher McGraw Hill, India), a link to which can be found here
  • Mohan has also authored an Online book on "Life in the US," available for free download.
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    ©Mohan Babu: All Rights Reserved 2005

    Mohan Babu is an international consultant trying to find the ‘sweet spot’ where IT meets business. E-mail: mohan He is also the author of a recent book on "Offshoring IT Services"

    All rights are reserved. Mohan Babu ("Author") hereby grants permission to use, copy and distribute this document for any NON-PROFIT purpose, provided that the article is used in its complete, UNMODIFIED form including both the above Copyright notice and this permission notice. Reproducing this article by any means, including (but not limited to) printing, copying existing prints, or publishing by electronic or other means, implies full agreement to the above non-profit-use clause. Exceptions to the above, such as including the article in a compendium to be sold for profit, are permitted only by EXPLICIT PRIOR WRITTEN CONSENT of Mohan Babu. 

    Disclaimer: This document represents the personal opinions of the Author, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of the Author's employer, nor anyone other than the Author. This Article was originally published in Express Computers


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