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.