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What is Common Between Indian Cricket Team and Indian Software Industry?

It frustrates me not when I see the poverty in our motherland. (Don’t get me wrong. It makes me sad, but does not frustrate me.) It does not frustrate me when I read about corruption in India. It does not frustrate me when we talk about illiteracy. It does not frustrate me when I read about bad politicians.

However it does frustrate me when time and again, I am reminded that we are being shortsighted. Indian cricket team is forever blamed for waiting to field till the ball comes to them. But Indian industry does not seem to be far different. And I am not talking about Indian mining industry, or Indian textile industry. I am talking about our dear software Industry.

Let me talk with example. I am recently using Webex, a web service that allows people to do online conferencing. It is an excellent service. I found it very effective. When I was at home in Mumbai, I was able to web conference and keep in touch with team in Texas.

Who is the single biggest beneficiary of such a tool? The companies that handle outsourced projects. Which is the industry that has maximum potential for outsourcing allover the world? Software industry. Which is the country which is today almost synonymous with outsourcing? India.

If I were a CEO of one of the big Indian software company, or an authority from Department of Information Technology Ministry, I would build consortium of big and medium size players and invest heavily in collaboration tools. I would invest heavily in stuff that makes online collaboration easier. Better yet, I would make this consortium buy Webex.com and make it freely available for Indian companies and their customers. Not only this would make outsourcing look more attractive, it would give Indian companies and edge in competition from other countries.

That’s what Microsoft, Sun Microsystems did when it came to fighting spammers. These two companies were head locked in the legal battle over several issues with stakes running in billions of dollars. Yet when it came to fighting against spammers, they joined hands and worked as a team.

I talked to Chevron India HR manager before some days. He oversaw the expansion of Chevron offices in India. One of his observations was that the rate of employee turnover in India is far higher. In one year 18% of his employees left and joined other corporations. 18% is a large number and puts significant stress on HR departments when it comes to recruiting, training and allocating resources. Most of it happens in lower rungs in management, when people are young, single or just married, more mobile. We live in a free country and we cannot tell anyone what to do. But again, this is something hurting bottomline of every company and they can come together and form a policy to discourage people from switching too often.

Before some day I was reading some article on web and it made a point that made me think a lot. Do you know what is the distinction India has when it comes to second world war? India is the only country that fought on both sides of second world war. Indian forces, under agreement made with Congress were in Allies camp. But Netaji Subhashchandra Bose and his army sided with Germans and Japanese folks. For how long we will fight against each other on petty issues and settle for peanuts when together we could have gone to moon and stars.


12 Responses

  1. Hi! Nice post. You were bang on target on us being short sighted. I do not understand how we Indians seem to be pretty much long sighted when it comes to personal life, but when it comes to professional, business and national issues we are so short sighted! We seem to be interested in short term goals (instant result,gratification and recognition) rather than long term goals.

  2. Kedar, I somewhat disagree about shortsightedness. Taking example of WebEx, I have found it efficient only in presentations. One of the biggest reason is that the underlying network is not consistently fast everywhere. Conference calls and chats have been more productive.

    Attrition rate is sure high, but that is true about software industry worldwide. It is happening in the media industry too. There will always be people who leave companies if they find higher pay elsewhere. But this also highlights another point that companies are not able to retain their employees. If they offer only pay then attrition is going to increase, they need to offer work experience.

    What is interesting though, is that a lot of new things are happening. An indigenous economical wireless network was setup in Dharamsala, Pune might be the first city in India with citywide wireless broadband with Bangalore following close. Some of the companies are sponsoring universities and research projects. This has to increase, there should be a tighter integration between academics and industry. Otherwise, as a recent Nasscom study revealed, 80% of graduates will not be prepared for job.

    What we need to be careful about is to parallely develop a product-oriented industry along with the service-oriented industry. While providing service we are inherently dependent on other economies. We need to balance by developing products using original ideas. We can also cater to the Indian market which is growing at an amazing rate.

  3. Thanks Arun,
    You point out an interesting thing. We lack foresight when it came to business, but we show good foresight when it comes to personal decisions. That is so true.

  4. Abhijit,

    I am not talking about webex speficically. I am talking about in general companies coming together and finding areas of common interest and working on those. That we find less. Webex is just one thing. But lot of things could have been done “To make outsourcing easier”

    The attrition comment was related to the statistics given by the Chevron guy. He himself mentioned that the turnover rate was highest in India. It is hurts us somewhere.

    While doing my Masters, somebody made the same comment to me. Indian students take on campus part time jobs, but they leave when they get another slightly high paying job. Even if the pay hike is more like $1 per hour, it makes a big difference for the student, who is probably taking loans and stuff. But the employer loses all the resources spent in processing the employment and training the person. Evantually it leads to communitywide impressions and stereotypes and hurts the students as a community.

    Here I am less concerned about pure reputation or right or wrong. But my concern is more about future students getting enough jobs.

  5. I think the example of Webex is an example of why a lot of things are not adopted by us, the underlying infrastructure does not perform enough. Having said that new things are continuously coming up, and on the contrary I find that we are more open to them now.

    Regarding attrition rate, this article can probably help where it says that attrition rate in India was quite less than elsewhere. And I think we cannot talk about students’ part-time jobs and the software industry on the same level. Attrition in the industry can happen because of reasons beyond money – stability and perceived career growth are some examples. From another perspective, the students can probably make it clear from the beginning that they are taking up the job primarily for earning. Nobody can deny anyone to do that.

    The problem I find in this argument is that you are generalising across too many platforms – students, industry, and world war. This hides other complexities which could have been a factor in taking certain decisions, including when corporate giants fight or unite. Heard about the Microsoft and Novell deal? The complexities there might be different.

    I do not think we are short sighted. The roots of our current behavior might lie in many other things – like our primarily agricultural economy until recent times, our education system or the wide gap between upper and lower income classes. We wouldn’t be a thriving economy if we were short-sighted.

  6. Abhijit,

    Excellent comment. However I disagree with a couple of points.

    We are more open now. There is no doubt about that. In fact now I am thinking you are generalizing. Being open or not is a different story.

    Even though I am touching several seemingly unrelated things, one thread runs through them all. That, so far, we are not being proactive enough, not venturing out. Still we are in damage redemption mode, not exploration mode.

    Let me give you another example. Almost each and every one of software engineer of our age is facing lower back and neck problems. I am sure a lot of productivity is lost due to this occupational ailment. Yet how many companies take this as a challange and research in computer ergonomics? No company can claim health of their employees as competitive advantage. And if it is not your competetive advantage, you should collaborate with others to solve the problem.

    Lastly, my cry for more foresight does not come from inferiority complex. It comes from desire to expediate. I am immensely confident in future of our motherland. Take a look at my page ‘Why am I writing this blog’ and you will see what I mean. I know this is transition time. I know we can do it, we will do it. I just want to see it expediated.

  7. Kedar, I agree that some aspects are slow, bottlenecks and reverse salients are everywhere. And I agree that they should be identified and solved. I was arguing against the point of being short-sighted.

    I am not sure about damage redemption mode or the ergonomics, I do not have enough information for that. I know of some companies who are taking some action on this. But by considering only short-sightedness I think we were discounting some other factors that play an important role. This I think will lead to wrong solutions.

    I think it is fair to generalise that we are open when majority is considered. I do not think generalisation across students, world war and software industry is the same. For example, Indian students changing part time jobs does not indicate attrition rate in Indian industry. There are far higher rates elsewhere. I think this kind of generalisation will hurt.

    For example, academic fields, not in the industry. I think we need more collaboration between academics and industry. Of course, these are only my opinions. Our approach cannot be single-tracked, it has to be multi-pronged.

  8. TCS give 20 s / month hike to ew joinees (Freshers) in 2007

  9. it is 20 rs/month hike can u imagine this hike comes when inflation is at 5.6% and hike is at .05%……………

    Where is IT booom or these companies are blood suckers of software engineers ———–so called bloody developers just cost to the company

  10. Amit,

    20 Rs/month hike is ridiculous. Nothing but exploitation.

    That is again part of the bigger problem. I know several companies, get their employees to USA from India and almost leave the employee on their own, no help to find apartment, car, etc. A lot of times the client organization has to bear the brunt.

    Only if the companies provided their employees with more help, it would help an employee deliver more quality service , resulting in client satisfaction. Thus in long term it is better for the business of contractor company. But unfortunately they show short sightedness, just content to make money while outsourcing is hot. No long term vision.

  11. We should not compare Indian companies with Microsoft or any other huge global organization as Indian companies financially far behind of their foreign counterparts. Our industry is basically service driven highly dependent on projects outsourced from Europe or American. They can not invest heavily on R&D. Therefore this responsibility should be taken by Govt and Indian Universities especially IITs.

  12. Kedar I dont agree with you regarding ur last issue. Netaji was not fighting on a petty issue and he didnt wanted to fight with indian army. He was forced to when he tried to establish control over parts of India. Supporting Brits however was a dire mistake I agree.

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