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Sunday, February 1, 2009

Information Technology Business Today and Tomorrow / Towards Domestic market

Information Technology has played a strong role in shaping the growth of the Indian industry in last decade. But the current market scenario has taken the air out of many of our big business houses. Recently I attended INDIA IT 2020 Conference where I found many interesting things which can be shared here. The conference was attended by many big leaders of the IT industry some of them were- CFO TCS, CEO Mastek, people from BPCL, Microsoft and many other IT companies were present. The conference had many parallel threads on Technology, Business, Infrastructure & Today in these fields. These were followed by the panel discussions on topics relating to current (IT) market scenario and solutions to problems in it.
The technology session on the Natural Language Processing was very fruitful. It was chaired by Dr. Pushpak from IIT B. The special thing about this event was presence of grand father of Indian IT industry Dr. F C Kohli. His vision for the IT in India in 2020 was clear and called for the development in Indian Language Technology. He asked the Indian IT industry to take the Domestic market seriously and to do that first of all they have to take the Indian Language technology very seriously as the major route to the Indian mass is through their language. He talked about the penetration of the computers and the need of accelerating growth of hardware industry in India. And all that I learned from his vision is – We need to make softwares which our grandfathers can understand.
(Meeting F C Kohli sir was one of my dreams since my graduation and I am happy that I got to make it happen here!)
The Infrastructure sessions that I attended discussed the infrastructure development in the rural India for the future IT industry coming there. Broadly everything else may it be Business thread or the Today one directly or indirectly saw opportunities in the domestic market. But the final panel discussion showed their (IT giants) unwillingness to business with the domestic clients as some of them see it as unprofitable business (as overseas client pays in dollars and these fellows spend it in Rupees, the margin is high and for the Indian clients these get in Rupees and need to spend in Rupees, the margin is low) also some complained about the attitude of the Indian clients (they said Indian clients asks for a lot in the same cost and stay on asking for more with no extra cost (don’t the overseas client do this? )).
I was pleased to see that people have started to think about rest of the India (Bharat - the India other than metropolis/even some metropolis are part of this India). But the major thing that worries me is about why will one use IT in rural India and will he afford the cost? Because ultimately the end customer of the service/product will be the common man residing there in the village or town. If we see the contribution of these areas to the GDP it’s really poor. And then in such situation how can you find the customer there? It seems like opening a mall in the middleclass (actually poor class) areas of city where people have simple lifestyle and they are not fond of brands. Will the mall survive?
And I think that’s why we don’t have profitable (IT) business in Domestic market. Our customers don’t afford even our own services and the ones who afford it can also afford the imported ones. So they go for the imported ones (the typical Indian mentality (not Bhartiya) -Go for the imported ones when affordable (debatable)) So, first of all, I think, we have to make our customers wealthy, it will take some time, but will give long lasting fruits to the Indian economy/Indian IT industry and every industry which have to see towards the west for the customer. So the principle now is not: Create need for a product -> Make product ->Sell it!
It’s now Create customer ->create need ->make product ->sell it!
(Obviously for wealth creation at both the ends for both the cases)
And this added phase will also lead to the inclusive and sustainable growth of the nation.Broadly I don’t see this different than the vision of Gandhiji – Let’s go to true India!

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