Does the IT industry need to mobilise its best resources?
By Vineet Nayar
The Indian IT Industry was in news this past week for a headline it grabs more often in global markets than on home-ground — that of being an immigration-led “body-shopping” group. I have two problems with this.
One, that it is no issue at all — movement of people and products across borders is the keel on which global commerce has thrived since eons; whether it is the ancient silk route trades or the massive urban mobilisation during the Industrial revolution, movement of people and resources has fuelled several spikes in global economy and even changed political maps.
From its very outset, the whole era of western colonialism was also in fact operated as a joint public-private venture. Columbus’ voyages to the Americas were partially funded by Italian investors, while the English, French and Dutch participated in massive people and resources migration through jointstock companies such as the East India Companies and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Entire nations, in fact have been built, on this resource migration, from America to Australia and several new economic zones in the middle. The whole Gulf region, for example, was literally built by an immigrant labour pool and so were the successful modern states like Singapore.
So I don’t really get why it’s such a problem when India participates in this resource mobility map? Every country leverages its key strengths and ours is our people — a billion, talented group of young people. As a nation, if we open our borders to foreign goods (American apparel, German cars, Chinese electronics), then why shouldn’t we expect and leverage global portability of our best product — our brainpower and young human capital?
My second issue with this whole debate is — It’s outdated.
The Indian IT Industry outgrew this debate many years ago when it became an equal partner in the business transformation of innumerable G1000 firms. Today, some of the world’s biggest innovations from cutting-edge electronic products to space programmes to airline software to billion dollar apps, all have Indian IT’s stamp on them. We don’t question Greek shipping engineers travelling across the world to work on foreign ports or Hollywood production artists travelling to help cinema houses in virtually every country or Japanese/Taiwanese engineers leveraged globally for their electronics know-how, because they are all world-acknowledged experts in this field. Indian techies now have the same level of inimitable credibility and positioning. They too don’t need or deserve any white noise now!
As for the allegation of being “body-shoppers”, or having a business model based on monetising the time/hours spent by professionals, I wouldn’t apologise for that one too as that view is quite outdated and ill informed. Yes, maybe a decade ago the IT industry was predominantly led by this engagement model, but then that is the way most consulting companies work even today. More importantly, several forward-thinking Indian IT companies moved on and now have majority of their revenues coming from “outcome-based models” where they charge based on milestones achieved and not by the number of employees deployed, location of these employees or the time spent by them.
The Indian IT companies have come a long way and are highly regarded and respected for not just the cutting-edge work they do but also for their quick response to constantly changing needs of their customers. The Industry’s three-decade journey, has been very impressive and the three-million people who have worked in it should indeed be very proud of not just the size and scale of what they have built, but also the impact they are creating on the global economy every day.
This industry knows its worth and relevance and no sensationalist propaganda can bedim this truth. So keep moving ahead boldly and unapologetically my three-million codreamers… In Will Smith’s words: “You got a dream… You gotta protect it. People can’t do somethin’ themselves, they wanna tell you you can’t do it. If you want somethin’, go get it. Period.”
(The writer is the former CEO of HCL Technologies)