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The IT story

»In less than two decades, Bangalore transformed from a small South Indian city to a global hotspot. The population soared, architectural monsters transpired, real estate turned into gold, a fine city turned into a civic mess.

The force that reshaped Bangalore has a name: IT. IT was also instrumental in polishing brand India and enlarging the services’ contribution to GDP. 

There have not been many attempts to explain the tech bomb, which exploded in the country, to the larger non-tech audience. A recent book Offshore by Gaurav Rastogi and Basab Pradhan, two senior Infosys executives, fills this void. 

*  At the turn of this century TCS, which was over two decades old then, had 12,000  employees. Fast forward to 2010. TCS workforce had grown by 14 times and stood at 1,74,000. Many other companies had grown at similar speed. Infy headcount increased from 5,389 to 92,688; Cognizant from 3,900 to 1,00,000.

In IT services, a company’s revenue and headcount act like Siamese twins. To seize the surging flood of opportunity, Indian companies had to recruit and train tens of thousands of fresh graduates every year. They built training campuses, which rivalled universities, occupying more land than required, spending on construction with a touch of megalomania. But no body can take away the credit from them for building gigantic hiring machines, which became their competitive advantage and forced global majors to emulate.

*  George Fernandes may be the unheralded father of the Indian IT industry. After he evicted IBM in the late ‘70s, companies like TCS and Wipro stepped into the Big Blue’s shoes in the country. For nearly two decades they remained fringe players thanks to a restrictive government and a miniscule domestic market. But Y2K created a demand for their skills on a global scale and the growth in telecom industry offered a way to deliver those services from a distant land.

*  What made the industry tick was the wage difference between the US and Indian professionals, which neatly shaved off 30 per cent cost for the customers. But the popular uncharitable labels used to describe the industry - cyber coolies, body shoppers etc. – are off the mark. It took guts, brain, sweat and pots of luck to offer a service from a strange land to Americans, who thought of India as a land of snakes than software.

*  The money India makes from services offshoring is a fraction of what China makes from manufacturing offshoring. Services industry can offshore much more, only if not interrupted by the governments. The political risk is real here as unlike blue collar workers, the employees uprooted by offshoring, are college educated, with a penchant to use social media and get organised.

The book tries to answer various questions posed before the industry. Why India can’t produce a Microsoft? (It does not have to); how the global delivery model works (fairly complex). If you want to know how the industry likes to see itself, read this book. A good read nevertheless.

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