Still a lot of room to grow in global IT market: Azim Premji

"If the global IT services market is growing at 3 per cent to 5 per cent and global exports from India are growing at 5 per cent, evidently that proposition is more attractive to the customer," Premji, India's second richest man, with an 11 billion pounds fortune, told The Sunday Telegraph.

He said, "The base is USD 50 billion a year of IT exports from India, so it's not a small industry any more, but there's still a lot of room to grow because it only represents between 3 per cent and 4 per cent of global market share. This is a USD 1.6 trillion industry."

Nevertheless, Premji admitted that until recently, India's IT services sector was spooked by fears that Britain would become more protectionist on account of its current austerity drive.

"This question was asked to British Prime Minister David Cameron when he was in Bangalore because some outsourcing contracts had been suspended," he said.
"A specific question was asked as to whether the new policy of the British Government was to only give contracts to UK companies," he said.

Cameron's answer was that Britain was running an 11 per cent deficit and would look at all costs, regardless of where suppliers are based, and needed to obtain the best possible prices. "He got an ovation for that," Premji said.

"I thought it was a fair answer. The visit was very successful. He created a very strong impression. Trade between India and Britain is surprisingly low, but there's a very high feel-good factor about Britain in India," he added.

65-year-old Premji, nicknamed "the Bill Gates of India," has pledged to give away most of his fortune. "I'll announce it when it happens," he said. Premji's family holds a 75 per cent stake in Wipro.

The largest IT services company in the Indian market by sales and the seventh largest in the world by market capitalisation behind Indian rivals Tata and Infosys as well as global giants IBM and Accenture, Wipro has ridden the boom in outsourcing and global IT services.

India's IT services sector saw the growth of its exports halved from 11 per cent to 5.5 per cent during the global downturn after growing by more than 30 per cent for seven consecutive years.

It is expected to grow by 15 per cent this year. Wipro reported a 20 per cent increase in revenue in Q1, 2010, and is forecast to earn revenues of about USD 6.5 billion (4.2 billion pounds) for the entire year.

Wipro has long outgrown its Indian roots, with just 9 per cent of sales now in India, compared to 55 per cent in the US and 25 per cent in Europe.
Half of Wipro's European sales are in Britain, which Premji said is also back in a growth mode in IT services.

Wipro is strong in financial services, with a lot of UK and US banking clients that Premji isn't allowed to name.

It's also active in retail, working for companies including supermarket chain Morrisons, and has large IT services operations in the manufacturing, energy and utilities, transportation and healthcare sectors.

Despite the publicity about the failed moves of call centres to India and elsewhere, Premji believed growth in outsourcing will continue.

"What you must appreciate is that an average engineer in India costs about USD 7,000, while an average engineer in the UK would cost about USD 45,000 a year," he said.
Premji also has a passion for education and has involved Wipro in training 10,000 Indian university engineering professors in teaching methods and technology over the past two-and-a-half years.

Premji also supports educational charities through his charitable foundation.
"The literacy rate today is under 50 per cent in India," he complained.
Is this hampering India's progress? "Of course it is," he said.

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