The Coin Of Information Technology

Posted on October 15, 2010 in Shout Out

By Amar Tejaswi:

Whining is a characteristic that sometimes becomes an ingredient in the Indian style of argumentation. We do not accept when we lose, we boast when we win. The sanctimonious Indian is often the embodiment of these and several more markedly divergent characteristics blended together. What is unique about this wonderfully contagious Indianness is that it does not let any individual entity within the boundaries of its influence (i.e. the whole of our country), elude its Indianizing power. Off late our big shot desi IT companies have been showing a few symptoms too. And why not? After all they are a product of our own environment.

The desi IT sector is currently busy protesting the outsourcing ban on off-shoring by government agencies (not any organization, only government). And this step was due to the pervasive service delivery problems encountered by clients, in this case, the Ohio government. This is in addition to the visa fee hike in the US. Naturally, our software sector is complaining about this predicament on every platform it can access. But is the vehement lobbying by software companies justified? Do they really deserve the special privileges they enjoy?

Let us first digress a little and concentrate on another aspect of this issue. Is this group of proliferating IT companies good for us or not? Well, there are flip sides, just like any other coin. And one side of the coin seems to be lost in the brightness of the other. The most important thing that works for the sector is the amount of employment it is creating. Frivolous companies like TCS and Infosys and hordes of others are mass-recruiters who are doing a good job transporting people from the unemployed side to the employed side, unlike other sectors who employ in small numbers. The political leverage the industry apparently is mustering is on the basis of this one strong aspect. And of course they are adding a little to the GDP numbers as well.

The other side of the coin depicts the repercussions of the emergence of this industry. We Indians are by birth lethargic and passive. Perfect reason why the software services industry suits us so well! The software industry needs no great skill. It doesn’t need a prospective employee to release his genius (which is quite an arduous task for an average person). It doesn’t need a prospective employee to spend his intelligence for a dominant part of his work-life. Mass-recruiters from the industry lure young engineers, not even out of campus, to join them. It is after all, a comfortable job. The result is a saturation of technologists – who could have been a part of the rewarding high value technological innovation process – in low value programming jobs which require the lowest amount of innovation. No wonder we have a talent crunch! Paradoxically, IT is partly responsible for destroying talent. Is destruction of talent a trade-off for mass employment? Your call…

We Indians have a very bad habit: we rely far too much on face value. Everyone in our country seems to be thinking that IT is something that has changed the face of India, and it’s the biggest thing that has happened to India. Is it really so? Just because they have built a few gleaming glass edifices with glittering sign boards on top does not mean they have restructured our country and built a wonderful international image of our country. The prevalent belief is that they have actually done so. It is viewed with awe at home, but outside it is just a back-office doing simple jobs for which the real companies do not have time for those simple jobs. In other words, it is like the work of a typist or a clerk. The riches of IT are derived from the unlimited financial resources of their international clients.

Let’s hop back to question of lobbying. So much concern on part of the industry, about what they claim is an invidious piece of legislation, speaks loads of the threat they perceive to be looming on their heads. The software sector obviously feels threatened by such measures, which might mushroom in other parts of the world (just like them), exposing its serious vulnerability to developments in other countries (US accounts for 60% of its business and UK 20%). Influencing the Indian government to advice other countries against such steps is detrimental to the image of the government. Because in any case, legislations will be passed. Also, the software industry has already received a lot of favours in the form of extremely low taxes, so they should rather sort out such problems themselves. Blaming other countries for protectionist measures is not appropriate. Other countries have their own problems to tackle and they are under no obligation to help our industry survive.

If the software industry is truly a pioneer of innovation (which it claims to be), it needs to stop grumbling and find its way out of the labyrinth. What it is doing now will certainly not yield results because a whining boy might attract some attention, but he is never taken seriously. The Indian government might have succeeded in getting a stay on legislation, but what if other countries too start promulgating similar laws? Europe is neck deep in debt in addition to the heavy weight of unemployment on its head. Won’t be a surprise if they start becoming protectionist. As far as the question of privileges is concerned, I am positive that they certainly do not deserve the perquisites they enjoy!

The writer is a Correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.

Image courtesy: http://www.dismalworld.com/world_tour/outsourcing_industry_of_india.php

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  • Sagar

    Excellent article. However, I must disagree with a couple of points:

    1. The software industry is no more pioneering or special or in anyway different from any other industry out there. What makes it appear so is the nature of software, in which the R&D cycles are shorter than the others.

    2. Since it is just another industry, it will naturally use management/business methods to influence public opinion. These methods include lobbying(which IT companies are trying to do in this case), advertising, blogs etc. Do you think that if the Indian government tried to stop or impose barriers on the entry of foreign companies, they will not resort to these methods? Watch the current nuclear liability bill drama.

    3. Participation of the government in efforts to promote Indian industry’s interests is one of its duties. Have you ever seen how the US government promotes Lockheed-Martin or how the French government promotes its arms dealers.

    4. Until recently, bureaucracy and the licence-permit raj have not allowed the emergence of a robust manufacturing sector in India. Our university system too does not prepare youth for a “real” job. Which means that any industry that employs people in bulk, such as the IT industry are welcomed with open arms in India. Our youth simply did not, and still do not, have any other options.

    5. I am sure you must be aware of the principles of supply and demand. There is no demand for hi-tech innovation in India. If there is no demand, who bothers about creating supply?

    6. There are certainly people whose aim is to create innovation and whose talents are too great to be wasted on a regular IT job. Do not worry about those people. They will find their own way to escape the “lure of mass-recruiters from the industry”.

    7. At the end of the day, the software industry has to be treated just like any other industry. It is not the cure to our situation. It has its own role, and considering the future of our country and people, it must be welcomed for the value it creates.

    Anyway, great article. Keep it up.

      Amar Tejaswi

      Wonderful arguments. Let me now try and argue with you on the points you mentioned.

      1. I agree with your first point but would like to make a correction. ‘There is no industry less pioneering than the software industry.’

      2. You are correct here too. Any business entity would and should try and influence public opinion. And surely, if the Indian government imposes restrictions on the entry of foreign companies, they too would resort to lobbying. But in case of the nuclear liability bill, as you aptly mentioned, US companies that are lobbying are bigwigs like GE. These honchos control the government, they are half sponsors of the government. Their counterparts in India are TAB (Tata, Ambani & Birla). Now, I am not sure if the software industry has enough standing on the global platform to ask the Indian government to fight its case.

      3. True again. It sure is the government’s duty. US fiercely promotes its industry. I am not saying that the Indian govt. should not promote its industry. In all fairness, yes, it should. And the Indian govt. is totally backing the software industry by giving them surprisingly long tax holidays, even after they are earning handsome revenues.

      4. I completely agree with you on this point. Engineering students, in particular, most of the time do not have any other option. The education system needs to be blamed for this in addition to the govt. which promotes its frivolous universities. But now that the license-raj has been abolished, we should see the manufacturing sector bloom. But will it?

      5. I think you are wrong in saying that there is no demand for hi-tech equipment in India. Demand definitely is there, but the indigenous facility to feed that demand is not there. Take, for example, the semiconductor industry. Demand is sky-high, but how many Indian companies manufacture chips? Biggies like Intel, AMD, Texas Instruments, Cyprus Semiconductors all have landed in India (not without demand) Read this 4 year old report: http://www.physorg.com/news11145.html
      Indians might have the ability to work with hi-tech, but surely do not have the will power.

      6. Yes, I have heard that many a times. But, unfortunately, not everyone can escape.

      7. Well, that is your view. If my article projects me as someone who wants to obliterate the IT industry, then my article is doing a good enough job. The IT industry must not be allowed to transgress. And suitable steps must be taken.

      Thank you for reading my article and for your wonderful opinions. I would love to have your views on my other articles as well.

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