Cut through the Hype…

The IT education and training industry did not remain immune to the impact of
the overall global economic slowdown. The sluggish performance of the sector was
largely a result of the hype generated around the IT industry downturn. News
from the Silicon Valley in the United States and parts of Europe centered around
job cuts, layoffs and a freeze on hiring by key global players, resulting in
falling consumer confidence in information technology.

A barrage of reports pointing to shrinking opportunities in the IT career
bazaar added to the confusion, compelling young aspirants to question the allure
of IT careers. The result was that in the first half of 2001, students adopted a
wait-and-watch policy, delaying their decision of taking up IT courses while
evaluating the prospects of the industry.

“The IT downturn brought sanity into a market where there weren’t any entry barriers…even a hosiery firm named XYZ Softwear could get crazy valuation in the stock market” 

P Rajendran 

Overall, the IT education segment shrank, bringing with it significant
changes in composition and focus. But the global downturn brought some sanity in
a market place where there were not too many entry barriers, making it easy for
even a company in the hosiery business but named XYZ Softwear to get crazy
valuations in the stock market!

While the larger players with strong fundamentals managed to survive,
training leaders in fact, garnered a larger share of the diminishing marketplace–it
was the smaller players who took the brunt of the recessive global wave. The
country’s key IT education leaders who were trying to establish business in
geographies beyond India, where the need for IT manpower was acute, were able to
entrench themselves deeper in these markets.

Domestic turf
Back in India, the good news is that young Indians consider computers as the
‘coolest’ career. A study conducted in March-April 2001 by the music
channel, MTV in association with the Indian Market Research Bureau covering 1619
people between the age groups of 15-24, revealed that computer courses have high
acceptance among the youth.

It is also becoming evident to end users and students that a ‘working
knowledge of IT’ is a must to get ahead in life. Take the instance of a
recently conducted survey covering around 8,770 students across 233 colleges and
six key universities in the state of Maharashtra. Undertaken by research agency,
Development Planning and Research Center, the study throws up some interesting
insights in the minds of the youth. It indicates that a significant 48% of
respondents are currently enrolled in IT training programs! These students have
in fact, demanded that computer education be made a part of the curriculum for
every faculty, including arts.

Looking ahead
While the global slowdown had an impact on the short term, it is beyond
doubt that IT has now become fundamental in every walk of life and will witness
strong demand recovery as the economic revival sets in. More and more
organizations will look to IT companies to computerise their operations, driving
up the demand for technology and in turn for technology professionals.

By all accounts, the prospects of India’s IT training industry remain
promising. Silicon Valley bigwigs have once again started opening doors to
recruitment and one cannot help but believe that IT careers will be back in the
spotlight. The other issue is that countries such as USA, Germany, UK, Italy,
France, Australia, New Zealand and Japan are continuing to face a demand-supply
gap in the area of IT manpower. In India too, the opportunities for IT training
remain hot.

Nasscom’s Strategic Review 2002 shows that there is expected to be a
shortage of nearly 530,000 IT professionals in India alone during the next four
years. This does not include the employment opportunities in the IT enabled
services segment. These professionals will be absorbed in companies that export
software, organizations that develop software for India and corporates who need
professionals to take charge of their in-house IT needs.

IT training in India, therefore, continues to have major potential.
Opportunities exist for serious, committed and trusted players both in the
domestic and export markets and this trend will gain momentum as IT continues to
pervade every aspect of our lives.

P Rajendran
The author is chief operating officer, NIIT

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