Forget Growth

I thought the fact that the Indian IT industry is $50 bn will
bring lots of cheer. I believed that the hat-trick of 30% annual growth will
only bring positive vibes. I was sure that another hat-trick on the domestic
growth of over 25% will be a big motivator. But, surely, that is not how
everybody looks at the big picture. A lot of us are actually worried about
whether we will be able to sustain this growth, or has the time for slowdown

My take on this is a little different. Firstly, I do not believe
that growth of the overall Indian industry, as well as that of the domestic
market, is going to slow down significantly. If at all, the slowdown will be
marginal, not even worth taking note of. In fact, there would be quite a few
areas where we are likely to see a stronger growth than last year. I am ready to
attribute some of this growth in IT to the telecom infrastructure that we will
see building up in the next few years.

Coming back to this little panic about growth, I imagine that if
we think in the long term, it is crucial that IT growth in our country is not
just about numbers. Not only me, but those who are investing in IT, and those
who are supposed to be the end beneficiaries of IT, would be happier if returns
on IT bring a more visible changein terms of efficiencies and profitability,
and in terms of making life and work simpler.

In the
coming year, trying to force growth from the existing big customers could
actually backfire, and prove to be detrimental for the domestic market

For instance, we are seeing lots of investment in
pharmaceutical, but costs of medicine and quality are still a matter of concern.
I am aware of a CEO of a large pharmaceutical firm who uses medicines made in
Germany as he believes they are better. We hear of so many cases of spurious
medicines being sold in the market, the brunt of which is borne by the common
man. So how has IT helped the pharmaceutical business? Similarly, millions are
pouring into e-Governance projects, but the final impact on citizens at large is
still not visible.

I, therefore, believe that more than number growth, the priority
of the IT community at largeincluding vendors and CIOsshould be growth in
terms of better utilization of IT resources. This implies that whatever is being
invested on ITin large, medium or even small enterprisesneeds to be
consolidated. Therefore, I would be happy if there is focus on software,
applications, processes, and other stuff that enhance usability rather than
computing power.

A few years back, software and applications-centric IT budget
was not very common. The rise of domestic IT consumption is however changing all
that, and enterprise users are now demanding tangible returns on investments in
IT. The pressure will obviously be on most of the CIOs and his or her team.
Vendors will do no great service if they also put more pressure on IT managers
to buy more. Instead, if vendors can help out CIOs in leveraging IT, that will
be great. I am very sure that if the enterprise users can see some solid
benefits from the money they spent on IT, they will have a much bigger plan on
IT spend in the coming years. This is the time to become true partners of your
customers and advice accordingly, and not just want to sell.

This year, therefore, the industry should concentrate on
emerging areas for pushing hardware sales. There are lots of them including
education, homes, small businesses, and government. Further, locations beyond
metros and category-A cities are now very aggressively investing in IT. This
should give growth. Trying to force growth from existing big customers could
actually backfire.

The author is Group Editor of Dataquest.

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