“It is an opportunity to work on a much larger canvas”

Mittal takes over from the outgoing president, Kiran Karnik.
He is currently senior vice president, HP Services, Asia Pacific, a role he will
relinquish after taking over the reins at Nasscom. Prior to this, he has been
the managing director of Digital/Compaq and chief executive with Wipro. Before
joining the IT industry in 1989, Mittal has worked in the Engineering and Auto
industries. Som Mittal has over 32 years of experience, of which the last 18
years have been in the IT industry. In an interaction with Dataquest, he shares
some of the priorities and challenges before Nasscom.

What is your first reaction to taking over the mantle from Kiran
Karnik as the president of Nasscom?
I am very pleased to take over this role. I have been an active member of
Nasscom for several years, and part of the Executive Council (EC) for almost 10
years now. It is an opportunity for me to work on a much larger canvas and see
if I can help the industry, and make some difference.

What are your immediate priorities on taking over Nasscom?
The first priority is to make sure there is continuity in the programs they
already have. Nasscom as an organization executes what strategies the EC
determines. My focus will be that. We have a large number of programs and
initiatives, and many more are in the pipeline.

We have three main roles as an association. First, to ensure
that we influence and work in our ecosystem so that it is conducive for the
industry to grow. These could be issues related to the government,
infrastructure or working with governments overseas for issues like visa. The
second priority would be to ensure that the industry prepares itself to run
effectively in the long run. The challenges will come from things like
resources, costs, forex movements. The industry should gear up to these

The third priority would be to make an impact on society. We
have to deal with issues like taking IT to the masses, what role Nasscom should
play in e-Governance, how we can help with cyber law issues such as data
privacy, data security, etc. We are taking a leadership position in the security
space. We have started initiatives like the National Skill Registry, and have
for the first time launched a Data Security Council of India (DSCI), an
independent self regulatory authority headed by Shyamal Ghosh.

IT is a resource-based industry, and our key offering is capable
people. With the kind of growth rate the industry has, we have to ensure that
there are well-trained, industry-ready resources that are available. Till now,
we have done pretty well.

How do you see the impact of rupee appreciation on IT companies?
What steps will Nasscom take to minimize the impact?
It is a free market driven movement. We are an export-based industry, so we
have felt the impact. The rate of change of the impact has been fastmuch more
for the rupee than any other currencyhence the industry did not have time to
readjust. Some steps which companies are looking at are: increasing efficiency,
increasing rates, reducing costs, etc. All companies, big and small, have been
affected, but big companies might cope better because of their larger footprints
and because they work in other currencies as well.

But BPO and small scale companies have felt the impact the most
because they are traditionally offshore-based and lesser hedging capable. The
levers that the government has are also few, but it can surely intervene. Our
request to the government will be to, if not directly, help by way of extending
the benefits through the STPI route, and beyond 2009. BPO is still very nascent
and we must ensure that we protect this industry.

Sudesh Prasad

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