One fine morning last winter, my young colleague, Manjiri Kalghatgi, came up
with a bright idea: with so much cynicism in the air all around the Indian IT
and BPO industry, wouldn’t it be great to meet some truly inspiring people,
understand what inspired them to succeed and build a model for inspiration for
the younger generation? And thus was born the idea for a fun book project called
INSPIRED which has seen us travel from Mumbai to Delhi to Hyderabad, in search
of some very inspiring and very different people.
From the evergreen star Dev Anand to scientist Jayant Narlikar; from Supercop
Kiran Bedi to the very articulate Arun Shourie; from a woman of great substance
Anu Aga to the very cerebral Kiran Karnik; and from Hyderabad IT czar Ramalinga
Raju to the father of the telecom revolution, Sam Pitroda-the canvas of
inspiration has indeed been colored with many hues during this journey.
But if there is one interaction I would choose, as a true eye opener for all
of us in IT, it is the fireside chat with one of the most dynamic ‘manufacturing’
visionaries of our time, Baba Kalyani. How often do we pat ourselves on the back
and say: "It is IT which has put India on the global map" and
sometimes even more sanctimoniously: "India should focus on services and
leave manufacturing to China!" Have we forgotten that even if we do make 7
mn jobs happen, as stated by FM P Chidambaram in his budget speech, we would
only scratch the surface of the employment problem that is staring our country
in the face, for the millions of young Indians.
Visionaries like Baba can teach many lessons to all of us in IT. The first
lesson is that of visionary leadership. Here is a man who knew every shop floor
workman by name and has the ability to empower every one of his thousands of
employees, in India as well as in Germany, with a shared vision that enables day
to day working stress to become "a tonic rather than a disease". The
second lesson is to create a white collar enabled revolution rather than throw
more blue collared workmen at every production problem.
And, if the parallel misses some of our own fraternity, let me explain.
Innovation in software development will come when traditional System Development
Life Cycle Waterfall models get replaced by Agile development methodologies,
where the creation of designs and effective prototypes will replace the old
manual programming model and the need of the day will be more solution
architects and software engineers than coders. When this model begins to pervade
the industry, remember it is an "old economy" visionary who has slowly
created a completely white collar enabled manufacturing capability that
discovered it first and is building a model that will redefine the boundaries
for Indian innovation.
The story he told us of his first day in his newly acquired company in
Germany bears repeating for the sheer simplicity of the message. Walking into a
factory full of morose employees who were wondering what had hit them that a
venerable European institution had fallen prey to an Asian businessmen, Baba
said to them: "All I want is to make you all walk with your head high and a
smile on your face!" If that isn’t world beating confidence and the
courage of true conviction, what is?
The author is deputy chairman and managing director of Zensar Technologies
and chairman of Nasscom’s SME Forum for Western India Ganesh