DQI Bureau
New Update (7930 bytes) align="right" hspace="4">–Ravindra


Secretary, DoE, Govt of India


He is softspoken, but very

firm on what he is saying. The new Secretary of Department of Electronics (DoE) is a

veteran IAS officer who was Principal Secretary (Industrial Development), Government of

Uttar Pradesh. He is also boning up on technology and has ambitious plans for the IT

growth in India. For a quintessential bureaucrat, Ravindra Gupta is extremely candid and

brutal in his assessment of the ground realities facing the country. Mixing the macro

policy matters with the nitty gritties of the micros, Gupta spoke to DATAQUEST barely 12

days after he assumed office, on himself, DoE, the Government priorities, and his action

plan. Excerpts:

You have taken over the Department

of Electronics at a time when a major policy initiative is being planned in IT. This is

the first time such an initiative has been planned. Does this faze you?
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No, why should it? I think this is a welcome recognition of the potentialities of this
area. There is a recognition that IT is important and there is no doubt that it can play a

key role in the country. It is an interesting time.

But this PMO> did not happen in the last 15 years. Do you think that puts us in a position where we

will be unable to catch up with the rest of the world?
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No, I don't think so. Just because you put it on some national agenda or electoral
manifesto does not mean that you are not giving attention to this sector. This sector has

got attention. It is not that it is happening today. I think this sector has been

performing well. The overall growth rate of over 20 percent compounded annually. And in

software, of course, it is much brighter. So I think that at least in software we have an

advantage. It is not that government did not have policy initiatives, it did have.


What are your first impressions of


It is a fine department and IT is an

area which will grow. You see, electronics, information technology, water, and genetic

engineering are the areas of tomorrow. These will have to get focus.

What have you decided as your

priority areas?

You have to assess your

strengths and then build your plan of action and strategy thereon. And secondly, in an

international environment, there will always be decisions that you will have to make in

that (global) context. And sometimes, decisions that might not always be relevant for the

global market. But these are two imperatives. By the way, software is an area of strength.

In a couple of years this will become the major export focus. That is an area where

sustained effort is necessary.

So you are confident of software

being a major growth engine?

Definitely yes. You see major

IT players are all looking at India for software. I think it is quite possible that we

will quadruple our share of the global software trade in the next few years and that is

only the beginning. But if we want to become a major player, I feel that apart from

software we need strong R&D support. I feel that the Department must give basic

support for building a strong R&D network. I think a strong R&D is also necessary

for strategic requirements.


For the last year or so

Indianization has been a buzzword in DoE. Are you going to give the movement a further


Well, personally I am not sold on some word. You see we must look at the rationale behind
Indianization or indigenization. Today, technological obsolescence is so high that

sometimes it does not make sense go in for indigenization. Because, you have to compete in

your own market and you have to compete globally, and I think this move might not prove

very fruitful given the handicaps we have in the financial and infrastructure sectors.

But what about using local language

as a medium on computers to increase computer proliferation?
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Yes, there is a definite need for that. But for a country to improve you need a

certain type of education. You need people to have a certain IT-orientation. There are

other issues involved. Like PC penetration, for example. Right now it is one per 1000.

Now, if we are to increase penetration to even 10 per 1000, that is up to 1 percent, then

it is important to have some kind of language development on the PCs, otherwise

penetration is not going to happen. That is why the country has to work on software on

Indianization. But there are other issues as well, like the question of affordability for

example. For the 0.1 percent penetration this kind of language development is not really

necessary. But if we want to go deeper then this kind of effort is well-intentioned and

well-thought-of. There have been a number of efforts within the Department in this

direction and yes, the Department will continue to give this a priority.

But one of the problems peculiar to

this Department seems to be that there has been no major IT policy initiative till now,

since the IT policy of 1984....What you are saying is that there is no published


....No, it's not just a document having a focus or a vision. No, but why don't you have a
look at the Five Year Plan document? You will see the intent there. You will see the

direction there. You cannot say the intent or the policy is not there. It is there. There

might be problems with the acceptability of the intent and policy, but they are there. I

am aware of this, but I would like to review everything before I put forward a draft



Is this draft policy going to be

similar to the action plan suggested by the Prime Minister?

You see, you must have a

vision. Then you must have goals that will help you achieve that vision. The action plan

says that India must become a global IT superpower in 10 years. Now, we must examine what

this means and then work out on a practical achievable target. There are a lot of issues

involved. The government, for example, will not be able to find the kind of resources that

is required to make the statement into a reality. So, we have to look at other methods. Of

inviting private sector, of inviting global IT majors to come into the country. We have to

find a solution.

Do you think the government should

play a role in inviting major R&D based investment dollars into the country?
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We have to play a role in getting the large investments. For example, I would like to see
one of the chip majors set up a mega-fab in the country. Now that is a huge investment in

the tune of over $ 2 billion just for the plant alone and another $ 1 billion for the

support infrastructure. But for this to happen, we need to give a push at the highest

level. I have proposed some incentives to the Finance Ministry which might be announced in

the next Budget, but you see nowadays it is no longer enough just to give incentives and

put it up on the Internet and hope that Bill Gates or somebody will see it and come and

invest here. You have to go out and get the investment. For example, when the Prime

Minister goes out of the country, we must try and arrange one-to-one meetings between him

and these chip-makers. That kind of special push is required if we are to get in the big


One of the things which has been

quite important is producing cheaper computers. Even the government tried it, but less

successfully. Now, is affordability on your agenda?
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Affordability is a big issue. But I really don't know if we can make another Volkswagen
Beetle. Reducing the price of a PC by a couple of a thousand rupees is not going to help

much. The PC will still be in the range of Rs 40,000-50,000. That is still too much for

most Indian families. It is definitely not the equivalent of $ 1000. How to make a cheaper

PC, I do not know. Because, even at Rs 20,000 the PC will still be too expensive for most

Indians. Even if we give incentives to manufacturers, there is still a component price

which is too expensive. So I really cannot see a solution to this. To counter this, one of

the things I am looking at is to see that we get computers more into our schools. Most of

the schools, today, cannot afford to buy PCs. So we are looking at various methods. For

example, permitting government organizations donate their PCs to schools after two years.

This is not allowed now. Further, one computer is not enough. But then, it is at least a

start. We have to start looking at ways and means beyond duty cuts. Today the duties and

taxes are not that high anyway. So cutting them is not going to make much of a difference.

Anyway, if we are to increase awareness and penetration then the schools is the best way

to go.


The DoE does have a society that

looks after computer education. Do you think you need to give a re-look at the

functionality of the DoEACC?

As I have already told you I will be giving a fresh look at everything. I don't know yet
what extra role the DoEACC can play. In fact, I am looking at the ITIs which are spread

all over the country as the primary dissemination body for training on computers. You see

there are a number of issues involved but I look at it as four major issues or problems.

To sort these out, I will be setting up four missions-one each for technology,

infrastructure, HR, and mega-fab. These four will address the major areas of concern for

the Department.

By when do you intend to have these

missions in place?

You must give me sometime. I

have just taken over. You see we have to put the vision together. Get the policy mooted

and then put the structure in place. Mobilize the Department and the Government. There is

a lot of work to be done. All I can say is that I am looking at a Vision 2020 for the


There is a lot of talk recently

that the Department is going to be converted to a Ministry.

What is there in a name. You

people think that if we become a ministry our problems will go away. It's like saying if

we appoint a relief commissioner then there will be no longer any calamity. Unfortunately,

it does not work that way. Whether a department or a ministry, the problems will remain

the same and they will be similarly dealt with.



in Delhi.