Nasscom and the Art of ‘Feel Good’ Creation

The annual industry extravaganza that NASSCOM organizes every year with so
much pomp and aplomb was just that this February — an extravaganza, where the
who’s who of India’s Software industry rubbed shoulders with country
delegations by the dozen, think tanks from the US, everybody that matters from
the industry research community and of course, key customers willing to share
experiences and learn from the latest developments in an industry that never
stands still.

The sessions this year were kicked off by an excellent keynote by UK minister
Stephen Timms, whose diverse portfolio of e-commerce and power may have raised
some eyebrows, but whose passionate argument in favour of free trade won him
many friends in an industry which has been taken aback by the sudden moves in
the US against offshore outsourcing. While there is no doubt that bureaucrats in
the UK would be watching US moves with close attention, it was heartening to the
industry that one of the major customer nations and an important influencer in
the global political and business firmament could so confidently support the
Indian software story. It’s mutual of course. The recent major outsourcing of
IT contracts of the National Health Services to consortia that included Indian
offshore companies have been matched by the awarding of a contract from our very
own ministry of IT to foreign firms in fair competition.

delegation after delegation pitched the glories of Wales, Taiwan,
Hong Kong, Canada, etc to woo Indian firms to set up centres and
in their countries

The backlash refrain echoed through the halls of the conference during the
business sessions, right till the very last speaker, Lante of the ITAA, who
cautioned the Indian industry against playing too vocal a role in the ongoing
debates in the US. He also advocated a "let the US companies fight your
battle" approach. As Washington think tank leader Simmons said, the Indian
Software industry is in a lonely position and India has been protectionist in
too many sectors for too long to justify excessive noise in favour of free
trade. A matter of some concern, however, that most of the well-informed global
speakers felt that the problem would not just go away after the US elections,
but would linger long enough to warrant serious attention and engagement in a
proactive and careful manner.

This Nasscom event will also be remembered for some excellent innovations in
session planning. India’s famous WITS (Wipro, TCS, Infosys and Satyam) fielded
their best (Ramadorai, Raju, Nandan and Vivek Paul by videoconference) to
discuss the challenges of the past present and future. Industry icon Narayana
Murthy offered pithy advice to politicians, economists, industry leaders and the
media on the virtues of humility and customer focus and while researchers from
Gartner and Forrester outlined the strategies needed to win business in the new
emerging global IT landscape, a clutch of IT
Secretaries argued about the hottest destination for BPO.

And the surest sign of an industry that has truly come of age–in a little
room buried in the basement of the Oberoi hotel, country delegation after
delegation pitched the glories of Wales, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Canada, etc to woo
Indian firms to set up centres and offices in their countries.

And in the true tradition set by the irrepressible Dewang Mehta, the Nasscom
fashion shows too, like the conference, moved from strength to strength.
Directed for the second year running by actor- turned-politician-turned-event
director Nitesh Bharadwaj, this year’s edition featured Software CEOs dressed
in costumes ranging from Gandhi to Einstein to Shiva to Vivekananda to Shivaji
(did somebody say–in search of alternate careers?) and jostling for attention
amidst their cat walking peers and music and dance –an eye-opener for many of
our foreign guests who realized that this 24 by 7 industry plays as hard as it
works. As many visiting CEOs and CIOs concurred, this is a truly amazing
industry that reflects in every way possible, the vibrancy of India Shining and
will treat every success as a milestone on the path to true global achievement.

The author is deputy chairman & managing director of Zensar Technologies
and chairman of Nasscom’s SME Forum for Western India Ganesh

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