The new year means a lot of
different things to a lot of different people. While most publications around the world
focus on high and low points of the previous year, a few try and venture into forecasting
for the next year. We, at DATAQUEST, identify what we call Sizzlers for the coming year.
We have had our share of hits and misses during the past years, but overall, the sizzlers
tend to dominate the industry for that particular year.
This year’s Sizzlers comes to you at
a time when the IT industry is brimming with confidence over the expected implementation
of the National IT Task Force recommendations. The liquidity problems, which dominated for
the better part of 1998, are also expected to diminish, with optimism about a market
And DATAQUEST decided to compile a
list of products, people, and companies which we think will sizzle in 1999. And what makes
these Sizzlers special than the previous ones is that they will be the last of the century
and they will lead the IT industry into the next millennium.
The making of a Sizzler
Selecting the sizzlers was not all that easy. While some of them were accepted unanimously
by an internal panel and an outside array of industry observers. Others were dwelled into
in detail and arrived upon. The aspects that were taken into consideration included market
opportunities; ability to innovate; strategy-technology as well as business; and the sheer
potential of each in the industry and the market.
In short, the sizzler is a company,
person or a product which has a potential to break the normal mould and revolutionize the
existing dynamics of the industry. This trait of treading the untrodden path is what sets
them apart from their counterparts. This, however, does not necessarily mean that they
will sell more or garner more share in the market. Instead, what a sizzler would do is
trigger off something different and be a trendsetter in the industry.
Surprisingly, the number of products
were overwhelmingly larger than the number of companies or people. And the number of
people couldn’t cross the figure of six. Does this mean we see a trend-a trend of products
becoming larger and surpassing companies and people. Or is it a trend of figure-heads and
evangelizers in our industry dwindling. These are a few thoughts that come to mind, when
one looks at the sizzlers of 1999.
There are other ‘sizzlers’ which
will make the industry tick in 1999. For example, the Y2K bug will still jingle the cash
registers at software export firms. And this will continue into the next millennium. Euro
is another opportunity, which will keep them going. For the domestic industry, the Central
Vigilance Commission (CVC) directive is a sizzler, which throws open a huge market for
them to automate. This would include all the PSU banks which will have to buy IT in the
immediate future according to the directive. The other sizzler for 1999 is the opening up
of the ISP sector to private parties. The new ISPs being set up and their customers
together will form a huge chunk of the market.
Well, the ingredients are all
there… the Sizzlers are yearning to shoot forward… the market is ready. Looking at all
this, it seems that 1999 will be nothing less than a terrific year for the Indian IT
industry. So welcome to a sizzling year.
CMD, Zenith Computers
Raj Saraf has clearly emerged as a trendsetter in the PC market. Last year his underlying
message was to make PCs available at lower prices. His Zenith Home PC has thus far reached
an estimated 15,000 homes. For Zenith and the domestic market Raj Saraf is a super
combination of Gordon Moore and Andy Grove. He has made it a habit to launch a new product
line every six months. This year Saraf hopes to sell the recently-launched 10,000 i-PCs or
internet-ready PCs which he says is a conservative estimate. The next move: to take on the
PC workstation vendors with a product launch in April.
Secretary, Industry, Govt of Tamil Nadu
It would not be an exaggeration to say that he is more popular in the state IT industry
than many people who actually belong to the industry. As Secretary, Industry, Government
of Tamil Nadu, Srinivasan could justifiably take the credit for placing the spotlight on
the until-then-sleepy state of Tamil Nadu. A major incentive in the form of floor space
index for construction of IT Parks, the setting up of TANITEC (Tamil Nadu Institute of
IT), the commencement of work on TIDEL Software Technology Park, formation of an IT
Department, a tie-up with WorldTel for Community Internet Concept, and setting up of a
venture capital fund are but a few of his initiatives.
Vice President, Polaris Software
She might not be the old familiar face in the Indian IT industry, but she definitely is a
woman of substance. She made her debut in the industry at a time when “computer
professionals were mistaken for punchcard operators.” And today she heads the
100-strong team at the NOIDA STP. As an industry person her mission is to contribute
whatever she can, directly or indirectly, in making India a significant IT major in the
global arena, while on a personal level she would be happy to see an increase in
automation in India.
President, Datacraft RPG Ltd
The woman, the machine and her mission: Lynette Saldanha, Datacraft RPG and networking
services export. “Ours has been a silent but a sound company,” says she. The aim
now is to take it global. The obvious target market is the US, but the route will be
through the Middle East and Europe. For now the focus for Saldanha is definitely the ISP
and the basic services market. And she is optimistic that her company’s strong two-year
relationship with the monopoly in the ISP sector, VSNL, will take it places. She expects a
substantial contribution, 25% of the total revenues, to come from the export sector in two
Secretary, Department of IT, Govt of Andhra Pradesh
He left a doctorate course in solid state chemistry to join the civil services in 1975.
And as if this were not enough a diversion, he took a two-year study leave in the midst of
his career to do a master’s in computer science from Pennsylvania State University. R
Chandrashekhar is now creating ‘linkages,’ as he calls it, for AP Government’s IT
initiatives. Chandrashekhar is omnipresent in the state as far as IT activity is
concerned. He is involved in virtually all the initiatives of the state government. The
successful completion of the first phase of Hi-Tec city project owes a great deal to him
and he is quite enthusiastic about the second phase too.
Anand M Halbe,
Director (Marketing), Sun Microsystems India Ltd
Forty-three-year-old Halbe is known as the Relationship Man. He swears by relationships
and says that in the computer industry “it is a relationship-based environment.”
It is this ability combined with a keen sense of ‘clairvoyance’ that has been the
consistent factor in his personal and professional life. At Sun Microsystems, he has
single-handedly raised its visibility across all target segments in India in the three
years that he has been there. From a little-understood company for many Sun was just a
workstation company, today it is recognized as a company with multiple strengths, growing
and gaining marketshare in India.
Solaris 7 is Sun Microsystems’ answer to the Windows NT onslaught and beyond. Being the
first full 64-bit OS for RISC and Intel platforms alike, it becomes the only OS which can
be called Merced-ready. Further, it is the only OS that can run 32-bit and 64-bit
applications unchanged and simultaneously. Sun’s own star technologies like Java and Jini,
recently acquired companies and strategic technology agreements with AOL-Netscape and
Oracle will help it address emerging market opportunities. In India, Solaris 7 will lead
the Unix front, capitalizing on the emerging opportunities in various server classes
including ISP, enterprise and data-center.
Novell’s NetWare 5 is expected to make significant inroads in the Indian market because of
the large existing NetWare base in the country. According to the company, large deals have
been negotiated in India. Developers are being enjoined to develop applications around
NetWare 5/NDS and there is a year-long contest to elicit mass interest.
NetWare 5 builds on the NetWare technology by enhancing NDS (Novell Directory Services)
and volume management while providing tools like Zero Effort Networks (ZEN). The two
biggest changes are the ConsoleOne graphical interface on the server and the ability to
run over pure IP. Others to make the bundle attractive are Netscape Fast Track Server and
Oracle 8 database server.
SQL Server 7.0
Stability and endurance of the Sphinx. Scalability of the Washington Monument. These were
just two of the comparisons used by Microsoft at the launch of its newest database.
Microsoft’s description of SQL, ‘Software that helps organizations turn information into
results,’ has helped build an unprecedented flurry of expectation in this product sector,
soliciting some frantic responses from arch rival Oracle. Undoubtedly, SQL Server 7.0 will
continue to hold the attention of the IT community the world over. The top award it won
recently from a leading PC industry publication, PC Week, is recognition that this dynamic
product from the software giant is in a league of its own.
SuperStack II Switch 9000 SX
Gigabit Ethernet has arrived in India, at least in large campus networks. Driving it is
the star product from 3Com, the SuperStack II 9000 SX gigabit switch. It cost-effectively
solves bandwidth problems in the backbone and maintains current investment in existing
Ethernet/Fast Ethernet switches. It can also upgrade connections between switches to
gigabit speeds. The gigabit technology is still leading-edge. While the market for Fast
Ethernet (100Mbps) switches still continues to grow, Gigabit Ethernet will also get
adopted by many Indian organizations during the year. It is estimated that such switches
will be sold in hundreds during the year. Leading the charge will be SuperStack.
Cisco AS5800 Universal Access
Delivering on the vision of telephony-scale large data networks, the AS5800 is
specifically designed to meet the demands of large-scale service providers in telephony
and internet services. Put simply, it is that intelligent gadget which gives a network,
public or private, the ability to handle multiple data types for multiple applications and
making the network available to increasing scale of users. Though the world leaders in
this segment happen to be 3Com and Ascend, the Indian market has given quite a few success
stories for AS5800, with nearly 180 E1 lines connected today. It is estimated that nearly
80,000 ports will get sold during 1999 in the country.
Cisco 3600 Series Access Router
The Cisco 3600 Series Access Router is an unchallenged product in the Indian access router
market. Globally, in December ’98, the product surpassed the 100,000-unit shipment
milestone. With more than 50 modular interface options, the Cisco 3600 family provides
solutions for dial access, data/voice integration, virtual private networks and
multiprotocol data routing. Large and medium enterprise networks and ISPs in India are
going to be the potential users of the product during 1999. Its success in the global
market and the wide adoption in the Indian market will make the series a ‘sure sell’ for
Seascape is IBM’s storage enterprise architecture, which integrates various
technologies-disk, tape, optical, RISC processors, and software-to provide storage
solutions that span the range of servers from PCs to supercomputers (from Unix, Windows
NT, and mid-range to S/390). The architecture is based on three major principles:
universal data access, a storage server architecture and ‘snap-in’ hardware and software
building blocks. And going by India’s readiness to IBM architecture and to storage,
Seascape has a bright future ahead.
A path-breaking PC processor, the Cyrix MediaGX merges graphics, audio, memory control and
the PCI interface right into the CPU. And all this at a lesser price: MediaGX-based PCs
cost about 20% less than those based on any other processors. With these advantages,
MediaGX has enabled the PC prices to come below Rs30,000, and Cyrix aims to reduce the
price further to the levels of Rs25,000 and Rs20,000 subsequently. MediaGX-based PCs are
beginning to compete with TVs on retail shelves. The only hitch for Cyrix: the huge brand
equity of Intel. The advantage: it can keep playing the underdog, dangle the price tag
more tantalizingly and give competition some headache in 1999.
Silicon Graphics 320,
540 NT Workstations
Remember that snazzy Silicon Graphics workstation you were enviously eyeing at the Comdex
exhibition but couldn’t afford, is now available at the price of a high-end PC or an
entry-level server. It was just what you wanted for the bunch of whiz guys in your
organization, but couldn’t give them. But now you can-and many of them for the price of
one. With the release of the Silicon Graphics NT workstation, the visual computing space
appears to be rewritten as never before. The company has released its first two models at
prices of Rs2.7 lakh and Rs4.4 lakh. And these are not the scaled-down versions of the
Unix blockbusters, but their counterparts in the NT workspace.
Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5
Microsoft had claimed that Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 would be the number one messaging
and collaboration platform-and the company did it! According to an IDC annual report,
Microsoft Exchange Server outsold Lotus Notes by over 400,000 seats in the first six
months of calendar year 1998. Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 provides interoperability with
shared file messaging systems, host-based systems, Notes/Domino and X.400, allowing
Exchange to seamlessly coexist in a heterogeneous messaging environment. Extensive
coexistence and migration tools enable legacy system users to adopt this software in a
phased manner while continuing to support communication with external organizations using
IBM S/390 Server
Consider the task of complete automation of corporate monoliths like LIC, MTNL, Indian
Oil, Air India, State Banks, with hundreds of thousands of transaction a day, across vast
geographies. Nothing short of a highly scalable, mission critical server, with 99.999%
reliability would meet their requirements. The fifth-generation S/390 mainframe from IBM
is being pitched as the server of choice for them. A vastly improved system launched in
August 1998, now features a more open operating environment with in-built SAP and Java
support, memory storage from 1 to 24GB and disk storage from 18 to 576 GB.
Very little is known about this Texas-based company in India currently, whose RHYTHM suite
of products are marketed through their subsidiary Think Systems Pvt Ltd in India. Headed
by Sanjiv Sidhu, Chairman and CEO, the 10-year-old i2 Technologies is known globally for
its software which allows companies to manage their global supply chains, one of the major
challenges faced by companies today.
It was in 1995 that i2 Technologies
delivered the first truly distributed supply chain planning architecture to solve large
complex inter-enterprise chains. And alongwith this the company took up the challenge of
providing $50 billion in value through growth and savings to its customers by the year
2005 as its vision statement. And according to a study conducted by RB Miller Corp, i2 has
succeeded in creating $3.5 billion in customer value by mid-1998.
The worldwide PC microprocessor giant is donning a new garb. And in its new avatar, the
company will be providing venture capital for companies with a promising future. This was
initiated during the visit of Dr Craig R Barrett last year, with the first candidate being
Rediff On the Net. Many more companies in the field of software development or internet
content development are being earmarked for investments by Intel’s India office. The idea
of Intel is to look for companies with whom it can match its business interests-the
entrepreneurial companies need the helping hand in terms of finance and they in turn will
obviously propagate Intel’s technology platform.
The acquisition of Unicorp’s Compaq business has placed the erstwhile Spectra Innovations,
now Electronic Resources India (ERI), in the big league. The aggregation of its original
business and acquired business has helped it emerge as a big contender and a possible
alternative to GPTL and Redington in the distribution arena. Also, ERI’s affiliation with
Ingram Micro, the world’s largest IT distribution company, is expected to do whole lot of
good to the company. It could help the company to bag good product ranges for
distribution. Experts believe that ERI can largely benefit by leveraging upon its parent’s
distribution skills to make a dent in the Indian marketplace.
‘This subsidiary of Hyderabad-based Satyam Computer services has the credit of becoming
the country’s first ISP. Better still, the company has been regularly launching its
services in different cities and hopes to have its services in about 12 cities before the
start of the next year. And its target is to get operational in 40 nodes across the
country by fiscal 1998-99. The company is offering CD ROMs, with easy-to-install commands,
wktn its services, which has seen a lot of corporates and homes taking to Satyam’s
internet connection as opposed to the supply-on-demand connection from VSNL.
The year could prove to be a crucial one for cellular operators in Mumbai and Delhi, with
MTNL soon to launch its services in the two cities. For, the PSU’s entry into the cellular
market is expected to have major consequences for the private cellular operators.
Moreover, the PSU might actually take the mobile communication to the masses. With a
target of two million subscribers in five years, MTNL is aiming to achieve economies of
scale which can be used to hawk cellular services at a paltry cost of Rs2 a minute. It
plans to equip its 10,000-strong STD/PCO chain with internet facility, and set-up 20 Cyber
Dhabas in the two metros.
The merger of Pricewaterhouse Associates and Coopers & Lybrand has led to the
formation of the second largest professional organization of consultants. PwC’s Technology
Center at Saltlec covers 55,000 sq ft of space and functions as a one-stop center for
multi-vendor solutions. The center provides solutions in the areas of web technology,
multimedia, ERP, datawarehousing, groupware, workflow, customized and leveraged solutions
for Indian and overseas clients.
The Oracle Center of Excellence
(OCE) at the Technology Center serves as a hub for the development of industry-specific
solutions. PwC has already announced the launch of Empower ERP solution for the power
industry and Oracle CPG for the consumer packaged goods industry.
Eastern Software Systems Ltd
Think about this. A target of 100 installations by the financial year ending March 1999
and a ten-fold increase in the number of installations by March 2000. If you think that’s
ambitious, think about the market potential. To begin with, an estimated 3 million
registered small-scale industries.
ESS, the makers of MakESS, an ERP package for the SME sector is gunning high, and not
without reasons. Apart from metropolitan cities, the company has been getting inquiries
from second- and third-tier regions too. In fact, the company has already installed its
ERP package at Yash Papers Ltd in Faizabad. The big advantage of MakESS is that it takes
care of statutory requirements like excise, Form 16A, income tax etc.
SQL Star International Ltd
It’s time to hit pay dirt is the message, if the financials are any indication. SQL Star
for the first half year of 1998-99 has declared a profit before tax (PBT) of Rs215 lakh,
surpassing the 1997-98 full year PBT of Rs160 lakh. The clear indications-the company is
moving up in the high margins business, with a synergistic strategy of high-end education
and leveraging the knowledge base to position itself to market services on these
Moreover, rather than getting into
the franchise model for its training and education business, the company has stuck to it
the ownership model in active partnership with Oracle (Oracle Apps), IBM (AS/400), Lotus
(Notes), Microsoft (front-end tools and internet technology products), and others. Also,
these are the platforms in the software and consulting business where the company is
making deep inroads.
VSNL Seamless Services Ltd (VSSL)
One question that will continue haunting VSNL this year too is: when will its internet
company (VSSL) begin operations? Eleven months since its inception in April of 1998, VSSL
is still a khokha (technically existent but commercially non-operational) company.
However, there is no doubt that the internet operations will continue their dominance in
the internet arena even after the opening up of the sector. Its two-year lead and mammoth
investment during the period, will allow VSNL to decide the course of the future of
internet in the country. It will take at least two years for any ISP to compete against
VSNL, say industry people. By the end of this fiscal, the internet operations of the
monolith will be worth Rs200 crore and its client base is expected to touch two lakh
Sonata Software Ltd
Sonata Software’s IPO has received overwhelming response-oversubscribed four times. And
not surprisingly, Sonata also became the first software company to go public in the last
12 months. The company, which started with distribution of software in the domestic
market, has in the last two years turned its attention to the lucrative software exports
business. It will invest the proceeds of IPO, Rs23 crore, in setting up a development
center in Bangalore. Sonata has a stated goal to get to Rs300 crore by the year 2000-Rs150
crore from products and an additional Rs150 crore from exports. The company has less than
two years to accomplish this. And in order to get there, Sonata needs to grow at a rate of
88% for two consecutive years.