Promises To Keep


It was the next day to the Indian Republic Day. And the patriotic fervor was intact. The
air at the inauguration ceremony NASSCOM’99 rendered with national pride and a sense of
belonging. The tenth annual conference of National Association of Software and Service
Companies opened with the telecast of the soul-filling rendering of Lata Mangeshkar’s
Vande Mataram album, composed by music maestro AR Rahman. Bharat Bala, who conceived the
album, was there to share the ‘timeless idea’ of the national song and its ability to make
us ‘realize our inner strength’ as one community-the Indian community.

With a turnaround of more than 500 delegates from the software industry, the three-day
event organized at Mumbai provided a single platform for interaction among CEOs and IT
professionals from different parts of the country. There was also an equal representation
of people from the financial organizations who were keen on understanding trends in this
sunrise industry. With a broad perspective for the next 10 years, NASSCOM’99 gave
directions to ‘Vision 2008’, set rigid standards of quality and commitment for the Indian
software industry, backed with guidelines for achieving the targets.

Speaking on the occasion, the then Chief Minister of Maharashtra campaigning for
investments in the state by illustrating its key strengths. He highlighted the fact that
while the total software exports in the country in the last fiscal (1997-98) stood at
Rs6,500 crore, the software exports from Mumbai alone registered an export turnover of
Rs3,500 crore. Touching upon the infrastructural strengths of the state, the CM promised
that the Knowledge Corridor Expressway between Mumbai and Pune will be ready soon. Adding
to the CM’s statement, State Industry Minister, Leeladar Dake, announced that Maharashtra
would celebrate 1999 as the ‘IT Year’. However, with the change of Government soon after,
how many of these programs and promises will see the light of the day remains to be seen.

The E-3 Mantra
Summing up the goal of the software industry for the coming decade, Dewang Mehta,
President, NASSCOM, declared the E-3 Mantra of Education, Employment and Economy as the
theme of the event. "The target is to create an additional 1.5 million jobs in the
software industry and touch the export revenues of $100 billion by 2008," he said.
NASSCOM is also aiming at $35 billion domestic software market in the coming 10-year
period. The other aspects he addressed were: 100% computer literacy, software industry
working closely with IITs, IIMs and other premier institutes and Y2K.

Raj Jain, Chairman, NASSCOM, shared his dream of placing India on the road to economic
prosperity through IT. "Explore, Dream and Drive," he said would be the catch
words for the industry. While Saurabh Srivastava, Chairman, NASSCOM’99, announced that
NASSCOM has commissioned McKinsey & Co for developing a strategy that would help India
reach a target of $100 billion. The objective of the McKinsey & Co. study would be to
identify key growth opportunities, look at global competition, understand the domestic
market and create a suitable strategy for dynamic growth. The report, which is expected to
be ready in about two months will identify opportunities in IT services, software
products, ecommerce, internet and ERP. Anil Laud, VC, NASSCOM, outlined e-business, ERP,
Euro conversion and creating a global brand equity for Indian companies, products and
services as other major goal.

The ‘sarkari angel’
But, the man who really stole the show during the commencement was Ravindra K Gupta,
Secretary, Department of Electronics. Hailed as the ‘sarkari angel’ by Dewang, he
announced a number of incentives for encouraging software industry in the country. Some of
these include releasing cyber laws, provision of venture capital funds, amendments to
company laws and localization of software. He declared that DoE was setting up a Rs100
crore venture capital fund along with ICICI, SBI etc, to help entrepreneurs in the IT
industry.

The sessions at the NASSCOM ’99 were evenly divided into three tracks: Global, Domestic
and Exports. While the Global track dealt with a whole gamut of issues such as the road
ahead for internet and ecommerce, finance for software companies, global brand equity for
Indian software companies, win-win relationship between India and the US in the software
sector and a panel discussion toward making India an IT Superpower. The Domestic track
held discussions on the emerging and established markets in India like ERP, e-governance,
IT in defense, futuristic technologies and the new telecom policy and its impact on the
software industry. NASSCOM ’99 saw varied topics discussed by eminent speakers, ranging
from strategy to move up the value chain, export opportunities and emerging markets,
IT-enabled services, issues related to visas and onsite services, to human resource
development in the export track.

Overall, the three-day event ended on an optimistic note with NASSCOM touching upon key
issues such as building a global brand equity for Indian software industry, provision of
meaningful venture capital funds for promotion of products, moving up the value chain in
services, identifying emerging opportunities for India and giving broad outlines to meet
the targets set.

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