Rewinding the first 25 years of MeitY!

MeitY today launched the book — Rewinding of the first 25 years of MeitY. Pradeep Gupta, Chairman, Cybermedia, welcomed the audience for the launch of the book. It’s the first of its kind, so far, that a book has come out.

Saurabh Srivastava, Chairman, Indian Angel Network, said Oberoi has been a great friend of the industry. Capturing 25 years in a succinct and efficient manner has been great. There used to be a photograph of a Swami sitting in front of a laptop. Software from India – myth or reality, was discussed in the past. Thereafter, we moved forward. Next, we had the World Bank report. That study told us we were Rs. 160 crore at that time. Today, we are over a billion dollars. This established India can be a billion-dollar industry for software. We had scores of meetings. Next, we tried the McKinsey study, which raised the market size to $50 billion. SS Oberoi has helped raise the image of India abroad. He encouraged Oberoi to write another book.

Gupta mentioned the name of N. Vittal, who had also helped in this initiative.

KV Ramani said it is an honour to meet everyone. He started his first initiative in the software industry back in 1985. SS Oberoi had founded Software India to meet the objectives. There used to be a delegation of 15-20 people. There used to be smart talks about dealing with Indian companies. Presentation slides were not allowed to carry names of Indian companies. US audience felt there was some opportunity for software coming out of India. The biggest impact was creating awareness of the software India brand. We had to start from ground zero. We want to thank the Government of India for the start. We managed sales and converted to orders. We used to have an Indian pavilion in CeBIT, Comdex, etc. It was a huge success. The IT market has turned 180 degrees, thanks to Oberoi and Vittal. We used to have 12 permissions for software, and shipped them in floppy disks. STP has been born of that initiative. We had to overcome and build the India Inc. brand challenge.


Harish Mehta, Founder, Onward Technologies, said we had to prepare the constitution of Nasscom. We looked at the vision of Nasscom, and it also focused on building the ecosystem of software. The power of government officers was quite strong in the early days. Software was not even defined. Hardware rules were applied. There was a trust deficit between the industry and the government. We started building friendship and trust among each of us. Government officers were welcome to attend the meetings. When I was in a cab in the USA, the driver, an Indian, acknowledged the work that we had done. We created 25 million jobs in the country. Today, there are several developments in digital platform, hardware, software, cyber security, led by Ajay Sawhney, MeitY Secretary.

Ashank Desai, Founder of Mastek, said that we have two generations of governments here. There is the story of Madras Institute of Technology, who played a role in the development of the software industry. That was the beginning. We showed faith in a non-existing industry in software. The government also showed faith in the industry. In the early days, someone had to drive the support for Nasscom. Vittal was a driver. SS Oberoi played that role successfully. Government helped us along the way. This book is an inspiration to the new entrepreneurs. It also tells about our struggles. It showed that a government can make a difference.

Dr. Omkar Rai, former DG, STPI, said that this book has connected all the dots. He came across certain resolutions taken by Department of Electronics. There were resolutions in 1984, 1986, and again, 1991. From Rs. 51 crores, the industry is today worth Rs. 5 lakh crore. There were STPI and Hardware Technology Park schemes that were given in a very industry-friendly manner. There were income-tax benefits given to the software industry. The Indian IT industry has shown it can face any challenge. The kind of growth that we are witnessing today is very great. SS Oberoi has done a great job with the book. Arvind Kumar, DG, STPI, was also present at the meeting.

Indian software rises!

SS Oberoi, Retired Adviser to Government of India, Technocrat, and Author, said the first conference on software was held in 1987. Thanks to IIT graduates like Pradeep Gupta, there was growth in software, and we all saw that Indians can do it. He narrated an incident where he had selected Nandan Nilekani, Saurabh Srivastava, etc., to speak at an event simply as Indians, and not representing their organizations. The government of India was also prepared to help the software industry. We have to support the software industry. Earlier, the security wanted everything monitored. We also had shortage of foreign funds at that time. We wanted to get everything done for the software industry. This is what we need to work on, and develop. He narrated another incident when, at one time, there was news about 20 lakhs software being shipped, spearheaded by the one-man show, called the late FC Kohli. We were very clear that work had to be done by the government. History should not be forgotten.

Also, after he retired, Oberoi saw clouds over the past history. We had to clear them. He decided to write the book, where he remembered his old associates. He has tried to be honest in the book. There is no criticism and no judgement in the book, and only narration. Ajay Kumar Sawhney, MeitY, supported Oberoi in his endeavor. When some task has to be completed, a messenger will come. He also thanked Pradeep Gupta for having the book published. BM Baweja made this book possible. He thanked all the friends that he spoke with, while writing the book. He said: ‘This is the happiest day of my life.’

Remarkable job

Gupta said that during the era the book talks about, Sawhney was a young IAS officer. Ajay Swahney, MeitY Secretary, unveiled the book. Sawhney said SS Oberoi has done a remarkable job. It is wonderful to have the opportunity to hear about what we take for granted. Indians have really made a mark in export of software services. Businesses have transformed that use the software services.

It takes a village to raise a child. So many people have contributed immensely. CAGR achieved in software exports as reported by STPI is Rs. 51 crores in 1987. Today, it is Rs. 5 lakh crores. That is 10,000 times growth in this period. It represents CAGR of over 35 percent YoY for more than 30 years. This is very close to what we have seen and appreciated by the Moore’s Law. The software industry in India is another depiction of Moore’s Law making this happen.

Lot of clouds hide the history from us. SS Oberoi has penned down what he has catalyzed in many senses. He played the role of sutradhar, and also put raw materials in a cauldron and seen magic happen. The element of faith is absolutely paramount. Faith among software pioneers, faith of Nasscom pioneers, and faith of the government, have all come together.

Oberoi has stitched it all together. There were many bold decisions taken. Various advices and help were taken from the different Secretaries over the years. It helped grow the entire ecosystem. It had the immense maturity and wisdom. The amazing role Oberoi has played in making this happen, and sharing his thoughts with all of us is highly commendable. BM Baveja also understood the great importance of what was being offered. Pradeep Gupta has graciously come forward in publishing it.

Sawhney has seen many things happen. He encountered lot of traffic in some of the streets, and felt guilty about contributing to the traffic. We, the Indian software industry, have probably helped create traffic jams in Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Noida, Gurgaon, and many other places. Many of the stakeholders have taken massive steps in this journey. It has been an extraordinary journey by any stretch of imagination.

What’s ahead?

What lies ahead? We have built a strong foundation of the software industry. We have strong and mature industry association, Nasscom. Software services are owned by us as a brand. We are now getting into software products. It is a new segment for the IT industry. The story that has unfolded before us is 40 unicorns in 50 weeks! No one can even compete with this. It is such an extraordinarily fertile ground. We have to grow these unicorns. The secret is: our talent, and the size of a billion strong nation. Whatever we do well, is with all of Europe. We are well endowed, and much better than all of Europe. Whatever we do, we are poised to break into the billion-dollar club.

We have also shown that we have made a comeback in electronics riding on manufacturing of mobile phones, etc. We grew 23% YoY compounded. We are expected to grow 27% YoY in the year ahead. Hardware is the vehicle that allows software to do its magic. The hybrid space can give us lot of strength.

The national public digital platforms are being unfolded today. Machines, platform, and cloud are all interlinked. We have seen the growth of platforms, such as Google, Facebook, etc. We have also seeing Aadhar, UPI, etc., going in the same direction. We are now seeing Covin do its magic. We are seeing the emergence of a nationwide health platform, national education platform, etc. We are also seeing platforms in other areas.

This book talks about coming together in a structured way. Service providers of all kinds have come together in one ecosystem to innovate and continuously provide services. It is also the foundation platform for dozens of unicorns. We need to set our eyes on the next 10, 20, and even 30 years. We need to move forward with the same speed of urgency, and continue to provide more traffic jams.

BM Baweja proposed a vote of thanks. He thanked SS Oberoi on his achievement on writing this book. He was lauded for consistently done hard work to record the details for posterity.

One response to “Rewinding the first 25 years of MeitY!”

  1. Srinivasan Ramakrishnan (Ramki) says:

    Congrats, Our dear Oberoi. With his characteristic charm and disarming style, he discharged his duties and did these wonders narrated in the book. Indeed he moved about with budding industry entrepreneurs and set a new example for seamless government-industry relationship, as one family. MeitY (then DoE) offered the right platform (just the way Secretary, Mr. Ajay Sawhney was referring to digital platform) – unlike the traditional government departments of those days, for forging those multi-stakeholder relationships.

    You were the popular officer with bosses, colleagues and juniors in those days, Mr. Oberoi and you will ever remain remain a shining example for generations to come. Thank you for penning that short story of the origins of India’s software industry miracle. Let God bless you with long, healthy life!

    Oh, did you give a due mention to the contributions of the remarkable person in the journey, the one and only, Mr. N. Vittal, our Secretary who was at the forefront of all deregulation benefits the software industry enjoyed in its formative years. I heard others mentioning it but will read your book to find out more. But then, this book is about remarkable journey, isn’t it. Who can grudge you that!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *