The Number Game

To manyincluding some of my colleagues it seems very intriguing why a few
of us get so excited about numbers, especially when we are doing Top20.
Honestly, I myself do not have a very convincing answer to that. One of the
early lessons that I got as a business journalist is that to be a business
journalist, you can never underestimate the value of numbers (that is a
no-brainer), but to be a good one at that, you must not overestimate the value
of numbers.

DQ Top 20 is not just about numbers. They give you an overall picture of the
industry, analyze the performance of market segments and companies within Indian
IT and highlight all the major changes that happened during the previous
financial year. But at the core of that are a set of numbers. And like all of us
in the Dataquest team, many of our readers get excited by those numbers. The
number of times that IT companies refer to the Dataquest Top20 numbers far
outweigh the number of times they quote a sentence out of our write-ups. And
that is a reality that has not changed over the years.

Well, enough of justification. As we talk of numbers, I want to highlight
three things about Top20this years Top20 in particular. Two of them are
directly about numbers.

First and foremost is the paradox of currency-adjusted growth. As we get more
and more globalized, most of our numbers are being represented in at least two
sets of currencies: rupee and dollar. In some cases, in euro and pound sterling
too. And unlike Centigrade and Farenheit, unlike miles and kilometers, the
ratios between them keep changing. And that adds to the confusion. For example,
all of us know that last year was a bad year for everyone, including the
exporters. If you see their growth (well, bad for Indian companies still means
growth) in dollars, you realize that. If you convert that to rupee (which is our
base currency for all calculations), you see they have grown faster than the
previous year. In last years Top20, when the rupee had actually strengthened
during that period, it was just the reverse. Most of them had a better dollar to
dollar growth rate, as compared to a rupee to rupee growth. That is a big

The second point I want to highlight is how companies act when it comes to
sharing data with us. This year, which was a bad year for many, we thought it
would be difficult but what we discovered is that by and large those companies
that have shared data with us traditionally did share, irrespective of their
performance, while those who have traditionally not done so did not. The
slowdown had little to do with the transparency of a company. While most Indian
companies, led by the top three, have always shared the details with us, I see
that increasingly many non-Indian companies are beginning to share those
details. Some of the companies that I would like to highlight are Samsung, Acer,
CSC and Steria. Besides, quite a few non-Indian companies do cooperate with us
which makes us estimate their India revenues precisely and more importantly,
give a view of their business, beyond numbers. Most large companies including
IBM, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco, SAP and EMC fall in this category. It is only
a handful of companies that do not cooperate at all, citing company policies.
Going by the trend though, I am optimistic that the number of companies that do
share information will only go up.

The third thing I would like to highlight about this years Top20 Volume I is
that we really missed Satyam. Notwithstanding what its promoters and a few top
managers did, Satyam was a good company to analyze and follow as it did many
things right, like say getting into the SAP space, engineering design, and media
& entertainment vertical earlier than others. And their managers down the line
were absolutely accessible and cooperative. I just hope that it makes a big
comeback to Top20 next year with its new identity.

Shyamanuja Das
The author is Editor of Dataquest.

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