The Year of Dying Dangerously

It’s easy to attribute "the best of times, the worst of times" to
each year that passes by, but few will have such mixed feelings about 2001. The
year gone by is one that most in our industry would rather forget.

For our own immediate future, let’s hope we don’t. We wouldn’t like a

For the world, it was recession, layoffs, and companies closing, well before
Black September.

For us, it was one of the poorest growth years in a decade immediately after
the best growth year in the history of Indian IT. The bad news is not all past
tense, for there’s a quarter to go for the financial year, but it does look
like Jan-Mar 2002 will be better than the quarters gone by.

Our much smaller world of infotech media mirrored IT’s colds and flu, as
magazines shut down. We were nowhere near the frequency of media dropouts of
North America, from the Industry Standard genre to smaller weeklies shutting
shop. But India’s elite IT media community has never tasted the US-style
layoffs that it saw in Mumbai and elsewhere. Even though the Cyber Media group
(Dataquest’s publishers) did not see a single layoff, the declining revenues
hit us, too. It was no consolation to see our market share go up often thanks to
other magazines shutting shop. It’s scary to see a fast-growth segment shrink
due to sudden deaths.

Then came the worst terrorist attack in history, and mayhem. Air travel
suddenly became unsafe. Airlines and travel companies laid off thousands or shut
shop. Other industries, and then IT, were hit too. Terror struck everywhere,
even at Delhi’s Parliament House.

But as with 9.11, there were heroes and survivors of 2001.

The Indian IT industry has been among them. And most of its members after you
keep aside the dot com debacles of the previous year. The survivors are mostly
stronger and more efficient.

And there were segments that stayed strong. Telecom and services, for
instance. Cellular growth continued, private service providers picked up steam,
the network of fiber ducts across the country started lighting up. India’s
internet gateway grew modestly to under 1 Gbps. But the brighter side was the
build-up of the domestic backbone, the private gateways and the rollout of fiber
gateway projects.

Even with the glitches–the Parliament shootout caused a drop in the Sensex,
the Jammu and Kashmir bombings on the same day and other uncertainties. We’re
past the bottom. This is a good year to leave behind, as long as we take its
learning with us. The light at the end of the tunnel is well timed.

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