“…there’s never been a wrong time or a right time to come to India. There’s only a good time…”

—Shaukat Harji,
VP, Emerging Markets, Electronic Data Systems.

Shaukat Harji is the Vice President of EDS Corporate
Business Development and Emerging Markets unit of Electronic Data Systems (EDS). He is
responsible for identifying and developing entry strategies for the company in developing
countries and new industries. Harji has also been instrumental in putting together a
strategy for the Indian operations, as part of the corporate initiative. Excerpts from his
interview with DATAQUEST:

EDS was a GM acquired company till
some time back. What difference has the independent status made to you?

GM still continues to be our biggest and prestigious client, but the proportion of our
business with GM has been reducing considerably over the last eight years. Today, GM
contributes to less than 30 percent of our revenues and we are in the act of balancing our
global clients across different industries and countries. The spin-off means that it has
enabled us to be able to go out to the market and deal with customers directly. It enables
us to position ourselves as independent players, independent of everything but our
clients. The independent status means we are in a better position to think of alliances
and acquisitions without having to think what GM will think. This independence is
absolutely vital for us.

EDS is today a $ 15.2 billion
company. But why aren’t you publicizing it as the way you should be?

Our approach is to let the market speak for us. This is a long-term, cautious, and
contentious approach, and it’s the same in whatever we do-to do it the right way and to be
leaders in whatever we do. We also have to go out and communicate a little more, not to
attract potential customers, but to ensure that we want to play the role of a corporate
citizen in India.

When did you look at India for a
development center and why did you choose Chennai?

Our interest in India can be categorized in two phases-the pre-1997, when our involvement
in India was very ad hoc and uncoordinated; and the post-January, 1997, period, which is
important and crucial. For, this was the time when we looked at India as a corporate
initiative, from the point of view that EDS needs to be here, and that’s where I come in.
The initiative is to position EDS India for global use. Twelve months of work has gone
into putting together a strategy for India, to look at it in a macro level, and to get the
highest commitment from the chairman’s office on providing opportunities and creating
opportunities for professionals here on par with their counterparts worldwide. Well,
Chennai is just the first step and is not the only step. We have plans to establish
development centers in different parts of the country. Chennai will see yet another
facility soon, and by the second quarter ending we are looking at centers in Pune,
Hyderabad, and other cities. By coincidence, by luck, and by circumstances of events, we
are here in Chennai first.

What has been your investment in
Chennai Center?

Our investment has been in the complete corporate commitment to make EDS India an
extension of the EDS family. The second level of investment has been in the people. The
next is in our customers, in making them feel comfortable, and giving them the IT
solutions at the place where they want us to be, and now in India. The other significant
investment is in terms of the vast intellectual property and expertise that we will bring
in as part of seamless EDS family-the tools, the technology, born out of 35 years of
experience in the market.

What is your opinion of the Indian
market?

As a friend of India, I want to emphasize a very important point. India has been segmented
and looked upon as a software solutions environment, rather than being looked at as a
technical environment. The problem is that India has a very good talent, which has been
diverted in the software arena. Although software is a very critical component, it still
remains just one component. While India has the huge potential which has to be spread
across other arenas, not just software. I think India has to expound itself to go up the
value chain and we would like to do that to India.

What are your expectations from the
Indian market?

As I have told you, there is a comprehensive strategy for India, a three-fold strategy.
First, there is good technical talent, and we would like to create opportunities for that
talent. What this means, in essence, is once the local management sets itself on stream
and becomes operational, they will have everyone of EDS’ global customers. We will have
all our customers look at EDS India as a viable opportunity for business. The second
component, that you will be surprised about, is that we want to develop the Indian market.
Our approach is to look at public and private sector. We have tremendous experience in the
public sector. We run several federal systems worldwide that there’s even a popular joke
which says, EDS systems track a child when he is born, tracks him when he goes to school,
when he goes to work, when he goes to pay tax, and unfortunately, even when he dies. We
will bring in this fantastic experience into India for the public and private sector.

What is EDS’ unique way of doing
things?

We are very cautious. We have enough time to plan. We plan perfectly and for the long
term. We treat people in a different way-as an extension of the global family. We are a
virtual dynamic company, reacting to different circumstances. These are some of the unique
ways of doing things at EDS. That’s why there’s never been a wrong time or a right time to
come to India. There’s only a good time, as we have planned and have a strategy in place.
We take risks, but ‘manageable risks’, and therefore we succeed. There’s no second
thoughts that we will be leaders in the target time we have fixed for ourselves.

What would EDS like to be known in
India in two years from now and what is your target?

We would want EDS to be known as a corporate citizen in India. We want EDS India to be a
very active member of the EDS family. And we will ensure that everyone who works here gets
the same opportunities and the work environment as in the rest of the EDS family. We will
ensure that anyone with creative value proposition will have opportunity to do what he
wants to. We also have an optimist revenue target of $ 100 million by the calendar year
1999.

N SURESH and S AKILA,

in Chennai.

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