Today India, Tomorrow the World…

a recent workshop on ‘empowered leadership’ conducted by one of India’s
most evangelistic trainers, Anand David of Manford, a group from the US played
the ‘Tower Building’ game. Worldwide, management trainers and practitioners
have used the game to give people the confidence to set and achieve significant
goals. This game proves that the best of management teams with the greatest of
strategies and teamwork cannot achieve great results unless a positive vision of
the future and great amount of self-confidence precede the strategy formation
effort. These are the factors that help ordinary people achieve extraordinary
results. Some IT companies in India have successfully exploited the approach to
achieve breakthrough results in the last decade.

The motivators

Often, a prestigious award or honor serves as a motivating factor for
individuals and organizations. The Oscar awards, for instance, have been
synonymous with global excellence in the field of cinema. In India, for IT
companies, DATAQUEST and its Top 20 annual rankings draw a parallel. Many
companies have set these rankings as serious goals to motivate their leaders and
teams. Without knowing the final composition of this year’s Top 20, one can
still predict that there will be a clutch of software exporters invading what
used to be the domain of the hardware giants as the country becomes more and
more focused on the global software opportunity. All these companies have come
from different origins and have diverse characteristics and objectives, but one
or two factors are common to all these firms, irrespective of their backgrounds
or operating domains.

First and foremost, most of these companies would have, at some point or the
other been through a period of adversity, either through weak markets or
management transitions. Second, they would all have had strong leaders at
various stages of their progression into the Top 20. And they would all have had
to reinvent themselves at least once in the last ten or more years of their

What are the lessons from this for the Top 20 aspirants that traverse the
Indian IT landscape? One, of course, is the need for strong, professional
leadership. This is essential to build opportunity share in new or emerging
markets, build market share in high-growth markets and even to ensure survival
in periods of downturn like the one software and training industries are going
through today. In a recent discussion that I had with the head of a Top 20 firm,
it was interesting to see the excitement that pervaded his entire entity as he
talked of doubling his market share in a period of industry adversity.

Then there is the clarity of purpose and mission that has driven these
organizations in their formative years and the ability to adapt and change that
makes them successful even today.

After initial achievement comes the greater challenge–to retain the
position earned, consolidate, and grow further. Top 20 CEOs recognize that a
company is only as strong and successful as the last year’s performance. The
biggest impediment to an organization’s future success is sometimes the
exceptional success record in the past, and the organization knows fully well
that it needs to continually reinvent its strategies and renew its capabilities
to succeed on an ongoing basis. This is all the more true of the software sector
where the goal is to achieve a ten-time growth in less than eight years, with
hardly any time to rest on one’s laurels. To succeed, companies also need to
recharge their corporate batteries from time to time, and be ready for their
next drive into the future!

Top 20 through 200: The road ahead

The agenda for the industry is growth, growth and more growth–the Top 20
companies’ revenues broadly represent the progress of the industry in a given
year. Their steady growth also hints at the need for generating a countrywide
movement to ensure that IT becomes an enabling force for the domestic economy
and one of the prime engines for powering the country towards global success.
Such a movement will involve not just 20 companies, but 200 or more energetic
and highly focused organizations, which will build a vibrant and successful
industry in the years to come.

The agenda for exports has already been laid out by the combined energies of
visionaries like the late Dewang Mehta and our very ebullient IT minister Pramod
Mahajan. But now, we need strong industry leadership to turn that agenda into a
real process of achievement. Also, the industry needs to be mapped with various
sectors of opportunity in different geographies. Instead of entering a
debilitating price war with the services industries in Russia, China and
Ireland, the call of the hour is to build a mutually beneficial equation with
them. While this may sound paradoxical in today’s fiercely contested services
space, there is no better way to tap emerging markets like Eastern Europe and
Latin America than by building strategic alliances with the Infys of Russia,
China and Columbia.

The clairvoyant CEOs of our IT organizations will also need to work as
partners with state governments and Old Economy chieftains to increase the
capability of the manufacturing and service sectors in India. The reason why
China poses a biggest threat to India’s dream of global software dominance is
not just the discipline of its knowledge workers but also a vast domestic market
that offers the necessary cushion for its infotech industry as it transforms its
fortunes in the years to come.

The day all of us–CEOs, consultants, software specialists and marketers–start
taking calculated risks, not just 20 but 200 Indian IT companies will rise from
ordinary capability to extraordinary achievement. And then, Indian IT will have
its tryst with the global destiny that is within its reach.

Ganesh Natarajan is deputy chairman
and managing director of Zensar Technologies and the global CEO of Zensar

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