Towards an Indian Raj

What does one expect when the Prince of Wales comes visiting? Lots of
parties, chukkers of polo, the occasional photo opportunity for the society
glitterati and of course many opportunities for the royalty to pander to the
social cause–be it the slum dwellers of Dharavi or the dabbawallahs of Mumbai.
This visit of Prince Charles to India had all that in large doses, but it also
had an hour that would be of extreme interest to readers of this magazine–the
hour with Nasscom that he spent in Mumbai. Maybe it was because this was his
first engagement of a busy day, or maybe it’s just his style but the Prince
didn’t seem to miss a word of what was presented and spoken to him that
November morning.

From his very incisive remark that Mastek with its successful project to
relieve the London congestion should focus on doing something to the Mumbai
congestion first to his appreciation of the social initiatives of the Tata group
and his fulsome praise for the efforts of IIT Bombay in its technology projects
for the underprivileged, Charles showed an excellent grasp of digital divide
issues. He was all praise for the IT sector and its success in putting India on
the global map.

“The entrepreneurial drive has been strengthened by a revival of interest in domestic marketing as governments and corporations start spending more on IT”


For me personally, it was amusing to note that even when, in the interest of
time, I skipped some heavy jargon in my presentation on knowledge management and
solution blueprinting innovations from Zensar, as soon as I sat down after the
presentation, Prince Charles leaned across and said, “In case you thought I
wasn’t paying attention, can you tell me what the phrase ‘technology
agnostic’ meant on your slide?”

Try explaining in a simple answer that solution blueprinting frameworks
enable organizations to automate large portions of the system development life
cycle and generate software across a wide variety of technology platforms and
you realize the complexities of life for IT CEOs today!

Quite a coincidence that the same week that Prince Charles was here, an
interesting article was floating across the Web talking about the thousands of
manufacturing jobs that the British took away from India during the rule of the
‘Raj’ and how they taught us English so that they could rule us better. The
same English speaking services-oriented economy is now taking jobs away by the
thousands from British shores. This, of course, is an extreme view of the great
offshoring of services jobs that is happening all over the Western world today
and the rational view to take is that while there is a natural shift of
back-office services to lower-cost high-quality economies, similar to the flight
of manufacturing jobs initially to Taiwan and Malaysia and then to China some
time ago, there is enough innovation left in the G7 economies to create new
opportunities for their people. The future will see the BRIC economies (that’s
Brazil, Russia, India and China for any Rip Van Winkles!) lead the way in terms
of job creation and execution while technology and more technology drives the
economic engines of the older economies.

What will drive the economic engines of India?

In a country where millions are looking for jobs and a significant percentage
of the population still lives on a few dollars every month, there is an critical
need for a concerted effort by the government, academia and the industry to
build a movement of education and skill building that will put us firmly on the
road to success. The signs are already encouraging–the feel good factor is
very strong, not just in IT and BPO but also across various sectors of
manufacturing and services. The government has done creditable work in
substantially improving infrastructure and the entrepreneurial drive has been
strengthened by a revival of interest in domestic marketing as governments and
corporations start spending more on information technology. The next few years
will determine whether we can truly make this the India of our dreams!

By Ganesh Natarajan
The author is deputy chairman & managing director of Zensar Technologies and
chairman of Nasscom’s SME Forum for Western India

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