‘We should watch out for China’

"Enhancing
competitiveness and creating brand equity will get increasingly tricky and tough
for business in these days of the Internet and e-economy. Delivering quality is
only a bare essential now," says Navyug Mohnot, executive director, QAI. He
also stresses on the need to recognize excellence in software in India through
industry meets, for its own growth and development. In an interview with
DATAQUEST, he warns of an insidious threat for Indian software companies from
countries like China, Vietnam and Hungary. Some excerpts:

What have you set out as priority objectives?

Simply, the objective is to get the software community together on a common
platform, to share, network, read each other’s best practices and to get gurus
from around the world to share on that platform their software development
practices and then to implement the same according to Indian requirements. Also,
we need to have these experts to absorb the best of our practices and tell the
world about it. In the third SEPG Conference held in India a month-and-a-half
ago, we tried to achieve just this.

What will the impact of such conferences be on the Indian software
industry?

As countries like China, Ireland and Vietnam start walking on the same path
as us, we are being forced into a segment where low costs are not the key but
high-quality services and products are. The home truth delivered by conferences
is very important–that we have emerged as high-quality deliverers and
producers of software.

You mentioned a threat from other countries. How do you read China’s
stature?

I would say China is moving strongly in a direction to emerge as a very
strong player. We’ve had several interactions with the Chinese, worked with
their companies and some have visited India. I feel China is getting its act
together in software. And when that act gets together, other people will have to
watch out. I’m glad Indian companies, at least the larger ones, are seized of
this issue. It’s the only way to move up or down the value chain.

IT-enabled services, call centers and medical transcription are down the
value chain–but what the heck, we are a billion people–let’s leverage the
numbers, make money and provide services. The other option is to move up the
value chain by leveraging the Indian intellect. India has these two real
advantages–numbers and smart people. We should leverage both.

A lot of companies are into IT-enabled services, but a whole lot more must
move up the value chain, from being mere vanilla service companies. While the
first is happening, the second, of moving up the value chain, has to happen
really real fast. Otherwise, the Chinas, Vietnams and Hungarys of the world will
seize the opportunities and we’ll lose the first-mover advantage. And India
gets complacent very fast, that’s our biggest danger as a country, as a
culture. As somebody said, we have found the enemy and it is us.

What about the role of the government?

The government really needs to play a non-interfering role and restrict
itself to the strategic issues if India is to develop as an IT superpower,
software developer. Like a good coach it should really get out of the way.
Intellect is high in India…the average Indian is street smart. We can compete
with and beat the best in the world.

Suprabuddha Sanyal in New Delhi

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