It is an interesting challenge to be appointed Chairman of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) at a time when the industry is at the crossroads.
After a decade and more of spectacular growth, with the software export sector making the transition from wage arbitrage based on cheaper labour in India to process quality and then on to innovation, things have come a long way. The business process outsourcing (BPO) industry has come of age with several complex office processes being migrated to India, and knowledge processes involving higher skills has turned into a new outsourcing priority. New opportunity areas like engineering services, embedded systems, media and gaming have become the focus of attention of many entrepreneurial start-ups as well as the established players.
Thus, it seems to some in the industry, the analyst community and indeed the government that this is an industry which has matured and will now chug along at a respectable if less spectacular pace to keep its place in the global sun.
NASSCOM itself, having successfully steered the industry over the last 20 years, through the early period of establishing Brand India and then the successive challenges of Year 2000, the Internet “dotcom” boom and bust and now the era of product and process innovation, would be justified in adopting an agenda of stabilisation and consolidation of all the gains made in the past.
However, the opportunities that beckon us in the global arena will not and should not allow us to rest on our laurels. The global outsourcing industry which is over ten times the size of our own captured market presents many white spaces that can be targeted and won by Indian firms to take the industry to a $200-billion level in the next decade. With many young product and intellectual property-generating firms standing up to be counted, the potential exists to double this number if the environment is right. While we should not forget that there are many contenders for “opportunity share” in the emerging IT and BPO landscape, Indian ingenuity can still get us there, with the right support from like the government, financial institutions and academia.
The new mantra for the industry can be built around three Cs – Creativity, Community and Collaboration!
Creativity is the source of all innovation and the ability to tap individual creativity that courses through the veins of our young people. Enabling commercially viable innovations to emerge from existing and new firms will need a strong environment of change in our approach to business and markets. It is necessary to enable the creation of vibrant communities that go beyond social networking to form business idea networks to proliferate. Integrating people across geography and company barriers will enable new ideas to be shared, old mistakes to be avoided and a best practice-sharing culture to emerge. This can be of immense benefit to the firms and the country in the medium term. And all this will happen through collaboration.
The type of camaraderie that has made NASSCOM such a great institution will need to extend to all strata of firms to present a “One India one Industry” face to the world and enable new opportunity areas to be spotted and tapped.
It promises to be an exciting year for all of us!