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Wipro mixes high-tech with humble pie

india Updated: May 17, 2009 22:13 IST
N Madhavan
N Madhavan
Hindustan Times
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Two weeks ago, Unitech Wireless, the new telecom venture between Delhi-based realty firm Unitech and Norway’s Telenor, announced a $500 million (Rs 2,500 crore) nine-year IT outsourcing deal with Bangalore’s Wipro. A few months earlier, Aircel had awarded a similar deal worth $600 million to Wipro.

While the deals clearly drive home the message that Azim Premji’s company is winning against no less a figure than IBM (which is doing similar work for Bharti Airtel), for me, this is one more occasion to remove a persisting myth about Indian IT – that it is about cheap code writers who work on projects.

Over some black tea, Wipro’s Joint CEO, Suresh Vaswani, told me last week a few things that cannot be easily captured in PowerPoint slides. The Telenor deal involves a combination of data centre management, software, consulting, hardware and services that span everything from software development to billing.

Increasingly, managing the back-end of a complex mobile phone network is given to players like Wipro. Wipro calls this “telco-in-a-box” – meaning that a mammoth piece of the service operator’s work is in effect sold like a hamburger to a client. It needs exhaustive turnkey work with details.

“It is productising the services,” says Vaswani.

At the same time, because Wipro has its origins as a simple systems integrator, it can tweak everything to keep costs low.

The goateed Vaswani adds with a twinkle: “It might have helped that we looked hungrier.” In other words, Wipro is combining the high-end service business with its humble mix-and-match approach to win deals of this order.