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.