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Time for positive change

Lakshmi Narayanan, the newly appointed Chairman of NASSCOM, talks to Vandana Ramani on the growing IT industry and the options emerging out of it.
None | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JUN 06, 2007 02:00 PM IST

Vandana Ramnani interviews Lakshmi Narayanan, the newly appointed Chairman of NASSCOM.

India’s greatest asset is its talent, and its key problem is employability as only about 30 per cent of graduating engineers fit the needs of the IT industry. What steps are being taken by the industry to bridge the gap between the educational curriculum and the industry need to raise the employability ratio.
Currently, about 25 per cent of engineering graduates in India have the skills to be employed in IT jobs without prior training, and with various initiatives underway by both the industry and other stakeholders (like Government) this will keep increasing by a few percentage points year on year.

NASSCOM has, on behalf of the industry, led the development of a comprehensive skill assessment and certification programme for entry-level talent and executives (low, middle level management) and is organising an image enhancement programme to build greater awareness about the career opportunities in the BPO segment.

The industry is also working with the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), to encourage and facilitate greater industry interaction, thus helping them share relevant feedback, stay updated on developments in the industry and giving them an opportunity to incorporate positive changes to their curriculum and pedagogy.

Comment on Finishing Schools
It is proposed that a chain of “Finishing Schools” be set up, to supplement the graduate education attained by the next layer of candidates—considered not-readily-suitable for direct employment in the IT sector.

These initiatives are believed to be sufficient to address any potential supply gaps in the medium-term. In the short term, the industry, and NASSCOM have to think of ways to groom qualified students in an effort to make them “employable” in the industry.

NASSCOM has been exploring the possibility of two to three month courses in a “Finishing School” for IT professionals. The long term steps that are needed include much higher government investment in education, major education reforms and better compensation and research grants for teachers/researchers.

Any plans to set up a regulatory body to check standards? Comment on IT certification
NASSCOM has recently announced the intention to set up a Self Regulatory Organisation (SRO) for the industry. SRO will be an independent self-regulatory body that will establish, promote and popularise, monitor as well as enforce privacy and data protection standards for India’s IT BPO Industry.

Low Cost is often cited as the Indian IT industry’s trademark. Is it sustainable?
Low cost, but high quality, was perhaps the first few things in the IT landscape that made India stand out on the map. However, over the past decade there have been a number of developments and today India’s advantages can be encapsulated as below India's leadership position in the global offshore IT and BPO industries are based on five main advantages: abundant talent, creation of urban infrastructure, operational excellence, a conducive business environment and continued growth in the domestic IT sector.

India should aim to sustain its current leadership by assisting the growth of the offshore market, and then maintain its current market share in the face of intense competition from other low-cost locations such as South Africa, China and Eastern Europe.

This will result in export revenues of approximately US$60 billion by 2010.

And what is your agenda as the new Chairman of NASSCOM?
The three key areas that would require enhanced attention are innovation, talent development and security and data protection. Innovation would be looked at as the sustainable growth engine which would help business flourish. We would strive to achieve a favourable environment in bridging the talent gap with the aid of the Finishing Schools which would take care of the demand and supply side of the IT industry. We would also ensure that the high levels of security and data protection is a strategic differentiator.

Comment on the growth of the IT and BPO sector in India.
The financial year 2006-07 witnessed a revalidation of the Indian IT—BPO growth story, driven by a maturing appreciation of India’s role and growing importance in global services trade.

Industry performance was marked by sustained double-digit revenue growth, steady expansion into newer service-lines and increased geographic penetration, and an unprecedented rise in investments by multinational corporations (MNCs). The sector looks set to close the year at record levels, with the revenue aggregate growing by nearly 10 times over the past 10 years

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