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Can India and China be IT bhais?

Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have entered the consciousness of most Indian businessmen as the new hubs of commerce and industry for the world, writes Ganesh Natarajan.

india Updated: Sep 10, 2007 22:39 IST

Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen have entered the consciousness of most Indian businessmen as the new hubs of commerce and industry for the world. But a software outsourcing conference held in Nanjing in early September was a real eye-opener. Not because every software major from Microsoft to Oracle to IBM to NEC was present and participating with gusto or even because many major associations from the US, Europe and Australia as well as the Gartner group had speakers at the conference.

The noteworthy thing was the tremendous savvy displayed by the Secretary of the Central Communist Party, the mayor of the city and the governor of the province about the intricacies of IT and BPO outsourcing and their potential impact on the future of the Chinese youth.

Their interest in global trends and willingness to praise our won industry association Nasscom in an open forum as a role model for the Chinese Ministry of Information Industries to follow showed the ever-present Chinese willingness to learn, adapt and then attempt to outrace all competition.

The fundamental difference between the Indian IT story and China’s current aspirations is the extent of involvement of the government in every area of industry support from industry strategy to infrastructure to education. The 1,700 universities that the government has established to provide every Chinese youngster access to quality education is more impressive than the quality of physical infrastructure they have provided in every aspiring city and province of the country.

Speaking at the conference and later to the faculty and student community of Nanjing University, China’s interest in scaling the BPO and IT opportunity was more than apparent and it is clear that the powers-that-be in that country will do whatever it takes to make it happen. A recent visit by the Vice Governor of Hubei province which has another major city Wuhan as its capital underlined this fact when they spoke at length about their 500 square kilometre “India Software Park” that will provide every incentive and tax relief possible to encourage Indian firms to flock and set up centres for global clients in China. Will the fading tax and cost advantages in India provide a new fillip to the China story and see many companies from India embracing the economic advantages in China in the future?

In a global environment which is demanding co-sourcing and collaboration in IT solutions, it would be well worth the effort for Indian firms to reach out to Chinese students and entrepreneurs and make them part of the emerging multi-shore outsourcing model. Apart from the fact that effective partnering can open the doors to the large Chinese market and the adjoining opportunities in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, the innovation of Indian talent combined with the documentation and process discipline of our Chinese brethren can prove to be a winning combination for project execution even in the Western world.

(Dr Ganesh Natarajan is and Deputy Chairman and MD of Zensar Technologies Ltd and vice-chairman of Nasscom)