IT: interview with Sudhakar Ram
"We now do more value-based work."
Q: Since the world discovered Bangalore, how happy have you been with the IT industry's progress?
A: The Indian IT industry started off with Tata Consultancy Services back in the '70s. Since then, the industry has made remarkable progress. The quantum of work that we have done has put India on the global map. While earlier, much of the work that we used to do was services that had cost-effectiveness about it, since the 90s, the industry has made substantial progress. We now do more value-based work.
Q: But people still say that not enough Indian professionals are doing high-level, creative work.
A: Any developing country goes through various stages of progression in terms of the work it does. In terms of software, the first stage was when we used to supply components for software. The second stage is when we become manufacturers of the product: the design will still be done in the West, but we will be valued for creating the product in the best possible way. The third stage is when we actually start coming up with products, innovations, software, designs, etc, on our own. I believe we are already finished with the second stage, and we are ready to step on to the next stage.
We have already succeeded in establishing a solid base of qualified professionals and companies capable of coming up with products on par with the West. Having established our footprint, I should say I'm not disappointed the way the kind of work that we do has shaped up over the years.
Q: Is the education system in India churning out enough industry-ready professionals? What issues need to be addressed?
A: Let's look at it this way. Five years back, the system churned out 60,000 engineers in a year, while now, the number has risen to five lakh. The way the education system has addressed the manifold increase in numbers and handled the quantity issue is commendable. The issue of quality does need to be addressed, however.
Having said that, I would like to add that the industry plays a huge role in shaping the way knowledge is being imparted. There needs to be a closer engagement of corporates and education institutes. Most graduates today are being trained on the job. Another issue is that most individuals who have knowledge to teach students are working in the industry.
With a few teachers and educators, we can use technology to leverage the effectiveness to reach out to people. A single teacher can reach out to 500 people now, instead of say 50 earlier, thanks to technologies like the television and the web.
Q: What steps do you recommend in the face of the strengthening rupee. What are the positives and negatives of the development?
A: The strengthening rupee indicates the rise of the Indian economy and that is something we need to be proud of. Since many IT companies depend on the US dollar for their revenues, a dip in the dollar may impact their revenues. The effects are, however, all short term. The need is to adapt and raise the bar. Indian IT companies must view this as an opportunity to go on to a different level by coming up with products and services that are not based on their cost-effectiveness, but whose USP is their value. This is the right time to make the transition.