Perhaps the most well known IT icon in the government
circles and at the same time in a number of countries abroad was undoubtedly
late Dewang Mehta, President, NASSCOM. Of course, NR Narayana Murthy, Chairman,
Infosys, is the best known IT personality as far as the general public in India
is concerned. But that has been primarily due to the fact, that Infosys has
given birth to a number of millionaires in India because of its sterling
performance on the stock exchange.
But if one looks at the contribution made by any single
individual in propagating the gospel of software in India, the hands-down winner
would be Mehta. Nobody has done what he was able to achieve in his exactly
10-year stint at the helm of NASSCOM.
Mehta took over as the boss of the apex body of Indian
software industry 10 years back in April 1991. Unarguably, those have been
really 10 glorious years of NASSCOM as well as the Indian software industry in
general. Almost everybody who was instrumental in the foundation of this
association must certainly be elated by its achievements, which have been
primarily due to Mehta.
Three major factors can be attributed to NASSCOM's
creditable success: extremely competent secretariat, very good executive council
and the ability to always focus ahead. Out of these three, perhaps the first one
is the most important factor, which has played a big role. Headed by Mehta, the
secretariat has been extremely successful in articulating the software
industry's issues. Almost single-handedly, he lobbied with the relevant
government departments, with great success. The biggest advantage has been the
fact that as the secretariat is modeled similar to the CII, almost 80 percent of
decisions are taken at the secretariat level itself without the need to refer to
the executive council.
Over the years, NASSCOM notched up several successes,
which have proved beneficial to the entire software industry. Perhaps the
biggest success in its kitty has been to get the government to agree on zero
import duty on software packages. This was a long-pending industry demand, which
the government acceded after a lot of dilly-dallying. Other big successes have
been Income Tax exemption for software exporters, excise exemption for software
and legal reproduction of software. Apart from that, the association was able to
get sales tax exemption for software from a number of state governments.
Undoubtedly, Mehta was helped in his endeavor by the
fact that NASSCOM is an association of purely software companies. As a result,
there has been no conflict of interest between different members unlike some
other industry associations like MAIT, which has to contend with various
interests. This means that the association has been able to present a cohesive
image in front of the government.
Now that Mehta is no more there to lead NASSCOM for
another 10 years, the times are going to be very tough for the association until
and unless it quickly finds an equally competent person to lead the software
industry in the recession-led times. All in all, the contribution of Mehta
towards the development of the Indian software industry will remain unparalleled
in the years to come. May his soul rest in peace.