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Glitter, shimmer, shine and substance at DQ Awards Night

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DQW Bureau
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The one thing that will go down in people's mind about the Ninth Annual Dataquest Award Night was the congregation of the best known faces in the IT industry. If the success of an event is assessed by the profile of the guests, then this one has been a runaway success.

Guests present on the occasion were a virtual who's who from the IT industry. Any scribe covering the beat would have been thrilled to find so many industry representation in one evening and stories would have poured dime a dozen as stalwarts relaxed in an evening of gaiety and networking. Sample the guest list--FC Kohli, the doyen of the IT industry; Rajat Gupta, CEO McKinsey Worldwide; Arun Thiagarajan, President, HP India; Balu

Doraisamy, MD Compaq India; Ajai Chowdhry Chairman and CEO HCL Infosystems; Rajendra Pawar, Chairman and MD NIIT; PS Saran, Former chief of DoT; Arun Kumar, President and MD, Hughes Software Systems; Saurabh Srivastava, Executive Chairman, Xansa India; Satish Naralkar, CEO, NSE IT.





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And there was a reason for this attendance. There were two special people being honored during the event. Pramod Mahajan, the Minister for IT, Communications and Parliamentary Affairs was chosen as the IT Man of the year. The other person to be honored at the event was Late Dewang Mehta who was awarded the Lifetime achievement award. The Nasscom team led by Phiroz Vandrevala, Chairman, Nasscom, Kiran Karnik, President, Nasscom, and Sangeeta Gupta, VP, Nasscom received the award on Mehta's behalf. Accepting the award Vandrevala said Mehta always took awards seriously and that he would have been thrilled to be honored for lifetime achievement.

Evidently thrilled at being selected as the Man of the Year, Mahajan arrived at the event dot on the time, much before a lot of guests from the industry had arrived. His happiness sparkled through the acceptance speech. Although he started off modestly that as a politician he was not used to awards but rewards. Yet he was happy that his sincerity and hard work to contribute to the sector has been acknowledged by way of this award. He announced that as Minster of his portfolios he would establish a village public telephone in every village in country and work towards the promotion of IT deployment in the Defense forces and in enhancing the security of Indian citizens.

The event would not have been half as interesting had it not been for the brilliantly conducted interactive session by Jairam Ramesh, MP Congress and Secretary of Economic Affairs cell in the party. During the course of the discussion the industry pitched for the growth of the hardware sector saying that the time has come for India to provide the much needed impetus for the growth of the sector. Then, and only then, will the country be able to sustain the buoyant growth it had witnessed during boom times throughout the nineties. Industry suggestions to the Finance Minster ranged from slashing import duty on components to zero to acknowledging depreciation to 100 percent in IT goods and facilitating import of second hand computers.

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In response to the industry's demand for zero duty, Mahajan said that expectations from the industry have to be rational and a minimum duty of 8 percent has to be paid. He however said that the Ministry would try to push for 100 percent depreciation.


FC Kohli, the Deputy Chairman of TCS and popularly known as the father of the Indian IT industry, opined that all duty restrictions on the import of components be removed and allow the hardware industry space to grow. He said that it was important to nurture the growth of hardware engineers along with producing world class software engineers. Incidentally, Kohli who has been conferred the prestigious national award, Padma Bhushan, was informed about the honor during the event.

Ajai Chowdhry, Chairman and CEO, HCL Infosystems, said, "The government should accord 100 percent depreciation to IT products to promote corporate spending. This will enable corporate to donate second hand computers and products to schools and educational institutes since the book value of the products will then be zero." He also suggested that manufacturing clusters be created on the lines of China mainland and Taiwan and that the government should make it mandatory to spend 3 percent of the budget on IT.

S Regunath, Principal Secretary IT and to the CM, Govt of Delhi said, "Over and above, a change in mindset is the call of the day. Government spending is not an issue, but it is the mindset in accepting IT as part of their lives is the issue amongst government employees."

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Rajendra Pawar, Chairman and Managing Director, NIIT, spoke about the need to streamline government procurement processes since the current system of awarding bids to the lowest bidder is faulty. Although the CVC has sent directives urging employees to attach value to intangibles, employees are averse to taking the risk and the faulty system of procurement continues.

During the course of the discussion, the threat from the China factor was inevitably touched upon and experts opined as to why the Chinese hardware industry was thriving. Phiroz Vandrevala, Chairman Nasscom, said that although there was so much talk about the threat posed by China there is not a single position paper available on the exact scenario and that Nasscom has undertaken a task towards that end.

The China topic elicited interesting observations from Jairam Ramesh. He said the Chinese threat has to be understood from the point of view of the nexus between the hardware industry in Taiwan and the growing software strength from the Chinese mainland.

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After studying the Indian model carefully, the Chinese wanted to emulate the Indian higher technical education process of setting up IITs and RECs. To that effect, the Chinese government has approached McKinsey to plan the setting up of 100 IITs across the country. Simultaneously they have hired 200,000 English teachers to make the Chinese affluent in English. Ironically, "India might be on the verge of a crisis soon as there is lack of quality faculty at IITs what with the remuneration in academics not being as rewarding as in the industry," added Dr RS Sirohi, Director, IIT Delhi.

Another very significant suggestion came from the President of Nasscom, Kiran Karnik who said that the way to ride the crest of the IT revolution was to develop strong and appealing content. He made an allusion to the experience of satellite television, which stormed Indian households, and no amount of regulation could stem the tide of its growth since the driving factor was content.

Shashi Ullal, President of Hughes Escorts Communications, said that the time has also come to promote indigenous technologies like the Simputer which would go a long way in driving the growth of the IT industry. Veer Sagar, President, Selectronics Equipment, and a pioneer of the medical transcription industry in the country mooted for providing impetus to the IT-enabled sector. Being employee intensive, the growth of the sector was critical in generating employment avenues for the unemployed graduates as well as pushing the growth of the hardware sector.

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