When I look back to remember my most memorable moments in Indian IT, I would
like to start with my own experience first. For my recruitment test and
interview, I landed up at the small CyberMedia office with thirty people in a
basement in South Delhi. Frankly, that was perhaps the first time I was seeing a
personal computer. I now laugh about it, but the two questions in the test paper
that really stumped me were-'Name five Indian computer companies', and 'Name
five foreign computer companies. The only two Indian names I knew that had made
computers was Hindustan Computers Ltd (now HCL), and Wipro. Amongst the foreign
companies Apple and IBM were known names.
There were no mobile phones so that I could call a friend, though I am sure
none of my friends would have been of any help. Suddenly my eyes fell on a pile
of cardboard boxes. One of them said HP, and another one said Siva Sterling. I
took a chance and added HP to the foreign list, and Sterling to the Indian list.
So instead of five Indian and five foreign computer companies, I was able to
give only three names each. Later I was told I had done well in the test, and
selected. The future editor of Dataquest had been recruited. Except for Sterling
Computers, all others including myself survived.
I must also mention here another incident that remains very fresh in my
memory till date. CSI was the buzzword in those days, and if you were anybody in
the IT industry you knew what it was. Today I will have to expand it for my
readers. Computer Society of India (CSI) was the biggest and the most
high-profile association of IT professionals. Its members were not just industry
executives, but also IT professionals working in enterprises, and the academia
including college students and professors. One day, when I was still a cub
reporter, the receptionist at my office informed that I had guests. When I went
out I saw about five or six people waiting for me. They were professors from the
Computer Department of one of India's premium science and technology college.
They wanted to invite me for the CSI's Annual Conference, because Dataquest was
associated with the event. I thought CSI must be the most prestigious
organization in the world.
What happened to the CSI after that everybody knows. The country's biggest IT
body (it might still be in terms of number of members) is now relegated to
almost an unknown entity, at least amongst in the industry circles. If CSI would
have changed with the needs of time, it could still have been the most important
Another interesting story I can recount is about a very prominent minister in
the UPA Government today, who used to be the Chief Minister of one of India's
most tech savvy states. India's one of the first Software Technology Parks was
being innaugurated, and the minister was the chief guest. The facility was
obviously inside the building, but the eager minsiter started rushing towards
the side lawns of the facility, when somebody informed him that its a ribbon
cutting inside the building. The amused minister remarked, "A software park is
inside the building". Today we have CMs who carry laptops and make powerpoint
PPTs to industrialists and investors.
The last incident I would like to share is again about myself. I was standing
in the long winding queue outside the US Embassy for a visa interview, when a
slightly hassled man in front of me asked me what do I do. I said I work for a
computer magazine, and therefore, will get a visa. When I aksed him the same
question, he replied that he deals in hardware. To pep him up I told him that he
has a good chance too of getting a visa since he deals in information
technology. What hardware was my next question. Brass and steel taps, T joints,
hinges.....the list was long. My jaw dropped, but luckily no one was watching.