Kalam, Sukhoi, and IBM

DQW Bureau
07 Jul 2006

Three events held last week will mean a lot for India. The first one was IBM
announcing a $6 billion investment plan for India, which can be achieved, only
if there are enough techni­cally qualified people avai­lable. The second was
about Red Hat's plan to include India in its 'One Laptop per Child'
program. And the third was the Indian Presi­dent APJ Kalam's flight in the
Sukhoi fighter jet.

Let me start with the much talked about $6 billion IBM investment plan. This
move speaks volumes for the confidence that organiza­tions like IBM and their
top of the line world custo­mers place on India. They sincerely believe that
outs­ourcing to Indian professio­nals will get them cost as well as quality
advantages. Com­panies such as IBM do not work on cost advantages alone. 

While India is already an established outsourcing desti­­na­tion, this
mega inves­t­ment from IBM has stumped everybody; most of all, its
competitors. This move should trigger many others to start or enhance their
current India opera­tions. Beyond reasons of competition, this is also a big
confidence builder. If IBM is going there, it must be on the basis of concrete

As India's acceptability and standing goes up, so do the challenges. One
major chal­lenge that India will face in its run up to the top slot will be the
unlimited supply of talent pool. Bring up the subject of quality manpower
availability with any software company or BPO setup, and you will only hear of
prob­lems and complaints. I beli­eve that quality manpower, over the next
10-15 years will make all the difference.

It is in this context, that India Inc as well as the Indian government should
seriously consider the Red Hat 'One Laptop per Child' initiative. It's a
dream plan, which coun­tries such as India could turn to their advantage. As
per this plan, children in developing nations will be able to get a laptop for
$100 in the next few years. Unless there are big hidden costs, India will grea­tly
benefit from this program. If India wants to be an IT superpower in the future,
it needs PCs for its children, today. As of now, the response to this program
has been very lukewarm.

Obviously, there are quite a few concerns that many of these companies have.
How smooth will it be to run these large operations out of India? Will they find
infrastructure, government support, and business and industry policies
conducive? Are these compa­nies confident that this is a long-term investment?
Presi­dent Kalam attending the IBM function is a very clear mes­sage of the
government sup­port in making India a global IT hub. Kalam said, “IT is key. 
Not just business lea­ders, but even country's leaders need to get
involved in it”.

And finally let me also explain why President Kalam's flight in the Sukhoi
fighter jet is so significant. This flight was a symbol of the confidence and
ambition that India is capable of. TCS, Wipro, Infosys, Mittal Steel, and
Reliance are global giants emerging out of India, we now have a 76-year old head
of the nation who dons a pilots gear and flies in a supersonic fighter aircraft.
Kalam's flight, therefore, conveys to the rest of the world that the political
leadership in India now wants to do things that only Prime Ministers and Presi­dents
of rich and famous countries did.

The world will continue to enhance its ranking of India, but that makes the
task even more difficult. India will quickly have to work out an effective
education infra­struc­ture that will be able to produce capable workers. The
industry and the govern­ment will have to work together on this. India will
need to make itself a great place to do business. And the country will need to
produce and support leaders who have the capability to dream big and deliver
even bigger.

Ibrahim Ahmad

(The writer is the editor of Dataquest)

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