Friday, February 15, 2008

Indian tech companies - here's my advice

I had one of the greatest privileges you could imagine in the software industry - of selling real products to big System Integrators of the Indian IT market.  The famed SWITCH.  As a sales manager at Pramati Technologies, a small enterprise software product maker, I had the opportunity to interact with many project teams at all of the famous Indian IT firms.  I could observe them at close quarters and compare their organizational makeup with Pramati's own.  Pramati had a culture of innovation - based on products, whereas many of the firms that I visited were purely static projects driven slaughterhouses that worked like assembly lines with little or no creativity.  I loathed their very existence and could only pity their dismal justification as India's leading IT shops.  I always had a gut feel that their model was not sustainable.  This gut feel stemmed from the fact that there was absolutely no effort to innovate and move up the value chain.  A call that is being made now by NASSCOM - what a no brainer! 

Most often, I was ridiculed at these firms for being "product" oriented. I cannot help but laugh at it after 7 years, because, now there are calls for all these firms to reinvent themselves. They have to face the biggest demon they had created - an organizational culture based merely on best practices  using someone else's products. They had dug themselves a hole by a lack of focus on building products.  By building a  business model that revolved around "lowering costs" alone, they can go only so far, because when a firm's revenue model is based on labor it cannot drive costs to zero.  Whereas, if it had invested in codifying knowledge and packaging it into a product, it could have in fact theoretically driven costs to zero! Hello ! Does anyone know what Oracle or Microsoft is!

Read one of my earlier posts on Infy's model here.  The price of their ADR at that point in time (Jan19, 2007) was a cool USD 56.13.  They are priced at USD 41.16 as of closing today.  Read more about how the market was not impressed by Infy's 25% growth in net profits here.  There is nothing more beneficial for an organization that invest in "innovation" itself.  A firm that settles down into making money is a cash cow and not a star!  It is time to get out, if you are an investor!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Apologies: A moral high ground?

I was listening to BBC and I kept rehearing this great historic formal apology issued by the Australian parliament to aborigines for the "stolen generation".  Read more about it here.

To some extent, I see this apology as a brave moment for white Australians - it takes great courage to acknowledge one's troubled past.  On the flip side, it does not mean anything as it is merely symbolic. as long it means something valuable to the aborigines who were looking forward to it, I think it serves its purpose.  But, what I contend is that it should not provide a moral high ground for the group that is apologizing, because, it does not right all the wrongs that have been committed.

Given this line of thought, I was intrigued if the British ever issued a formal apology to India at the time of independence for the couple of hundred years that India lost due to British rule.  I then realized it really does not matter.  If you ask me, we should never let them apologize for what they had done. They do not deserve to be forgiven by India or by any other country they tried to colonize.  To me it seems that we would be giving them an opportunity to redeem their sins, and of their hippocracy.  They talked of enlightening and democracy while at the same time deciding whether India was mature enough to rule itself.
History, it seems had its own way of avenging the millions who suffered.  India's independence coincided with the demise of the great British empire.  Most of British colonies earned independence - not due to the great English ideals of enlightenment and freedom, but due to Great Britain's fall from glory as the world's superpower.  It was relegated to an after-ran from then on, trying to catch up with the rising powers.
India was little more than an organized resource base for the British industry.  Many of my own friends have made an argument that British rule was good for India as it gave us railways, the postal service, and yeah of course -  English. There is probably some truth the argument that the British did give us a taste of parliamentary democracy and a language that would soon become the future of India.  But, is that good enough to warrant British rule. I don't think so, and I am sure there would be millions like me who would say that we would have probably been better off without British rule.  We never had a choice, did we! And therein lies the fault in the argument "for" British rule. 

It does not matter what the British left us - they stole the freedom of millions to "choose" and that' s why I do not want an apology from the British.  Maybe they didn't care to give one. Or, maybe they did, and I could not find a record of it in my searches.  Honestly, I don't care!