The Mouse Charmers: A Case Study of the Indian Information Technology Industry

From Snake Charmers to Mouse Charmers: The Changing Perceptions about Indian IT

It would not be an exaggeration to say that India is an IT (Information Technology) powerhouse. Indeed, the Indian IT Industry is globally recognized for its ability to get quality work done at competitive rates and for its efficiency in churning out Millions of Lines of Code within no time.

Further, the Indian IT Professionals have made a name for themselves worldwide with many of them migrating to the United States, Europe, and Australia to work in the software industries there.

Moreover, the fact that India, which was long associated with poverty and backwardness now boasts of a world class cutting edge IT Industry means that there has been a change in perceptions among Westerners as far as how they view India and Indians are concerned.

Indeed, for much of the last century and half, India was seen as a land of Snake Charmers and other exotic aspects and it was only during the 1980s and the 1990s wherein the accelerated development of the Indian IT Industry changed many views about the country and its people.

Thus, the title of this case study is a play on the old and the new perceptions about India which has now emerged as a leading destination for outsourced work related to IT and software.

Transformation of the Indian IT Industry through the Decades

This remarkable transformation has mainly come about due to the dedicated effort of Millions of young professionals and the pioneers of the Indian IT Industry such as NR Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekani of Infosys, Azim Premji of Wipro, and the stalwarts in TCS or Tata Consultancy Services and other leading IT firms.

Indeed, these and other pioneers of IT Industry were instrumental in spearheading the software revolution at a time when the global headwinds were favorable as far as the willingness of Western firms to outsource their IT and Software requirements were concerned as well as due to the readily available pool of talented and skilled as well as qualified base of Engineers.

While the former was related to the globalization of the world economy and the concomitant willingness of the power elite in the West to look Eastward, the latter was mainly due to the deep base of educated Indians who, thanks to the efforts of leaders such as Nehru who setup the IITs (Indian Institutes of Technology) and the RECs (Regional Engineering Colleges) were able to be trained in world class educational institutes.

Further, the Indian IT Industry also benefited from the convergence of globalization and the opening up of the Indian Economy so much so that it can be said that the pioneers of the Indian IT Industry were “in the right place at the right time” to take advantage of the global winds of change.

Storm Clouds on the Horizon and Turbulence Ahead: The Need for a Quantum Leap

Having said that, in recent years, the Indian IT Industry is being hit with turbulence mainly on account of the changing global economic and political landscape as well as to the very real aspect of the Industry reaching a saturation point in its business models and the nature of its work.

Moreover, the Indian IT Industry is yet to take the next “Quantum Leap” into higher value adding work in areas such as AI or Artificial Intelligence, Cloud Computing, and Robotics and this is the reason why there are some worries about the future directions of the industry.

As the United States under President Trump and the United Kingdom after Brexit, begin to look inward, chances are that Indian IT firms would have to rethink their business model of Onsite and offshore work since the former requires Visas for their employees which are becoming hard to come by.

Moreover, with the global economy yet to recover fully from the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, it is also the case that Western firms would prefer to not outsource their projects. Adding to this is the real competition from other low wage countries such as Philippines and China which are attempting to replicate the low cost, lower value adding work that many Indian IT firms specialize in.

The Need for Moving Up the Value Chain

This means that Indian IT firms need to move up the value chain and not get stuck in the past. Apart from this, world over, many firms are turning to cloud and Agile methodologies to manage their applications and this reduces the need for extensive work by large teams of coders and maintenance and support experts and instead, what is needed are a small and flexible as well as highly agile pool of experts who can be fungible in their skill sets and modes of working.

Thus, Digital and the new modes of work mean that Indian IT Firms are transitioning to the New Paradigm, though, not as smoothly or frictionless as envisaged and this is the reason for the layoffs and the staff redundancies in the leading Indian IT companies.

Impact of Cultural Factors and the Way Ahead

As the preceding discussion highlighted, the time for change is now and despite the odds, many experts believe that Indian IT Firms have “what it takes within them” to undertake this Paradigm Shift.

However, there is another worrying trend that has manifested itself in recent years and this is the very real aspect of Cultural Factors playing an outsize role as far as Indian IT Firms are concerned. Indeed, the Indian IT Industry has long been cosmopolitan and liberal in its cultural orientation and it is only recently, that some experts have noticed the increasing localization taking over from the hitherto global outlook of the sector.

While the bread and butter of the Indian IT Industry would continue to be globalized work, the same cannot be said of the internal outlook which can be purely local in orientation. Though this is a global trend as explained earlier, one must be cautious about mimicking it in India as any work that is done for a global clientele must also be done with such orientation.

To conclude, the Indian IT Industry has come a long way from the initial years of its inception and it is hoped that it would also meet the new challenges head on and emerge as a trailblazer again.

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