What for many decades has been India’s biggest problem may actually turn out to be its biggest strength. The legacy of 200+ years of foreign rule may finally turn India into the Back Office for the world. This powerful combination of India’s people and their English-speaking abilities have a potential to make India an economic superpower in the next decade.
The missing links to enable IT services from India are now falling in place: the Internet as an enabler, Bandwidth as the connector, Entrepreneurship as the intiator, Venture Capital as the Glue to make it all happen. In the next 10 years, as estimated by Michael Dertouzos, these services can offer opportunities for 50 million Indians, each capable of earning USD 10 per hour (USD 20,000 per annum) to make this a trillion-dollar economy.
So far, the boom has been limited to areas like software services, call centres, and medical transcription services. In software, India has done exceptionally well with its output of 125,000 trained engineers each year. So much so, that the demand is now global. Emerging areas for services now are Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Network Management. This is just the start. As connectivity improves, geography (from India’s context) can start becoming irrelevant and the promise of the Internet can be used to generate valuable foreign exchange through her people.
Internationally, the shift is happening from packaged software products to solutions and services. Most of the large software companies are generating more and more revenues from an army of consultants to help customers in implementation and support. This suits India well, and plays to her strengths.
The danger is the following: as demand for good people at reasonable prices grows, a scenario is possible that the only people left in India may be of two types – the very low-end ones who are near unemployable, and the very high-end ones who are getting dollar-denominated salaries comparable to the best in the world, and have chosen India as a destination of their own free will. As demand for people grows, so will salaries and hopefully, the standard of living.
To make the vision of IT-enabled services come true, investments in infrastructure like airports, roads, bandwidth and education are critical. People will also need greater discipline. We could not make “Made in India” a byline for quality, but our generation has the opportunity to make “Serviced in India” a global phenomenon.
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