A growing trend which has huge implications for India is Outsourcing. The dream of India as back-office to the world may still be a few years away, but 2002 should see a healthy increase in IT enabled services and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) offered from India. Much of the venture capital investment in India is being directed in this area. The next two years will see the Indian leaders emerge – companies with significant scale and size, just like their counterparts in the software services area (TCS, Infosys, Wipro and Satyam).
The other big opportunity for India lies in the Pharma/Biotech arena. The selection of Anji Reddy as Business India’s Businessman of the Year for 2001 and Forbes’ cover story on the Indian pharma companies is an indication of future portents. The mantra is now: from copycat to copyright, from imitation to innovation. Indian companies (Ranbaxy, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, Cipla) are becoming more research-driven. Says Andrew Tanzer in Forbes (December 10, 2001) in a story entitled “Pill Factory to the World”: India, with its flowering of English-speaking, scientifically literate people, just might rise above the business of making generic drugs and ripping off patents. It could become an innovator and a respecter of intellectual property.
On the Internet front in India, 2002 will see more consolidation as companies try to become profitable. Connectivity is still a challenge in many parts of India, and the much-ballyhooed broadband revolution hasn’t exactly taken off. Hopefully, the coming year will see greater and cheaper bandwidth for corporates. On the consumer side, many of the currently free services available through the surviving portals are likely to become subscription-based. Internet Advertising and eCommerce are both still too small to provide sustenance for the companies.
The killer app continues to be messaging. While email has become much more widespread (concomitant with viruses and spam), the two new messaging forms making their appearance are Instant Messaging (especially within corporates, as long-distance becomes the first casualty of cost cutting measures) and SMS. 2002 will see the first of the services which more tightly integrate Email, IM and SMS to provide an integrated messaging platform.
Two dark horses to look forward to in 2002 are Curl and Emergence.
Curl claims to make websites faster by a factor of 10. Not a unique claim, but its pedigree is what makes it interesting. Writes Kennedy Grey in Wired (December 5, 2001):
Emergence is about how self-organizing decentralized systems that involve a whole host of distributed elements that somehow collectively manage to solve higher-level problems. A new book by Steven Johnson (Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software) explores this fascinating world. 2002 will see one such “emergent” product in the form of the online version of The Sims, the best-selling video game.
So, as we bid good-bye to 2001 and look ahead optimistically to 2002 with the feeling that a lot may have changed in the past year, the trinity of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship will ensure a continuation of the exciting times. Wish you all a Very Happy and Prosperous 2002!