The Next Hurdle for Indian IT

The McKinsey Quarterly has an interview with Narayana Murthy of Infosys. Some excerpts:

Its not easy for the multinationals to create a workforce equal to ours in a country like India. The multinationals have to compete here for the talent and then train the people. There are many processes that have to be built up over a period of time to do that effectively. And of course, just having talented employees trained to deliver services is not enough. We have developed tools, methodologies, processes, and the management expertise for providing services to clients across geographic distances. We develop software in a geographically distributed way, in collaboration with customers. Our approach takes advantage of the 24-hour workday. Its not just a question of renting a building and hiring a few people and then saying to customers, “The shop is open.” So for now, our primary competitors will continue to be India-based companies, such as Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro.

Infosys was the first company to articulate the concept of a global delivery model. In this model, we partition a large-scale software-development project into two categories of tasks. The first includes those that must be done close to the customer. The second consists of tasks that can be done remotely in talent-rich, scalable, process-driven, technology-enabled development centers located in cost-competitive countries like India…The first category of activitiesthe ones that must be done close to the customerinvolves defining the project with the client and helping the client to install and use the software once it is developed. These activities include business consulting, IT consulting, defining requirements, installing the software, training the customer to use it, and rapid-reaction maintenance services. The second category of activitiesthe ones done in our development centers in Indiaconsists of technology tasks done most cost-effectively in remote locations. They include detailed function-design tasks, detailed technical design, database design, programming, testing, creating documentation, and long-term maintenance services.

Our biggest challenge is to become proactive problem definers rather than be reactive problem solvers. Right now, we solve problems our customers define. We need to be able to go to customers and say, “These are the problems we believe you will face, and here are some solutions.” Our focus is on providing solutions leveraging IT. We need to help shape the design of the technology solutions and then implement those solutions. This is the biggest challenge we facetheres no doubt about that.

The second challenge is to become more and more and more multicultural. Employees of 38 nationalities work for Infosys. We have efforts under way to integrate people across various cultures. For instance, on large deals we make sure that people from different parts of the world contribute, on a collaborative basis, to prepare a proposal, to defend the proposal, and to execute the proposal.

the third challenge is to continue to retain the soul of a small organization in the body of a large organization. We now have more than 19,000 employees worldwide. It will be tricky to balance the tension between scaling the organization as quickly as we have been doing against the need to maintain disciplined processes as well as an integrated multicultural organization.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.