Economy and Governance

The World Bank has declared India as the 12th richest country in the world during the year 2005 based on its GDP numbers. According to the Times of India article India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has touched 785.47 Billion dollars in the year 2005 and India is the only south Asian country in the list. This is really good news indeed. We are harnessing the results for the golden economic reforms that we have made in the year 1991. Today India is one among the hot-spot destinations as far as Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) are concerned and I am able to witness the raise of educated Indian middle class in front of my eyes.

Having said that the economic growth alone cannot be called as ‘real’ growth because we are still fighting against fundamental problems like poverty, illiteracy, health-care and infrastructure in almost all parts of the country. The vibrant economy is helping me to buy a Honda City car but my poor governance is making me drive in the worst roads. So the need of the hour is good Governance which should make this economic growth to remove the poverty and improve the ‘Quality-of-life’ for everybody. We should learn from south-east Asian countries that got independence at the same time (Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan) and implement good governance.

Providing good governance in India is a real challenging task because of its ‘Diversified’ nature. Even though ‘Diversity’ is considered as strength in the Corporate as well as in the Investment world, in case of our country it is acting as a weakness because we are ‘Too-much-diversified’. We cannot talk to the whole country in a single language or bind the whole country under a single ideology. This makes the ‘Coalition’ government inevitable and makes the ruling party left with very less power to implement anything drastically. The recent ‘Hold-on-Disinvestment’ shows how difficult it is for any government to make any bold decisions.

Going by theories Economic reforms should change the needs of people and that need will drive the country towards good governance. For the past 1200 years India as a country is able to survive in spite of the foreign invasions is mainly because of its strong culture. Now it is time for us to take pride in our country and its strong culture and March towards improving ‘Quality-of-life’ and transforming ourselves into a ‘Developed’ nation.

Suhaana safar aur yeh mausam haseen

A month back I wrote a blog about Small-And-Medium Businesses (SMB) in India and the importance of technology in enabling these businesses to scale and perform better. After writing the blog I got to know that KPN travels (https://www.kpntravels.in/) have launched their website and bus tickets can be booked online. For people who don’t know KPN travels, it is one of the biggest privately operated bus services covering almost all parts of southern India. I have been traveling in their buses for the past give years and I can bet that their business will grow in multiples because of their online system as most of the people travel in their buses are ‘Bangalore-techies’ for visiting their native places over the weekend. This is a perfect example for the ‘SMB + Technology’ combination which I am sure is a ‘Killer combination’ in Indian context.

Also compared to other businesses, travel business in India seems to be the leader as far as adapting technology is concerned. According to ‘Digital Summit 2006’ statistics Indian railways (http://irctc.co.in/) is selling tickets worth Rs.30 crore every month which is having about 200,000 online transactions. The low-cost airline Air Deccan (http://www.airdeccan.net/) is making user of their online reservation system for all sorts of customers (Retail, travel agents, corporate bulk booking) and their run rate is Rs.1000 crore per year. Couple of days back Prathap Kalra CEO of ‘Makemytrip’ (http://www.makemytrip.com/) appeared in NDTV’s ‘Boss-day-out’ program and he was explaining about the travel and internet usage in India. Even though I don’t remember the exact numbers the growth potential offered by the online travel is simply amazing.

The benefit and ease of online travel has not yet reached average non-urban Indians. It is mainly because of the less PC and Internet penetration. The idea of Rs.10, 000 PC is looking good but its success is not yet proven. Here is where the ‘Affordable access devices (AAD)’ come into picture and I cannot think of a better AAD than mobile phones in Indian context. By bringing Internet into the mobile phone and developing applications especially for online ticketing is an area which is yet to be tapped.

The initial momentum for online travel is looking good from the service providers as well as from the consumer’s end. This should ultimately remove the long queues in reservation counters by make ticketing very easy and make the consumer sing the song ‘suhaana safar aur yeh mausam haseen’ 🙂

Technology, Society and Business

There are numerous definitions for the word ‘Leadership’. One of the definitions says ‘The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people’s enduring needs’ and my mind cannot think of a better person than Sam Pitroda who is the best example I can ever think of practical leadership. The man who demonstrated for the first time to Indians what technology means and how it can change the whole society. His leadership brought ‘Technology-Business-Society’ together and being a tech-industry professional I have only one word for this person: ‘Hats-off’

For people don’t know who Sam Pitroda is, look into the nearby STD booth in any small ‘Ghalli’ in India. He is the man behind ‘conceptualizing’ the STD booth based business model and made it possible in India’s ‘Ever-challenging’ environment using technology. He founded Center for Development of Telematics (C-DAC) in 1984. He along with his colleagues ‘invented’ the telephone time measurement and billing machine which we can now see every ‘Ghalli’ of India. This is ‘low-cost-high-robust’ machine, produced in large volumes and operates well in adverse climatic conditions of India. Also he did all these things when Indian economy was closed and there is no support from any foreign entity for this simply because of the tight trade regulatory environment.

Today ‘Roti, Makhan aur Mobile’ is the latest buzzword in India. Wherever we go we can see people using mobile phones, landlines and Broadband Internet connections. For most of the telecom companies in the world India is the hottest market and investment is pouring in from all directions. Ranging from Singtel (Which holds 31% stake in Bharthi telecom) to Verizon I can see every global player in this field now. Apart from service providers handset manufacturing firms like Nokia are setting up manufacturing facilities in India. According to the latest statistics India has 49 million fixed telephone line users and 76 million mobile phone users, which is 12.5% of total population. This also shows that there is remaining 87.5% of population who don’t have telephone connections and opens up a huge opportunity for telecom companies. India is one of the very few countries in the world where incoming mobile calls are free. Apart from this the ‘Connecting’ India, telecom industry is acting as the backbone of IT industry. Without this strong telephony infrastructure off-shoring an out-sourcing would not have been made possible.

No one can deny the fact that Sam sowed seeds two decades back because of which India is benefiting today. He stands out as an example for vision, demonstration of leadership, enabling less privileged people using technology, building business and generating employment in India and of course acting as a inspiration for lakhs and lakhs for young Indians like me.

Managers in IT Industry : What do they really ‘Manage’?

Long time back I forwarded this picture to group of my friends group and it tickled an interesting discussion among us. If you see the picture there are lot of ‘managers’ are surrounding an engineer or a worker managers are simply watching and the engineer (people like me) are doing the hard work. This throws up an interesting question ‘What do these managers really manage?’

According to my experience there are two types of manager roles that are existing in the hi-tech industry as of now:

1. Delivery managers: These managers are basically a techie and moved to management ladder because of experience in software engineering and responsible for software engineering deliverables guy mainly operates within the ‘software life cycle’ starting from requirements gathering,design,coding,testing,release.

2. Business managers: Basically come from MBA background and manages any one of the non-engineering areas like HR,Finance/Biz development,Strategy of the company. As far as IT industry in India is concerned there is more need for #1 than #2 because in India we do more of ‘Engineering’ nature of the work (Coding/Testing/Support). This is also because of the first generation ‘services’ companies (Infy, Wipro, etc..) whose business model requires more delivery managers than business managers. In the recent past I spoke to some of my friends who have done their MBA and they say they would preferably will choose option#2. They get into the consultant role and grow in the business ladder if we look in a global viewpoint, take companies in US/UK where they do product definition, market research, partner management, sales etc. requires more of MBA managers. In India we cannnot do such things at this point of time because we don’t have a huge domestic market.

Now given the situation in India, what does it really takes it to ‘manage’ and become a successful delivery manager? After talking to many people I could come to three major factors:

1. Strong interest and inclination towards technology: Most of the delivery managers in India fail in this point itself as they stop reading or learning about the technology trends and happenings in the market as soon as they become managers. This also makes them ‘ignorant’ of what an engineer reporting to him does. This is why there I am able to see much of ‘Anti-manager’ feelings among the engineering community.

2. Business Acumen: In delivery management this factor is also very important and need to understand the ‘Big-picture’.This makes the delivery managers to think about the business angle of the product or service that the company is offering.If any delivery manager is good in this he shoud be able to answer to the question ‘What is your customer’s customer want?’

3. People Management: Last but not the least. This is *THE* important factor. I have seen managers who are not good in technical and business stuff but they do wonders because they are good in managing people. They know the art of ‘getting things done’.

Finally coming to the picture above, it depicts when any manager fails to have any of the three factors that I have mentioned. They simply know ‘Something is happening’ but fail to make any impact to the company or the people. They become more of what I call as ‘Operational’ managers (Naam-ke-wasthe doing some PPTs, tracking excel sheets, giving FUTTAs) which is *NOT* management at all.

The sunrise in the East – Will it be a good finish?

Aeron a 33 year old, north-western American left me in a total shock when he asked me ‘Hey Jay! I saw in the TV that Indian stock market is crashing. Is it so ?’.Of course this is the last question you expect from Aeron a car driver who drops and picks me from my work place. He hardly has a college degree and he knows about Indian stock market crash.Whats happening around me? Inside my mind a sudden statement came up ‘The sunrise in the east’.

My mind was wandering on some of the events that has happened in the past one and a half months. The receptionist in my office enters my country name as ‘India’ without even asking me, The April edition of Newsweek a famous US magazine has got the cover story ‘The new India’. Every day in Wall-Street-Journal, the financial newspaper of the US has at least one column about China. Yes! I am experiencing it personally! The eastern part of the world is indeed raising. I also did some more reading and pondering with myself and started writing this blog.

Both economies are growing at a very fast phase around 7-8% and China is pretty ahead in the GDP numbers. Apart from the GDP growth China has built up an excellent infrastructure and excellent systems in place and preparing for the future growth. Whereas in India in spite of opening up the economy 15 years back the government system is pathetic and infrastructure is still of ‘Third world’ class.Basic problems like poverty, education and healthcare still remains far distant dream for rural Indians and words like ‘e-Governance’and ‘IT for common man’ are remaining as buzzwords and noting in concrete. What is the point in talking about Economic growth without improving quality of life of people ? 30 million Indians earn less than one dollar a day and 60 million of them earn less than two dollar a day.

Having said that recent protests against reservation by ‘Youth for equality’ and formation of
‘Lok paritran’ party gives some ray of hope. From the business week article I also got the following information:

“India has nearly 500 million people under age 19 and higher fertility rates. By mid-century, India is expected to have 1.6 billion people — and 220 million more workers than China. That could be a source for instability, but a great advantage for growth if the government can provide education and opportunity for India’s masses”

So the youth of the country is going to be the deciding factor. By reforming
governance, providing good education and generating employment for 220 million workers Indian can demonstrate its true potential and will be able to give what I call it as ‘Good finish’.Otherwise this will be another generation with ‘lost dreams’

‘Ji Huzur!’ to ‘Whats up dude?’

Its really amazing the kind amazing to see various work cultures existing in India and more interesting thing is they all exist in the same period of time.To give a clear idea image the following three scenes:

Scene 1: Government office, Erode, Tamilnadu
The government officer gets out of the car, a peon goes and opens his door. He is wearing a white color dress and says ‘Vanakkam Aiya’ (Ji Huzur) and bows his head towards his superior.He carries his suit case and leaves his superior at his room and stands behind him as a salve.Here the work culture is of ’17th century’ (British style)

Scene 2: Manufacturing firm, Chennnai
All employees come on time and made to work very hard. They hardly sit and work.They call their superious ‘Sir’ but no bowing head.Here the work culture is of ’18th century’ (Industrial revolution style)

Scene 3: Sofware firm, Bangalore
Engineer walks in jean and T-shirt and watches his manager is walking in the floor.This 25 year old guy says ‘Whats up dude? Did you see Sensex is taking 250 points today?’ and the manager replies ‘Yep! All my Mid-caps are screwed’. Here is the work culture of 20th Century (Knowledge worker)

Based on my experience and talking to some of my friends we cannot see all these scenes happening in any country other than India.The question goes ‘Why only in India?’.To explain let us take the example of two majort styles of work culture in the world.

  • Macro Management: This is introduced mainly by Americans. This is basically formed based on ‘Managing by objective’ where the organization and the employee believe and trust each other and they work in an informal,free environment. This is derived from the american society’s principle ‘Independence and Freedom’
  • Micro management: This is introduced mainly by Japanese’s. This is created after the second world war when Japan was bombed. They wanted to build a country and wanted to work very hard.Since that era belonged to manufacturing they introduced tight and strict work culture.The result you can see ‘Made in Japan’ eveywhere today.

In the above mentioned theories you can see each style adopted a ‘Theme’ and designed the management principles based on their ‘society’ and ‘culture’. That’s the main reason irrespective of the styles both methods are successful in their own countries. If you try viceversa it will fail miserably cut to India. We are no-where in this case.None of the above mentioned scenes and the work culture prevailing them belong to ours.We derive pre-independence work culture from ‘British’,post-independence work culture from ‘Japan’ and post-reforms work culture from ‘America’. At the same time because of our so called ‘flexibility’ and ‘adaptability’ all these scenes exist together and ‘somehow’ it works.And that’s the very reason you cannot see ‘Made in India’ products anywhere.

Why we have been so adaptable? Which particular work culture will suite us? Can we design a work culture of our own and practice in all the scenes mentioned above? If it can be designed what will be the ‘theme’? These are the questions that are lingering in my mind and I am in the process of finding an answer. I am half way through will post a separate blog for the same.