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Can Indian IT Stay Relevant?

Source | LinkedIn : By Ramesh Srinivasan

A founder and ex-CEO of one of India’s largest IT services companies castigates the industry for its facilitation of visas (specifically US), and the ex-Chief of yet another Indian IT services biggie writes an op-ed defending ‘selling’ our people as a valid and innovative business model. Then the IT bellwether announces return to consistent profitability that is in line with the guidance given, and a depressingly large amount of column centimetres are expended on reporting this miracle. And now this allegation of code theft against the largest IT Company. Talking to make stock markets happy, comparisons with last accounting periods, and other industries in India, along with an admiring and swooning business press can distort the real picture.

These are needless side-shows in an industry that desperately needs a total overhaul, and an urgent makeover. The reality is that the entire technology industry globally is being told: “Watch Yourself.” In a dangerous obsession with themselves and with the ‘beauty’ of their products/services and business models, the IT industry has possibly forgotten its reason to exist. The “bling quotient” of technology is, and will stay genetically subservient to the markets’ and customers’ business reasons, mission and objectives. When technology proceeds to take a life of its own, it is on a path to oblivion, much like Narcissus and Pygmalion. The Indian IT industry will do well to sit up and take note.

Way back in October 1959, IBM launched the iconic IBM 1401, and put forth a few fundamentals on why this world needs technology. These basics are worth repeating:

  1. Business uses Man, Machine, Money and Materials to produce goods for which the customers are willing to pay.
  2. With increasing competitiveness, the need to integrate these business components became imperative in the next couple of decades, and the glue that holds the ‘4 Ms’ together, viz., Information, got added to the above list.
  3. To propose that businesses invest in IT, therefore, we have to understand business, and the kind of sensors, senses and accelerators that each of the organizations is looking for.
  4. Hence, the IT strategy is a derivative or a sub-set of the business strategy. For IT to die, you have to just snap its umbilical cord with business.

As the world changes, only the businesses that changed well, changed right and changed fast, survived. Arie de Geus, in his book “The Living Company”, puts out a strong case that the only purpose of a company is to find all possible ways to continue living.

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