Wednesday, January 25, 2006

“Quality or Cost for India Inside or Both”

Did you know that 75% of the world’s CMM Level 5 software centers are in India?
The need for making a mark in the world canvas provided the trigger to the quality movement in India. But the real impetus came after Motorola’s software center at Bangalore became the world’s second CMM Level 5 unit in 1994 (the first was at NASA). There are close to 100 to 120 software centers on the planet that are assessed at CMM Level 5.Of all those centers, 75% are in India.

CMM is the classic Capability Maturity Model from the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Level 5 is the highest level on the maturity scale.
India’s software industry isn’t surprised. Indian organizations have led the world in quality certification for years. Now the latest trend of certification being followed is PCMM. The world’s first PCMM (People-CMM) Level 5 organization is also in India.

India is making progress on both Software CMM and People CMM faster than any other nation in the world. The pinnacle will be reached when the reverse brain drain phenomenon will become more prominent and wide spread. This phenomenon has started spreading its tentacles with loads of Indian diaspora returning back to Indian shores. These guys who bring with them loads of experience and global exposure chair many of the Indian arms of the global MNCs. In my view there are other factors also triggering their return apart from the bullish economy such as personal reasons and close knit with one’s culture.

Take a look at the numbers again, and then take a look around. Outside the “First World offices” of the Indian software and BPO firms is a huge and crowded Third World country with all its challenges and limitations. You’d immediately sense and experience the issues and problems of a developing economy.

And yet, surrounded by the sea of “non quality” there are these hundreds of world-class organizations in the software, systems engineering and the BPO space, epitomizing excellence. These are routinely visited by foreign delegations and even country leaders. If some dignitary lands in Bangalore, his/her visit is incomplete without a visit to Infosys and Wipro, these are the temples, the Taj Mahals of modern India, proud showpieces for a not-so-otherwise proud population. Well I have been to Infosys and they have a swanky campus and there in the lawns you can find sign posts under a tree planted by various world leaders and politicians.
These organizations are not doing cutting edge work to be frank. But they are doing work, which are drivers of any business entity at amazingly low costs. Well at times I debate with my friends over the kind of work and my logic is over night a firm based on Indian soil can’t get into R&D and product development and it is only with time as we demonstrate maturity, the world will show its confidence on Indians in India with regards to these waters which have not been tried to a greater extent.

I love this paradox. As a nation and society, India has amongst the world’s most chaotic environments. In one of my projects I was working under a manager from UK and he was on board here @ Bangalore and was spell bound by seeing these paradoxes. He wondered how people are able to keep body and soul together. The community is largely passionate, volatile, energetic and willing to break rules—some to survive, others to get ahead. All break rules, all the time.

However modern we may be, for us it’s the family that comes first and it’s our first school. At home, however, we individuals respect tradition and our elders, follow strict family norms, have a deeply inculcated sense of value for education and exhibit a relatively ego less state (within a family, or team), meeting commitments, believing in “duty”, and not worrying about the goal or the endgame too much. Software and Tech organizations and customer service agents fortunately and surprisingly seem to emulate the Indian “family values”, rather than the society at large. To cite a simple example, I was at work during Diwali and was helping my development team members on the other side of Pacific. It was not because I was trying to impress my boss but somehow its in our blood, we tend to have a innate sense of helping others. I was there because all my other team members being natives from the Southern part of India had been home and I was OK to stand by the team in their absence. I may sound emotional but in my three years of professional life have felt so, team spirit is there. I don’t care about the managers :-).

While India’s success can be attributed to the value of cost, the more important factors are the spirit of the Indian people (passion, worth, love, wisdom, bringing heart to the workplace, and openness) as also their problem-solving skills and flat organization structures. I may give a feel good picture as I have been in a MNC moving with a young crowd but wish this virus spreads to all layers across industries.

Tau Role Model Kahna Se Mila
The trigger to the quality movement was the notion that exports to west were unthinkable without international certification.(Kuch kar dikha na tha) The real impetus came after Motorola’s software center at Bangalore became the world’s second CMM Level 5 unit in 1994 (the first was at NASA). The industry was inspired, the press flocked, the confidence built up and the wave spread.

In BPO, GE was the anchor, pioneering the concept of ‘back office to the world’. Its spectacular success (over $300 million savings annually) made corporations worldwide sit up and take notice. India itself woke up to its latent potential—a large number of educated, English speaking and misemployed graduates obsessed with continuous improvement.

Competence and culture of senior management
Most people believe that it is the large army of English-speaking technical manpower that has been largely responsible for India’s success. Actually, it’s primarily because of large number of talented developers/programmers and kudos to some great schools (IIT’s, IIM’s, NIT’s, BITS). Also the large numbers of senior executives who understand how and why to run a high maturity organization plays are dominant role (NRM, Premji, Mittal, etc)

The paradox and the future
While organizations continue to be and create newer “islands of excellence”, is the heady growth and revenues of the software and BPO sectors sustainable? Can the environment at large be transformed to provide the high-quality infrastructure required for these organizations to thrive and compete in global markets? Can the highly competent workforce be effective in starkcontrasts? Can India become to services what China is to manufacturing? Can it sustain growth and margins when Indians are famous for complacence? Will we be victims of our own success, with backlashes everywhere?

My personal belief, is that it’s only the beginning. India’s paradoxes can and should be leveraged for its success and not be its weakness. They say “Quality is free, but it is not a gift.” saw it in a pamphlet put up in a conference room. Success in the next phase is possible but will not be easy. To be successful, India will need to do things in a different way. From being service providers to owners of products and IP. From quality to design and innovation. The next revolution must begin and in fact it was started.

In the process, India is rapidly growing into being the custodian of the world’s knowledge. Every business is fast becoming a software or knowledge-intensive business, and software is but proceduralized knowledge. Therefore, IT was India’s only entry ticket into all other businesses of the world. The next phase will see the “India Inside” every knowledge and service-based system. Business pressure and opportunity are forcing firms to fuse knowledge to do new things in ways not done before—which means innovation. With momentum, this could become a routine.

Keep reading and remain connected. I am not giving any gyan but if you have time just read this book "India Unbound" by Gurcharan Das. It’s awesome and good gift for " Ganatantra Divas ".

Friday, January 20, 2006

Long Time To Take Off.

Day before yesterday, I got a call from my cousin sister from Singapore. She called me just four hours before boarding the flight from her office and wanted me to pick her up from the airport. I thought of cooking up a story but I can’t even if I try. The reason being I like her and more so I like her for her surprise visits, for which the decisions are taken on the fly. This time I didn’t ask her the reason, thinking that I would ask her when she lands in Bangalore.Later I came to know that she was coming as she has to attend a wedding function of one of her friends @ Calicut.

I am more of a nocturnal creature and prefer to do all my reading and blogging after long office hours. So even if I had less hours of sleep, I rushed to the airport to pick her up to avoid the chocked traffic which spreads like a Mexican wave near the airport between 8 to 10 AM and more so had to rush to office after that. To my good luck I zoomed to the airport to find that the flight was delayed by an hour. This I knew was not unusual but it was my foolishness to have not inquired and rushed to the airport. Well the avoidable had already happened so I had no option but to wait there and kill my time and so helped myself with a coffee browsing through the latest edition of the “Outlook” magazine.

Suddenly certain things came to my mind and so here goes the blog.

The moment you enter the Bangalore airport you see hordes of domestic airline and a matrix of bill boards. The domestic air transport sector has now four major players - Indian Airlines, (Jet Airways+Sahara (as I read that in Economic Times Today)), Kingfisher and Deccan. The intense competition among them has forced the airlines to offer various kinds of discounted fares and packages. The competition has also forced the public carrier, Indian Airlines to respond to market conditions in a business like manner rather than like a PSU .They have come up with an aggressive pricing strategy and new products with a new modern chic look. As a result the consumer has emerged as a gainer. The entry of Air Deccan as a niche player covering small towns at low fares has opened a new vista in the domestic air transport scene, which is popularly being described as a 'low cost' airline. The civil aviation sector is likely to see more and more players connecting smaller stations with aircraft of appropriate capacity at affordable prices. One aim of any worthwhile civil aviation policy would be to achieve increased regional connectivity at affordable prices and make air transport accessible to more and more people. The list goes on if you see that each month a new airline is making entry into the Indian skies. Here ends the hunky-dory picture of Indian Aviation industry.

To be sure, it has to do a lot of catching up not only with the world, but also internally vis-à-vis some other sectors such as IT and telecom, which appear to have reaped visible benefits in the wake of general reforms and liberalization initiated in the early 90s.

The moment you get down in any airport as I frequent (Mumbai and Bangalore airport),you can feel that we still need a lot of time to improve on this brand. To make national airports of the world-class standard, serious issues such as the entire passenger handling aspects, comprising customs and immigration and ancillary services such as taxis and terminals are to be addressed seriously. These services are handled by multiple agencies such as the Airport Authority of India (AAI), CISF, customs, Ministry of Home Affairs and the State police. Complaints about inefficiency, corruption, harassment by touts or crimes faced by the passengers tarnish the image of the country as a whole. Therefore, measures should be taken to provide world class coordination with other Ministries and agencies of the Government besides, modernising and restructuring the provision of various connected services at the airport.

I have been to a few airports in the Europe and even a small one like the one in the Nordic city of Helsinki is so well structured and modern in terms of facilities. Check into any Indian airport and at times you don’t find luggage trolleys and worst part is when some physically handicapped/medicated/old aged person needs to be moved between terminals, the scene is that of chaos. Bangalore itself boasts of being the development center to a completely indigenous electric car “Reva”. I don’t see much of these cars in Bangalore roads except for a few ones used my mothers to transfer and pick up their tiny tots from schools. Why can’t we re-model those same cars (just need to remove the roof with some modifications) and use those in the airports for easy movement of the transit passengers. Its pollution free and is handy to use and best part is it meets the growing needs of consumerist Indians, why the heck export those to West to be used as Pizza delivery cars.

Another important aspect of an airport specially in India is "hygiene". The toilets at the airports in India are in a pathetic condition and are really messy. I detest using a toilet at an Indian airport, but things are pretty Ok after you get into the boarding/check in bay (kabhi kabhi kya karrain control hi nahi hoota). Airports in the West lay a very high emphasis and standards when it comes to toilets and even I found condom vending machines (of course you need to pay to get one.)

The infrastructure in Indian airports needs a major investment and the faster the work is carried out the better it is. It really needs a major transition and not a minor cosmetic surgery. It is not just about money, though, it is also about efficiency and speed. We take so long to build anything that costs double and treble and nobody complains because the average Indian does not know that he has the right to decent infrastructure. Narayan Murthy a great visionary in my view wanted to do something substantial in Bangalore in expediting the development process of an International Airport in India but had to quit because of some un pleasant remarks by the so called statesmen of the nation.
The link below is a pointer to the appalling condition of Bangalore airport

Well when all this was running through my mind, my sister had already arrived and checked out her luggage, I got a call on my mobile. “I am in bhaiya, where are you” for a moment I was not able to trace her in the crowd as she had of late put up the “Preeti Zinta” ishtyle cylindrical specs. Well the quarrel started right there on the airport but anyways I had to rush to office after dropping her home.

Hey last few days have been a bit busy, so was not able to blog much. Loads of things at office and also I am working out on something, will disclose that later. Last weekend spoke to Sujatha ( and this weekend I am going to do some good work running to schools and getting info for a new project that is to kick off soon. Thanks Sujatha for making me a part of your team.

Keep reading and remain connected.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Kal Rahe Yah Na Rahe Kal,Pal Yaad Aaayenge Yeh Pal

Today as I sit to blog and am doing this during the working hours as I am in no mood to work. More so got lot many calls and mail replies from my school days friends and my college mates as the New Year dawned. Even to the extent that one called while partying and said even though she had seen a fair bit of world and had interacted with so many people at work and in social life, there was a different spark with those with whom she had spent her school and college days. So I feel in this 25 years of my existence (yah phir dhaarti pe bhoj),these few moments make me nostalgic and gives a kick in the normal so called city life with dosages of modernism and fast paced life. Since this blog is for all my schoolmates and for a small city “Rourkela”, the steel city in the eastern part of India.

When we were back from school in the evening, it used to be street cricket in the neat lanes. The township is well planned and is divided into sectors and the streets were pretty broad to showcase our cricketing skills. We always had friends to play aais-paais (I Spy) and pitthoo anytime. We desperately waited for 'yeh jo hai jindagi', 'chitrahaar',' vikram-baitaal' and my favourite was “Malgudi Days”,even today I don’t miss the episodes in POGO,they are so fulfilling. I was in my standard twelve when with great difficulty and in absence of my parents or when there was none in the neighbour’s house we used to see “Bold and Beautiful” and feel we belonged to the western world.

My father being a thorough and fundu mechanical engineer true to his class of IIT’an used to travel once in a year to other steel plants on assignments both in India and in Europe/UK, though the frequency was less for Europe/UK like once in 5 years. So then bisleris were not sold in the trains and when I used to go to stations to drop him, I always had a doubt what if the train leaves when he gets down to fill up the water bottle. I wondered how it feels when someone sits and flies in an airplane and used to ask him many questions.

Holis & Diwalis meant mostly hand-made pakwaans and sweets and my maa and neighbours aunties sought each other’s help while preparing them. My teachers were not worried of our mummys and papas while slapping/beating us,but for your information I was never naughty. We were exchanging comics and stamps and chacha-chaudaris and billus were our heroes. I had a stock of “Hardy Boys”,”Nancy Drew”,”Enid Blyton” and even to this day I have preserved them in my house in my room’s rack. We had one movie every Sunday evening on television. When we had ten rupees in our pockets we used to become the talk of the school when we marched towards the school canteen. When the books used by my brother were passed on to me as ICSE board never changed the syllabus drastically to go for new ones. When “chelpark” and “natraj” were encouraged against “reynolds” as parents used to say using ink pen improves handwriting.

The first rain meant getting drenched and playing in water and mud and making 'kaagaj ki kishtis' and the best part was declaration of leave from school as “Rainy Day”. Even if there were no mobiles (you all remainconnected now as you have done that since we separated), friends used to reach at the playground at sharp 5PM to play football in the rain.

The list is endless. I have seen a fair bit of the world by now and to me those were and those are “The Best Days of my Life”.

On a serious note I would like to summarise it as we were using our hearts more than our brains,even for scientifically brainy activities like 'thinking' and 'deciding'. But became a bit serious when we reached standard twelve and wanted to make to the best of schools in engineering/medical/commerce. I have fulfilled a part of it till now and as they say the thirst continues so is mine and want to do something else now.

We were crying and laughing more often, more openly and more sincerely. We were enjoying our present more than worrying about our future. We being emotional were not synonymous to being weak as it is today, males do cry and cry loud and what if they don’t display it.Life was a passenger's sleeper giving enough time and opportunity to enjoy the sceneries from its open and transparent glass windows instead of some crowded shopping mall with loads of people each taking pride in worldly pleasures and enjoying the “Moh and Maya” the world throws for each swipe of a card or a cheque.

I really miss you all.

Read more and remainconnected.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

“Who’s going to win the race”.

As the year passed by there were many incidents, events and milestones that we encountered. I am sure that the weekly magazines, the newspapers and the media will showcase these in different hues and shades. So please keep tab for these for the first week of Jan. But one question that always triggered me was the China and India ‘s race for “Who’s going to win the race”.

In the corridors of international power, there is a new discourse emerging. It is about the rise of India and China. Neither ascent is viewed as certain but the odds are high that both nations, desperately poor until recently but now showing signs of economic dynamism. What is driving this dynamism? What can probably derail this growth?

As far as India is concerned the rationale for this growth is founded on three factors primarily as far as I think. They are the intellectual capital/labor (what if cheap), democratic resilience and economic dynamism.

Unlike China, India’s economic success has been led by the service sector, not by the manufacturing. Information technology is the most visible face of the India’s economic surge, even though it constitutes less than 5 % of India’s GDP.Few days back I was searching the net for good material as I was scribbling a paper for a contest conducted by Wharton School of Business through Economic Times in India. I found a Larry King Live interview of former president Bill Clinton where in he made a stunning claim that half of the world’s software is made in India. Clinton perhaps to me made an overstatement but even if it half true, it speaks volumes about the perception in elite circles all over the world. Leaving a mark in high technology and service areas is never easy in a developing economy. India’s IT revolution lifts the entire country in international eyes and lends confidence to the business sector in India raising corporate ambitions and creating self-belief. A company like Infosys, the new age emblem of Indianism today inspires small businesses in India to rise from below. I feel we have not lost much even though we missed the manufacturing bus in time, the clock has made a full circle now. Last year saw some behemoth-manufacturing giants investing huge amounts in India.

I am no great a political analyst nor does politics interest me but I feel whatever form of democracy may it be,it has done more to India. India’s democracy is not flawless but tell me who knows what a flawless democracy is. And no other country can match India’s democratic record, however faulty it may seem to be to its middle classes. This democratic form is one of the shining jewels and for China to get a seat in the highest table, its polity will have to become democratic. India’s edge on this score is massive. To quote a simple example, when China builds its highways it displaces the poor and forcibly relocates them. In India that is virtually inconceivable. China has managed to privatize its public sector and retrench extra workers. Indian polity remains highly resistant to both. This of course doesn’t mean that India’s democracy is the villain of the piece. The real and core issue is not democracy but the nature of Indian growth which should go in sync with the huge population she carries. India’s economic dynamism constitutes a huge paradox comprising achievement and failure simultaneously. Example: Assume a chief tech officer of Intel Corp is leaving the Bangalore Airport and heading towards the Taj Residency hotel, he will definitely feel elated when he sees the Intel’s impressive building where some of the latest chips are designed and some brilliant R&D work is happening but then the long drive will alert him of the infrastructural failure.

China’s economy is manufacturing-led. Manufacturing any day is more labor absorbing than IT. As its economy grew, China could create jobs for its millions of poor who had already been made literate by a huge public investment in primary education. In China, thus the market driven growth became hugely poverty reducing and set the ball rolling but not in India. As long as there is poverty in India, the economic momentum will be viewed with mixed respect. China has a clear edge here but in spite of its negatives, India has shown a growth of 6+ per cent year on year, which has attracted international attention.

Well I can continue here for loads but let me stop my blog here (another reason,its sunday late night and have to start for work tomorrow). I will share the paper I scribbled in this site (India Vs China). Wow!! today is the first day of the year but then I started with something, which I had thought of penning long back. New Year’s Day, what’s that its just another day and one more year added to my number of years of existence on this planet Put in simple words, I have decided on for something this year and I will disclose it in due course (that’s my first love and passion and I love him/her/it passionately, no questions on that please. Before you draw any conclusions if you think I belong to Elton John’s category, I am not so leave apart option one and that leaves two options.)

Keep reading and remainconnected….