If you are old enough to have witnessed India’s technology industry
in the 1990s, you’d recall the mixed feeling of excitement and worry at that time.
Shrouded in this excitement was a tinge of worry: IBM, the technology organization back then known for its consistent blue-chip performance, was in the doldrums and losing billions of dollars.
Back in the 1990s when IBM
was in deep trouble. Instead of choosing a stalwart from the technology world to turn the company around, it appointed non-tech-savvy, low-key Louis Gerstner
as its CEO. He overhauled IBM’s culture radically, which led to one of the greatest turnarounds in corporate history.
India’s technology industry
The technology industry
in the country started as a services business to handle outsourced work from Western organizations. Over the years, the entire organization ecosystem and its culture was optimized to meet that outcome.
Since India’s education didn’t produce adequately skilled engineers, a huge training machinery was set up to build a quality workforce from the ground up. This led to a workforce focused on current rather than future technologies.
Focus on repeatable processes
Rigid processes and training programs were introduced to make the entire delivery operation as repeatable and duplicatable as possible, reducing the focus on innovation.
Due to a high dollar-rupee exchange rate (and a periodically depreciating rupee), high margins and dizzying valuations resulted more from labour arbitrage than from research in new technologies.
With the workforce of top tech organizations ballooning to thousands, a rigid multilayer hierarchy was set up to provide enough growth opportunities for staff.
Summing it up
So is it all doom and gloom for India’s humongous lumbering technology elephant?
The answer could lie in Gerstner’s famous line: “Who says elephants can’t dance?”
This is an edited excerpt from Tech In Asia. You can read the original article here