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May 29, 2000
Japan, Germany roll out red carpet for Indian IT whiz kids
Our Correspondent in Bombay
Nothing succeeds like success. The age-old maxim was never more true than in the case of India's shimmering software sector. The stupendous strides of the nation's IT whiz-kids have now forced the entire world to take notice of the power of the Indian intellect and come forward to forge alliances with Indian companies.
Hitherto, it was the US -- home to the Silicon Valley - which had enticed and inveigled Indian grey matter by offering great packages and opportunities for professional growth. But now, nations like Japan and Germany are giving the US a tough fight in luring Indian software specialists into their arms. The Indian IT ace never had it so good. Indeed, he has almost blurred the concept of geographical borders as the IT revolution sweeps the planet.
Germany and Japan have both evinced great interest in India's commendable growth on the IT front. On Monday, Germany invited Indian infotech companies to set up base in East Germany. Meanwhile, leaders from Japan and India decided to establish a Web site hook-up immediately between the two countries to boost bilateral commerce.
The United States is the biggest export destination for Indian software followed by Britain, Japan, Germany and Canada.
Germany: The German move has been necessitated to bridge the shortfall of information technology specialists in that country and offered easier access through the innovative 'green card' system.
"The German government, under the green card system, will make it possible for up to 20,000 foreign IT specialists to take up jobs by making changes in legal regulations on residence and work permit," Germany's industrial investment council project manager Annette Von Both said.
Earlier, the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer had said that his government will liberalise its policy, including granting green card status, to attract more number of information technology specialists from India and Eastern European countries.
The European powerhouse was looking at India to forge strategic alliances and joint ventures in the field of computer software and hardware, telecommunications, semiconductors, broadcasting, television and film production, Internet and electronic commerce.
Von Both said that East Germany offered a large pool of highly educated and cheap work force, easier and least expensive entry into the European market, modern infrastructure and below-average operating costs and a generous financial incentive package.
Software firms setting up base in Germany would not only get financial incentives but would also have easy access to the European market, Von Both said.
Germany is also keen on investing in India on infrastructure development besides power and other projects. Germany perceived a revival of business activities in India and felt that an era of heightened activity in Indo-German economic relations is on the cards.
Japan: Meanwhile, India and Japan decided to set up an active connectivity in the IT sector -- especially in view of Japan's keen interest in Indian software -- at a meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FICCI, and the Japanese chamber of Commerce and Industry, or JCCI, in Fukuoka.
The Web site to be set up jointly by FICCI and JCCI would 'provide necessary link-ups between software firms and associations of the two countries and offer such services as project management, formats of standard agreements, chat rooms, etc, to herald bilateral e-commerce.
India accounted for only less than one per cent of Japan's software market, the leaders said, adding, there was a vast scope for market improvement in Japan.
An announcement after the meeting said Japanese companies were also expected to undertake power projects in India "with greater intensity," and Japanese experts were "expected to finalise their stand on Indian mangoes and other processed food items from India."
For 30 years now, Indian efforts to export mangoes to Japan have been defeated by the Japanese fruits lobby. Japanese fruits lobby, along with political factions, managed to block the entry of Indian fruits including mangoes and bananas with stringent quarantine requirements.
Earlier, a joint meeting of the Indo-Japan Standing Committee had laid considerable importance on information technology industry in order to forge major breakthroughs in tie-ups.
A delegation jointly sponsored by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or FICCI, and the Association of Chambers of Commerce and Industry, or ASSOCHAM, had made presentations on the capabilities of Indian IT sector, cyber laws and India's potentialities in software and technologies at the meeting.
Recently, Japan had taken the initiative to grant work visas to over 10,000 software engineers from India. This is the first time that Japan has taken such a step and is reflective of the enormous potential that exists in such tie-ups and synergy.
Although there is a recognition in Japan of India's strength in the IT sector, the exports are currently less than $ 100 million, which is less than one per cent of Japan's software market.
A study reveals that the Japan's software requirement would jack up to $ 1.3 trillion in the coming decade.
Japan's new initiative to invite Indian software experts would help India achieve higher market share in the increasing software market of Japan and get diversified into other Internet-enabling services and knowledge-based industries.
Cool response: However, Indian software engineers are reacting coolly to a German offer of work visas, arguing that lack of social acceptance and professional advancement as well as the language barrier stand in the way.
"I do not think the initiative is going to gather steam. The social acceptance of Indians in Germany is very low," said a software engineer working for a Germany-based firm.
"Their attitude towards Indians is different. They tend to ignore you," he said.
"There is a language problem in Germany," he said. "Most of them do not speak English. If one has to be a part of the social fabric, then one needs to communicate to the common man. That is lacking."
"They think India is one overcrowded place and elephants are the mode of transport," said another engineer, who has spent six months in Germany.
"It is very difficult to work in Germany unless this image is changed. We told Fischer this. Also Germans are apprehensive about giving accommodation to Indians," he said.
"If the green card is available then also there is a problem as we are not socially comfortable and the language further divides us," he said.
"It is a fact. There is a fear as we have heard noises about Germans losing their jobs if we move in. The younger generation in Germany is not favouring Indian software engineers. I also doubt that I can live like a national there and be able to travel like one. I have seen German police harassing my colleagues just because of the colour of our skin," he said.
(With input from UNI, agencies)
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