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October 30, 1999
Last year, I walked into Bangalore IT.COM '98, looking for some good software products. But most booths seemed to be selling woollen undergarments, shoes, leather jackets, luggage and even flats!
Had I walked into a consumer exhibition by mistake? No. Actually, the explanation was perfectly simple...
A microscopic minority of Indian companies make software products. The hardware industry is almost not there. All of the information technology work that Bangalore is so famous for is about supplying scarce programming talent to the West.
If you don't make products and you don't have branded services, what do you do with a display stall?
Believe me, last year over 50 per cent of the stalls at Bangalore IT.COM were selling garments, properties and such.
Software service business is not done through IT shows. One-to-one contact and word of mouth is what counts in this game.
Thhis year's Bangalore IT.COM is due to start on November 1.
It is expected to attract companies like Microsoft, Compaq, Texas Instruments, and other international biggies.
Karnataka IT Secretary Sanjoy Das Gupta has told reporters that the show will have major participation from the US and Taiwan, besides business delegations from 13 countries.
The big question here is should the Indian industry be proud of these factoids and figures? No. These companies are not coming to Bangalore IT.COM to buy. They are going to sell. This should be evident because there will be hardly any Indian products on display.
What is worse is that the government is shelling out the taxpayers' money to conduct the show, a show at which shop fronts will be provided to foreign players.
Now there is nothing xenophobic about this concern. The multinational companies are most welcome to display and sell in the country but what is not understandable is why should the government be involved in the endeavour.
The only justification for it can be that the country earns more from it than it spends. But this is not the case. A show like Bangalore IT.COM is not the correct forum for a service company to be doing business at all and as a corollary not the right forum for the Indian IT industry.
The Karnataka government has announced that the show is expected to generate business worth $125 million by attracting 40,000 business visitors from the world over.
On what basis has this assessment been made? Who is getting business worth $125 million? Indian or foreign companies? Considering that India hardly has any software products and nothing to sell at these shows, the answer is obvious?
IT shows in India are going to start making sense only when software products begin to dominate the scene. But that looks like a long way off.
Everyone's cup of joy is currently overflowing by just doing labour contract work.
Is this IT.COM going to be different, or will there be stalls selling sarees and soaps like in last year's show?
G V Dasarathi is Director (Applications) of Cadem Technologies Pvt Ltd, a software firm headquartered in Bangalore and specialising in developing CAD and CAM products.
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