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Why Nasscom needs a new programme

Last updated on: February 13, 2013 12:15 IST

Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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Sudin Apte

While a large section of its 1,250-plus members is from its core constituency -- IT services and software companies -- a large number of its new members are not from the same pack, writes Sudin Apte.

In the past 20 years, as the nascent offshore information technology services market evolved and forayed into the mainstream, evolving client expectations and competitive realities forced Indian IT companies to change.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies, the representative industry body, has also evolved with the changing industry dynamics, and it now faces the urgent need to transform again.

Given the massive structural changes in industry composition, market economics, and the changing overall role of IT in itself, the challenge this time, however, is of a scale more mammoth than ever in the past.

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Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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Before debating on what it needs to do to transition itself to the new role, Nasscom should address a core issue -- that is, answer in an unambiguous way exactly whom it represents and whose cause it is expected to fight.

While a large section of its 1,250-plus members is from its core constituency -- IT services and software companies -- a large number of its new members are not from the same pack.

These new members, such as online retailers, travel agencies and multinational back offices, surely do businesses that leverage IT, but they are not in businesses of IT outsourcing, software or business process outsourcing.

They have started pulling Nasscom's agenda in multiple directions.

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Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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A close review of its apex governing body (Executive Council), various forums it runs, such as internet working group and captives, its top sponsors at events it hosts, and Nasscom's own commentary on these various subjects clearly indicates Nasscom's multiplicity of goals.

To remain relevant to its core constituency, it is of utmost importance that Nasscom sharpens its focus.

At the moment, I would like to assume that this top industry body will concentrate on its core territory, software and services.

I feel there are six issues it needs to focus on as key objectives of its transformation:

  • Extend its initiative of industry-academia collaboration.

Irrespective of the hype around intellectual property (IP)-based solutions, more than 95 per cent of work India does today is people-centric.

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Skills of college freshers are not aligned with industry requirements.

Companies invest in training for almost six months before assigning the person to a client engagement.

Nasscom should work with technical colleges to align syllabi to newer requirements, ensure they have quality facilities and high-standard faculty.

The initiative needs to be continuous and result-oriented.

Redefine government interaction.

Although policy advocacy, working with authorities for industry benefits like tax benefits are important and should continue, Nasscom should work with government to encourage, facilitate and accelerate eGov or citizen services projects.

It will not only create more opportunities for its members and help society, but will also boost the technology appreciation and penetration across the country.

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Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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  • Develop many more delivery locations within India.

      I know some steps are taken in this area.

      But looking at a few over-crowded locations like Bengaluru, Delhi or Pune, it is clear that much more needs to be done to develop several other locations like Nagpur, Mohali, Mangalore, Coimbatore, Ahmedabad, Bhubaneshwar, and so on.

      This will not only help reduce the costs of operation, but also help manage staff attrition at lower levels.

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      Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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    • Help industry upgrade its brand and international communication.

        Although IT companies believe that the industry is moving up the value chain and the future lies in high-end services and IP-led solutions, most clients and governments abroad still view the offshore industry as job stealers.

        The industry needs to be much more proactive to educate clients on the value it delivers and the innovation it can bring to help companies become efficient.

        Today, one sees weak arguments and limited branding exercises by industry and the association.

      • Encourage small and medium-sized member companies to build core functions like strategic marketing, corporate planning and international business operations.

          'Client-pushed' business has stopped.

          There is intense competition for every dollar.

          Firms need to think more strategically, and make their value proposition more sophisticated.

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          Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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          But there are limited trained resources and experienced executives available today. Nasscom should take initiatives like creating marketing and strategy peer groups for building best practices (at least in non-competing areas) and leverage international institutions for producing business-focused resources (and not mere technical resources).

          • Create a new structure that meets the aspirations of its key stakeholders, and build a model that allows partnerships with relevant groups that leverage IT, rather than trying to do it within Nasscom.

          The association should play the role of an apex body and promote these new-age companies, back offices of multinationals, and other technology firms to create their own organisations. Rather than trying to serve every industry -- whether it is a US or European bank's back office or online retailer, anyone that uses technology -- it should collaborate with newer associations and working groups.

          This will allow Nasscom to serve its core constituency better, while benefiting from working with these new-age companies that, strictly speaking, are not IT services/BPO or software companies.

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          Why Nasscom needs a new programme

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          Nasscom revealed its Strategic Review 2013 on Monday, its signature event India Leadership Forum started on Tuesday, the election process to form its new executive council is on, and study groups are submitting their recommendations on what shape the country's top IT body should take.

          At the same time, its most core constituents are looking for more transparent debate on the subject and expect representation in decision-making.

          Recent announcements of a group of 30 product companies (iSpirt) or rising aspirations of city-level initiatives like the Hyderabad International Convention Centre or the Software Exporters' Association of Pune have clearly indicated that all their needs are not being addressed by Nasscom in today's form and function, so it urgently needs to transform.

          The author currently works as Research Director and CEO of Offshore Insights, an IT advisory company, and was Head of Forrester Research India, which he founded in 2001



          Photographs: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters

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