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How NIIT became a big success in China

February 18, 2020 19:43 IST

The job placement rate for students trained by NIIT in China is over 90 per cent.
A revealing excerpt from Saibal Dasgupta's Running With The Dragon: How India Should Do Business With China.

Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

There is much to learn from the way Rajendra Singh Pawar, a Padma Bhushan awardee, launched what has emerged as the largest Indian company in China in terms of the number of people employed.

NIIT has trained over half a million learners in various IT skills and worked with over 100 Chinese universities in its twenty-one year presence in China.

It has trained 38 million learners across forty countries since 1981.

The mission is to bring people and computers together.

It entered the Chinese market in 1997.

'As a rule, I go to a country for a short vacation if I plan to launch business in it. That's what I did in China in 1996,' Pawar once told me.

NIIT already had a partner with huge infrastructure capabilities, and it facilitated the company's entry into China the next year.

But the partner was to exit from the education business after the Asian financial crisis in 1999, allowing NIIT to take full charge of the China business.

This is one bit of learning for Indian companies that have strong contacts with multinational corporations to facilitate their entry into China in diverse ways.

'It became very obvious to me that it was going to be useful for the Chinese society to partner with us in education and skill building,' Pawar said.

IMAGE: Rajendra S Pawar. Photograph: Kind courtesy Richter Frank-Jurgen/Wikimedia Commons

The Chinese were keen in the talent area. Soon, province after province, one local government after another saw NIIT as a valuable partner.

Of course, there was a stiff learning curve and the company had to continually adjust itself to local requirements.

'We had to model and remodel our business to make sure that we are accepted and provided avenues to participate. Over the years, many different models have been tried with local governments and with universities,' he said.

Pawar said China was too large a country for NIIT to invest the kind of money required to build a consumer brand.

This is why it chose to do business with business instead of direct business to consumer interaction.

'As you know in an economy and society like China, the best way to be effective in business relations is to engage with the government,' he said.

IMAGE: The NIIT technologies campus, Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh. Photograph: Kind courtesy Puneet.1.verma/Wikimedia Commons

India is a global brand in IT.

China has watched India's IT growth with great curiosity.

The economic value that the Indian software industry has created for the US goes into hundreds of billions of dollars.

If India can add economic value to the US economy, it can certainly do the same in developing countries.

I asked Pawar why he thought many Indian IT companies have not succeeded in China.

'One of the USPs is that they love what we are offering them. We are helping them to be self-sufficient, at least in IT,' he said.

'We try to put ourselves in the shoes of the customer completely,' he added.

NIIT works in cooperation with universities, software parks and local governments across Chinese cities and provinces.

It is linked to software parks in Chongqing, Qingdao, Haikou, Guiyang, Gui'An, Tongren and Ningxia.

'Our graduates are scattered around China in many companies, including IBM, China Telecom, NTT DATA, Hewlett-Packard, Bertelsmann, Bank of Shanghai, UFIDA software, TCS, Infosys, Tech Mahindra and Wipro,' said Kamal Dhuper, country head, NIIT China.

Photograph: Reuters

Job placement rate for students trained by NIIT is over 90 per cent, he said.

The company jointly operates IT colleges with five universities, including Qingdao University, Ningxia University, Hainan University, Guizhou Normal University and Ningxia Normal University.

The seven-semester programme is embedded in the four-year software engineering programme of these universities.

Courses cover Java programming track, Dot Net programming track, Open source programming track, Big Data technologies track and courses on new technologies artificial intelligence, machine learning and NLP.

Upon graduation, students can go for higher studies or opt for a job.

Around 30 per cent choose to continue their studies with master's degree programmes in China and abroad. Others join industry.

Typical jobs are programmer, software engineer, software testing, data analyst, data scientist, sales and marketing for technology products and associate IT faculty in training business and universities.

Doing a master's programme as compared to undergraduate studies ensures a higher success rate.

Students who choose to do the GNIIT programme in English with the help of Indian trainers find themselves better prepared to work in global MNCs and find it easier to get admission in universities abroad.

Some of the students have also got into the academic exchange programme at NIIT University in Neemrana, Rajasthan.

The big breakthrough came for the company in 2005 when the Jiangsu provincial government invited NIIT to partner with more than 50 universities and colleges to train 50,000 people with IT and English language skills in the province.

By 2016, it had trained double the number of students originally envisaged.

The governments in Wuxi, Chongqing, Suzhou, Changzhou, Qingdao, Haikou and Zhangjiagang have also involved NIIT to support their talent development objectives through public-private partnerships with software parks.

The provincial government of Guizhou invited NIIT to develop large-scale talent for big data analytics to meet the government's vision of positioning the province as the big-data capital of China in 2015.

This led to the training of over 50,000 students.

The Ningxia provincial government also tasked NIIT to use the public-private partnership model through two projects to develop talent to operate a training base in a software park in the city of Yinchuan and work with universities in the province.

The NIIT curricula and pedagogy is embedded in a four-year bachelor's degree programme that has been taught by the NIIT faculty since 2017.

It works with local and multinational enterprises in China to provide end-to-end solutions for sourcing, training and hiring of entry-level IT workforce as well as IT professionals with prior work experience.

The company has received several awards from different local governments in China.

'NIIT has helped many international and domestic companies such as IBM, China Telecom, Ford, HP, Bertelsmann, TCS, Mahindra Satyam, Infosys, Bank of Shanghai, Shanda, HiSoft, Freeborders and U Soft to source, train and hire their talent,' Dhuper said.

Excerpted from Running With The Dragon: How India Should Do Business With China by Saibal Dasgupta, with the kind permission of the publishers, Penguin Random House India.