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The charge of the software brigade

June 25, 2003 11:17 IST

Meet Jonathan K S Choi, president of Hong Kong's Sun Wah Group. Jonathan is an old India hand in the sense that his group, with assets worth $1.2 billion, has been buying sea food from India and selling Vietnamese rice to it for the past two decades.

For the past two years, however, Jonathan has spent most of his time spearheading an aggressive Chinese drive to emulate India's software miracle.

In April 2002, he came to India along with China's vice-minister in charge of science and technology, Ma Song Da, and spent 11-12 days intensively studying the Indian software model.

This included the obligatory trips to Infosys and Tata Consultancy Services, and then to smaller firms that have benefited tremendously from the software technology park of India initiative.

Ever since Jonathan's visit, his colleague, Benjamin K Y Ng, president of Sun Wah Hi-Tech Holdings, spends one week in India every month, taking home valuable lessons to help China develop its own software giants.

Since then, the Sun Wah Group has rapidly set up new education centres to develop software engineers in India, and thanks to a decision by then Premier Zhu Rongji, 35 such institutes were approved by the Chinese authorities.

These are, however, distinct from those being set up by Indian companies, such as NIIT, operating out of China.

Sun Wah already has a joint venture with QAI of India to provide training to Chinese businesses on how to prepare for a CIMM Level-5 certification, which is the top globally recognised certification of quality in software.

Another two joint venture agreements have also been signed with Indian firms, whose names will be made public soon.

Two development centres, with at least 100 software engineers each, will be set up for business process outsourcing jobs. One will be at Wuhan in central China and the other at Zhuhai in Guangdong.

In addition, there is the Sun Wah Education Institute and the Sun Wah Technical Institute, which also provides diploma courses in computer sciences, among others.

The group last year signed an agreement with the Huazhong University of Technology in Wuhan for the Sun Wah Institute of Software.

This institute has around 1,000 students enrolled in it, one-third for the two-year graduate course in computer science and two-thirds in the three-year under-graduate course.

All education institutes, Jonathan stresses, have been joint ventures with the Chinese government, an indication of how single-mindedly it is pursuing its objective.

Sunil Jain in Beijing