“Contribution of IT towards Growth of India”.
In the spirit of our 64th Independence day, I cannot think of any other topic than something related to Information technology and its contribution towards the growth of India since 1947, Context: India is a South Asian country that is the seventh largest in area and has the second largest population in the world. For last 10 years, India has become one of the most preferred offshore destinations amongst the APAC region. IT and ITES has recorded $ 39.6 billion revenue during 2006-07 and register a growth of 30.7% beating the projected target of 27% as per NASSCOM estimation. The Indian information technology industry accounts for around 7% of the country’s GDP and export earnings. More than 2.3 million people are employed in the sector either directly or indirectly, making it one of the biggest job creators in India and a mainstay of the national economy. In March 2009, annual revenues from outsourcing operations in India amounted to US$60 billion and this is expected to increase to US$225 billion by 2020. Today, Indian technologists are not only contributing to India growth story but also helping western part of the world in creating best of technologies. The only un-answered probable question could be whether this growth story has really contributed in creating further emergence of elite enclave and inequality. I would like to avoid answering this for the time being and would move on to our main topic. The Journey: Once a former director of Britain’s Scientific and Industrial Research said of Nehru “as the man who exerted a 17-year continuous and personal drive for the extension of scientific education, research and technical application in a way no other leader of any country has done for has been qualified to do” If we need to really identify the 1st milestone of IT story in India, I think, it was first initiated with the strong belief of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru that India’s growth story
can only be written using technology as a platform. With this belief, the story of Information technology began unfolding under the guidance of two titans of Indian science – physicist-turned-statistician Prof Prasanta chandra Mahalanobis and physicist Homi J Bhabha during 1930’s and 1940’s. During those days, the fundamental focus was on basic research, supporting computing need towards scientific research in centralized PSU labs, atomic research, national sample survey etc. The technology was accessible to the private sector organisation or to individuals. It is interesting to note that during 1st 5 year plan, Pt. Nehru ensured allocation of 6 crores for CSIR where as no specific allocation was done for ICAR. However, too many policies, regulation and approval processes laid down by the controlling body slowed down the progress of IT implementation instead of creating a supportive environment. Though there were many attempts to gain self-sufficiency in technology hardware, it was not enough to ensure its extended application to reach masses. However, during 1950s, 1st Indian analytical computing machine was created at ISI indigenously. During 1956, BTM collaborated with ISI and supplied HEC-2m , a main frame. Guess the power of those m/cs ? It could perform 200 additions or five multiplications per second. Infact, lots of scientific problems received from IISc Bangalore, TIFR, Bombay, IIT Kharagpur, Indian association for the cultivation of science and solved using this new machine. Then came “Ural”, ISISJU-1, VAX etc. The first digital computer “TIFRAC” got created under the supervision of Homi J Bhabha. Parallely many business houses like Air-India,
Brihan Mumbai Electric Supply and Transport (BEST), Hindustan lever, Godrej soaps, L&T, Voltas, Tata Chemicals and a number of engineering firms started
their initiatives of computerization. Another movement, which we saw happening parallely is the effort from Vikram Sarabhai, M G K Menon. Those eminent personalities helped creating a platform and processes towards importing IT hardware from abroad. However, because of elaborate procedures and documentations in importing computers became a nightmare. Statistic shows that while importing, the evaluation process itself took between 1 to 54 months where as implementation upto 64 months. Import of IBM 1800 and Burroughs 6800 took 7 years.
Development versus regulation became a big debate point. Local companies could not develop adequate quality hardware and at the same time resentment on allowing IBMs to play in the market started growing faster. 1962 china war gave us another jolt to understand the acute shortage of electronic component during the way. With whatever is the business objective, from 1950s till mid 70â€™s IBM contributed enormously to Indian IT industry. Air India started using IBM hardware. Railway was one of the biggest customer at that point in time. A Major Shift: Things started changing from 80s. During 1982 Asian games Ms Gandhi entrusted Rajiv Gandhi to organize and showcase Indian capability to manage such a big event. Rajiv proposed end-to-end technology implementation to manage all operations related to the games with an automated result announcing system. This was the first time, a real-time computer network got delivered for international sports event anywhere in the world. 7 th summit of NAM (NonAlligned Movement) was organized in a short notice with the help of information technology. During this time, we could see a major shift in focus and motivation took place from a unified and centralized system of scientific research in PSU lab to the problem solving, mission-oriented model of developing technology which has wider application rather than on basic research and import substitution-led technology, linking poverty directly with the technology. After Rajiv Gandhi took over as Prime Minster of India, things started changing drastically. Creation of
VSNL, technology implementation for planning and social transformation, rural development, and poverty elevation scheme â€“ several computerization projects got delivered. After airlines and railways, public sector steel plants started embracing technology in a big way. Railway Reservation project was one of the largest project at that time. Just to get a fill of some numbers, in 1984, 4.5 million Passengers were handled daily using 2000 trains, including 600 long distance trains, there use to be 50000 reservation request daily. This project actually helped in reservation time and transportation costs, reduced corruption and convenience. Another major initiative during that time was bank computerization. Then came digitization of telecom sector. 1st telephone exchange SPC-1 in Delhi
got established during June 1981. Liberalization initiative during 1991 gave additional boost to the growth of India in general and IT industry in particular. IT service industry: Turning Geography into History “Tele-working has transformed itself from just being a basic concept in 1980 to a multi billion dollar industry known as Outsourcing during 2000s. From 2000 onwards we saw major activities in the area of IT service industry. Business services (information technology, information technology enabled services, business process outsourcing) were among the fastest growing sectors contributing to one third of the total output of services in 2000. The growth in the IT sector is attributed to increased specialization, and an availability of a large pool of low cost, but highly skilled, educated and fluent English-speaking workers, on the supply side, matched on the demand side by an increased demand from foreign consumers interested in India’s service exports, or those looking to outsource their operations. The share of India's IT industry to the country's GDP increased from 4.8 % in 2005-06 to 7% in 2008. Country’s English speaking population has been instrumental in making India a preferred destination for information technology products as well as business process outsourcing. All these obviously meant a huge amount of foreign exchange earning to India.
Indigenous initiatives: Though ISI and TIFR started off the movement of indigenous creation of IT hardware in early 50s and 60s, it was restricted primarily to these two institutes
till 70s. Till then, the hardware industry was primarily dependant on IBMs and ICILs through restricted imports. During 70s, we saw lots of activities and Indian industries coming up in big way. DCM launched desktop electronic calculator in 1972 which was “ DCM four function calculator” - little larger than a briefcase. DCM subsequently launched Indias first microprocessor based computer DCM 1101. TCS 1968, initially Tata Computer centre supporting only Tata group companies got founded. We also witnessed formation of HCL who launched Micro 2200. Wipro started their operation during similar time. Patni came up during 1976. Narayan Murthy left PCS and Infosys founded in 1981. Softek , India's first software company started off in 1979. If we remember, Softek Office
(Softbase, Softcalc, Softword) used to be quite famous around that time. Large software customer decided to setup full owned subsidiary to develop software for
internal use. The growth of STPIs in Bangalore, Noida, Gurgaon contributed to growth further.
IT Education: All these would not have been possible without proper IT training and education. India’s first attempt to create a world-class engineering and technical education became successful with the birth of “Eastern Higher Technical Institute” later “Indian Institute of Technology”, Kharagpur which started delivering short term courses from 1950s before full fledged MTech courses. IITs got established in other metros subsequently. Strong industry linkage has helped IITs to really create technocrats of its worth though it had faced issues of brain drain to western world which came down after liberalization in 90s. Just to get a perspective, IBM 7044 in 1966 brought to IIT campus at Kalyanpur on a bullock cart. During 80s NIIT got created and innovated the concept of “franchisee” model for faster penetration without loosing focus on standardization and quality. One thing, which IBM did prominently for the country is to create a pool of highly, trained computer professionals in systems engineering, programming and maintenance. It helped creating trainers for further training to several public and private sector employees on technology.
Other renowned institutes like ISI, IISc Bangalore, BITS, Pilani also started generating huge number of technocrats (infact more than we required in our country that time!). Birth of CSIR was another milestone. The changing character of computer usage from main frames to minis to microcomputers, training need increased in many fold.
Computerisation for masses: Corporate initiatives: a. Projects like eChaupal of ITC empowerd the farmer to â€œsanchalakâ€? where prices of the crops, understanding of the real time global rates, the price that ITC was offering as well as the prices prevailing at the Mandis in the vicinity started becoming available in a single click. b. TARAhaat (Technology Action for Rural Advancements): Succesful project to showcase the use of technology for providing sustainable livelihood in villages through delivering deliver public benefits by satisfying private needs. The services provided are education, e-governance, insurance, mini- credit financing, rolling out development packages made by NGOs and e-communications. c. Gramdoot programme: A private Indian IT company, Aksh Broadband, has executed the Gramdoot programme in Jaipur district (Rajasthan) in western India. The model is based on fibre optic technology laid through the district to carry voice, data and graphics. The optic fibre cable runs for 3,000 km and benefits a population of 6 million people. A central head-end is established where there is an internet gateway, a cable television headend, a wide area network server and an IP call manager so that the 100 mbps wide area network can serve television channels, online learning, access to non dial-up real time net and telephony services. e-Governence projects: Initially with DoE and then NIC was the first two major steps towards eGovernance in India. During 80s, much public sector office had personal computers though used only for word processing. After the launch of NICNET-
the satellite-based network, things started changing. We say major reforms in Tax administration, Nation e-Governance Plan started off. Majority of states have
completed ROR (Records of Rights) project. Bhoomi project in Karnataka is one of the self-sustainable e-Governance project delivered. Similar projects have been implemented for MP (Gyandoot), in UP(Lokvani), in Kerala ( Friends), in
Rajasthan ( Mitra), in West Bengal ( SWAN) etc. To facilitate the penetration of IT and ITES in rural areas, the Indian Government has formulated a proposal to establish 100000 Common Service Center (CSC) in rural areas. Indian Government takes the initiative to execute the scheme through PPP (Private Public Partnership) to connect rural people to World Wide Web and the sanctioned amount is 57.42 billion for such proposal.
Current Status and going forward: Despite the liberalization the economy still largely controlled by the government and the 500+ major companies it owns, which together are worth around US$500 billion, or around 40% of GDP at current exchange rates. Government support towards proper duties and taxation, special sanction to SEZ will play a key role in faster transformation.
Mr. Subhasish Saha, Chief Technology Officer(CTO), Apeejay Surrendra Group Bio-Profile : Mr. Saha is an Alumnus of Indian Statistical Institute, Where he has done his PG in Computer Science and Currently Designated as â€œChief Technology Officerâ€? in Apeejay Surrendra Group, a Conglomerate of Multiple Business in Hospitality, Retail, Plantation, Shipping, Logistics, Real Estates & Insurance Broking ,HQ in Kolkata & London. Before Joining Apeejay , Mr. Saha has worked with Hindustan Lever in various Roles & Capacities for almost 18 Years . Mr. Saha was engaged in building End to End IT Management Practices in the Area of Both IT Infrastructure & Applications through Business Process Re-engineering, Business Analysis, Streamlining Sales & Commercial Supply Chain Processes & B2B Connectivity . In his Current role Mr. Saha is working as an enterprise leader & member of Executive Leadership Team, responsible for Strategic Level decision making & driving business strategy involving CEO,MD & other shared service function heads across multiple group companies under Apeejay Surrendra Group.