If you are walking past shiny glass front panels on huge buildings, perfectly manicured lawns, well laid platforms beside equally well laid roads, and wondering when India got so prosperous, my guess is that you are either in Electronics City Bangalore, Old Mahabalipuram Road Chennai or Hinjawadi Pune! Welcome to the IT world!
An oasis of prosperity, engine of India’s growth, boon to the middle class – we have heard several adages about our IT industry. Let’s take a guided tour inside this mysterious world of IT and find out for ourselves what’s the big deal really!
First we pick the kind of company to explore because the IT-ITES-BPO sector is as diverse as Indian cuisine! The choices are software development services giants (Wipro, Infosys), IT services & consultancy MNCs (IBM, Accenture), global IT product companies (Microsoft, Oracle), IT enabled services companies into CRM or ERP, Business Process Outsourcing solutions for medical or retail sectors.
IT is a domain neutral technology like Mathematics, which can solve complex problems in physics, engineering or accountancy. Similarly, IT blends into various domains such as Telecom, finance, consumer electronics and public utility services, with a constant quest for new domains and newer applications. But burgeoning demand brings with it, the threat of rewarding mediocrity and enshrining materialism in the work force.
My pick for the tour today is a multi-national IT product company, simply because that’s where I come from! As we enter, a multitude of 20 some-things scampering around with the ubiquitous identity card tags, catch our eye. These smart cards are used to record attendance, control access to specific parts of the premises, and even pay for food in the canteen!
We step inside to see a product manager who functions like a Mini-CEO heading a cross-functional team of architects, developers, testers, technical writers and customer support. Marketing and pricing functions are typically absent in Indian centers of MNCs, unless there is a domestic market for the product. They all sit in a series of cubicles, irrespective of position in the team. However, a three side enclosure cubicle is a prize catch – often allotted only to members who have controversial responsibilities, like filling performance appraisal ratings!
Apart from a series of networked PCs, remote communication utilities like VOIP phones and video conferencing make geographical distance irrelevant. Data server rooms and labs are out of our bounds, so let’s not get in there.
Meet our product manager, responsible for the product from conception to customer delivery and even beyond. Balancing customer satisfaction, employee interests and stake holder expectations is indeed a tight rope walk, especially in an industry where success rates of IT products is below 10%. But on the bright side, most CEOs have been product managers with one great product behind them, Steve Jobs of Apple being a case in point.
Going further in, through carpeted corridors and posh interiors, we reach the cabin of the VP or boss of the place. His worries are not about today, but about tomorrow – with technology becoming obsolete before it’s mastered completely, with new competition mushrooming from rival companies everyday and with the constant threat of employee attrition looming large. Hefty stock options on offer do play their part, to keep him going though.
On our way back, we come across some serious minds at work in those cubicles, where the average IT employee is slogging it out. He is a specimen that deserves special attention and comment, so let us leave that matter for a future discourse. It’s a virtual world within those walls – virtual friends, artificial lights, conditioned air, intangible output. But its impact on the country’s economy and employee bank balance is as real as it gets!