Indian IT industry like yoga touches directly or indirectly quite a significant proportion of mankind. Hence it is befitting that we discuss this challenge here – in plain English and not in corporate speak which you can find in million other places. The word thermodynamic connotes the first 3 laws of thermodynamics. The first law says, you cannot win, second law says, you cannot stop and the third says, you cannot leave the game.
The problems Indian IT industry or more precisely Indian top IT companies are facing now can be summarized in plain-speak is like this :
1. No intellectual property based product / branded service / not a single application which everyone knows by name (for example : skype).
2. The linear relationship between number of people inside the factory (read office if 20,000 people inside a min-township is called office) and profit (now and of future) is not reliable. Now, do you understand why IBM is speaking non-linear growth ?
3. For non-linear growth, one needs money, time, leader, planning and especially – not surrendered to classic alibis like colonial exploitation, poor country, corrupt politicians etc. I do not understand whether Linux was developed by someone having 1 billion dollars, a sum I think Infosys has in the bank !
4. The cost of employee is increasing and there is a bloated middle management and now mechanism is to be manufactured so that cost of the middle management and revenue can be mapped. I am no mathematician but I do not think this problem is not any easier than providing a proof of Fermat’s last theorem. I have an elegant solution for this but I have lost the postcard on which I actually did that ! Believe me. If you are a middle manager in an Indian top tier IT company and aged 40+ years, you shall hear the proof and its pronouncements shortly with just my tone – believe and good faith. The outcome is same : monthly ATM top-up in threat or stopped.
5. This point is very delicate and I am almost violating the client-attorney privilege which can only be violated under command from a Federal Court. I shall still take the risk. If I see a young civil engineer passionately planning to change the course of a river completely and in opposite direction, if I am his well-wisher, I shall remind him – ‘My dear boy, just like the testosterone once mixed in your blood will find its release, similarly the course has been charted and don’t make a fool of yourself.’
Now, I hear various processes, plans and ambitious speeches coming from leaders to ‘reinvent’ and become like those competitors who appear to have discovered non-linear growth, intellectual products and many desirable things for the transaction-artists and linear-all-clear team.
Let me become less diplomatic :
1. These competitor companies are pre-dominantly, decisively and actually founded built and run by white men of European origin. White men may have many vices and might have committed many heinous crimes, but in the IT domain from conception to the intellectual modelling to risking capital and reputation have been pre-dominantly a Euro-white enterprise.
2. The ‘intellectual products’ which we are too eager to have took at least fifty years to develop and finest brains of the above region worked on it. It wiped off many fortunes and many early pioneers lived on baked beans. For last thirty years, we have very shrewdly used our advantages and for that those men had given us liberal praise in words and most important – through their purse. We may have done many excellent things in this area, no doubt but intellectual product or intellectual distilled essence is not one of them.
3. Then at the risk of being unpatriotic and a heartless man, may I ask : Can we ever have those ‘intellectual products / rights’ , ‘non-linear growth’ etc for our companies ? Please note the word – ever.
I think it is not possible and if history is of any guide, it will never be possible if two conditions remain same :
1. Indian companies remain in India and do not get acquired – either through business route or through non-business route (annexation / invasion / usurpation)
2. If a new law is discovered that violates second law of thermodynamics which essentially says that naturally a river will come down from mountain and will go to the sea and not the other way around,
Just to show that I am not a heart-less man, I am giving you the domain where all these ‘desirables;’ we have not only achieved but we have virtually no competitor. I shall provide only 4 four line case studies (being a freelancer and not a corporate man, I cannot waste 30 pages and 300 hours to study a Case Study so that I can be asked by a 100% risk free tenured professor in a I-prefixed tax-payer funded MBA class as where the company did not manage risk properly. It is almost same for a bald man to say what a great battle he fought for the ivory handled damask comb)
1. Art of Living : In 1980s, somewhat a contemporary of Infosys- a man popularized a proprietary breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya and went global. Thirty years from now, there is nil or very little competition on the ‘product’ front or the intellectual property rights fee, (course fee sought and received)
2. Dynamic Meditation : A Pune based Professor discovered a new meditation technique for modern man and Pune became a flood of foreigners who spent a fortune to get a feel of the ‘product’.
3. Hare Krishna : A Bengali scholar went to New York – with only his books and lifelong training and launched Hare Krishna movement single-handedly and the products and intellectual properties created are of such immense magnitude that the Publication Wing became one of the largest books publishers and distributors of the world (then BBT)
4. Applied Vedanta : More than hundred years back, a young man went with an idea and created one of the lasting service Institutions of India and world – Swami Vivekannada and Ramkrishna Mission. The Mission is in existence for more than hundred years and appears to be ready easily for another hundred.
It is quite apparent from all of the above and it is this : You cannot control your true nature. Rather, your true nature shapes your destiny. Imitation is useless and dangerous. An Indian company in search of so-called ‘innovation’, .non-linear growth may become passable-American but will remain what it is – passable and that is exactly what is happening. The crisis cannot be averted by more assiduous work on ‘optimization’ (i.e. how more passable we become).
Current crisis and a profound challenge in the Indian IT industry is not only a matter of reflection but also of deep contemplation and self-analysis, uncontaminated by too much concern for the present or for the present loss.
For some 40+s of these Indian IT companies, the future, materially speaking is not rosy or comfortable but intellectually and spiritually speaking – a great moment.
This moment is very rare and many generations miss it simply because of not being in the cusp.
I, and my generation is in that cusp and that is unfolding in all its glory and horrr in next 2-3 years.