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NASSCOM needs a revamp. Now.

NASSCOM, the trade body and guardian angel for the IT / ITES services industry in India was formed in 1988. Been three decades.While many people are writing on different fora about how the industry (in India) is on a down turn, how thousands will get laid off and sounding out the death knell, perhaps not enough is being said about the trade body which has tried to guide the industry.

For a long time, at least the last 15 years, NASSCOM in its seminars and conferences has been talking about the fact that the industry needs to re-invent itself, how more value than basic IT labour needs to be brought up front and delivered to the clients in the west. Reasonably so, because the member companies (in most cases) have turned the industry into a conglomeration of sweat shops. Some exceptions exist, but at a generic level no change has happened. It still is about fitting one person per <100 sq ft, packing six people to an apartment and clamouring for H1Bs.

The industry exploded with the Y2K crises and companies opportunistically entrenched themselves. Companies moved up the chain, or sideways and land grabbed, but what have they done differently, by looking into the future?

The Offshoring game was invented by the Indian players, but the large foreign MNCs came in late (post year 2000), walloped the Indian competitors at their own game and took away a chunk of the supplier pie and a large portion of the clients’ wallet.

Over the last seventeen years, the industry, as a whole, still remained providing bodies (in whatever glorious form), running large maintenance (app or infrastructure) shops, lower percentage of app dev, configuring ERP and rows of people processing paper or answering phone calls.

The bellwether company pushed training to the institutes that they recruited from, and helped (with others) damage the engineering curricula. So much so that BE (IT) courses got introduced to produce more coolies who didn’t want to put in effort to learn real CS and delve into deeper mathematics. Check a randomly selected syllabus from a university and you will see what I mean.

So why has NASSCOM been ineffectual in guiding the industry in the right direction? Here is one hypothesis. The captains (?) of the industry run NASSCOM, chair it and populate its executive council. Check this list. It isn’t very different from what it looked like the previous year, the year before, and the year before. Many of these folks are not technology people. Not many of these stalwarts have spent time with the clients on a production floor, bull pen, retail warehouse etc. either and do not have deep specialization in an industry domain. Good business people? Sure. But, not technology or domain specialists. No wonder their first knee jerk reaction to the current situation is firing people in India, and hiring in thousands in the US.

So, how would these people really take the industry towards true Digital, high end Analytics, true AI, automation etc.?  Being late in catching up with technology trends isn’t helpful.

Hence, my suggestion that NASSCOM needs to reform itself and get in people who understand these technologies. Folk who understand these technologies, people who understand specific business domains where most movement is expected, and folk who can help shape education for people already in the industry, or students in universities.

There you go. That puts paid to my ever getting employed by the IT / ITES services industry in India.

checking email at home

Fettered by email

The French folk have a longer lifespan than most others in Europe, and are less likely to die due to a cardio vascular disease. Their food, well … we know what that is like. This is the notorious “French Paradox“, which epidemiologists have puzzled over for decades. A Harvard study could not find enough evidence to prove that low-fat food would reduce the occurrence of cardio vascular diseases. So, what is this about?

Not very clear, but this might be linked to the type (not about fat content) of diet, amount of stress, amount of exercise and general lifestyle. That seems to make sense. How about the French working 35 hours a week (since the year 2000 legislation)?

How about not living life at a break neck speed? How about not having to check and having to respond to email after work hours? Did I touch a raw nerve there?

Agreed, the world is different now and the needs of the workplace are different too. The proliferation of gadgets does help one remain constantly connected, but surely is bringing in a set of expectations, and work into one’s personal life.

France has just sent out a strong recommendation to all organizations with more than 50 employees to not send email to their employees after work hours. Have the ever-expanding expectations around an employees availability has surely gotten out of hand. David Heinemeier Hansson, the creator of Ruby on Rails, and the founder of Basecamp, vehemently agrees and says “Work emails are ticking in at all sorts of odd hours and plenty of businesses are dysfunctional enough to believe they have a right to have those answered, whatever the hour. That’s unhealthy, possibly even exploitative.”

It isn’t only about expectation of availability after work hours, but also during an employee’s personal time off. Many people do feel obligated to carry and use their devices to vacation. Does that really help the organization in the long-term?

The other, relatively, continuing fad across many new age companies is the open office. Surely, that does improve collaboration but it also takes away privacy and adds to distraction. There surely is a likelihood that it would reduce individual productivity as well. A 2013 study found that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance.

Maybe the time for another round of changes in the work culture, and work environment is nigh.

The Power of Tier-2, and Tier-3 locations in India

If you are even remotely interested in the progress of Retail and Ecommerce in India, you are surely aware of how large an impetus our Tier-2, and Tier-3 cities and towns can provide. In our experience, the basic factors which create an impact in consumer behaviour in these locations are:

  • Penetration of mobile technology, and hardware thus creating easy access to the Internet.
  • Availability of cash to make purchases, and the existing desire created by other media.
  • Lack of easy availability of material for purchase.
  • Lack of steady internet connections, and thus dependence on Cyber Cafes for making purchases.

Read through the slides below to know more about these trends as we discovered from our study.

Retail 2020

What will the future of retail look like? How will technology have influenced user interfaces? Will social media take center stage or will mobile device integration remain a distant dream?Retail2020