Friday, January 30, 2009



It seems like there is a need to repeat over and over again how bad the crisis is here in Davos. Last night’s dinner was such an experience—top-notch experts all insisting on how bad it is in their sector.

The speeches of the prime ministers of China and Russia were also full of warnings, although it was striking to see the confidence China shows—to continue to grow around 8%.

But there are also other lessons to learn: Young people are clearly impatient with the mistakes of the present generation. They want a different agenda, a more inclusive one.

It is great to talk to the new generation of executives here, talk to them directly, equal to equal. It is exciting to see the continued passion for programmes such as climate change and the World Food Programme.

Let’s face it, if we want to regain confidence, it won’t be by recreating the world we had when we went into the tunnel of this crisis. This is Switzerland, you sometimes go into a tunnel with one climate and come out with another. That will happen in the economy as well: It will be different and we are better prepared.

Ben Verwaayen is chief executive of Alcatel-Lucent


San Francisco

Google on Wednesday began offering tools to expose Internet service providers (ISPs) that choke traffic or shift users into slow lanes while allowing others to zip along at high speeds.

The online search and advertising king is an unabashed champion of “net neutrality” in which all Internet traffic is treated equally instead of letting service providers give preferential treatment to privileged clients.

“At Google, we care deeply about sustaining the Internet as an open platform for consumer choice and innovation,” Google chief evangelist Vint Cerf and principal engineer Stephen Stuart wrote in an online posting.

“No matter your views on net neutrality and ISP network management practices, everyone can agree that Internet users deserve to be well-informed about what they’re getting when they sign up for broadband.”

Google worked with New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, the PlanetLab Consortium, and academic researchers to create an online Measurement Lab (M-Lab) that researchers can use to detect Internet traffic manipulation.

“When an Internet application doesn’t work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP, the application, your PC, or something else?” Cerf wrote.

“It can be difficult for experts, let alone average Internet users, to address this sort of question today.”


Lison Joseph, Hyderabad

Representatives of India’s software lobby group Nasscom will visit the US next month in the first of three planned visits to meet members of the Obama administration, at a time when business from the US is slowing on account of a recession in that country and any anti-outsourcing wave could seriously hurt software and back-office services companies here.

Although the anti-outsourcing sentiment isn’t as pronounced as it was in the early 2000s, it did surface during the run-up to the presidential elections, with the new President Barack Obama referring to it.

Nasscom, slow to react the last time, doesn’t want a repeat, and will also use the services of professional lobbying firms in the US to ensure that the “right information is provided to policymakers”.

Obama imposed new rules on lobbyists, seeking to diminish their influence the day after he became the US’ 44th president.

At least 60% of the $40 billion (Rs 1.96 trillion today) that India’s software and back-office services firms earned in 2008 from exports came from the US.

Nasscom president Som Mittal declined to give details of the firms, but acknowledged that his organization has two “well-networked professional firms” to make sure that “our perspectives are given to the (US) decision makers”.

He added that while addressing the fallout of the fraud at Satyam Computer Services Ltd “is not a focus area”, Nasscom’s representatives would discuss “concerns about corporate governance” with US officials, who wanted to discuss this.


The Asian Age

Research firm Gartner, in October 2008, had stated that data centre capacity in India would grow from 1.3 million sq ft. in 2007 to 5.1 million sq ft. by 2012, a 31 percent CAGR.

Although many IT vendors remain optimistic about the long-term, they do see a short-term spending blip on capacity expansion.

"New data centre build outs will be delayed, not stalled," HP India’s director of Industry Standard Servers Rajesh Dhar says.

Traditionally, the IT hardware sector in India has grown about three times the country’s GDP growth rate. With GDP growth now expected to moderate, the hardware industry should slow down as well.

However, there are multiple growth drivers for data centres over the next few years. Every Indian state, Dhar says, will need a data centre to house e-governance projects and telecom firms would have to invest in servers and storage for pushing value-added services.

Nevertheless, as of now, it is not clear whether telecom companies would scale existing data centres or build new ones.

During a slowdown when IT budgets are tight, enterprises, he says, may opt for "prolonging" the life of a data centre by investing in blade technologies, which saves on space and optimises power utilisation.

The view resonates in a new data centre report from security software firm Symantec as well, which concludes chief information officers now want to do more with less. To reduce expenses, Indian data centres may see more automation of processes, virtualisation and consolidation among others.

The report identifies right staffing data centres in India as a huge challenge — quality manpower in IT is more skewed towards services rather than hardware.

No doubt, about 75 percent of the survey’s respondents said their data centres were getting more complex to manage.


Mohana Radhakrishnan
The Economic Times

When sweeping budget cuts are made by companies, training is one of the first to feel the heat. Training organisations must have the ability to eliminate waste and embrace operational efficiency. Almost all training professionals have to justify the value of training to their management. Over the last few months, Expertus, which helps business growth through maximising training investment, has delved into the subject of costs in training organisations. Here are nine ways to trim the training operational expense. Consolidate learning technologies: Invest in delivery platform management technology, authoring systems technologies and learning management system (LMS). Every organisation wants to optimise or consolidate learning technologies. By reducing the number of systems and simplifying infrastructure, there will be fewer system support requirements, less maintenance, fewer upgrades, and fewer resource requirements.

Convert ILT to e-Learning: One of the key strategies organisations are considering is converting instructor-led training to e-learning. The obvious gains here are reduction in travel, facility, equipment, and trainer costs. E-learning can be available 24/7, but organisations don’t have to deliver all their content as classic e-learning modules.

Optimise learning technology support and administration:
This refers to the administrative work going on within the training group. Software as a service plays an integral role here. Organisations today don’t have to buy, implement and manage learning technology, now that a growing number of LMS providers offer their software as a hosted service. Organisations can also consider third-party companies that host and help manage learning systems.

Centralise services: Learning systems in an organisations is distributed and totally inefficient. That’s because there are multiple people in multiple groups completing the same tasks. Various groups within an organisation have different processes. But often, these process differences are driven more by structures or challenges within their skill set or lack of bandwidth.

Improve vendor management: Benefits are obvious if some type of vendor management programme is implemented. Most of them are accomplished by simply reducing the number of vendors.

Optimise learning operations: The real keys to improving business processes are audits and documentation. A process audit helps determine exactly how a process is being done, and how differently each person is doing it. Once the audit is complete, it’s important to document the internal process.

Reporting produce less data, more intelligence: In terms of reporting, cost and activity measurement is valid in few regards. But many leaders struggle in this area, feeling they’re bringing to the executive table data that has limited strategic value. One strategy is to work with the various business groups because most of them can provide some valuable data on their group’s performance.

Optimise training resources: Optimise the utilisation of classrooms, instructors, course material and equipment.

Run your training organisation like a business: It’s critical to identify your training organisation’s core skills and determine the true value to the company. If your value is not found in administration services or in technology management, it might be a good idea to shed that work or find ways to streamline it.

(The author is vice-president, Client Services, Expertus)


Sankar Radhakrishnan, Thiruvananthapuram
The Hindu Business Line

The Kerala State Information Technology Mission is adopting a three-brand strategy for setting up new district-level IT parks in the State.

Depending on which part of the State they are located in, the new Government-owned district-level IT parks in Kerala will carry the ‘Technopark’, ‘Infopark’ or ‘Cyberpark’ tags. The IT parks in the southern districts of the State will have the ‘Technopark’ tag, those in the central districts the ‘Infopark’ tag and those in the Malabar region the ‘Cyberpark’ tag, said Dr Ajay Kumar, Secretary-IT, Government of Kerala.

Operationally too, the new IT parks will be extensions of Technopark Thiruvananthapuram, Infopark Kochi or the proposed Cyberpark Kozhikode, he added.

Currently, the State Government is in the process of setting up four new IT parks in Kollam, Chertala and Ambalapuzha in Alappuzha district and Koratty in Thrissur district. Also on the cards are IT parks in Kozhikode, Kannur and Kasargod.

Work on the 40-acre Technopark Kollam has already started and the foundation stone will be laid next month, Dr Ajay Kumar said. In Chertala too, work on the 65-acre IT park has started. In Koratty, the IT Mission has taken possession of the 30 acres on which the IT park will be set up, while in Ambalapuzha 80 of the park’s 100 acres have been acquired, he added.

Meanwhile, construction of a Rs 100-crore office building and a guest house in Infopark Kochi will begin in February, he said. Similarly, work will soon begin on a new building in Technopark Thiruvananthapuram. To be built with an investment of Rs 150 crore, this building will be in the third phase of the Technopark, he added.

Over the next 2-3 years, the State Government will invest around Rs 1,500 crore in the various IT parks across the State, he pointed out.

Private investor interest in IT infrastructure projects such as the proposed Technocity in Thiruvananthapuram’s suburbs and Phase-3 of Technopark Thiruvananthapuram has declined following the global economic slowdown, Dr Ajay Kumar acknowledged. However, the State Government will go ahead with these projects, he emphasised. The idea is to invest in creating IT infrastructure so that Kerala is well placed to benefit from the next growth cycle, he explained.


Business Standard The Economic Times (Bangalore edition) The Hindu Business Line

International IT giant IBM has signed an agreement with the country's leading cellular telephone service provider Idea Cellular for providing end to end solutions to Idea.

Idea recently acquired Spice Communication for integration, transition and migration, Spice applications to Idea platform. The contract is worth Rs 86 crore and for eight years.

As part of the contract, IBM will manage Idea's IT operations and services in Punjab and Karnataka markets. Besides this IBM will also provide IT help desk services to Idea.



Business Standard
Leading software company Softlink announced the launch of its two new products Logi-Sys and X-ponent aimed at simplifying operations of logistic industry.
According to a company release, the announcement to this effect was made at the International Cargo, Logistic and Maritime Conference and Exhibition.
Logi-Sys is a web-based, enterprise-class Logistics Suite for managing the operations of international freight forwarders, third party logistics players (3PLs), Air Cargo Agents, Shipping Agencies and Non-vessel operating common carriers (NVOCCs). The product is designed to address the challenges of management of air and sea freight operations across locations, manage revenue flow, streamline documentation and meet regulatory requirements. Logi-Sys supports multi-country and multi-currency transactions.
X-Ponent is a software for sales, service and marketing operations management that helps user organizations to win every deal, retain every customer and streamline processes. The product enhances an organizations efficiency, revenue and profit by enabling identification and capturing of every sales opportunity, retention of existing customers, and optimum utilization of organizational resources.

Thursday, January 29, 2009


San Francisco
Financial Chronicle

Will Carol Bartz sell Yahoo’s search business to Microsoft? Analysts asked the question time and again after Bartz delivered Yahoo’s financial results to Wall Street for the first time since becoming chief executive this month.

Time and again, Bartz said she had not yet made up her mind. If anything, Bartz suggested that breaking off the search business would not be easy and that any decision would not come soon.

‘‘It is my job to make sure that as a company we look at anything that makes sense long term for the company and creates shareholder value,’’ Bartz said during a conference call with analysts Tuesday. ‘‘So yes, everything is on the table.’’ But she added: ‘‘This is not a company that needs to be pulled apart and left for the chickens.’’ While Bartz delivered Yahoo’s mixed financial results, the fourth quarter was the end of Jerry Yang’s turbulent 18-month tenure as chief executive.

Yahoo swung to a loss during the quarter, as sales declined slightly because of weakness in the online display ad business. The company also recorded a number of one-time charges. But cost-cutting efforts, including sizable layoffs, helped Yahoo top analysts’ expectations for profitability. And the results were in line with forecasts Yahoo had made three months earlier.

‘‘Delivering on profitability expectations is a real achievement in this environment,’’ Bartz said.

Yahoo reported a net loss of $303 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with a profit of $206 million, or 15 cents a share, a year ago. Yahoo said it incurred $108 million in charges related to severance of employees and $488 million in write-downs of some of its European assets.

After adjusting for those and other charges, Yahoo said it had a profit of $238 million, or 17 cents a share, up from 13 cents a share a year ago, and above the 12 cents a share expected by analysts.

Yahoo said that its revenue of $1.8 billion was down about 1 percent from $1.83 billion a year ago. Net revenue, which excludes commissions Yahoo pays to advertising partners, was $1.37 billion, down from $1.4 billion a year ago, and in line with analysts’ estimates.

Some investors were bracing for worse, and Yahoo’s shares rose about 5 percent in after-hours trading, after the company’s report, to $11.93.

‘‘They didn’t bleed as much as the very bearish side feared,’’ said Martin Pyykkonen, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities. ‘‘I don’t think this is a quick fix and the economy is going to add headwinds to that.’’ Yahoo’s results reflected the continued shift by marketers toward forms of advertising that deliver immediate and measurable results.

Search advertising, which marketers use to attract customers to their sites, grew about 11 percent, while display advertising declined about 2 percent.

Those results suggest that other online publishers that rely heavily on dis play ads, including AOL, are likely to suffer as well.


New Delhi
The Economic Times

The Indian institutes of Technology (IITs) have won the round on the issue of accreditation of courses. The IIT Council remained firm on not going to the National Board of Accreditation (NBA) for their courses.

Instead, the council said the directors would devise their own process similar to that of the NBA for accreditating their courses. The NBA, in turn, would accept this formulation.

This move would help pave the way for India to become a full-fledged member of the Washington Accord, a grouping of 12 countries formed for standardising engineering education globally. The IITs have been resisting accreditation by the NBA.

“The directors will formulate a specific accreditation policy for them. The NBA will give them accreditation,” higher education secretary R P Agrawal said. The IIT Council, the highest governing body of the IIT, met on Wednesday for the first time since Arjun Singh took over as human resource development (HRD) minister.

The NBA is the accreditation body for engineering education under All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE). The decision comes a few days after the AICTE revised the criteria for accreditation of institutes to bring them at par with the international level.

The NBA, which evaluates the quality of programmes offered by educational institutions from diploma to PG level, will be a signatory to Washington Accord for ensuring cross border mobility of engineering graduates in the 12 countries. The membership of NBA in the Washington Accord would facilitate easy exchange of ideas, mobility of engineering students and professionals at international level.

The issue of reservation in faculty appointment was also discussed at the meeting. The IITs are most likely to be exempt from implementing reservations for faculty members. The HRD ministry officials informed the IIT directors that the government has already moved a bill, the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Reservation in Posts and Services) Bill 2008, in Parliament.

The bill provides reservation in the civil services for SC and ST candidates but exempts such reservation in the appointment of faculty in the institutions of national importance. The bill was passed in the Lok Sabha in the last session of Parliament.


New Delhi

The government has cleared 31 foreign direct investment (FDI) proposals worth Rs 1,277.23 crore of firms such as Morgan Stanley Financial Services, Keystone Realtors and Ramky Enviro Engineers.

“The proposals relate to ministries or departments of commerce, economic affairs, telecommunication, urban development, civil aviation, industrial policy and promotion, post and information and broadcasting,” an official statement said.

The largest investment proposals have come from Ramky Enviro Engineers and Keystone Realtors, which intend to invest Rs 320 crore and Rs 300 crore, respectively. Both plan to convert their operating companies into operating-cum-holding ones to make further downstream investment.

Mumbai-based CMS Computers will invest Rs 190 crore in converting the operating company into an operating-cum-holding company.

Besides, Morgan Stanley Financial Services has proposed Rs 100 crore investment in the Industrial Policy and Promotion sector.

Rama Cylinders’ proposal to invest about Rs 84 crore was cleared. It would issue and allot fully funded or paid warrants.

Three proposals worth Rs 16,000 crore including two by Japan’s NTT Docomo and one by New Delhi-based Orange Realty have been recommended for the consideration of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) as these involve investments of more than Rs 600 crore.

A total of 17 proposals have been deferred including those by Mahindra, Broadband and JT International. Four proposals of RBS Credit and Financial, Vatika Ltd, GSR Sugars and Meta Telecom were rejected


Ajanta Chakraborty, Kolkata
The Times of India

Land problem of a different kind has now hit a 1,730-acre IT township project.

The government had directly bought some of the required land for the township which is supposed to cover six moujas of South 24-Parganas and four of North 24-Parganas way back in 1954. But some of the landlosing farmers alleged that they have not yet been paid for it and are, therefore, determined to stall the project.

On Tuesday, around 200 farmers, armed with daggers and shovels, gheraoed land and irrigation department officials for more than three hours at Dakshin Khayerpur mouja in Bhangar II block, demanding compensation. The officials were demarcating land for a five-kilometre canal, that will be the only source of water for the IT township.

Sources in the land and land reforms department said land acquisition for the five-kilometre-long canal was done in 1954. "But the government did not think of taking physical possession of the land simply because the canal project had been shelved for more than four decades. Now that the IT township project has been taken up, digging the canal has become the need of the hour," said a land official.

Around 1,730 acres will be needed for the township of which most of the land was acquired in the 1950s. "But compensation wasn't paid to some farmers, who are now determined to stall the project," said the land official. Local Trinamool Congress MLA Arabul Islam said around 200 landlosing farmers have not been paid. "Around 2,500 farmers were paid compensation over the years. But about 200 are still awaiting their pay. They are naturally opposing the project," he said.

Getting the rest of the land should not be a problem as some private landowners have already been roped in for direct purchase. But the government must dig the canal and create other infrastructure for the IT township. On January 2, at the behest of chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, his secretary Subesh Das convened a meeting, where it was decided that survey for digging the canal would commence immediately.


The Economic Times

Sterling opportunity to industrial prosperity

India is emerging out of its image of being a back-office partner to mega industrial groups and is becoming the centre of attraction for latest industrial activities. The previously one-size fits all industrial development units are giving way to special economic zones focussing on dedicated segment industrial development. Special Economic Zones are located near the cities and regions which best suit the business activity in terms of environment, resources availability, connectivity, availability of energy and skill workforce. Modern SEZs incorporate best working standards approved by business communities worldwide to ensure that the products and services originating from the SEZs create a niche market the world over.

Sterling SEZ, the brainchild of industrial heavyweights Sandesara Group, is one of the largest multi-product SEZs in India currently spread over 3120 acres land in Phase I. The SEZ and port facilities have been developed with technical exchange from the famous Virginia Port, USA. Land area is judiciously distributed among industrial plots, industrial infrastructure & services, housing & accommodation, commercial outlets, social infrastructure, open & green spaces, water bodies, roads and utilities.

It is located at close proximity to industrially active cities located on the proposed Delhi Mumbai industrial corridor like Vadodara (39 kms), Jambusar (12kms) and Bharuch. Ideal destination for every segment of the industry such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals, ceramics, engineering and plastics apart from the export centric industries such as apparel, agro-food, gems & Jewellery and IT/ITES. It enjoys close access to NH-8, Dahej port and Vadodara airport. In tune with the modern eco-conscious industrial practices, the SEZ has unique facility of accessibility to the conveyance channel for discharge of treated effluents in a most effective manner in Mahi river. Infrastructure availability including power, water, natural gas etc will provide the required impetus for establishment of the project.


The Financial Express

Indian companies have realised the necessity, benefits and the importance of mergers and acquisitions (M&As) as a strategic tool in their businesses. While the numbers and values of deals last year were lower than 2007, which was a bumper year in M&As globally and in India, the fact that it has not dipped significantly in spite of the global economic downturn is an indication that M&A is now a core strategy for Corporate India. Though the M&A activity has broadly moved independent of the BSE Sensex, there is a dip after a fall in Sensex as people adjust to revised valuations and then the activity levels restore themselves to their normal levels.

There is continued interest in doing deals in all the sectors, but the focus remains on energy , automobiles and IT. India companies’ love affair with acquiring companies globally continues unabated and North America and Europe continue to still remain the favourite destinations for them.

Last year also saw a surge in inbound transactions, which accounted for almost 50 percent of the deal value of $25 billion. Clearly, global Inc wants a larger piece of Corporate India and it should show a positive trend this year too.

Another aspect is private equity, which has been active during the last couple of years. Private equity investors have also actively encouraged M&As as a strategy for growth in their investee companies. Private equity is here to stay and for the present has replaced the IPO market as a source of capital. There is still substantial capital available, which is India focused and that should fuel further investments and M&A activities in 2009.

The credit crunch or global slowdown is not likely to impact M&As activities this year. In fact, a combination of factors like need for consolidation, struggling players needing new ownership, and attractive prices of assets will see a spur in M&As this year. Sometimes bankers may want to exit quickly from their holdings of significant stake to meet their liquidity issues on a distressed basis, which can be another opportunity.

With the slowdown affecting local businesses, there would be a spate of consolidation across industry this year. Some of the sectors that are likely to see consolidation this year are IT, media, auto components, telecom and pharma and that is where private equity players will have a major to play.

Another interesting factors that seems to be influencing M&As is the big difficulty faced by companies going for greenfield projects in India. We are witnessing substantial delays in high profile projects as well as smaller projects. Given the challenges, Indian companies seem to prefer to go global or acquire existing businesses than invest in greenfield projects.

The writer is partner, national management and head, specialist advisory services, Grant Thornton India


Vinay Umarji, Mumbai/Ahmedabad
Business Standard

With two third of carbon footprint globally coming from computing power, ITC Infotech, a wholly owned subsidiary of ITC Limited is focusing on green IT in its future plans.

Given the amount of outsourced IT solutions and services to the company through its wholly-owned subsidiaries in the UK and US, ITC Infotech will be investing into green IT and enterprise performance management.

"While it is quite premature to put a number but we intend to invest a lot on green IT for next few years. It is quite alarming that two third of global carbon footprint comes from computing power. Moreover, two third of global sourcing comes to India. In such a scenario, if we need to progress, we will have to focus on green IT and consume less energy to stay ahead," said Sanjay Puri, managing director of ITC Infotech.

The company will be setting up design data centres and virtualisation centres for optimising energy utilisation for its clients. The company offers solutions across five key verticals including banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), retail, manufacturing, travel, tourism and hospitality, and media to global clients in North America and Europe, apart from servicing the ITC Group companies in India. "Around 60 percent of our revenue comes from Europe," said Puri.

With rapid expansion in its portfolio of solutions across the European and US markets, ITC Infotech is scaling up its capacity in Bangalore and Kolkata by 10-15 percent. "Every year we open new units or enter newer markets which requires continuous expansion of capacity at our Indian units," added Puri. For instance, having commenced since 2007, ITC Infotech already employs over 3,000 professionals at is 37 acre wide campus at Bangalore.

Refusing to divulge revenue figures, Puri said that the company had doubled its turnover in 2007-08 and had grown by 60 percent in the first half of the fiscal 2008-09 as compared to the corresponding period last fiscal..

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


New York
The Economic Times

Yahoo Inc posted a higher fourth-quarter profit on Tuesday, beating Wall Street forecasts after several months of cost-cutting initiatives in the face of a weak advertising market.

The Silicon Valley-based Web pioneer said adjusted net profit for the fourth quarter rose to $238 million, or 17 cents per share, from $205.7 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier.

Analysts on average had expected a profit of 13 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

But including write-downs and one-time charges associated with its restructuring, the company swung to a net loss of 22 cents.

Gross revenue, including payments to affiliated websites that carry Yahoo ads, rose 1 percent to $1.81 billion. Net revenue was $1.375 billion, compared with the average Wall Street forecast of $1.371 billion.

Yahoo said it expects first-quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) of $365 million to $415 million, compared with an average forecast of $485 million. It also estimated revenue of $1.525 billion to $1.725 billion.

Yahoo, the leading provider of online display advertising, has been under pressure for nearly 12 months as it held fruitless merger or partnership talks with Microsoft Corp, Google Inc and Time Warner Inc'sAOL.

During that time Yahoo has lost market share in search advertising, while display ad sales have been badly hit industrywide by the U.S. recession.

Carol Bartz replaced Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang as chief executive earlier this month. Yang had been CEO for 18 months.


Los Angeles
The Economic Times

A lawsuit that had barred former IBM Corp executive Mark Papermaster from leading Apple Inc's iPod and iPhone engineering teams has been resolved, the companies said on Tuesday.

Papermaster will resume his work as senior vice president of devices hardware engineering starting April 24, after settling a lawsuit with IBM that had forced him to take a court-ordered hiatus, Apple said.

An Apple spokesman would not divulge details of the settlement. Papermaster could not be reached immediately for comment.

In a statement, IBM said it had resolved its lawsuit against Papermaster on terms that protect its proprietary and confidential information, and had agreed to his April 24 employment start date at Apple.

A New York federal court will monitor Papermaster, who would be required to certify in July and in October "that he has complied with his legal obligations not to use or disclose IBM's confidential or proprietary information," IBM said.

The court will have oversight, including compliance enforcement, until October 24, 2009, the one-year anniversary of Papermaster's departure from IBM.

Apple first announced Papermaster's hiring in November.


The Indian Express

Students of Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT)’s College of Engineering and Pune Institute of Computer Technology (PICT) can now work towards making their innovative ideas a reality –thanks to the hardware and software laboratory set up by Amdocs India at the college campuses. Called as ‘Amdocs Innovation Labs’, the first one at PICT was set up in September 2008, while the one at MIT was launched on Tuesday.

Amdocs being a provider of customer relationship management and billing software for communications service providers, is encouraging students from the computer, IT and electronics engineering to come up with innovative ideas related to mobile phones. Since September, PICT students came up with about 200 ideas like voice blogging, incorporating a smart photo editor in a mobile phone, social networking based on mobile numbers, location-based reminders to name a few, said Shrirang Bapat, Vice President, Products Business Group, Amdocs adding that only two of those were taken up for testing in the lab. “The idea is to establish a link between academia and industry, and to inspire innovative thinking in the minds of the top students,” said Anshoo Gaur, general manager, Amdocs India.


Santosh Patnaik, Visakhapatnam
The Hindu

The row over notification of an IT SEZ at Rushikonda to develop it into another Cyberabad has come to an end with the AP Industrial Infrastructure Corporation and promoters of software units sorting out their differences over conversion of sale deed into lease and extension of benefits to all under SEZ rules.

The decision is likely to give a boost to the IT and ITES business from the zone as the investors, who had threatened to approach the court to press for de-notification of SEZ, have now expedited the work on construction. Even as two units – Kenexa Technologies and Symbiosys Technologies – launched their operations almost a year ago, other units’ construction is on at a brisk pace.

The face-off between APIIC and the promoters took a bitter shape during the year-end with a notice served on the latter for stoppage of power supply under the alibi that the constructions were made in violation of SEZ rules for not having the letter of permission from the competent agency.

However, after protracted talks, the promoters, barring one or two, have agreed to convert the sale deed into long-term lease.

The authorities have promised to look into their plea for extending duty benefits to them even as their units had shifted from outside the zone.

As per SEZ rules, only Greenfield units are entitled to avail themselves of the concessions.

“We are extremely happy with the progress and expect that all the units to start their operations very soon despite slowdown due to worldwide recession,” APIIC Chief Engineer and in-charge Executive Director K.V.V. Sathi Reddy told The Hindu.

While Kenexa is involved in recruitment process resource, Symbiosys is into software development and testing.

Kenexa has been given separate SEZ status after getting 25 acres on hill No. 3. Symbiosys has invested Rs.15 crore on its building and fulfilled the norm of employing 100 employees per acre of allotted land.


Chennai, Bangalore
Business Standard

LifeSize Communications, a provider of high definition video communications solutions, has expanded its operations in India by opening an expanded engineering design centre in Bangalore. The centre will be responsible for software development for the company’s HD video conferencing and telepresence products, the Austin-based company said here on Tuesday. The company however did not divulge the investment figures.

“The new centre reflects the tremendous contribution the LifeSize team in India has made to our company’s success. This also reflects our commitment to having the facilities to support future growth,” said Craig Malloy, CEO, LifeSize Communications. “LifeSize is committed to India, a dynamic country with a wealth of engineering talent and customers at the leading edge of video communication,” he added.


The Hindu

Sanraa Media, (earlier known as Sanra Software) a media technology company has signed a landmark co-production deal with Endemol U.K. for the production of the animated series – “The 99”.

Endemol is owned by a consortium consisting of Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, Mediaset Group and Cyrte Group.

The value of the deal is two million pounds (Rs. 13.20 crore). The animated series is based on the illustrated comics “The 99”, which are owned and published by the Teshkeel Media Group, Kuwait.

As per the agreement, the entire production for the 3D animated series comprising 26 episodes will be done by Sanraa Media and development and day-to-day production will be overseen by Endemol.

The also entitles Sanraa to the rights of distributing the series in India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The production of the series commenced on January 21, says Sukumar Subramanian, Director (Strategy and Planning) of the company.

“The series will follow the adventures of the comic’s superhero characters. Each member embodies one of ‘the 99’ global values such as wisdom, mercy, strength or faithfulness and together they hail from 99 different countries, according to Uma Karthikeyan, Director (Business and Operations) of the company

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


New York, January 27, 2009
The Economic Times

Top US executives of computer and software companies have asked that the new Obama administration to increase spending for research in science and technology and education if it wants keep up with countries like India and China.

Unless the government boosts spending on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), companies like Apple, Cisco, Hewlett-Packard (HP), IMB, Microsoft and Oracle could be eclipsed by foreign rivals, just as Ford, General Motors and Chrysler have been, a magazine quoted them as warning.

Some in the Silicon Valley, the news magazine says, see trouble on the horizon.

These include top executives at HP, who say they see a looming disaster, not just for HP, but for the entire US tech industry.

This may sound far fetched or hysterical, says but points out that HP isn't a place given to hysteria.

This is the world's largest tech company, an outfit that did $118 billion in sales last year and earned a net profit of more than $8 billion.

HP also operates one of the world's leading industrial research labs, with 600 scientists working under the direction of Prith Banerjee, an Indian-born computer scientist with a background in academia and start-ups.

Banerjee says the rest of the world has been rapidly boosting spending on science and technology while the United States has been, in effect, scaling back. "There is a perfect storm headed toward our tech industry," he says.


New York, January 27, 2009
The Asian Age

The time-tested way for governments to create jobs in a hurry is to pour money into old-fashioned public works projects like roads and bridges. President Obama's economic recovery plan will do that, but it also has some ambitious 21st century twists.

The $825 billion stimulus plan presented this month by House Democrats called for $37 billion in spending in three high-tech areas: $20 billion to computerize medical records, $11 billion to create smarter electrical grids and $6 billion to expand high-speed Internet access in rural and underserved communities.

A study published this month, which was prepared for the Obama transition team, concluded that putting $30 billion into those three fields could produce more than 900,000 jobs in the first year. The mix of proposed spending is different in the House plan, but the results would be similar, said Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, which did the study.

Beyond creating jobs, advocates say, government investment in these technology fields holds the promise of laying a lasting foundation for more business innovation and efficiency, while helping to create new digital industries.

“The appeal of these kinds of investments is that you not only get the stimulative effect but also build a platform for productivity gains and long-term growth,” said Blair Levin, a former senior official at the Federal Communications Commission who was a technology policy adviser on the Obama transition team.

During the campaign and afterward, Obama has championed policies to promote electronic health records, better broadband networks and power grids that use computers and sensors to finetune electricity use.

But the standard for including any initiative in the economic recovery plan is that it be “timely, targeted and temporary,” while also creating jobs, Levin said recently in an address to the Congressional Internet Caucus, an advisory group. Not every investment in these technology fields, he said, fits those criteria.

The technology industry is not typically viewed as a prolific job producer. Much of its manufacturing is highly automated. But bringing technology to services fields like health care, telecommunications and energy can be labour intensive and thus generate jobs.

At the top of the jobs pyramid, the design of new technology is done by scientists and engineers with advanced degrees. The installing, tweaking and maintaining of that technology in specific industries involve a far broader base of workers with a range of training, skills and education.

“There is a huge implementation phase to the adoption and use of these kinds of technologies locally,” said John Irons, an economist and research director at the labour-oriented Economic Policy Institute in Washington. “The jobs involved do tend to span the spectrum of skills and income levels. And they are not going to be outsourced offshore.” The job-generation estimate by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation translates into more than 30,000 jobs created for each $1 billion of government investment — roughly similar to projections for public works spending.

But proponents of spending on digital infrastructure say the beneficial spillover effects are greater than for conventional public works. The high-tech investments, they say, can be the contemporary equivalent of federal financing for highways in the 1950s, which fostered the growth of businesses like automakers and national retail chains.


Pawan Bali, New Delhi, January 27, 2009
The Asian Age Deccan Chronicle

The information and technology ministry is planning to call a meeting of top IT companies next month to formalise a plan on how to enhance Indian IT image globally in view of recent scandals which has hit the sector.

Satyam fraud has raised questions on corporate governance among Indian IT companies. The World Bank ban on Wipro and Megasoft has put Indian IT companies in bad light.

"The government needs to do something so that these controversies do not mar the Indian IT image globally that is why we are calling this meeting," said an official.

The officials from finance ministry and corporate affairs ministry will also be present during the meeting.

The Nasscom president, Som Mittal, told this newspaper that recent happening in Satyam is not an IT industry issue.

"What has happened in Satyam case has been happening in all the countries. It is just a coincidence that Satyam is an IT company. These things have also happened in Japan but no one said that Japan’s image has gone down," said Mittal.

He added, "The value proposition of India has not changed by Satyam fraud."

The Nasscom president said that the priority of the government should be on how to deal with the economic downturn and how to come out of it. "Let the board and investigators do their job," he said.


Mumbai, January 27, 2009
Hindustan Times

Tech Mahindra (TM), the IT arm of the Mahindra Group, has bagged four major orders over the last three months, the company has said. TM's largest client, British Telecom (BT), has made it the prime vendor for a five-year transformation programme. The deal, worth $350 million, would "include a transformation of the IT architecture and systems, governance and business processes," said Sanjay Kalra, president, TM. The company has got three more deals, one each in the US, Europe and Asia. They include operations support systems, research and end-to-end services, with large telecom players on these regions, Kalra said, without revealing names citing confidentiality clauses


Ashish Sinha, New Delhi, January 27, 2009
Mail Today

Every Indian will soon be numbered. The government has prepared the ground for what could be the world’s biggest project to provide unique identification (UID) numbers to citizens.

A new body will give all Indians UID-based smart cards with their personal details embedded in them. Even infants will have tag numbers, and will get smart cards in due course.

The permanent identifiers will be place of birth, date of birth and name of parents.

A gazette notification will soon be issued to set up a national UID authority under the Planning Commission.

The headquarters for the mammoth project will be in Delhi with offices in all states and Union Territories.


Hemamalini Venkatraman, Chennai, January 24, 2009
The Economic Times

The buzz in Chennai realty market is about the trend favouring joint development of projects by those having small and big land parcels. They prefer strategic partnerships to tide over cash crunch.

One such deal that seems to be taking final shape is a 9-ground property of Rattha, a diversified group with interests in exports, infrastructure, SEZ and hospitality.

A bevy of realtors are in the fray to jointly develop the Rattha north-east facing property, at Velachery, near MPL Motors showroom. Given the current market dynamics, the valuation per ground is pegged between Rs 1.80 crore and Rs 2 crore. Though the last big sale that happened in this area fetched Rs 2.5 crore per ground, the company is expecting to realise Rs 27 crore from the deal, according to realty sources.

Ceebros, KGEYes, Akshaya and Vishranthi are among those who are in the race, while some of them are still being approached through real estate consulting firms.

Two of the metro's well-known builders — Vishranti and Akshaya — confirmed that they were among the contenders, while a senior TrueValue Homes official said they too had been approached by Jones Lang LaSalle-Meghraj (JLL-M) last week with a proposal to jointly develop it. The official also said TVH wanted to see the site before taking any decision.

Banking on its expertise of developing properties jointly, Akshaya Homes chairman Chitty Babu said "we are in the race," when contacted by ET on Friday. About 80% of the 142-residential, commercial and IT projects executed by Akshaya have been through the joint-development route. Akshaya has 1.6 million sq ft of ongoing projects.

Rattha promoter Gurmeet Singh, contacted by ET today, said it has decided to drop the idea of sale. A JLL-M official too feigned ignorance about being mandated to do the transaction.

Incidentally, the Rattha group had announced its intention to develop an IT SEZ in Porur on 26 acres for Rs 1,750 crore. In May last, Rajeev Misra global head of Deutsche Bank's credit card business, in his individual capacity had acquired 30% stake in the SEZ for Rs 262 crore.

However, sources in the know said the Rattha group has denotified the SEZ due to downturn and instead looking at a residential project.

Ratthas also forayed into hospitality through a tie-up with Ascott group of Mauritius when the latter upped its stake to 89% from 49% in Rattha Citadines Hitec City Aparthotel.


L.N. Revathy, Coimbatore, January 27, 2009
The Hindu Business Line

Riverbed Technology, which is into providing WAN (Wide Area Network) optimisation solution for organisations worldwide, has acquired Mazu Networks, a privately owned company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to expand and optimise its product offerings.

Sharing this development with Business Line, Sidney Rabsatt, Product Manager, Riverbed, said the acquisition cost of Mazu Networks was around $25 million in cash. Riverbed is hoping to close this deal before the end of this quarter.

The acquisition, he said, would hasten the integration of the systems more tightly.

Riverbed has been associated with Mazu for the last three years, he said.

Asked if the company got the best deal, he said ‘the acquisition was driven based on market need for a robust solution rather than the economy. We have helped companies do more with less. This integration, in our view, will provide better value proposition to our customers.”

“Enterprises are today looking to reduce cost via consolidation, improve performance and user productivity by leveraging on technology and streamlining processes. The market for WAN optimisation is, therefore, becoming a mainstream activity with customers demanding more visibility, reporting and analytics capability from us,” he said.

Stating that there is no metrics at present to measure application performance management, he said: ‘The combined offering would help simplify the way application performance is measured,” and cited how users struggle to understand the performance metrics when their e-mail or search response turns slow.

“The system should be intelligent enough to measure this. Three key capabilities such as global optimisation, global visibility (to understand performance characteristics) and global control are required.”


New Delhi, Bangalore, January 27, 2009
Business Standard

LifeSize Communications, a provider of high definition video communications solutions, has expanded its operations in India by opening an expanded engineering design centre in Bangalore. The centre will be responsible for software development for the company’s HD video conferencing and telepresence products, the Austin-based company said here on Tuesday. The company however did not divulge the investment figures.

“The new centre reflects the tremendous contribution the LifeSize team in India has made to our company’s success. This also reflects our commitment to having the facilities to support future growth,” said Craig Malloy, CEO, LifeSize Communications. “LifeSize is committed to India, a dynamic country with a wealth of engineering talent and customers at the leading edge of video communication,” he added.

LifeSize established the design centre in Bangalore in August 2006, to focus on software development for the company’s core video conferencing products. The centre with a headcount of about 30 engineers, produces the software that drives the company’s video conferencing systems, video system management software and infrastructure products. The company said they are looking at India as a significant market for the company’s future growth.


Ravi Menon, New Delhi, Bangalore, January 27, 2009
Business Standard

Enterprise systems management supplier and product development company Quest Software Inc is looking at taking its Indian operations into the next level of growth via the inorganic mode. The company is looking at acquiring a product company in the target range of $50 million - $200 million, Quest Software managing director-India sub-continent, Krishnan Thyagarajan, said.

“We are looking at acquiring a company with some good IPs and specialising in either traditional systems development and services or the virtualisation realm where we want to ramp up faster,” Thyagarajan said.

Aliso Viejo, California-based Quest recently acquired the technology assets of US-based storage resource management startup MonoSphere Inc for an undisclosed sum. “We have been working on boosting the performance and productivity of applications, databases, Windows infrastructure and virtual environments by developing bespoke applications in .NET and Java environments. Another growing application area is in the field of VDIs (Virtual Desktop Interfaces),” Thyagarajan said.

Quest’s flagship product, christened ‘Toad’, is an application development tool running atop the Oracle database. Toad has 150,000 users in India alone.

Quest has developed a family of migration platforms for enterprise users who have to switch between different platforms while working. Last week, the Nasdaq-listed company launched a new migration solution called Coexistence Manager for Notes, which enables both IBM Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange Server to be used simultaneously without disrupting end-user activities.

The $90-million buyout of Windows toolmaker Scriptlogic and the $78 million acquisition of Windows optimisation tool developer Netpro rank among Quest’s acquisitions last year. The company has a market capitalisation of about $1.38 billion.

With 3,500 people on its rolls worldwide, Quest Software posted revenues of $631 million in 2007. Expected revenues are $650 million - $700 million in 2008 and $750 million - $800 million by 2009. Quest currently has a presence in Mumbai and Bangalore, with plans to open operations in New Delhi by the second quarter of 2009.

Friday, January 23, 2009


New York
The Economic Times

Google Inc posted strong fourth-quarter earnings on Thursday, beating Wall Street forecasts, as its Web search advertising business remained strong despite a bleak economy.

Net income for the fourth quarter fell to $382 million or $1.21 a diluted share, from $1.21 billion, or $3.79 a share, a year earlier due to impairment charges on its investments in Clearwire Corp and Time Warner Inc unit AOL.

Excluding one-time charges, profit rose to $5.10 a share, compared with Wall Street's target of $4.95 according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue, including commissions paid to affiliated advertising sites, totaled $5.7 billion, up 18 percent from the year-earlier quarter, and up 3 percent from the third quarter. Both gains were in line with average Wall Street forecasts.

Paid clicks -- a measure of how often Google gets paid for advertisements alongside its Web search results -- rose 18 percent from the year-ago quarter and 10 percent from the third quarter.

Investors have been concerned that Google's paid search business would face keyword pricing deflationary pressures due to the worsening economic environment, but the company said search query growth was strong with revenues up in most verticals.



The world’s largest software company, Microsoft Corp., and Internet giant Google Inc. have more in common than the dominance of their respective markets. Both are also essentially one-trick ponies that have used their prodigious cash flows to pursue a host of side projects in attempts to diversify. And neither has had much success.

A trying economic climate is changing that. Google recently axed its print advertisement ambitions and Microsoft sold its long-held stake in cable operator Comcast Corp. Their other non-core projects should be next.

Microsoft’s core competency remains software—its ubiquitous operating system and various other programs. These account for 82% of its revenues and nearly all of its operating income. The company has used a lot of those profits to support forays into products like videogames and online search.

But those haven’t become the money-spinners it hoped for. Microsoft’s Xbox gaming console just turned its first profit last year after seven years on the market. In 2007, the company had to take a $1 billion (Rs 4,890 crore) charge to repair defective units.

Microsoft’s online search effort has also struggled. Its MSN portal has a dismal 8.5% share of the US search market and the unit that houses it lost $480 million last quarter. Google, meanwhile, makes virtually all its revenues from advertising related to Internet searches. Still, that hasn’t stopped the company from pouring money—and employee time—into online video, cloud computing and lobbying for renewable energy projects.


Anirvan Ghosh
The Economic Times

When Obeetee, a carpet making company in Mirzapur had to figure out how to participate in a trade fair in Atlanta with its senior executives not able to make it, the decision was quite simple. Using high-end videoconferencing equipment this carpet maker with offices in the US could transmit its chairman's message to the conference, which is one of the biggest in the sector.

Companies like these find themselves increasingly being targeted by bigger players, and also by other small and medium businesses (SMBs) making cutting edge products. While most of the companies did see the SMB space as one huge market, there seems to be a sense of urgency to get them on board as clients, as some of the bigger clients seem to have suffered the fallout of the US recession and have cut costs. Emerging businesses across sectors now find themselves at the centre of attention from MNCs and other Indian biggies.

While companies in most sectors go slow on their expansion plans, US-based LifeSize Communications is going all out on India, betting on the fact that companies here are cutting down on travel costs, and on their new HD videoconferencing system. "We aim to grow much faster here," says Craig Malloy, worldwide CEO of the Texas based company. He says that with companies cutting down on costs, they have a better opportunity to market their range of products and also expand the market to emerging businesses.

The company has had an India presence since 2006, in the form of a software development centre that the company plans to expand. But now, the recession has forced some companies to cut down on travel and other costs, which has resulted in some of them embracing videoconferencing more readily, says Malloy. But another equally important factor has been the availability of videoconferencing equipment.

The high end equipment of LifeSize delivers telepresence quality video communications--true 1920x1080 video at 60 frames per second, which is a marked improvement over the currently in vogue 1280x720 at 30 frames a second. This is transmitted over existing broadband networks with as little as 1 Mbps bandwidth. The result is a very natural, face-to-face communication across towns and around the globe.

Video and data are captured in real time and sent instantaneously through an IP address using any bandwidth. "We now plan for around 50 percent growth, and make sure we are making around a million bucks every quarter," says Malloy. The Indian SMB market is now a new target beyond existing clients like Reliance, Wipro and ACC. In two years the company has captured around 10 percent of the videoconferencing market in India, and for more market share, the SMBs are an essential target.

PTC, another US-based company, has meanwhile turned its attention to the emerging businesses in the automotive sector in the country. "These emerging businesses show a lot of innovation." says Rafiq Somani, country manager, PTC. In the US, Parametric's maintenance and services businesses, which drive about 70 percent of its revenue, continued to perform well despite a tough market. In these times, analysts foresee reduced spending on CAD (computer-aided design) software solutions.


Hemamalini Venkatraman, Chennai
The Economic Times (Delhi edition)

It will be eight diverse ideas that will trigger the mother of all battles at Eureka! 08.

Conceptualised by IIT-Bombay, the b-plan contest is held as part of the upcoming e-summit. The jury of the tenth edition of the annual contest has short-listed eight teams that are vying for a total prize-money of $50,000.

At the entrepreneurship summit, to be held in Mumbai on February 7, 2009, Eureka!08 is pitched as Asia’s largest b-plan competition. The summit, which is perceived as a confluence of entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and academicians, aims to nurture the entrepreneurial wealth of India. The b-plan contest received 2,000 registrations, including those from overseas.

The finalists—Phoenix, Jimmy & Jessy (J&J) Professional Pet Services, Empower, Vertosys, Delta Climate, The Acceptor, Parichay and GoCars—are from institutions such as BITS-Pilani, IIT-B, IIM-Bangalore, NID, XLRI and ISB.

Says finalist Deepesh Agarwal of ISB, who received the intimation from the organiser two days ago: “GoCars is a mobile-based platform software to connect people in real-time and is meant to improve the capacity utilisation in transport categories such as personal cars, taxis and cargo.” After successfully implementing it on a pilot-basis at the ISB campus in June, the trio—Deepesh, co-partner Akash Maheshwari (part-timer at Microsoft) and b-plan partner Amit Gupta (ISB)—is looking to roll it out on a larger scale. They need Rs 2 crore for this, Deepesh said.

Incidentally, five of the eight ideas that have made the cut are in the clean technology space, which constitute 24 percent of the overall entries received from sectors such as retail, IT, manufacturing and bio-tech. “The trend show clean tech as the enterprise of the near future and a prospective business for the youth of today,” said IIT-Bombay’s entrepreneurship cell media manager Cyrus Vesvikar.

Cash awards of Rs 1 lakh and Rs 70,000 will be given for the top two entries (return airfare travel to Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh), and the winners will be chosen to compete in the sustainable technology track of the McGinnis Venture Competition, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, US for additional prizes.

The path-breaking ideas that have made the final cut include regenerating spent acid used for pickling in the iron and steel industry, novel vertical-axiswind-turbine designs to generate up to 6,000 kWh of energy, and also an invention to remove the fear and trauma associated with a medical syringe.

PSUs new stars of campus placement

With the objective of reducing the effects of the economic slowdown at their campus, the placement coordinators at IIT Bombay are pinning their hopes on the navratna companies—or the public sector units—to bail them out of this crisis, reports Abhijit Deb from Mumbai. Following the poor response by traditional recruiters in the first twenty days of placement, public sector majors such as IOC, ONGC, GAIL, BPCL and HPCL among others have been approached by the cell to visit the campus for recruitment. A student placement coordinator told ET, “We are betting on the PSUs coming to campus. Many of them have still not come and we are hoping that our students will be absorbed by these companies.” The placement process at the institute was done in 2-3 days in the past years. Now, the placement dates have been extended till April.


The Asian Age

That there is a global opportunity for training companies is now well-recognised, but there are key concerns about our ability to tap this opportunity — that of the quality of education and weak admission and examination systems. In one breath, we are proud of our IITs and IIMs because the rigour of their admission processes. And in the other, we expect our training companies to dominate the world without having the necessary investment support to have the best systems and processes and attract the right talent to provide education on a glob al scale. As my friend Prof. Jay Mitra, director of the School of Entrepreneurship at the University of Essex, asks “Large scale with indifferent quality or small scale with high quality seem to be the only options. When will we see a player emerge who can provide consistent quality on a global scale?” This is not intended as a criticism of solid companies like APTECH and NIIT who have shown that they have what it takes to be successful training companies in a market that is obsessed with the success of software and BPO exporters.

On the contrary, the opportunity to put India on the world map of high-quality education probably is most readily available to them since they have already overcome the slowdown of the early part of this decade to regain their relevance partly in India and certainly in global markets, particularly Asia, Africa and Latin America.

The problem goes back to the early nineties when many fledgling computer training institutes in India were just beginning to take off and the market had to move from short appreciation courses in IT to more profitable and sustainable career courses of 18 months duration and more. That is when the groundswell of franchising enabled rapid scaling in the national market, with hungry entrepreneurs as well as ambitious parents creating an unprecedented demand for computer education. With the focus on franchising competence rather than education quality, it was perhaps inevitable that the weak centres would collapse at the sign of the inevitable downturn. The slimmer and trimmer companies that have survived should be more capable of meeting the industry's needs as well as the challenges of quality in a more discerning marketplace.

The early warning here is that close attention to education capabilities, whether it is in India or abroad, and retail or corporate training will need to become the core competence, rather than priming the franchising pump all over again in new markets.

Having been in this industry for over a dozen years gives me the confidence that good sense will prevail and we will see at least one Indian player forge innovative collaborations and joint ventures in key resource centres and succeed in building a billion dollar business in global education.

But let us change track a little and ask: what is needed for our software and business process industry to keep its own tryst with a $100 billion export revenue in the next five years or so?

While there are many ecosystem and business model issues that have been discussed over the last many months, the most urgent and dominant imperative continues to be the availability of industry-ready youngsters. There are a number of small initiatives that are beginning to see the light of day — the finishing schools for engineers coming up in some of the National Institutes of Technology, the quality initiatives being talked about in some of the IITs and, of course, the individual partnerships that many of us are forging with key colleges and universities to participate in curriculum development, final year teaching and pre-placement to align student capabilities with real job needs.

What is needed further is a partnership between industry, academia and the powers that be in the AICTE, state regulatory agencies and world-class institutions from India and abroad that are willing to invest in the future of the country, the industry and youth. Resources of the future will come from different disciplines but the core capabilities and skills need to be defined and taught with uniform quality to make the industry's aspirations come true.

Dr. Ganesh Natarajan is chairman of Nasscom and vice-chairman and CEO of Zensar)