Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Software frowns while the rest of India smiles

Brands makes waves, headlines and more often than not profits. Not so long back software was king and it took Bangalore along with it. Bangalore preened itself, without really doing too much, on the spawning of words like “Bangalored”. When Infosys was listed on Nasdaq it certainly and deservedly made it to the front pages. When Narayana Murthy's driver was declared a crorepathi the news made waves as did a host of other bits of news which in hindsight are no more than trivia like the Murthys not using domestic help. Then hipper sectors like retail, infrastructure and venture capital pushed software from the front pages and often even the business sections of the newspaper. They were no longer “breaking news” after all there were not too many scams there! NR Narayana Murthy whom media loves, moved out of an active role in Infosys and Nandan Nilekani moved on to handle the prestigious UID project. Suddenly the brand did not seem to have high profile spokespersons. Students of engineering colleges held appointment orders which had everything except a precise date of joining. The detractors and the cynics kept reminding us about the inability of Indian software to move up the value chain and the recession saw a number of people being laid off though PR companies working like beavers kept the bad news out of the media.

Back with a bang

The last fortnight has arguably been the worst for Indian software at least from an image perspective. It started with a fairly negative story on MindTree. Now MindTree is a company that I admire, a great place to work for, with several unique things to it, including a logo created by a spastic child. But thankfully for MindTree there was worse news to follow the very next day as two Wipro co-CEOs Suresh Vaswani and Girish Paranjape lost their jobs in a dramatic announcement. While the attention shifted from MindTree it certainly sent Bangalore into a tizzy. Barely had people time to digest this dramatic development before another wicket fell. Ashok Soota, a well respected doyen of the IT industry announced that he was leaving MindTree a company that he founded in 1999 with nine others. Not long after there were reports that SD Shibulal will take over as the CEO of Infosys sooner rather than later. Mind you, Infosys has always managed its leadership transitions in an exemplary manner and there is nothing negative about this, perhaps the only thing worrying would be the timing, given whatever is happening in the software environment.

A few good men
I have neither the competence nor the wisdom to tell Indian software the way forward but have a few half thoughts which I am sure could be a good starting point for the many wise men to build on. Many years ago, the army had a campaign that spoke about the need for a “few good men”. Clearly the industry needs a new set of leaders who will soon find that the shoes they have to fill are size 13 (like that of a Glenn McGrath) ! It needs to revisit some of its tried and tested principles- “who needs advertising?” for one! They should probably focus less on the investor and the stock market and more on market development and branding issues. It would need a new breed of startups developing high-value products based on intellectual property. There has to be a surge of fresh enterprise and new blood at the top. It would be a need for more down to earth appreciation and understanding within the industry that software is no longer king but just another industry with its own ups and downs. But I for one would like Bangalore to remember what it owes to software. Software was singularly responsible for putting Bangalore on the global map. It would certainly help if the confused government in Karnataka realizes the value of this industry too and tries to focus a little on helping it, instead of spending all its time on survival. Maybe take a leaf out of “vibrant Gujarat”?

So let me ask you a question
What would you do if you were the custodian of the brand called software?

Ramanujam Sridhar, CEO, brand – comm.
Read my blog @ http://www.brand-comm.com/blog.html
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1 comment:

Rathnavel said...

Sir,
I am readimg your articles in Business Line regularly - seriously.
Thank You Sir.