Thursday, December 29, 2005

India's Tech Rise
By Michael Kanellos

1946-1950: The Indian Institute of Technology founded. With seven campuses, which admit 3,500 out of 150,000 applicants each year, it has become the intellectual core of the country's industry. Its professors sit on advisory boards, while alumni are behind successes such as Infosys. The five-year program is "grueling," said Ravi Pradhan, Via Technologies' manager for India.

1968: The Tata industrial conglomerate forms software services unit Tata Consultancy Services. "We had six employees," said Nagaraj Ijari, the delivery center head at TCS' Bangalore offices. "Now we have 40,000."

Mid-1970s: IBM exits India. Import duties of 150 percent or more mean that VCRs cost $3,000 and TVs cost $6,000. Wipro starts to create India's first homegrown PC.

1985: Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi makes speech imploring the country to move into tech. A transcript of the speech is passed out on paper to the audience, thanks to speech-to-text computing.

1986: General Electric expands engineering presence and its Six Sigma methodologies here. Ex-GE employees become key leaders in several companies. "They became like Fairchild" asserts Vinod Dham, co-founder of NewPath Ventures.

1991: National financial crisis causes government to introduce major reforms. Finance Minister Manmohan Singh (now prime minister) emerges as hero.

1993: A group of IT leaders determines plan for IT industry. Professor Deepak Phatak predicts India's IT output will hit $100 billion by 2010. "Everyone thought that sounded crazy, so we changed it to $50 billion by 2008," he said. The latter figure is on track.

1995: TCS determines that its CasePac tool developed for IBM can be used to scan software for Y2K problems. An industry is born.

1999: Y2K contracts pile into India. "The biggest boost of all was Y2K. In some ways, the U.S. created this monster," said Ash Lilani, head of sales and marketing at Silicon Valley Bank.

2002: Indian companies expand hiring to handle incoming work resulting from massive layoffs after the dot-com bubble burst and the U.S. tech industry fell into a recession. "We had a little bit of breathing space," said Sanjay Nayak, CEO of Tejas Networks.

2003: Led by service conglomerates such as Wipro and Infosys, India becomes a primary destination for offshore outsourcing as foreign companies seek to lower

2004: Singh becomes Prime Minister. High tech is fairly ingrained in daily life for many in cities.

ATMs become more widely used, for example.
"Ten years ago, you had to stand in line for money at the bank," said Srinath Batni, a board member at Infosys. "It was what people did on the weekend."

2005: Entrepreneur Rajesh Jain begins to promote thin clients costing $100 to $150 as computers for the mass population. "It's not that we need just cheaper solutions. We need the newest technology, but at fundamentally lower price points," Jain has said.


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