Wednesday, 22 September 2010

India, is it all just a Game?

BBC News - Commonwealth Games: More Australian athletes 'may quit'

I was in New Delhi last month and could clearly see that the efforts to get ready for the Commonwealth games were an utter failure. For my American readers, the Commonwealth games is kind of mini-Olympics for the former British Empire. Getting this was a real plum and part of a recent effort to showcase emerging economies with such projects. China carried out an amazing 2008 Games and South Africa gained great praise for the World Cup. With Brazil winning a world cup bid over Chicago despite Obama's intervention on the issue it seemed that these games marked a turning point from the Old World with Cups an Games concentrated in developed nations to a new emerging set of games hosted in the BRICS nations.

Well India might have been where the good luck just ended. Or this might be a symptom of something much more seriously wrong with the world's Largest Democracy: "Corruption without a strong State to keep it in check"

Now what does this have to do with SharePoint, Microsoft or Collaboration? Well as we all notice more and more projects we work on are being partially networked with Indian firms and works in India. My experiences of them have been far more positive than most people and I have a great love of India. I also have studies Indian history, culture, and art and travelled to India. I have been complemented by many Indians for knowing as much as I do about their nation. This is probably more a mark of how little most people do know about the emerging world.

From what perspective I have gained I have long been concerned about the flood to offshore to India. I see no solid evidence that firms which have pursued this policy aggressively have benefited. In fact I suspect much of the off shoring was only a response to investor demand to jump on the latest bandwagon. I have had personal experiences with Logica, Dell, even Microsoft that have raised concerns for me if the state of India civil society can provide the right environment for long term outsourcing.

In fact I have long suspected that the India boom was something of a game all along. Companies in the west have been concerned about the high cost of skilled IT staff for some time. Certainly the cost of good IT people in say 1995 would have prevented the kind of IT expansion we are seeing now. But the IT industry had a model for good innovation and cost cutting for decades that worked: start ups that leap frog exiting ways of working.

Big companies can't understand what start ups can see, so when they see a problem they generally look for the least creative way to deal with it. If staff cost too much hire staff that cost less. If jobs have skills that make it hard to hire that staff in your location move your business to the cheapest place you can.

India in 2001 must have looked like a gem: millions of educated IT staff, extremely low wages, almost non-existent worker protections and corruption that allows you to buy local states and officials. Also it has to be said India has some amazing developers and experts and in any situation India will almost certainly be the rival to Holland, Finland, Ireland and even the United States.

But should you have your entire Enterprise IT future located in a place of such epidemic levels of corruption? The answer is probably no. And having travelled the world a few times the news for firms that want to benefit on the global economy only gets worse. After China all the old Confusion societies that have had strong government and markets from before the Dark Ages are used up. China, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan are all at or near tapped out growth levels. The remaining nations in the far east all have significant problems. South America has a massive raft of social issues and Africa is probably a generation away from playing in this league. This leaves either India or try to find a cheaper way to do IT services nearer to home.

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