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The Smart Techie was renamed Siliconindia India Edition starting Feb 2012 to continue the nearly two decade track record of excellence of our US edition.

Be ready for change

Vivek Paul
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
Vivek Paul
During my days at GE, I led workforces in Japan, France and in the U.S. but having spent the last six years taking the Indian software services industry global, I have found that there is no workforce like the Indians. Indian engineers aspire to excel. They display an amazing desire to learn and strive for intellectual expansion, a trait that is difficult to find outside India.

And yet, last year Wal-Mart imported nearly $20 billion of products from China while India accounted for less than a billion dollars of goods sourced. Is there something Wal-Mart needs that we can’t make? I bet not. India still accounts for a mere 6 percent of the world’s economic output, compared to China’s 13 percent. And China continues to grow at over 9 percent each year while we are proud to average 6-7 percent. By fully utilizing the value of India’s workforce, we can indeed become a world leader in creativity and innovation to bridge this gap.

With all the success in the services industry, we are at risk of declaring victory too soon. We are yet to get to the point where we are leaders in innovation. This may sound somewhat paradoxical – after all, Indian engineers are designing the latest products, using the latest techniques, in the most modern languages, so how could one be worried about innovation?

The fact is that Indian managers in the service industry have been raised on a ‘how to build’ culture and are excellent at process quality but they have not focused on the ‘what to build.’ Once asked to create something, they certainly can, but if asked what to create, they struggle to answer the question. As a venture capitalist today, I have seen too many business plans where the idea is a mere extension of a technology instead of a solution to a pressing need. As the knowledge of “how to build” continues to commoditize and the ability to know “what to build” remains in scarce supply, this shift will be even more pronounced.

This is not to say that we cannot do it, simply that today too few do it. Perhaps the best placed are those working in the Indian operations of international product companies that are deeply immersed in the product planning process. Some of the most interesting business plans I see are coming from that direction. And to my delight, the world is changing – while few of the existing companies have that innovative edge, the new entrepreneurial companies being formed do have an incredibly strong spirit.

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