After ITES, India seeks research outsourcing

Friday, 21 February 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: After IT enabled services (ITES), two Delhi-born brothers are aiming to push India as a destination for research outsourcing - and simultaneously train Indians for the job.

"If a country of eight million like Finland can develop the technology for mobile phones, why can't a country of one billion work at the cutting edge of technology?" asked Inderjit Singh Labana at the media launch of HandsOn Technology and Engineering India (HT&E) here Thursday.

The $10 million company, located in the satellite town of Haryana, is the Indian arm of the U.S.-based HandsOn Technology and Engineering Limited that is run by Labana's younger brother Paramjit Singh Labana.

"Right now, the majority of Indian IT engineers are engaged in low technology work. They are unable to design products or services because this vital skill is not available to them through academic institutions here," Labana, 42, who relocated to India from Britain a year ago to set up the company, said.

"India needs highly trained engineers as they will become the innovators of the future. This will allow companies to design products and obtain high value, high technology work outsourced by companies in the U.S. and Europe."

Labana pointed out the recession in the U.S. and Europe had resulted in a rather anomalous situation in which most IT companies were compelled to reduce training budgets and R&D costs but still had to remain competitive.

"Technology is advancing so fast that to remain at the cutting edge, a company needs shorter development cycles and shorter times to market for new products. That's where we come in.

"In reality, what we are doing is providing a dual service. We are not only training engineers in emerging technologies but simultaneously developing new market-driven products," Labana contended.

India was a major exporter of software - earning some $8 billion in fiscal 2001-02 - but the development of products and services was virtually non-existent, he pointed out. While this was good news financially, on the downside it also meant that the industry was not growing technologically.

At the same time, Labana felt the Indian IT industry was yet to wake up to the emerging threat from China.

"The Chinese are now challenging India for outsourcing work from the West. They will increasingly win away this work from India due to costs since India has seen very high inflation in engineer salaries. We not only need to train more engineers but also generate a niche market for high-end design.

"This type of work is currently only done in the West. It can be done here only when engineers are exposed to the latest technologies and by industry experts sharing their knowledge with them," Labana contended.

"It's all very well to set up design centres (as some global IT majors have done in India) but essentially what they are doing is developing in-house products. Research outsourcing means that you not only build up a cadre of trained hardware engineers but also contribute a variety of products to the market," Labana maintained.

He estimated the Indian training market to be worth $400 million annually.

"Even if we get a fraction of this, we will be well on our way," Labana felt.

Beginning with Gurgaon, the company initially hopes to expand to cities like Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune and hopes to have 30 centres operational within the next three years.

Source: IANS
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