India faces IT R&D shortage

By agencies   |   Thursday, 21 July 2005, 07:00 Hrs
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CHENNAI: India faces huge shortage of software product developers who can think "out-of-the-box" ideas and concepts but the educational institutes are churning out engineers suited mainly for the IT services market, industry officials say.

A Nasscom-Mckinsey projection reveals the product and technology services to attain revenues of $8-11 billion by 2008, making this segment a high growth area in coming years.

"If we assume an average billing rate of $4000 per person per month in 2008, we get the requirement of 2-2.75,000 product-focused professionals," said Gowri Shankar Subramanian, CEO of Chennai-based Aspire Systems, an outsourced-product development company.

Current numbers in India would be in the range of 80,000 to 100,000 professionals, going by the Nasscom's recent report of $3 billion revenues from product and technology services in 2004-05. But some say the existing number would be much lower at 25,000-odd people or 10-15 per cent of the total IT population in India, making the anticipated demand much tougher to achieve.

"The institutes are churning out numbers more suited for the IT services sector rather than the product development market," says Anuj Kumar, vice-president, Induslogic, an OPD firm headquartered in Delhi. Product-focused professionals were limited in number in India at about 25,000, he said and added that the global scenario was also more or less the same.

"The global scenario will not be too dramatically different - the IBMs, EDSs and CSCs of the world with huge employee base are primarily into IT services."

Anand Deshpande, CEO of Pune-based Persistent Systems, refuses to blame the institutes for the low-number of product-focused professionals saying the colleges have a "pretty decent curriculum". "What we require is certain years of experience, a willingness to think out-of box and very strong numerical and reasoning abilities," he adds.

According to Praveen Kankariya, CEO of Delhi-based Impetus, the product development requires basic expertise in software development with a thorough understanding of basic concepts of software development and design. "Since it is about creating a new product or converting an idea into a commercially viable solution, it demands experimentation, trying new technology ideas and the ability to persevere," he said.

"A product that is not well-engineered will fail, even if it works today. Hence, the prime requirement for product development engineers is an 'engineering mindset' - not wanting to get things done, but doing it in the right manner," adds Gowri Subramanian of Aspire.

"This requires that - product development engineers at the junior level must be able to develop code following highly-advanced architectural guidelines and product development engineers at the senior level must be able to develop technical design and architecture that will allow products to scale well into the future and meet anticipated needs that arise over the course of time," he said.

A major stumbling block for product-development to take off in India was also lack of proper intellectual property (IP) rules in the software sector. "We are building products for our clients. They will own the patents and this is not a factor for us," says Deshpande.

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