From The Mind Of A Maverick

  • Innovation breeds on failure. It's imperative that the fail-points are discovered early on.

  • Innovation flourishes under protection.

  • It is not possible to drive a car without looking into the rear-view mirror, hence learn from hindsight.

  • Only when a collective grand vision of the future is created can you find that single inspired voice.

  • Learn to conjure dreams that are much grander.

  • You compound growth when you collaborate, cooperate, and compete.

  • If there's an obstacle, the river finds a way around it. If the ground is hard, by sheer persistence, seeds germinate and give birth to new life.

  • While in principle, atma nirbharta is good, we can’t be self-reliant in a vacuum. We must aim for paraspar nirbharta (mutual dependence).

  • We, as individuals, need to quit our armchair activism, and must speak up and participate in resolving at least the local level issues.

  • The outcome of policies must give people choices. People are inherently smart and can decide what is right or wrong for their future.

  • The government should be pre-emptive and use the policy carrot to encourage entrepreneurs and stakeholders to build a society guided by scientific thinking.

  • Pre-emptive, consultative policymaking will become the most important driver for the technology landscape that is growing more complex by the day.

  • The entire conversation needs to move away from 'rule framing' to 'exception monitoring'. If you (government) continue to engage in rule framing, it will remain a negotiation and the nation will be damaged, perhaps irrevocably.

  • We need to not just ape the West, where they automate things and make people redundant. The new India needs to be built using technology to create more jobs and make people more productive.

  • We could, and must, evolve into a country rooted in our traditional values and yet use a scientific mindset to reclaim our historical place as a global economic superpower.

  • We have a very limited risk-taking capability. For such a society, the service business is a lucrative bet, as it offers predictable profitability and healthy margins year-on-year. This cranks a reliable engine that creates jobs, adds to next forex for the country and contributes to the society.

  • We need to stop treating entrepreneurs who are struggling or have failed as criminals.

  • By pumping in mindless amounts of capital, investors stifle innovation and choke up the entire ecosystem.

  • Start-ups must create an inclusive society where growth reaches the ones that have been denied so far.

Kaleidoscope

Dataquest 35 Years: Software Exports Down Memory Lane!

My own learning experience, learning the ropes of software exports while I was CEO of APTECH in the nineties and then participating in organisation building at Zensar has enabled me to experience the trials and tribulationsBy: Dr. Ganesh Natarajan, Chairman, 5F World & Social Venture Partners India

There is an element of trepidation and uncertainty these days when the IT industry, particularly the status of software exports is discussed. In a world where Artificial Intelligence and Robots are expected to take over a large portion of manufacturing and services activities and global corporations are hastening to transform their processes and stakeholder access through digital transformation, is there really a place in the sun for the software exporters from India? Let me start by providing a resounding Yes as the answer – the industry is made of strong stull and will rise and succeed again and we will see how that can happen!

GOING BACK IN TIME

To understand the future, we need to introspect through the past and there is no better place to start than one fine day in the eighties in the offices of the then Secretary- Department of Electronics, Shri N Vittal when a few early industry CEOs were in a meeting with him to request some tax concessions for the fledgling software exports sector. Never one to give anything without a bargain, the Secretary asked the industry to target at least four hundred million of exports in return for a scheme that would pave the way for success – the Software Technology Parks of India (STPI).

A few years later, industry stalwarts FC Kohli of TCS, Narayana Murthy and Nandan Nilekeni of Infosys, Saurabh Shrivastava of IIS Infotech and Harish Mehta of Onward Technologies would come together to start a movement called NASSCOM. And Harish would find a young exuberant leader called Dewang Mehta to evangelise an industry that was to place India on the world map – Software Exports!

THE TIPPING POINT

The early years of the nineties were one of struggle, with Indian programmers finding acceptance in the US and English-speaking Europe but the industry largely reliant on staff augmentation till the great legitimizing event of Y2K created the offshore software industry. The gleaming campuses of Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, NCR and Mumbai suddenly were abuzz with young programmers and managers armed with impact analysis and migration tools and prepared for the arrival of millions of lines of code to be remedied and modernized for the new millennium. And as every professional in the industry knows, once a program or computer system is touched by hands other than the ones that created it in the first place, it stays with the new owner to support, transform and integrate into new applications.

A new industry of offshore applications development, migration, testing and maintenance was being created right then. I had the privilege in that transition period between 1995 and 2002 to be part of the leadership team of two success stories, APTECH and Hexaware in Mumbai and also take on the leadership of a fledgling firm called Zensar Technologies in Pune.

No mention of the mood and atmosphere of that era would be complete without an ode to Dewang Mehta. With his plump figure, ever beaming countenance and strange Korean wood ties, his penchant for Fahrenheit perfume and humorous stories of Indian software talent, he was the quintessential salesman and took the Indian software story to every part of the world.

Having been privileged to join the NASSCOM Executive Council in 1994 at Dewang’s behest’, it was my privilege to understand the software exports industry from the original stalwarts and other emerging stars in the nineties like Atul Nishar, Ashank Desai, Jerry Rao and others and become an insider in the $150 bn industry that was created by us, for and with three million of India’s finest talent! And it is a great credit to this industry that even the unexpected demise of Dewang and the appointment of India’s first Minister for Information Technology Pramod Mahajan did not create any mis-steps – on the contrary we have weathered many storms, repulsed all negative forces of regulatory issues, technology shifts and customer demand changes, worked closely with Governments and eco-system partners and always emerged triumphant!

If the turn of the millennium with the rise and fall of Y2K opportunity and the swelling and bursting of the Dot Com bubble was the turning point for the Software exports industry from India, it has been the waves of innovation that followed that have sustained us and enabled us to grow and retain dominant market share in offshore outsourcing – of technology, business processes and products and now digital platform development.

The first wave was the evolution of packaged software and our ability to embrace implementations and offshore support. The second wave was the support of infrastructure for our clients and the third was to take over entire business processes, from outbound and inbound voice and technical help desks to complex business and knowledge processes that enabled the billion-dollar club members and many of us running smaller firms to emerge as full-service providers to Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 customers.

In the period 2010 to 2017, the industry has truly matured across five dimensions – traditional custom built and package software, infrastructure and business process management, engineering services, product development and global in-house centres of large corporations. And the more entrepreneurial firms have made early moves to partner their clients through their digital and e-commerce journeys.

Our industry beating record at Zensar between 2011 and 2016 of five years of over 40 percent annual market value growth is just one data point that shows the incredible value our industry has created – for shareholders, customers, employees and the overall positioning of India as a force to reckon with !

When I peer down memory lane from 1992 to 2017 including the defining period of the millennium years, two constant factors emerge – NASSCOM as a guiding light and Dataquest magazine embodied by Pradeep Gupta and a series of worthy editors – Shyam Malhotra, Subramanyam, Prasanto and others who served as friends and commentators for the industry and stepped in to play a role when needed to keep the momentum going.

Financial Express 1979 article - forecast on Indian IT industry

Financial Express Monday January 1st, 1979

Computer Software export to bloom

By K U Hegde

Computer software export can earn as much exchange as the diamond industry, according to Mr Harish Mehta, Director of Hinditron Computer systems and consultants Pvt Ltd. Mr Mehta told Financial Express that in 1979 his company will be providing hardware software training services to Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) customers in the US, UK, Burma, Nigeria and West Asia besides developing real time commercial applications for DEC customers in the US.

Hinditron has achieved a breakthrough in the export market mainly due to the fact that it is providing its services at half the international cost.

Hinditron is a group of companies launched 12 years ago and is now headed by a band of ______ technocrats consisting of Mr KS Sonawala, Mr Pravin Gandhi and Mr Harish S Mehta, all educated and trained in the US.

India has the third largest skilled manpower. _____ and experience has shown that Indians are second in ____ in executing any job assigned to them. Mr Mehta feels the computer field will prove both a challenge and opportunity for Indians to prove their skill and get established in the field on a permanent basis.

The world trade in computers and office equipment etc record an annual rate of _____ $10 billion. Of this, __ percent is made up of exports to the US mainly in mainframe, ______, peripherals, replacements parts and ___________.

With the advent of minis and micros many countries have been able to build up self reliant computer industries. While general purpose computers are made in at least 15 different countries, ___ computer are produced in 50 of them including cuba, india, china, brazil and Poland.

The Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL) has over the years produced TDC 312, TDC 316 and Micro 78 systems, international computers. Indian Manufacture Ltd (ICIM) have been licensed to make ICT 2054 systems. Apart from these, a host of micro processor based systems are being made by private sector units to cater to financial inventory control and other business applications.

It is expected that during the next 5 years about 500 mini computers and 150 data entry devices will be installed. During the same period, on an average 20 medium to large computer systems per year will be imported. As of today, there are more than 425 computers in the country.

From a modest beginning 10 years ago, HInditron group has grown in to one of the largest system houses in India. It has so far provided support to more than 100 DEC computed systems throughout India. The companys other services include hardware facilities and maintenance, software services and support and training facilities.

Some of the major jobs being done by Hinditron are installing production control system for a ship manufacturing company, developing a production planning and control system for a drug firm to handle inventory management, order planning, cost control, etc.

Besides the above, the company has developed a ____ accounting and job ____ system to meet the needs of the engineering industry and a survey analysis package for detailed analysis of consumer behavior in respect of knowledge, consumption, liking and preference for brand name.

Mr Mehta feels that based on the experience gained in India, Hinditron , in a big way , can launch in the foreign markets. It has already secured a major contract in Burma besides West Asia. Again, there is possibility of the principal, Digital Equipment Corporation or other computer giants offering Hinditron consultancy and other jobs on a sub controlling basis.

The Digital Equipment Corporation according to Mr Mehta is one of the top ten fastest growing corporations in the US. Infact, DEC produced its first micro computer in a garage. Today, its annual sales exceed $1.6 billion. It employs 40,000 people worldwide and has installed over 100,000 computers. It is predicted that by 1992 DEC will become the No. 2 in production.

Mr Mehta says computer does reduce total number of ____ able jobs. It may displace persons from one particular industry or one sector of the industry. But, it helps in increasing efficiency and productivity. It ______ resources for selling in/to morei ndustries and thereby creating additional ____.

The computer industry is the most job-oriented industry in the US. It is soon going to replace the automobile industry as the no. 1 job provider. Today the US auto industry is absorbing one out of every 11 persons. It is expected that the information industry consisting of computers and allied services will soon overtake the auto industry.

Mr Mehta says that there are many first-grade Indian computer engineers now serving in the US. To develop the indigenous computer industry in India, ways and means should be found to attract these young engineers now serving in the US. They know the latest know-how, have gained experience in the field and are therefore ideal in helping the country in developing its own computer technology. They will also help to overcome the problem ______ ________ industry all over the world.

Proliferation of _____ memory devices, microprocessors and shrinking _______ costs are revolutioninsing the high speed computing and distributed processing fields. Advances in semiconductors for technology have been made possible by significant break throughs in materials and _______ and production techniques. ____ chip wafer material and processing advances have resulted in wafer sizes of 100-125 mm as compared to 25mm to __ mm.

Chip sizes have increased to 40 sq mm today from 8.5 sq mm in the early 1960s.

enabling improvement in quality and price levels.

Industry Contributions

IT INDUSTRY

His co-creation of NASSCOM changed the game for the IT industry, India Inc. brand and the Indian business landscape forever. He played a stellar leadership role as its first elected Chairman, hiring and mentoring its most influential President Dewang Mehta and guiding all its future leaders till date. NASSCOM has created an industry that continues to lead our growth as a society and an economy.


He also took numerous initiatives along with others including Mumbai Police for Cyber Safety Awareness. This led to establishment of Cyber Labs across the country and formation of Data Security Council of India (DSCI), a NASSCOM initiative.


In the early 90s, as Managing Trustee of TPATI (Trust to Promote Advanced Technologies in India), he led the advent of exciting new technologies in India like Very Large Data Bases, Visual Computing, AI etc. which are now mainstream. He continues to be deeply involved and enables developments in deep tech in India like AI, IoT, ML, blockchain, cryptocurrency etc.

IT INDUSTRY
ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Harish Mehta has always been a champion of entrepreneurship, as underlined by his own accomplished technology entrepreneur journey. Moreover, he has led multiple initiatives to evangelise entrepreneurship in India like


  • Pioneering efforts to bring TiE (a non-profit global network to foster and nurture entrepreneurs) to India in 1999 and serve as its first President.
  • Founding member of Indian Angel Network in Mumbai, one of the largest angel networks of 450 professionals in the world; Investments in early stage ventures with the potential of scaling exponentially and wealth creation leading to generation of huge number of jobs.
  • Founding member of Infinity Venture fund, India’s first corporate VC fund in 2002; Expert advisor at SIDBI for its fund of funds and a director with GVFL.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP
EDUCATION

Harish Mehta has been keenly involved with the education space as a leader, mentor and enabler in making our education industry-ready. With this mission of creating employable engineers, he was the director at College Of Engineering, Pune, his alma mater. A key objective achieved here was raising the level of education to IIT level and sharing the best practices with other 45 similar regional engineering colleges.

EDUCATION