"The ability to innovate and then scale those innovations successfully has been the key reason behind the Indian IT industry’s ability to grow into a USD 100 billion industry today."
Not only has the Indian IT industry disruptively innovated to create a global delivery paradigm, it has also mastered the ability to scale training, integrating and deploying engineers quickly in order to grow with speed. As the industry has grown rapidly, so has the number of people employed by the sector. During 2011, direct employment in IT touched around 2.5 million, with indirect job creation estimated at 8.3 million. In 2011 alone, the industry created employment for another quarter of a million engineers and graduates.
Natarajan Chandrasekaran (‘Chandra’) is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD) of Tata Consultancy Services Limited (TCS). Chandra holds a Bachelors degree in from the Coimbatore Institute of Technology, Tamil Nadu and a Masters degree in Computer Applications from REC, Trichy.
This ability to scale has demonstrated a huge process innovation. The process that has been developed has been able to capture the knowledge of experts, and train relatively young engineers so that they can perform the role of experienced professionals, and that too, from remote locations. This has required the industry to invest significantly in training and skills development. Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), for instance, has invested 15 million hours in training campus recruits in 2011.
Often, while discussing the strengths of the IT industry, this fact about scaling skills development has been ignored. The model and skills upgradation process has led to scale for the industry, a better cost structure as well as the development of new quality models to improve rigour and discipline in project execution.
The time is now ripe to scale innovation in other aspects of the IT business. Over the past few decades, Indian IT organisations have developed great insight on the businesses of several large corporations, their vertical industries as well as about how technology can help to enhance and grow these enterprises.
The industry is beginning to have a clear impact on the innovation process of many global corporations. In the Indian context, much of this innovation has been centred around creating products and services that offer value to the base of the pyramid. TCS’ Bank-in-a-box solution that uses the cloud computing paradigm to support India’s small rural banks and enables branchless banking in rural areas is another example of innovation that has gained scale. Today, there are over 5,000 bank branches that are using this solution! Armed with a smart device, a wireless connection and a cloud-based banking service infrastructure, TCS has been able to provide financial services to the base of the pyramid.
There are plenty of emerging examples that can illustrate how well Indian IT has been able to innovate and then scale up to create great value for users. It is the appreciation of what technology can do and an insight into the problem that is leading to innovation, and scale is what is making it all economically viable. I would therefore like to argue that it is not only possible, but rather imperative, to achieve scale and innovation at the same time.