Friday, August 04, 2006
Bangalore - Center of the Tech Universe
I think I shall post a couple of separate notes to sum up my visit and thoughts. I has been a wonderful week - truly memorable both work wise and personally.
I remain totally fascinated by the Indian Offshore business, for despite its flaws (there are many and they are huge) it is nonetheless an incredible engine for success. And the success to date is so palpable - its really in the air. I experienced (as a frequent visitor) the boom and subsequent bust of Silicon Valley, and the feel in Bangalore is identical to 99 in California.
I say that because I worry that India may face a bust at some time soon also. Not very soon but in coming years, and it seems to me that in some ways it is totally unprepared to deal with the brutality of a bust, and in some ways may be better positioned than the US was.
The thing with India and Indian people is that as a foreigner I can never fully understand the country or the people. I figure by default that I probably know more than some Westerners and I am completely comfortable in India and have Indian friends, some of whom I count as my closest and longest. But though we can converse on many levels, we will never converse on all.
Take for instance the simple issue of saying no and dealing with a confrontational situation (discussed many times this week!). Its just not something that most Indians are comfortable with. Yet many in the West (myself included probably) thrive on the tussle of a tough negotiation - priding ourselves on giving little or nothing but walking away the winner.
The reluctance to be involved in such situations can lead to low margin business model, as you typically come out with a less than optimal deal. Of course the other side of that in context of Indian offshoring is that if the volume is sufficient then small margins are just fine.
Differnet attitudes are also very evident around risk - in the West (particularly the US) we take this as the price of success. Yet in a city of some of the brightest technologists (if not THE best in the World) few will take the innovative leaps due solely to the risk.
Again the twist to that is that India has come out of long period of semi socialist goverment that did little to build the economy. In some ways it is fair to say that the India economy didn't really start (in the modern era till 1991) - so maybe a more cautious approach to risk is the right thing for the country.
I know a good number of senior tech people visit this blog - I urge you to visit Bangalore (or Hyderbad or Chennai etc) and see for yourself what is happening. The reason I urge you is that although alot of tech people visit the region, currently it seems too hands off an arrangement - and I think much more exciting and valuable things lie down the path (beyond calls centers and hosting work!) that mutually we can explore. Far too often there is a sub-contractor type relationship between US companies and service firms in India - and though this makes sense up to a point, it can fail to realize the depth of relationship that delivers real breakthroughs in both technology and efficiencies.
India is a place of contrasts and Bangalore is no exception - poverty is in full view, alongside the gleaming apartment buildings; there are cows in potholed streets obstructing traffic and high tech campuses that would rival anything in San Jose - but if it is those contrasts that meet you, its the vibrancy and depth of culture, the high level of intelligence and capability and the unending friendliness that you will likely leave with.