Nasscom 2012 – Down the memory lane

I just saw the Nasscom’s (National Association of Software and Services Companies) annual conference program called India Leadership Forum (ILF) 2012. It is an impressive agenda of great topics and speakers that range from the actors (Abhishek Bachhan and Shekhar Kapoor), to political leaders (Kapil Sibal, P. Chidamabram), industry stalwarts (K.M. Birla, Rajendra Pawar, ..) to technical leaders from the software world as well as services world.

The website talks about 20 years of leadership which brings me to this recollection. It was 1992, exactly twenty years back, that I was invited to speak at the Nasscom event in Delhi. I had just left IBM after 16 years of work in developing relational technology products like DB2. I joined Oracle that year in April and the Nasscom event was held in December. The late Dewang Mehta, the founder and first president of Nasscom organized the event, one of the first large forums for those days. Remember, this was one year after the de-regulation of the Indian economy and the beginning of an Indian software outsourcing presence in the global scene. Dewang became a close friend and kept expanding Nasscom until his untimely death few years later.

Mr. N. Vittal was the secretary, DOT who was the inaugural speaker and I had a one-on-one meeting with him the day before. The keynote speakers included known names like Narayan Murthy of Infosys and Fakir Chand Kohli of TCS. When I spoke of the emerging trends in software, the interest was tremendous as I was mobbed by so many people after the talk for the rest of the conference. This was pre-Internet and the focus was all about enterprise computing and how to leverage the client-server computing architecture for cost-performance.

I also spoke at Nasscom back in 2003 in Mumbai. The audience was bigger and the topics were wider. I mentioned of the need for India 2.0 where innovation is to be emphasized besides services. Looking at this agenda, I do not see many new companies with innovative technologies coming out of India. The best ones are copycats such as Flipkart (Amazon like book selling via the web to the Indian market), or several travel sites. Here in Silicon valley, innovation is happening with a¬†vengeance. Many exciting new breakthroughs are reshaping our industry. India seems to live on the “service” focus and slowly moving to product building and innovation.

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