BackOffice, India


In August 2000, I had filed a story for Red Herring 1.0, called BackOffice, India. (Published in issue dated October 2000, which means it came out sometime in early September.) Much of the work in this story was done when I was trying to dissuade one of my previous employers about not to invest in Indian dot-bombs. Still, when I went back to journalism, I wanted to do a big story for Red Herring, and impress the new editors. In hindsight, I think this was the big story, except I did not see it that way. Here are some snippets…

bq. As a domestic Internet shakeout looms, smart VCs are investing in India’s brainpower to engineer global markets.

bq. While India’s Web market may be primitive, it is home to some of the world’s most skilled technologists. The smart money is ignoring ephemeral Internet startups in favor of the nation’s single biggest resource: human capital. India’s elite engineering college network, the Indian Institute of Technology produces thousands of world-class engineers every year. Government-run universities educate millions of English-savvy graduates. Add to this the many Indian engineers hungry for work after solving the world’s Y2K problems, and it’s clear that India’s resource pool is not likely to dry up any time soon. And if India lacks a solid domestic market for its brainpower, demand in other markets is sky-high. Leveraging Indian talent for global markets is a no-brainer. Brainpower and human capital are two resources that India has in abundance. It’s only a matter of time before India’s entrepreneurial engineers apply their know-how to growing world technology markets.

In hindsight, that looks pretty smart, but I did not realize even back then the disruption this was going to cause, and the pain.

Actually way back in 1997, I did a piece on CurryWare for In that story, I asked the question:

Where are the big ideas?

bq. Take the Internet as an example. Low development costs and easy distribution via the web provide India with a near perfect opportunity to make an impact in the consumer software business. Yet, not one Indian company has launched a net-related product.

bq. The Indian software industry will be like the ancillary auto-component business, where U.S. software companies will think of the big idea and their Indian brethren will implement the idea. The fast-expanding world of the Internet and increasingly sophisticated satellite communications will make this happen. In other words “Grunt work by Indians and thinking by the Yankees.”

bq. This new breed of software, which will be co-developed on the two opposite corners of the globe, will then be aptly dubbed, “curry ware,” for curry is nothing but a blend of this and that.

In hindsight, looks smart! But the more I look around, and all I can see is the human cost of this trend.

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