Waiting for dinner at a restaurant in Mumbai airport recently, I overheard a loud American sitting nearby talking to an associate about the project he was running a captive IT operation in Mumbai.
“I just want these f***ers to do what we pay them those peanuts to do. If I want business analysis, I’ll get my guys in head office to do it,” he said. “I guess the probability of giving that kind of work to these guys is the same as saying that this place [India] will ever develop.”
This ignorant conversation continued until I had to catch my flight, but that remark about India’s development made me think.
During my travels across the country last month to research the state of the Indian market, I visited ITPB, the Bangalore technology park where many IT sector giants are based.
The level of bureaucracy that I needed to negotiate just to get into the campus was mind-boggling. Indians take this in their stride and seem to expect foreigners to do the same.
In a culture where seemingly pointless processes are so ingrained, it is understandable that some might wonder how well IT professionals in India can adapt to high-level requirements from clients abroad.
The Indian education system provides IT with a never-ending stream of first-class technical expertise, but often fails to give the much-valued soft skills needed to work with foreign clients. But the IT leaders and outsourcers I spoke to in India said the IT services environment is their “finishing school” and that graduates can acquire soft skills after 90 to 120 days of training.
Most firms running captive operations in India say their staff are so eager and more than happy to work long hours that they have to be held back.
Tesco, for example, is planning to use the vast pool of local expertise in banking to support the expansion of its personal finance arm.
Other businesses with captive operations have also suggested that Indian staff will increasingly be working on business-critical systems.
Even though some like the American in the airport still view Indian IT workers as mere “code monkeys”, the fact is they will play an increasingly vital role in global business in the years to come.