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Indian IT suffering from a shortage of innovative management specialists

The dearth of innovative IT managers who can think critically is hampering India's growth in the consulting partner market.

India's $108 billion IT industry is facing a severe shortage of expert managers and consultants who can speed it to the next level. As the global outsourcing model rapidly evolves, Indian IT finds itself hampered by a paucity of specialists who can bump it up from the lower-margin, labor-intensive role of a service partner to the more ambitious, higher-value positioning of a consulting partner.

Krishnakumar Natarajan

"Customer needs have distinctly changed. Customers want to deal with experts who are proactive and offer innovative solutions," Krishnakumar Natarajan, chairman of India's IT industry trade body, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM), and CEO of mid-sized IT firm Mindtree told me. NASSCOM is targeting revenues of $300 billion by 2020.

It has been an industry in transition. In the past decades, clients expected IT firms to take over their applications, execute smartly, and bring about 20-30 percent cost reductions. Revenues matched headcounts, but the path is no longer linear.

In recent years, customers want proficient managers who are incisive and play advisory roles. It is not just about being knowledgeable but also a certain, questioning mindset, Natarajan said.

"Does India have large numbers of people with this mindset? No," said Sridhar Maturi, head of HR relationships at Hyderabad-based Mahindra Satyam. Maturi described that the vast majority of Indian managers as very good at "getting their hands dirty" but less adept at "putting their thinking hats on."

Ajoy Mukherjee

"Clients are demanding to know how we can forecast their future, what will be the challenges, what should they be doing, how can we help them prioritize, and find more intelligent ways to reach their customers?" said Ajoy Mukherjee, Executive VP and global head of HR at TCS, India's largest IT services firm, in a phone conversation.

As companies race to create intellectual property around products and ideas, the premium is on managers adept at innovation who can think on their feet and construct the impending future for their customers.

Deep specialization skills are available in the industry, since it is now a couple of decades old. But analytical skills and resourcefulness critical for measurable outcomes are harder to come by, said Nandita Gurjar, senior VP and head of education and research at Infosys, India's second largest IT firm.

Nandita Gurjar

"In the past two years, a growing number of customers expect elaborate inputs -- for instance, a retail major may want to know which new geographical markets to target, how to price, how to make profits," said Gurjar.

Natarajan of NASSCOM said, "About 25 percent progressing in the right direction, the next 60 percent is not comfortable with this change, but they are trying, nevertheless. The last 15 percent is lost (deer in front of the headlights syndrome) and unlikely to make the transition."

At Mindtree, Natarajan's own company, a small percentage is at ease with the transition, while the large mass is struggling, he said.

Gurjar said ideally at least 20 percent of an IT company's employees should be engaged in ideas for the future -- patenting thought processes and handing them over to their business units.

Indian managers do not lack the intellectual capabilities, but the education system and the culture could be holding them back. India's education system drives students to cram their way through the exam excellence rather than think creatively.

"Culturally, critical thinking does not come naturally, as we are conditioned do as we are told without questioning too much," Mukherjee of TCS said.

"We need mini-CEOs," said Maturi of Mahindra Satyam. Many Indian IT companies, including his, are training managers to play thought leadership roles, he said. In his own company, of the 31,000 employees, nearly 1,000 are being groomed to take on leadership and advisory roles.

Only transformative middle and top-rung managers can convince customers that Indian IT, for long in the business of providing services, can deliver ground-breaking ideas and original products.

About

Saritha Rai is an India-based journalist and commentator who covers technology, business and society from her ringside seat in Bangalore.

14 comments
Stopbull
Stopbull

Frankly, I do not think tech websites seem to be out of content to produce such bullshit articles. Unfortunately, since I wasted time reading it..- here goes. “Customer needs have distinctly changed. Customers want to deal with experts who are proactive and offer innovative solutions,” Krishnakumar Natarajan, chairman of India’s IT industry trade body, the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) - WTF have companies been doing all the way ? Playing avisory and selling their solutions to reduce costs right all these years... what new underwear is being sold ? Instead of accepting that there is a recession and global economy is in some turmoil, so businesses are being cautious in IT spending. US economy is screwed, Euro crisi has screwed Europe... so where do you expect to get business from! Just to fill an A4 size html... does not mean, bullshit articles be written talking about managers innovation.

mdbizzarri
mdbizzarri

IMHO, I find that IT that are outsourced do not think critically, and will do anything to avoid being the one responsible, or will follow a set of instructions explicitly. I think if IT in India wanted to do better, they need to change a culture, because people thinking, willing to make mistakes, accepting blame, and more importantly, having senior management support that, then they may grow. I personnally would NEVER outsource IT to India. If I was forced to do it, then I would either look for a new job, or make sure the blame of the lack of perfomane from the Indian IT was laid on the person making the decision.

Pete6677
Pete6677

Indian IT by its very nature is not innovative. Indians are taught in school to just memorize and repeat, not to think. The Indian approach does not work for innovation - only for mindless drone type of work. If real innovation is needed, companies will have to - god forbid - hire some American workers!

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

never mind. If there's a drastic downturn in the indian economy, all the IT people will become cheaper and the problem will solve itself. After all the innovation they are after is cheaper...

ManlyElectronics
ManlyElectronics

This website (techrepublic.com) is probably made by indians. It has number of security and usability issues. I suspect my visa details been leaked from it last year. I cannot find how cancel membership, not even a support e-mail, and it is full of tracking sh*t. They autorenew off visa without notifying. Make sure cancel yours before it lapsed.

sn.roy
sn.roy

Innovative management specialists might not be available in large numbers in India relative to the total strength of the Indian IT industry. However, the problem lies elsewhere in case of the few available. You would expect them to be calling the shots or being accorded higher remuneration, given the shortage. On the contrary, they are forced to report to superiors who rarely understand the client's business, are baffled by the client's emphasis on these specialists, cannot understand what they do and, in most cases, consider them a threat to their own position. Eventually, each such specialist is usually sidelined. This is not the picture at the company I am in, but is rumoured to prevail across the Indian IT industry.

SaadHusain
SaadHusain

to the US. We have lots of "innovative" managrs.

brooks@intellinet-comptng
brooks@intellinet-comptng

So what are they doing to solve the problem? Are there opportunities for American companies?

Dyalect
Dyalect

What percentage of that is worker wages? 108 billion. Wow.

Slayer_
Slayer_

So a manager that knows nothing, makes it up and can sound confident while doing it? Can we send some of ours to India, I think we have too many.

BillGates_z
BillGates_z

Maybe they should pay more so there IT people wouldn't be flooding the US market through special visas

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Really? Did you buy it at the same time as the miracle hair ointment, and X-ray specs. Sheesh guy.

Slayer_
Slayer_

That will teach them

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

wouldn't they expect to pay those employees less than the local prevailing wage?