India's techies hit back against backhanders

Battle against bribery goes online supported by outsourcing staff…

India's technology industry is among the most sophisticated in the world despite the bribery and corruption that hampers everyday life for all employees, including tech workers, says Saritha Rai.

Thejesh GN, aged 29, a technology architect at Bangalore-headquartered outsourcing firm Infosys Technologies, has come face-to-face with petty corruption several times in his life outside work.

He has been stopped by traffic policemen on the hunt for bribes. He has failed his driving test several times for refusing to pay off a transport official to obtain his driving licence. Like many of his peers in India's technology industry, Thejesh is fed up with corruption and bribery in daily life.

Last year, Thejesh took what more and more young workers in the industry are considering: concrete action. He went on a company-sponsored year-long sabbatical from Infosys, at a third of his pay, and volunteered for the Bangalore-based not-for-profit organisation, Janaagraha.

Bangalore: Indians, outsourcing industry professionals included, can all recount their encounters with everyday bribery

Indians, outsourcing industry professionals included, can all recount their encounters with everyday briberyPhoto: blrframes

As technology architect at Janaagraha, Thejesh has helped launch, a website where Indians can vent their anger at day-to-day encounters with bribe-taking, exchange information about the going rate for each service and get tips on how to avoid paying backhanders.

Indians, outsourcing industry professionals included, can all recount the close, sordid encounters they have had with everyday bribery in India. But in the past year, a cascade of scandals involving billions of dollars of public assets has ensnared top-level politicians and bureaucrats - an unfailing pointer to the greater corruption higher up in India's bureaucratic and political hierarchy - provoking Wipro chairman Azim Premji to comment on the country's "governance deficit".

India's thriving outsourcing industry

Bangalore's outsourcing industry prides itself for braving the infrastructure odds and on performing despite the government, not because of it. Infosys, founded in 1981, spent months trying to import its first computer yet refusing to bribe its way through the problem.

Several decades later in a liberalised India, many techies see corruption as a major obstacle in India's path and, consequently, a threat to their industry's continued stellar rise.

Despite Bangalore's branding and image, faith in public services is eroded as citizens encounter corruption in myriad forms - from registering a police complaint about the theft of a mobile phone to getting a marriage certificate from the city administration. Officials ranging from a policeman waiting at a pub to enforce the early closing time to...