Is India The Next Cloud Computing Superpower?

The Next Cloud Computing Superpower?

Thomas Friedman, in his famous book The World is Flat, expresses the belief that with the Internet and other means of communication, geographical boundaries and distances have ceased to matter. This, in turn, has led to globalization and one of its most visible symptoms of outsourcing. At the same time, he argues that when low-skill and low-wage jobs are exported to foreign countries, more advanced and higher-skilled jobs will be freed up and made available for those displaced by the outsourcing.

So what has this to do with cloud computing? Please bear with me as I explain.

Outsourcing is a hot topic nowadays, especially with the current unemployment situation in the United States, and many politicians have been trying to introduce populist legislation to counter it. In fact, “Bangalored” has become part of the popular lexicon, referring to the phenomenon of an American losing his job to an Indian in the Indian city of Bangalore.

However, there’s another side of the story. Many experts like Friedman believe that most of the jobs outsourced are low-skill, low-wage jobs and Americans can use this opportunity to develop their skills and move to high-skill, high-wage jobs. Some have even referred to the large population of Indian IT developers as “IT coolies” who do rudimentary coding work and seldom add real value in terms of innovation.

While the term may be derisive, there’s some truth in the allegation. Indian IT companies, in spite of their huge workforces, capture only a small portion of the global IT services space in terms of revenue. A lot of that has to do with the nature of the work they do, mostly in the low-end of the development lifecycle. Thus, even though Indian IT developers actively test and maintain IT systems worldwide, they seldom ideate and create.

A major reason for this is the late start that India has had in IT, a situation where it’s trying to catch up with the innovators of the world. However, this issue is less prominent in a new technology like cloud computing, and hence, Indian IT developers should not be far behind in innovation and ideation in this space.

As a parallel, consider the growth of mobile telephony in India. Ten years back, in contrast to the United States of 2000, few Indian households had a telephone landline. However, when mobile phones appeared, Indians were quick to adopt them, thereby hurdling one step in the chart of communications progression. In fact, today there are more mobile phones in India than in the US, and it’s currently the fastest growing market in the world.

What does this show? Only that with the spread of technologies, less developed countries can sometimes adopt them faster than developed economies where legacy systems can still retain dominance for years.

Moreover, cloud computing is truly a technology of the Internet Age, where development is less dependent on the physical locations of resources but on access to them. Consequently, with India’s large pool of IT developers, it’s not unlikely that the next wave in cloud computing development will originate in India.

And Indian IT companies are cognizant of this fact. Tata Consultancy Services, the largest such firm in India, which also happens to be in the global top ten, recently launched its cloud computing solution iON for small and medium enterprises (SME).

This is an important milestone for TCS. Though the revenue contribution of this is negligible at present, we think it has the potential to become a $1-billion unit in revenue in the next five years,” said N Chandrasekaran, CEO and MD, TCS, and chief architect, iON. While $1 billion in revenue may not sound like a lot as compared to the IBMs of the world, keep in mind that this is an emerging technology and TCS’ current revenues are less than $8 billion.

In conclusion, I believe that in the future world of IT services where cloud computing will play a dominant role, Indian IT developers will no longer be “IT coolies” but “IT innovators.”

By Sourya Biswas

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