Home Contact Us  

Key Themes
At Conferences
In The Media
Comments To Press
What It Is About
Book Reviews

Ashutosh Sheshabalaya On Indian Issues
What Do You Mean By Emerging India?

Given below are key points from Tosh Sheshabalaya's interview with Cicero Communications (June 10, 2003).
Information Technology

Information technology in India is clearly on a roll.
Three of the largest Indian software firms are now ranked on par with EDS in US stockmarket capitalization (in spite of 6- to 10-fold lower headcounts). EDS' new CEO has in fact stated that his key global rivals are IBM and an Indian IT firm.
Each of the Top 4 Indian IT firms individually exports more software in one three-month quarter than the entire countries of Russia , China or Brazil do in a year. In fact, Russia's total software exports are outstripped by that of just one Indian IT company (and the 6th largest at that), while China's compare to only the 10th largest Indian company.
One Indian software products company now has the world's largest installed base of banking installations. It has recently begun making strong headway in the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland, and is competing head-to-head with Europe 's Temenos.
Such developments will impact on employment in the Western world. In fact, it will be the first time in history that skills at the upper end of the jobs spectrum relocate overseas on such a scale. In November 2002, a survey by US-based Forrester Research found 3.3 million US IT service jobs are likely to move over the next few years offshore; as much as 70% of this would to be to India . Reflecting this, the major international players (Microsoft, Sun, Oracle, HP, IBM, EDS and Accenture) have announced huge expansion plans at their Indian development centers. HP plans to centre its entire DotNet strategy in India , and its top executives have urged moving even consulting operations there. This is also the situation at companies like GE, Hughes, Parametric Technology and Texas Instruments, which now openly claim that their Indian activities have for some time been in core or leading-edge R&D areas, and in several cases, ahead, of their US operations.

In the software quality league, Indian companies still account for 50 of the world's 74 Level 5 CMM certifications (the US military-devised 'gold standard' for bug-free software development), and in spite of making more applications for CMM than India, there is not even one European IT company which has so far qualified.

In the US, Indians are now acknowledged as the driving force behind global IT; it is now routinely reported that Indians founded companies as varied as Sun Microsystems, Oracle and Novell, Tibco and McAfee, head companies like Computer Associates and organizations like Bell Labs and McKinsey, invented both the Pentium and the Sun SPARC chip, account for 25-30% of Microsoft's American employees and set up half of Silicon Valley companies. Such successes have propelled the Indian-American community to become that country's wealthiest ethnic group, with enormous ramifications not only on the future directions of IT but also on India-US relations.

High Technology

IT is itself part of a much wider and deeper Indian commitment to high technology..

Outside the US and Japan , India is the world's first country to develop and produce a teraflops supercomputer, and Indian supercomputers have already been exported to Russia , Singapore and Germany.

With one-meter resolution, India 's latest TES remote-sensing/spy satellite is now 10 times superior to Europe 's SPOT. Another Indian satellite, IRS, monitors ocean pollution in Europe . Indian INSAT-3 satellites are now responsible for search and rescue across the Indian Ocean , from Europe to Australia . India 's PSLV rocket has been used to launch satellites from Belgium and Germany , and after two successful tests, the Indian Ariane IV-class GSLV is being readied for commercial operation.

In the nuclear power program, India has a much larger infrastructure than China 's (15 locally-built reactors, including the world's only commercial fast breeder as well as the first to use thorium) and this is set to double in size over the next 3-4 years.

Of course, there are other uses for all this, and Indian high-technology has an obvious military dimension. For example, Brahmos, the world's first (and so far only) supersonic cruise missile, is guided by Indian software. The country's high-tech skills are also directly visible in its other missiles and nuclear program, in its 6,700 tonne Delhi-class destroyers and its new Shivalik-class 'stealth' frigates. This too is apparent in the Dhruv helicopter's innovative hingeless/ bearing-free composite rotors (the chopper is due to be marketed by Israel) and in the LCA, India's 5th generation warplane (with more than 80 test flights, the LCA has so far, uniquely, not even had one crash).

Technology and Social Development

Equally, IT and high-tech have a direct impact on development in India. There is, for example, an Indian satellite for telemedicine (the world's first), or take the use of the Indian space program for managing natural disasters, controlling deforestation, setting up 'virtual classrooms', locating water sources and helping fishermen find fish. There also are several cases such as the use of the Internet in India for rural empowerment, especially coupled to the innovative 'Simputer', which was described by the 'New York Times' as a computer which could have been invented by Gandhi. Another example: GIS-based software was used to track and vaccinate 100 million Indian children in one day.

The Indian Economy

Economically, India is clearly winning the battle against poverty. The country now has 60 million tones in foodgrain reserves (more than twice the EU at its peak) and provides all schoolchildren with free midday meals. The World Bank recently noted that, in spite of a huge increase in population in the last 20 years, rapid economic development in India (and China) has underpinned the world's first-ever reduction in the number of poor people. On another front, in purchasing power (a measure increasingly used by the World Bank, IMF and even the CIA), India 's economy in 2004 will overtake Japan 's to become the world's third largest (or equal to France and the UK combined).

The Indian economy is not just about IT. Indian production of pharmaceuticals is now the world's largest, and drugs companies from India are notching growing successes in the US and Europe . This includes leading-edge research, for example in recombinant DNA vaccines, and licensing of knowhow in cancer, diabetes and drug delivery systems to European firms such as Novo Nordisk and Bayer. Like IT, Indian pharma (another knowledge intensive sector now rapidly synergizing with the IT sector) is also well ahead of China , or any other competitor in this class.

But neither are high-tech areas the whole story. Indian 4x4s are now being imported into Europe , and an Indian-designed car is being manufactured in the UK by MG Rover. Indian automotive components is fast becoming a global success. Elsewhere, the Mittal steel conglomerate is now Europe's third largest, while a globally acquisitive mining and metals company from India has recently made huge inroads in Africa and will soon become the London Stock Exchange's largest listing this year.

Authoritative commentators argue that the self-sufficient nature of the Indian economy, its size, its near $100 billion in hard currency holdings, its high-tech focus and avoidance of dependency (unlike China) on the risky manufacturing side of the global economy, will make it the clear winner over the next decade - in other words, bringing it back to its erstwhile strengths in the mid-19th century as (along with China) the hub of the world economy.


A private Indian company is commissioning a 60,000 km fiber optic network. Coupled to ongoing efforts by energy companies and the country's huge railways, India is fast building one of the world's largest broadband networks, and one which (given its homegrown satellite and communications infrastructure), will have end-to-end local rupee operational costs.

But infrastructure is more than electronics. One of the world’s largest civil engineering projects, a 14,000 km 6-lane motorway network across India , is 80% complete and running ahead of schedule. Innovative designs are being backed up a state-of-the-art computerized Intelligent Traffic Management System.


India 's success in IT (along with its size and political stability) is a principal factor behind its rapid emergence as a major international actor. Over the past two years, there has been a sea change in the US relationship with India . In recent months, this process has intensified to such an extent that influential American newspapers such as the 'New York Times' and the 'Washington Post' have urged India's entry into the G-8 and the replacement of France by India as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Indian Science in History

India invented mathematics (the zero, the decimal system, negative numbers, algebra and trigonometry), and in fields like astronomy and medicine too, ancient India was considerably more advanced than Greece and at least ten centuries ahead of Europe. Indeed, many such Indian contributions were only transmitted to Europe by the Arabs.

One interesting feature person I would like to mention is Panini, history's first grammatician who codified Sanskrit in the 5th Century BC. As a paper from a Scottish University, St. Andrews, argues, "Panini should be thought of as the forerunner of the modern formal language theory used to specify computer languages. The Backus Normal Form was discovered independently by John Backus in 1959, but Panini's notation is equivalent in its power to that of Backus and has many similar properties. It is remarkable to think that concepts which are fundamental to today's theoretical computer science should have their origin with an Indian genius around 2500 years ago."

Lots more work needs to be done here. If you take people like Panini, or Aryabhata and Brahmagupta, Sushruta and Charaka and scores of others who, by any measure, are giants in the History of Science, and then take the massive effort here for the Timeline Project at Gent University, and see that not one of them is mentioned, one wonders - What's going on ? I agree the Indian Embassy, and the Indians themselves, need to do much more.

Heralding some of these changes, in early June 2003, the Indian government signalled that it was to halt accepting development aid from over a dozen European countries as well as Australia .
« Back

Copyright © india-advisory.com,2006. All Rights Reserved. Website Design and Maintenance by Dimension India Networks (P) Ltd.