On 4 September, this newspaper carried a story on around 50 ex-Infoscians (or employees of Infosys Technologies Ltd) who have quit the software company to venture out as entrepreneurs. The trend isn’t new—it first manifested itself in Infosys’ rival Wipro Ltd in the early 2000s—but the timing is interesting. It comes at a time when the Indian IT services industry is facing its toughest challenge ever: a recession in the US, the largest and most lucrative market for companies such as Infosys, Wipro and others. These companies themselves are looking to do things differently, and different things as they look for ways to combat the decline in their business. However, it is likely that the next new new thing—to borrow a term from writer Michael Lewis—comes from a start-up, much like the ones being founded by ex-Infoscians or ex-Wiproites. Some pundits have held the very success of the Indian IT services model responsible for stifling innovation in areas such as IT products. Maybe the growing signs of vulnerability of this model could engender the next generation of IT companies.
Illustration: Jayachandran / Mint
The science and business of information technology have both traditionally grown on the back of what writer Tom Wolfe calls defection capital—people leaving an established company to start companies of their own. The trend was first observed in the late 1950s, when eight employees (Intel founder Gordon Moore among them), called the Traitorous Eight, left the company founded by the inventor of the transistor William Shockley to start Fairchild Semiconductor. In the late 1960s, some of these very executives left to start Intel. The trend continued and, interestingly, created as well as fed off Silicon Valley.
Apart from changing models in the IT industry, the new wave of start-ups in Bangalore could also do their bit for the evolution of the city, much like previous waves have done. Bangalore, India’s own Silicon Valley, is quite similar to the original in terms of the so-called cluster effect, where companies in a particular business end up being located close to each other, but it hasn’t thus far displayed the sort of link between start-ups and educational institutions that the original has (think Stanford). Bangalore does have two excellent institutions, the Indian Institute of Science and the Indian Institute of Management, and the new wave of start-ups may do well to explore how they can tap the skills resident in both.
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