Where is Indian IT’s Project Glass?

India’s leading outsourcing firms seem too stuck with their cash cows to think about the next big thing
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First Published: Fri, Oct 05 2012. 11 03 AM IST
A file photo of the Infosys headquarters in Hyderabad. Over the past few years, the strategies of Indian IT firms are more about creating factories for software coding and maintenance, and any talk of newer technologies does not clearly define their exact role. Photo: Mint
A file photo of the Infosys headquarters in Hyderabad. Over the past few years, the strategies of Indian IT firms are more about creating factories for software coding and maintenance, and any talk of newer technologies does not clearly define their exact role. Photo: Mint
Updated: Fri, Oct 05 2012. 11 15 AM IST
Google’s Project Glass that aims to allow natural language interaction with the Internet through voice commands is about redefining Google and shaping the world of technology. That’s what most technology firms chase as their Holy Grail—Apple Inc. had its iPod and iPad and International Business Machines Corp. chose to bet on software services by ditching its notebook business.
The last big thing invented (or should we say discovered) by India’s growing outsourcing giants was writing software codes and maintaining computer systems and applications remotely, and at almost half of what it cost in the US and Europe. That piece of invention is already commoditized with multinationals including IBM and Accenture deploying thousands of software workers in India to do just that.
Over the past few years, the focus has been on delivering outsourcing projects more efficiently, while keeping up with rising labour costs. The strategies are more about creating factories for software coding and maintenance, and any talk of newer technologies such as cloud computing does not clearly define the exact role these companies will have in chasing those opportunities.
Conversations with the top leaders across India’s leading outsourcing firms about what’s next does not reveal anything even remotely close to what Google is trying to do to the Internet. Trapped in their cash cows, people-based revenue streams and the quarterly investor circus that follows, Tata Consultancy Services Ltd, Infosys Ltd, Wipro Ltd, and HCL Technologies Ltd are only getting bigger in what they do. Perhaps it’s not fair to expect anything disruptive from them anymore.
“At this pace, I wouldn’t give more than 5-10 years before some unknown and disruptive companies overtake Indian tech firms,” said the CEO of one of the top 10 Indian tech firms, requesting anonymity because he did not want to upset his investors.
In the technology space, the next big disruption does not wait for anybody; even the mightily innovative Apple is struggling to remain the same maverick and cool company it was when Steve Jobs was around.
IPsoft, a company founded by New York-based math professor Chetan Dube is one such obscure firm that is beginning to challenge the existing outsourcing powerhouses including TCS, Infosys and Wipro. Using humanoids that can manage computer systems from anywhere and at half the costs of employing a human engineer, IPsoft is already being tested by some of the top outsourcing customers of Wipro, TCS and Infosys. A top US bank, which currently outsources computer maintenance projects to Wipro and TCS, has started piloting IPsoft’s humanoid, executives directly involved with the project said.
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First Published: Fri, Oct 05 2012. 11 03 AM IST
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