At a time when it is more important to know what is going to happen tomorrow and how do we gear up, 3 year and 5 year term perspectives are less important. Today, everybody wants to know what will 2013 be like.
A recent conference organized by NASSCOM brought out some very interesting directions for the ICT industry for the new year. Before I begin, let me share the conference mood on a more fundamental question that is on everybody’s mind today. Good to see that all the speakers—industry CEOs; large, medium and small CIOs; consultants, trade bodies—all agreed that market sentiments today are much more positive than last year, and hence growth will be better. The guestimates ranged from 9-17% improvement in ICT spend in 2013. This is not bad, and I think is a good reason to cheer.
Coming back to key recommendation of the NASSCOM conference in terms of 2013 focus. The first point, that also got almost unanimous support from all attendees, was about the rapidly changing customer expectations. Phile customers will become more demanding, they will ask for integrated and holistic solutions instead of separate IT, services, and consulting. Pricing and cost arbitrage will once again become critical. ICT purchase and outsourcing will now be CEO level decisions. Large account management and development will be critical. Cloud, social networking, BYOD and other such trends will gain momentum.
The second was about the need for ITIITeS companies to shift their game and focus on choosing the right growth verticals, have an integrated solution suite. Besides India, the good growth markets will be China, Turkey, Brazil, ASEAN nations, and South Africa. I am sure there are many more. The smart companies will seize the opportunity to build subsidiaries in these markets, and encourage local leadership to drive it. Shifting gear will also happen if we start promoting and celebrating innovation, and position India in a big way as a problem solver, and not just a cheap labor country.
The last focus for 2013, but not the least, is skill building. Things like integrated offering, innovation, addressing new markets, key account management etc, will happen not just like that. India, including its industry, academia and the government will have to work closely to make this happen. India will have to scale up and compete on skills.
One hopes that most of this positivity is not coming just from the few business friendly liberalization announcements made by the government in the last couple of weeks. The fact is that reforms will not mean much unless structural weaknesses in institutions and their systems are addressed. Rupees’ weakness could continue in the coming year. Exports slowdown continues, and we could even see protectionism from a few countries. The 2014 general elections in India could add to the uncertainty.