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"We want to see $100 million companies emerge from Chennai," says K.V. Ramani, former NASSCOM chairman

Team YS
5th Feb 2011
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NASSCOM EMERGE Forum launches mentorship programme in Chennai

At the STPI office auditorium in Chennai, it turned out to be a nostalgic journey down the memory lane for Mr. K.V. Ramani, former chairman of NASSCOM and former chairman of Future Software. As Avinash Raghava, Regional Director -- North, wrapped up his presentation on the launch highlighting the key aspects of the EMERGE Mentorship Programme, Mr. Ramani narrated his journey spanning 41 years. With a vision of establishing a premium software product in India, Mr. Ramani founded Future Software in 1985. Future Software is a premium communication technology company. Then he founded Hughes Software in 1990 and has successfully exited from both the companies.

Setting the agenda for the mentorship program, Mr. Ramani said, "we want to see $100 million dollar companies emerging out of Chennai." It was in Chennai that TCS started its operations. Elaborating on his vision of national and international pride for Chennai, he then listed initiatives he undertook. "Chennai did not wake up to IT," he lamented as it took eight years for him to get NASSCOM set up an office in Chennai. He was one of the founder members of NASSCOM way back in 1987 and was its Chairman during 1997-98. He is still active in the Chairman's Council. He also was the brain behind setting up the TiE Chennai chapter and was its President from 2001 to 2003.

Along with S. Mahalingam, CTO of TCS, he lobbied with the Tamil Nadu government to set up an IT park in Chennai to attract big investments. The TIDEL Park was set up subsequently on 1.4 lakh square feet of office space, with Mr. Mahalingam and him involved in the conception of TIDEL Park from the technology side.

He also narrated how NASSCOM lobbied with the government to set up STPI to facilitate evaluation of value of software through a single government department. Following liberalization of the Indian economy in 1991, the government agreed to bring down the export duty on software from 225% if the software sector met the export target of $100 million. He then said how NASSCOM was able to lobby with the government to bring the export duty down to 0% and sustain it in every subsequent budgets. "NASSCOM has grown beyond our wildest imagination in 25 years," he said with a sense of pride.

He said India has the largest technology talent pool in the world and meeting the target of $100 billion export target by 2012 set by NASSCOM does not seem difficult given that the export was $76 billion in 2010. The software sector, which was a nascent sector in 1987 when NASSCOM was founded, now employs 2.4 million people and taking the ratio of 1:3 direct-to-indirect employment, the employment figures would add up to 10 million people. (According to a NASSCOM study, for every direct employment in software sector, three indirect employment opportunities are created.)

The mentorship panel for Chennai includes K.V. Ramani, Dorai Thodla (serial entrepreneur and founder of iMorph), Murugavel Janakiraman (Bharat Matrimony), Chandu Nair (Scope eKnowledge), and Arun Natarajan (Venture Intelligence). Rajendra Raja, consultant with Coromandel Software, is the lead for mentorship program in Chennai. For applications for mentorship program, please contact chennai@nasscom.in and write to Senthil, who will be coordinating the program at NASSCOM Chennai office.

Dorai Thodla then gave an insight into his experience of database engine development that took his first company from zero to $3 million. He said, "when we went to present to the customer, only part of the database engine was ready." But the customer wrote a cheque for $150,000 betting on the demo.

Murugavel Janakiraman offered his expertise to companies exploring the Internet and e-commerce segments. He said that the e-commerce is seeing a lot of activity now with launch of a slew of portals on various domains.

The mentee companies can get the benefit of this diverse group of mentors.

NASSCOM EMERGE Mentorship program

Launching the mentorship program, Avinash Raghava, Regional Director -- North, said that through a three-tier selection process, companies would be identified for mentoring. The mentoring programmes in Delhi and Bangalore have provided successful results. Sourcebits, Druvaa, S7 Software, and Shristi Software are a few companies that have benefitted from the program immensely. "The primary objective of the program is to provide a networking platform," said Avinash. He then listed various initiatives of the EMERGE Forum such as creating an ecosystem for the UID program, which is likely to trigger a lot of entrepreneurial activity, and connecting companies providing products/services to government through its e-govreach portal for various e-gov initiatives.

The mentee companies would be engaged with a mentor for three to six months spending at least 1.5 hours a month (second Saturday of the month). The level of engagement would be deeper and at the end of six months, both the mentor and the mentee company would share their experiences. "Emerging Stars" out of the mentee companies would be identified and showcased at various NASSCOM events and forums.

Endnote: An editorial opinion

Mr. K.V. Ramani spoke of the potential for a Google or a Facebook emerging from Chennai. The recent financial crisis has shifted the balance in the favor of economies of the East. The emerging economies, with promising growth potential, are likely to develop into viable, sustainable markets for many services and products. Robert S. Kaplan, a foreign affairs expert, in his book Monsoon -- The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power says that the 37 countries spanning the region from Oman to Indonesia will "demographically and strategically be the hub of the 21st century world," making a shift from the West, which was in the centre of world history for the past few centuries. Technology entrepreneurs are sure to benefit if they identify services and products to serve this region. India is definitely advantageously placed to develop software products as the region's demographics fit the Indian demographics very well. Anyone game for this experiment? India can set standards for this region and Vijay Anand (a serial product entrepreneur and now Vice President, RTBI), in an interview with YourStory, quotes the example of Docomo, Japanese telecom company, setting mobile standards in Japan and it was he who planted this idea.

--Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, chief evangelist, reports from Chennai after hearing Mr. K. V. Ramani's immense contribution to the software sector in the country and also in Chennai

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