Wednesday, December 07, 2005

NASSCOM asks for government help


Yes. Can you believe this?

[Begin Rant]

Here we are, thinking that the Indian software industry is a great success story and a role model. This news makes us -- me, at the least -- wonder why Kiran Karnik, the IT industry's major leader and figure-head seeks more help from the government.

It is good to recall the crucial help IT industry has received from the government in at least three ways: exemption from corporate taxes for N years (N = 10?), improvement in telecom infrastructure, and a policy non-interference in many other matters.

Let's look at the kinds of help he wants. Use of existing infrastructure in the government labs, and funds for filing patents. If you, like me, had any impression that IT industry has a solid VC culture, where good ideas will always be rewarded funded (along with a whole lot of bad ones too), just erase those impressions. Karnik wants government help!

If private players are unable to see something as patentable, just how will the government be able to decide? Using a committee of secretaries? If infrastructure is a problem, is it too much for someone with a great product idea to get enough VC funding to collaborate with labs as an equal partner? Just why should the government be spending more and more money on private initiatives, when public infrastructure -- roads, power, ports -- is crying out for attention.

Finally, government funding comes with government interference as well. Does Karnik want the latter too?

* * *

Just look at this editorial in yesterday's Hindu, which points to the "dismal scenario ... that only about 40 per cent of graduates from engineering colleges are employable". Why? Lack of qualified teachers.

Imagine a fresh engineer recruited by an IT company such as Infosys or Wipro. If his/her prior training is poor, the company spends extra money for remedial training. Instead of this mode of functioning, doesn't it make sense to spend some money on training the faculty? Of course, individual companies would not be able to do this, because each company is not sure that the benefits would accrue to it. But, a collective of IT companies -- NASSCOM! -- can certainly do it, with funding coming from its members. This collective could also publish manuals and other teaching aids.

Instead of taking up steps which are (a) entirely within its circle of influence, and (b) likely to result in a broadbased improvement in quality of human resources (IT industry is a Knowledge Industry, remember?), NASSCOM is wasting its time in asking for government help for a small segment of the industry.

* * *

It's not surprising at all that NASSCOM is identified more with lobbying than with any proactive measures.

[End Rant]

4 Comments:

  1. Mridula said...

    Abi, I feel many Indian educational institutions cannot retain qualified faculty members because of the shabby work environment they provide.

    I wonder why media always harps upon lack of faculty memerbs and not on the way these grossly mismanaged institutions function. Imagine an institute asking you to teach 20 hours a week! Will they every be able to retain you?

  2. Abi said...

    Mridula,

    It is sad that we have an education market so badly skewed to favour the 'providers' that many college managements are able to get away with shady practices. Some of it affect the students, and some affect the faculty.

    I have been harping for quite sometime on the lack of well qualified faculty in engineering colleges (particularly, the private ones), mainly because it hits the students really badly. In this day and age, when students at the higher secondary (plus two) level have teachers who have postgraduate degrees in science or arts, it is a crime to have UG degree holders turning around to teach their juniors.

    You bring up another related problem: loading faculty with too much of teaching. I agree that 20 hours per week at the college level would break any teacher's soul. The solution is also contained -- sort of -- in your comment: adequate faculty strength.

    In this post, what I have addressed is not just the numbers, but quality of faculty. Sure, we have UG degree holders teaching their juniors; but we can at least help them teach better by providing them better training, proper teaching materials and aids. Don't you think agencies like NASSCOM should be working (or, at least demanding) these things?

  3. Anonymous said...

    What we really need is a total thrust away from pampering IT services. These are billion dollar companies and are now in a position to take care of themselves.

    o All companies over the 10 year tax holiday must be forced to pay corporate income tax like anyone else.

  4. Abi said...

    Anon: I completely agree!