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The Satyam fiasco

January 13, 2009 5 comments

Well, for the benefit of my friends, who aren’t from Indian sub-continent, and / or who aren’t familiar with one of the Indian languages, the word “Satya” in Hindi (and some other Indian languages too) means “Truth” 🙂 so it seems the founder, B Ramalinga Raju, forgot to append a leading “A” in the name of the company 😉 [ btw, “Asatya” means “False” in Hindi ].

I still vividly remember him (Raju) standing by his Mercedes in one of the popular magazines in IT (maybe Dataquest) a few years back. It was definitely awe-inspiring to someone fresh out of college and starting his career. Hardly did anyone (or me) imagine that this guy (or a “former” CEO of one of the biggest Indian IT companies) would stoop to such levels.

Co-incidentally, but not surprisingly at all, he hails from a community which is already notorious (in India and amongst Indians in US) for doing all kinds of stuff (read cheating) in the IT industry. Hyderabad city, where Satyam’s headquarters are located, also boasts of making (fake) industry certifications like MCSD, Java Sun certification etc. salable. The Times of India, in today’s edition (dated 13 Jan, 2009) carries a report of how Raju duped the APIDC (Andhra Pradesh Industrial Development Corporation) of Rs. 52 Lakh, 25 years ago.

I know of at least one person who would be happier than me after reading all this – my dear friend, Hari Raghava Bhargava; because of the profligacy we’ve seen in the Indian IT industry, and also because we’ve seen in how many different ways, a perfectly good project could be screwed. What more proof is needed than the fact that most of the managers in such Indian IT service providers are either non-technical (came from some other industry, though very rare), or off-technical (a DB guy managing Java or C# projects, very common) or obsolete technically (a PB guy managing, some OO projects, again very common) and they are the ones who are actually drawing fat salaries as compared to the programmers, or the guys who actually get the things done.

Also, what more can one expect from an industry which stands on only one pillar – cost (or to be more precise, lower cost)? Most of the time, I hear people (Project Managers) talking about any project in terms of revenues (x-million dollar contract) or cost (x man-days; which was y man-days lower than what the z company could quote for).

Well, if you think I am talking BS, then please be informed that I’ve worked with one such big (amongst the top-five Indian software service provider) firm for a little more than 3 years.  I once asked my BUH (Business Unit head) that why do you accept such ridiculous time lines (doing a project in x/3 man-days, when reasonably, it should take x man-days)? His terse reply – “So what do you want to say? I should lose business to some other Indian company”?

And I perfectly understand his position. But the sad part is that the US companies, who actually own that piece of software, are ready to accept such code, because, again all they care about is BUDGET!!! So the lowest bidder wins 😦 Would the guy accepting the proposal of lowest bidder, take the same decision, if he were building his own house?

And once an Indian company gets the project (on such terms), it resorts to all kinds of mis-doings like “ghost-billings” – i.e. billing for a person when he is actually not working on that project. And believe me or not (I don’t care), but I’ve seen it with my own eyes. Yes, I may not be able to prove it, but talk to any Indian (with the condition that his identity won’t be disclosed) if this happens in their own company? You’ll be surprised or shocked, but mostly both 🙂

I think I should stop this rant, because it is more than evident now, that capitalism (practiced in its extreme) also has its own pitfalls. Need I point you to scores of American companies (like Merrill Lynch, GM etc.) or whole industries (investment banking, auto) 😉 ? US has a true competitor here, India is not far behind…

Of course, what happened (Satyam) is really bad for Indian software industry, but if things don’t improve, like –

1) hiring technically solid people and paying them a lot more than the other average guys
2) dismantling the BS pay-brackets i.e. for x-y years of experience, Rs. a-b salary range, or Programmer Rs. a-b Lakhs, Senior Programmer Rs. c-d Lakhs, where obviously, a < b < c < d and so on…
3) taking proactive steps for corporate governance like zero tolerance (kicking a guy out, if he indulges in any malpractices) and setting up email ids where any employee can anonymously post occurrences of such malpractices
4) taking pride in delivering projects on some other scale than merely, cost and revenue
5) useless yearly reviews, which state that performances of members of every project has to fit the bell curve (exceptionally good or bad performances rare, and average performances common), which is true, but what is also true (and conveniently but purposefully overlooked) is that a programmer doing a good job on a fresh development project is better than a programmer doing an exceptional job on a maintenance project

the day is not far off when this sunrise industry (for India) may be doomed for an early sunset.

I sincerely wish that I may be proven wrong.

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Categories: Business, General

The future

January 3, 2009 Leave a comment

I am sure you must’ve read that you just can’t wait for the future to happen to you, but you need to create it. To be frank, I don’t take this statement at its face value, but feel that there definitely is some element of truth to it.

I worked in different software companies in India – some were typical service providers, and one of them was a product-based company, where, of course, I enjoyed my stay of 3 and a half years. Do I need to tell you that I won’t like to comment much on the remaining 4 years 😉 although it was a mixed bag, as most of the life is.

Then I came to US in search of the elusive $$$ 🙂 and good work. But guess what, here also, the fight to get both the good work and the money continues. It’s much easier to get only one of them as compared to getting both together. So I’ve started feeling lately, that the solution to my woes could be to start on my own.

Of course, I am fully aware that I haven’t graduated from any ivy-league institution, and I am far from a geek, and I am also taking into account the interesting relationship between work and money as highlighted in Seth Godin’s post (see my previous post for the link). But since I am an optimist, I would like to remember the twist in Seth’s post.

Also, articles such as Start Now: 6 Reasons Why This Economy Is Good For Startups are a great help to keep me motivated toward that lofty goal. I would like to read this daily morning (again, from the above link) –

“If you don’t start, you’re doomed to a life of trudging through jobs, depending on someone else for salary and bonuses and health care and retirement, a life’s work without ownership or upside.

You’re better than that.  That’s why you’re reading this blog.

So go for it.”

Think about it. Have you created something of value in your life so far? Or would you like to create ‘the future’ for you, or atleast create something of value and leave a legacy?

Well, I would love to do so. Hence, if you feel the same, we could join hands.

Wish you A Happy and Prosperous New Year 🙂

Categories: Business, General

An interesting article on work and money

January 3, 2009 1 comment

Seth Godin has a very interesting post on the relationship between work and money – Maybe you can’t make money doing what you love. And the best part is in the twist at the end. A must read.

Categories: General