Bengal’s IT Future at 6 Netaji Subhas Road

Bengal’s IT Future – this was the topic for discussion yesterday – May 12, 2012 at Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized by The Economic Times.

The speakers were:

  • Professor Ajoy Kumar Ray, Vice Chancellor, Bengal Engineering and Science University (BESU), Shibpur
  • Kaushik Bhattacharya, Location Head, IBM Global Services, Kolkata
  • Oney Seal, Chairman  & CEO, Databazaar
  • Kalyan Kar Co-founder & Executive Director, InThink – Infinity Knowledge Ventures.

The moderator of the session was Mr. Kalyan Parbat from Economic Times

The audiences were selected group of individuals (30 people) from the Industry and Society, and I was one among them 🙂

The discussion started with Kalyan Da’s (ET) question to the speakers “If Bangalore is rated 8/9 out 10 as far IT is concerned, then what will be your rating for Kolkata”? The moment I heard this question, there was a frown on my face but kept quite as I was eager to hear from speakers. Kalyan Da from Infinity answered it well. His rating was 6 out of 10, and he gave a proper justification from his end. The same question was asked to 3 other speakers and they almost had a same justification.

Kalyan Da (ET) asked several other questions, some of them were according to me were very relevant and each of the speakers cited their views very well. Oney Da from Databazaar said “Internet Penetration” will play a major role and immediate steps should be taken to achieve the mission “last mile connectivity”. Mr. Kaushik Bhattacharya, IBM said increasing the efficiency of the flights and improving the airport services will help greatly. Kalyan Da (Infinity) said focus should be more on branding, there should be strong POLITICAL will-power towards IT in the state and the citizens of Bengal should stop taking “ill” about their own state. Professor Ray, BESU said there should be more “Industry – Academia” collaboration.

After this there was an open house discussion involving the audience. I was the second person from the audience to ask a question which had a background.

If I am not wrong with figures, the scenario is something like this: 800+ MNS, 3000+ IT Companies, 4th Largest Technology Cluster in the world – this is Bangalore. Can Kolkata beat Bangalore? Answer is NO, and why do we have to beat Bangalore? Why do we forget Michael Porter and are so much in love with David Ricardo? In Modern Global Economy, “Comparative Advantage” (David Ricardo) is less relevant and focus should be more on “Competitive Advantage” (Michael Porter). One point which was not discussed was the importance of “Clusters” for development of any sector”.  I asked the speakers since growth will happen in the Emerging Verticals; why not FOCUS on a single vertical and be a leader in that segment? I cited them few facts & figures:  One of the emerging vertical is Media (printing & publishing) – global sourcing addressable market will be 17-20 Billion USD by 2020 (Source: NASSCOM). Yes, Mr. Kaushik Bhattacharya, IBM answered “FOCUS is important” but moved slowly into IBM’s focus instead of answering what the STATE has to do. 😦

There were 2 more questions from the audience and the discussion ended exactly at 6:30 pm. The moderator – Kalyan Da thanked everyone 🙂

While coming back, this is the thought I had People of Bengal is more interested in Bengal’s Future… so the question is what role IT will play in shaping Bengal’s Future 🙂

Background check – Why many entrepreneurs will fail?

I know “failure is pillar of success” but let us for a moment analyse why many entrepreneurs or start-ups will fail. You will get to read many blog posts as “Why start-ups fail” but let us go to the fundamentals and find the root cause of the problem.

Note: When I say start-ups and entrepreneurs, I mean IT start-ups/IT entrepreneurs with a team strength of 0-10 people.

If you do a dissection of a typical IT company there are 3 major parts each of which can be further sub-divided.

1. Business Promoters/Business Development Heads – their designation may vary from company to company.

2. Support – Finance Personnel, HR Personnel, Facilities Personnel.

3. IT professionals – Developers, Designers, Testers – (primarily)

The trend has been found that 60-70% of the IT start-up entrepreneurs are from last the segment – IT Professionals. Lets dive deeper into this:

Situations:

1)      IT Professionals just hop from one company to another. Life becomes monotonous. They start thinking that they know everything after staying in the industry for just about 4-5 years and then they move out to start their own IT Start-up. In many cases, they move out stealing client base from their previous companies. Sometimes these IT professionals move out because “they had a fight with the management.”

2)       IT Professionals stay in an IT organization say for about 10-12 years or may be even more and then they feel it is time for them to do something good for the society. So they move out to start their own start-up, without even understanding the “business”.

3)      Another trend which is seen recently is that students are discarding their education and getting straight into building start-ups. When asked why have you discontinued your studies? They reply “look at Steve Jobs and Bill Gates”. In some cases students with poor marks cannot get into IT companies and end up starting their own venture. Many start calling themselves “Next Gen-Entrepreneurs.” Even they will fail because 80% of them do freelancing projects and freelancing is not entrepreneurship.

The initial 1-2 years is exciting for these so called entrepreneurs but slowly the problem creeps in – financial issues (because they do not understand business), human resource related issues (cannot recruit people nor can they retain them), marketing/sales (majority are “technical” and have never done sales/marketing in the past), operational issues (output affects).

Advices:

  1. Think a number of times before you start your venture. Journey ahead is not easy.
  2. Knowing technology does not mean you can start a business. Give more weight age on business. After all technology is just a tool.
  3. Think who will work for you before starting anything new.
  4. Motivate students to work in start-ups first, which is the need of the hour rather than telling them blindly “go start your venture”.
  5. Do not build something or start something just because you like it (just to satisfy your creative urge).  Indentify the need first.