Monday, January 19, 2009

The Sad Case of Satyam Employees and Warning Bells For Indian IT Companies

Birds flying in formation
Satyam employees must be feeling kicked in the guts. Many of them have put in years of service, worked diligently, and were hoping for a great career ahead in Satyam. So what happened? Is it fair that they be penalized for a bunch of A******S led by running the company?

What I am going to quote below may seem heartless but believe me nothing could be further from truth. No schandenfreude here.

This is from The Purple Cow by Seth Godin.

Why do birds fly in formation? Because the birds that follow the leader have an easier flight. The leader breaks the wind resistance, and the following birds can fly far more efficiently. ...

If you watch the flock closely, though, you'll notice that the flock doesn't really fly in formation. Every few minutes one of the birds from the back of the flock will break away, fly to the front and take over, giving the previous leader a chance to move to the back and take a break.

The problem with people who would avoid a remarkable career is that they never end up as a leader. They decide to work for a big company, intentionally functioning as an anonymous drone, staying way back to avoid risk and criticism. If they make a mistake and choose a wrong bird to follow, they lose.

So the employees of Satyam make a mistake and chose a wrong leader. But what of the rest of the company. Seth Godin further continues ...

A lot of risk-averse businesspeople believe that they can follow a similar strategy. They think they can wait until a leader demonstrates a breakthrough idea, and then rush to copy it, enjoying the break in wind resistance from the leader ... In the long run of course they will fail.

Now why am I quoting this? Collect the annual reports of the following companies, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Satyam, ... Ask your friend to look away and read out aloud the annual report. Ask him/her to guess the company. I bet you will get a confused answer. Every single biggie has the same genetic configuration. The first big wave that turns the apple cart will serve as a death knell for all of these companies.

You still don't agree? Answer this question?

Which Indian company has a product to its name? Hmmm.... you don't remember.

Alright I will make it easier.

Name me a software product comparable to Windows, SAP, Oracle, or any of the hundreds of software / freeware that are in your machine right now, that is developed by an Indian company.

With the sole exception of Tally, put it down to my ignorance, I am not aware of any India developed software product that is burning up the market. Feel free to enlighten me.

I predict that this will come from one of the smaller companies. Entrepreneurs who are hungry to become the leader of tomorrow. There is a tremendous talent available in India, coming out of our IITs and Regional Engineering colleges. Could be a bright spark from there. I hope that company (could be the one I work in!!) does it soon, before India is hit by gale forces of change.

Watch this space!


Picture courtesy: Asif Akbar

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