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Updated: May 20, 2014 23:49 IST

IT industry needs to reboot brand image, says Mindtree CEO

Deepa Kurup
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Krishnakumar Natarajan
Krishnakumar Natarajan

Krishnakumar Natarajan hopes there will be a top-level mandate on technology deployment

The new government, which has come to power with a “historic decisive mandate”, must rally its forces behind helping the Indian IT industry reposition itself from being a cost-arbitrage player to an innovation-led player, Krishnakumar Natarajan, CEO of Mindtree, said.

In an exclusive interaction, he told The Hindu that the IT industry could benefit from government support, but, most importantly at this point, the industry needed a reboot in its brand image. “The transition in image of brand Indian IT from just being a cost-competitive player to innovation-led player requires a lot of investments as well as structured interventions to make customers believe that India is becoming a hub for innovation,” he said. This brand building played a crucial role even in the first phase of Indian IT, he said. For instance, he said, financial and opinion leaders as well as say the IT minister could take to the global stage and convey the message that India had moved out of just being about cost-arbitrages.

Policy interventions

The policy environment could also do with a relook, he conceded. Of the many policy interventions that could possibly help the sector, the most important and impactful one would be that which made doing IT business frictionless, he said. “Today, it is nightmarish to do business in India because a small company has to go for 40 clearances, every month has to submit 30 documents — this takes people away from their primary task,” he said, adding that this was most harsh on new entrepreneurs. Policies must be made to help entrepreneurs starting out in this knowledge business, he emphasised. Further, he added that the government must look to forge links between academia and industry, particularly in emerging segments such as mobility, cloud or e-commerce.

Technology deployment

Given the BJP’s opposition to Aadhaar, a project that Mindtree provided tech services for, do companies worry that technology deployment may not be priority for the government? “I’m very positive about this government and technology. Not only has Narendra Modi expressed a keen interest in deployment, he also has a good team that is keen on this,” he said. He added that he hoped there would be “a top-level mandate” that technology was a key element of bringing in better governance, better technology and seeing it as a way to bring down the digital divide.

“Mindtree itself will prefer to wait and watch till they’re convinced there’s more skin in the game. Today, there is lot of euphoria but at the end of the day we are a commercial we will wait and look at how things pan out. The next 180 days will be crucial,” he said.

While rupee volatility was “difficult to manage”, Mr. Natarajan hoped that the rupee would settle down in a reasonably predictable trend.

When asked if he expected the new government to have a fresh stance on the U.S. Immigration Bill, he said that given that this was an important sector which accounted for 7 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and contributed to 45 per cent of incremental exports, he expected the government to maintain a “strong stance” on the issue. “But honestly, I think given there is no consensus yet between the House and the Senate there, I do not think this is an immediate concern,” he said.

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