India needs more entrepreneurs: Ashank Desai

Panaji, June 29 (IANS) India needs to churn out more entrepreneurs if it wants to grow at a faster pace of 10 percent, says Ashank Desai, one of the key authors of India’s IT success story.

‘History shows that countries which have not encouraged entrepreneurship have a slower growth rate,’ Desai, founder of Mastek and a former president of the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM), told IANS in an interview.

Desai was here to deliver a keynote address at an annual general body meeting of a trade grouping here.

He said the country needed a change in mindset if it had to grow at a faster pace. It needed entrepreneurs who are capable of expanding their organisations.

‘In India, entreprenuership and risk-taking is looked down upon. This needs to change, if India needs to grow.’

And enterprising entrepreneurs needed to make the world its market and not India alone, he said.

When Indian entrepreneurship was unshackled after the 1990s, Desai was one of those who grasped the opportunity and used it to build enterprises that put India on the world map.

He said less than 30 years ago, it was difficult to sell India to the developed world, which thought people still commuted on elephant backs through dusty congested streets.

‘It was very difficult to sell India back then. When I had gone to Singapore, I was asked, ‘You sell software? I thought you travelled on elephants back there’.’

Recounting the struggles endured by early IT players in India, Desai said to build a business in the 1980s in a new industry, new market and an environment where business was not trusted, was ‘tough’.

In fact, the word ‘tough’ was an understatement as far as the fledgling IT industry was concerned, he added.

‘The IT market was small. There was no export and the domestic market was limited. Our business model was largely based on IT solutions.’

Now, with its cumulative worth pegged at $50 billion in 2010, the Indian IT industry has given India a whole new identity in a very short span of time, said the Goa-born Desai, an alumni of the Indian Institute of Technology (Mumbai) and the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Ahemadabad.

‘This figure should put things in perspective. NASSCOM was then worth $50 million annually. Now we are worth $50 billion,’ he said.

Desai’s Mastek was responsible for concieving and creating London’s sophisticated traffic control software a few years ago, which was aimed at decongesting the bustling British capital, by charging entrants into the city a fee of 5 pounds a day as congestion charge.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in mailto:mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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