Thursday, December 08, 2005


Microsoft investing US$ 1.7 Billion in India

Why is Microsoft planning to invest US$ 1.7 Billion in India? And why is the Minister of Communication and Information technology so pleased about it? In fact, every announcement of investment in India by multinationals, like Intel and Samsung, is greeted by assorted Indian decision makers and Industry leaders with lot of pride and joy. ¨This is a recognition of Indian technology capabilities¨, ¨the worth of Indian technology professionals has been vindicated¨, ¨India is a force to reckon with in ICT¨ are some of the effusive statements that accompany such announcements.

Let us go back a bit in time.

Look at this photograph taken in 1882:
Indian Soldiers

The caption to the photograph reads thus: Indian troops at Portsmouth in 1882 waiting to be shipped to Egypt to tackle a rebellion against British rule. The British relied heavily on Indian troops to enforce their military power.

Equivalent quotes to ones listed above will read thus: "The might and valor of Indian soldiers has been recognised", "Unmatched courage and
capability of the Indian soldier vindicated". Fortunately, we do not have evidence of such statements from dignitaries and patriots of those times. The fact is simply that the Indian soldier was the only one that the British had access to at that time who was willing to sacrifice his life fighting someone else´s war, in return for the salary, pension and death/injury benefits to the family. It is the sign of those times that the alternate professions available to the young men in the
photo must have been so poor that they have instead chosen to fight to suppress the freedoms of some unknown people. And their own.

It is an historic fact that the Indian army was the British Empire´s single greatest resource, and was deployed to fight all over the world. Lord Curzon in 1901 made the following candid admission, "As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it we shall straightway drop to a third rate power".

In the software wars, there is no loss of life, no need to ship bodies across oceans (which was realised in the 1990´s after an initial phase
of body-shopped software mercenaries), and there are no obvious winners or losers. However, the continued dominance by MNCs in ICT, already
exceeding half a century, clearly will keep countries like India as suppliers of cheap mercenaries whose efforts, in the form of products of these MNCs, result in subjugation and exploitation of the less developed countries in the world. For example, several state governments in India have paid crores of rupees to companies like Microsoft and Oracle for their software products. What in essence the US $ 1.7 Billion investment will do is to enable Microsoft, and other MNCs which are similarly investing huge amounts in tapping the mercenary potential in India, create the next generation
of products that will help them earn billions of dollars, not just from India, but from all over the world. So a picture of Indian engineers assembled in front of the Microsoft Development center is a perfect modern day equivalent of the 1882 photograph! The question to ask is, are the alternate options avaialble to these young men (and women!) these days so poor that they happily choose this option?

When you have a open economy these things are bound to happen.

In Srilanka, you see no vehicles manufactured by the local companies - you just see Nissan, Toyota, Bajaj , Hero Honda, TVS, Maruthi ..etc. They opened up their economy in the early 1970s.

The best Indian Industry now that has expanded is the auto-ancillary industry. They have become big through outsourcing and have started acquiring foreign companies to somewhat of a hedge safety. And I think the Indian IT industry will go the same way. So, whether Microsoft invests a billion or 10, it doesn't really matter. Ofcourse, monopolies like MS want to become bigger and people do get sold out for money - be it me or you.

Globalization is great when you are good enough to expand but not when you can't ?
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