It was early 2002 and in the first rush of globalization, My European colleagues and I called on a French bank at Paris trying to sell them the virtues of “off shore”. After listening patiently for half an hour about the glorious state of “off shore”, they turned to us and said nonchalantly, “Oh, we have already gone off shore”. We were floored.
We had not heard of any RFP, the grapevine was silent about any competitor winning deal from a French bank and yet these folks had already gone off shore! We thought about it and then ventured a guess, “You need French language skills, and you must have gone off shore to Morocco or Algeria!”
No! came the response. We have gone off shore to Marseilles (150 miles south of Paris but in France itself!). All of us shook our heads in resignation and wrote off French banks as prospects.
Fast forward to NASSCOM India Leadership Forum 2010 in Feb, I had a chance to meet the chief executive of a European outsourcing firm who also happened to be one of the sponsors. Sitting next to him at a round table, I joked how an Indian IT event had become so popular as to attract a European competitor to India.
To that the chief executive insisted that their firm was more Indian than European. To my amazement, he shared that in the previous quarter, the total number of employees that the company had in India had surpassed the number of employees they had in Europe. And hence the company he said is as much an Indian Company as Wipro is.
What a difference a decade makes!
I reflected that Wipro is racing in the other direction, localizing workforce and strengthening its global presence - Opening centers in Atlanta, Chengdu, Cebu in Philippines, Melbourne in Australia, Romania and Brazil and hiring aggressively in these locations.
What is certain is that IT is fast becoming a truly global industry. Which country hosts the corporate headquarters matters little as opportunity and client demand forces the top ten IT companies to become global;
Global in client coverage, global in delivery footprint, global in workforce composition and talent and most critically global in management mix. Already a significant number of Wipro’s top management is based outside India. This is not just sales leadership but Business Unit heads, Service line heads and functional heads. What we are actively working on is to induct top global talent into the ranks of our leadership – also a priority on our diversity agenda.
The Head of our Consulting Organization, Global head of Sales and our Global Telecom and Media Business Unit Head are not of Indian heritage. Also some of our important geographies – Europe, Canada, Japan, Germany and France are led by local leaders.
While most of us celebrate, some are troubled. Does this limit the opportunities for people of Indian heritage to reach the top position in Indian companies?
From a different perspective we see the top honchos of some of the leading MNCs as Indians today and the number is growing.
In the end, in truly Global companies, who succeeds depends not on ethnicity or gender or nationality but on merit. The opportunity to succeed and the people we compete against are both global!