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PrashantRemember that old adage, tough times never last but tough people do? That's Prashant and also a strong believer in first hand experience. "Theoretical information can only be a supplement, but never a substitute for experience," he says. Not just says, but lives and swears by this philosophy. He always wanted to be different; unconventional. Most would first complete their education before employment. Not Prashant. He worked and studied alongside just for the sake of gaining hands-on experience. "I already had an entry level job while I was doing my diploma in Computer Science at Aptech, and I was also pursuing a management programme with IGNOU."

And that seemingly made good sense because it had got him totally motivated for bigger things. "I think in the 10 years of my working life, I understood this industry well. We were pretty well equipped," he says "We had a software product marketing module. We had the capabilities to market third party high-end product. Then we also started developing our own products, proprietary products, which we would eventually market and position as Enterprise solutions. Today, those products are well developed."

The momentum increased when Subbu and Srivatsa joined. Their first customer was Jindal Praxair, manufacturers of industrial gases, the largest in Asia. Soon to follow was Titan and a few others. That was a shot in the arm. "Our growth was sure, but steady," adds Prashant. But the economic slowdown took the wind off their sails. Business came to a grinding halt. Well, almost. The money market wore the garb of a miser and with the world economy slip-sliding no one knew where, jobs cuts, budget cuts were in fashion.

"It was tough, extremely tough," remembers Prashant. News of other companies folding up - many from BTM layout where Syntax had moved to in year 2000 added salt to their wounds. But Prashant was confident they'd tide over the crisis. "I was convinced this was just a passing phase. We had to make sure we didn't lose focus on what we'd set out to do," almost reliving those one and half years of turbulence. In a way, those years actually came as some sort of blessing in disguise. It strengthened their resolve to succeed and build a company that would stand on values, ethics, all the time creating and innovating new ideas, new products.

Discipline, according to Prashant, is a key principle to success. "Nothing can be achieved without discipline. It's not about just making money; it's not just products and customers; it's not about being a 100-plus organization. It's about discipline and that includes attitudes, conduct, values and ethics. We are here for the long term and if we don't have discipline, nothing will be possible," says Prashant and strongly emphasizing the fact that Syntax isn't a fly-by-night operation. Had they been, they'd have folded up too.

His views on all this talk about China being a threat to the Indian software industry in general are pretty clear, "We have an edge, and yet we need to be alert." He elaborates, "Firstly, we have proved to the global community our capability to produce and deliver quality. Our knowledge base is strong and they have recognized this. Secondly, we have an edge over the English language. The Chinese on the other hand, have to develop from a grass root level which could happen over a period of time." So far as India is concerned, the ball is clearly in the government's court. "If we are to take on China, our government has to come forward and support the industry. Sops are fine, but that's not enough. The infrastructure has to improve by leaps and bounds. The political will has to be redefined if India has to remain a top IT destination," suggests Prashant.

A very valid point indeed, which reminds us of a famous Chinese proverb, "Only when all contribute their firewood can they build a strong fire."

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