Its not often that one gets to meet an intelligent and focused person such as Chandra Kumar - "Ceekay" to his friends - co-founder of Linc Software. In this 'hard-boiled' technology world one could end up being "sunny-side up" in the frying pan if you lack determination to succeed. Make that "lack of grit and determination". Fortunately, Ceekay has loads of both. In 1988 when he and school-buddy Rajan Narayanan decided that 'two heads are better than one' they scraped the bottom of the barrel pooled in every bit of resource they could muster and set up Linc Software Services, an IBM AS 400 specialist company. As the years rolled by, Linc grew and grew and is today a company standing tall, literally speaking, in a 6-floor office complex, employing close to 200 people with offices in USA and UK.
Ceekay first heard the name "Silicon Valley" in his college days and hadn't the foggiest notion that he'd one day be a major player in Indian IT himself. "I certainly think there's huge potential for India to provide skills. Fortunately, because India is poor we are able to export and be competitive," he says. He's also of the opinion that today we are not creating markets but supporting it as software services providers. As the country gets rich, it'll be less competitive and we will then have to create our own markets. "That's the path we have to take", he adds.
He feels that the software industry is on the springboard and all set to make the big jump. The Internet is most sought after today and it provides opportunities to create many applications such as back-end, database, mid-ware. "The challenge of course is for companies to transform themselves," says Ceekay. "Their ability to retrain, re-skill some of their people will be put to test. So its not that only companies who are into specific areas will survive and others will fade away. I think many will catch up," he adds, emphasizing that there is a shift in focus by all companies to keep pace with changing technology.
Ceekay firmly believes that "we are on the journey" to become an IT super power. "The vendor will always be smaller than the customers and we are presently just vendors, not the creators," says Ceekay. Sensible comment that and strikes down that entire facade our politicians are touting about India having arrived. In short, it isn't celebration time yet. The smaller and medium-sized companies are growing, but with a struggle; that's for not having the advantage of being big already. Ceekay feels it's for the software and government bodies to provide adequate support for growth. "A large company can grow, but it cannot do all that is required to achieve the software exports target of 50 billion dollars by year 2004," explains Ceekay. "It's definitely not good to have only the large companies grow. Support for the smaller and medium companies is essential because these are the companies who make the Indian IT industry grow."
Sadly, there isn't balanced representation in governing bodies and various associations of the IT industry. "It's a form of reservation", says Ceekay. "Concentration shouldn't be confined to the big players alone. All these so called support organizations should actually focus more on the small and medium companies," opines Ceekay. One fall-out of this attitude would be the fact that the various government sops to the IT industry haven't given the medium and start-up entrepreneur much joy. Take for example the Internet link or the point-to-point link that the government provides. As the volumes increased the microwave towers all over the city have actually become a pain. The whole system is so unregulated that the purpose of having microwave towers is defeated. And with the landlines as it is being pathetic the industry suffers. "Just like the chaotic traffic of our city," adds Ceekay.
Chandra Kumar's observations are indeed words of wisdom. As one who has faced ups and downs he knows what both sides of the coin look like and yet, he's certainly not the type to tear his hair apart. And the successful secret formula could be?
Well, surely a game or two at the snooker table helps.