US-based global services player has key resources in India – but its DNA is Sri Lankan.
Upcoming Colombo event a showcase to island’s expertise – and a pointer for Indian players
IndiaTechOnline special from Anand Parthasarathy/ Nov 13 2009
As the traffic piles up at the bottom of the Panjagutta flyover at one end of Hyderabad’s Begumpet Road, the eyes of idling drivers roam inevitably over the bright neon lights of the vast office block alongside. While the street level signs proclaim that this is a branch of the Lifestyle clothing chain, the sign on the roof says it is the home of Virtusa. ( www.virtusa.com )
Virtusa who? Anyone who is part of India’s burgeoning Infotech industry is unlikely to ask the question that might well trouble lay citizens. Because Virtusa has slowly, surely, carved out a name for itself in the global IT services sector, not just as an achiever, but more crucially as a favoured employer. Indeed, the company recently figured in (the Indian) Dataquest’s annual rating of the 20 best IT employers based in India. Earlier in the year, Virtusa made it for the second time running, to the 2009 Global Services 100, an annual rating published jointly by Global Services ( a Cybermedia initiative) and outsourcing advisers NeoIT.
Aiming at India Around mid 2009, Virtusa did a small course change to target India-based business – a change from its earlier strategy of leveraging its presence in Hyderabad and Chennai to deliver services to a global customer base. The market here, estimated by NASSCOM to be worth $ 8.3 billion this year could no longer be ignored.
Yet many even within the IT industry are not aware that this Massachusetts (US) headquartered player has a DNA that is Sri Lankan. The Co-founder-CEO since 1996, is Syracuse University graduate Kris Canekeratne. And he is credited with conceiving Virtusa’s core offering in what it calls ‘productization’. He has also played a large part in creating a Sri Lankan brand in outsourced services – the company has a large services centre, hard by the TransAsia hotel in Colombo. Yet like much of the island’s IT business, Virtusa has remained an understated story, doing well in the business battlegrounds of their own choosing, leveraging their historic skills in accounting and legal arenas, as Sri Lanka General Manager Madu Ratnayake told me during my last visit.
But may be not understated for long. In a few weeks, Sri Lanka will host one of the largest IT shows that it has seen: the e-Asia event ( Dec 2-4) that is expected to attract nearly a 1000 delegates from 45 countries, with a 100 global corporates joining in (http://www.e-asia.org/ ). Quite a few Indians are scheduled to speak including IGNOU Vice Chancellor V.N. Rajasekharan Pillai, and Pro Vice Chancellor Latha Pillai; Ashish Sanyal Sr.Director in the Union Ministry of IT and SS Jena Chairman,of the National Institute of Open Schooling. There are a number of India-based NGOs represented.
One would have liked to see more participation from the hard core ITeS sector: This is a good opportunity to size up the size and health of the Sri Lanka based IT and knowledge services industry. For too long the India end has been blasé, glibly passing around numbers that put the entire output of the island at less than that of Infosys.
That is no longer true – and in any case would be a mistake. The Indian IT industry ignores Sri Lanka at its peril. The skills to be found on the island, now happily unshackled after decades of internal strife, can nicely complement those that India’s universities churn out. With canny cooperation, the Sri Lankan challenge can be turned into a combined competitive edge.
What Virtuasa has achieved by mixing-n-matching the skills in Sri Lanka and India to serve a global clientele is just one small pointer to the mutually beneficial possibilities that lie ahead.