Five + one II

In the second of a two-part interview, B Rama Raju, CEO of Indian services challenger Satyam, talks about how enterprises in the Middle East and elsewhere perceive IT, and Satyam's own plans for the region.

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By  Eliot Beer Published  April 12, 2008

In the second of a two-part interview, B Rama Raju, CEO of Indian services challenger Satyam, talks about how enterprises in the Middle East and elsewhere perceive IT, and Satyam's own plans for the region.

Last month Satyam CEO B Rama Raju discussed the challenges of attracting talent to the Middle East, and how companies such as Satyam can compete in a world dominated by a volatile currency market, as well as how Satyam intends to take on the Big Five on their home territory.

Among our Indian competitors we have the strongest presence in the ME – we would like leadership position here, and we want to make the necessary investments.

Raju also highlighted the growing need for consulting services, and predicted that the coming years would see US-based companies working to diversify their human capital to include more workers from regions such as India, as well as suggesting that Satyam will not seek to compete on price, but on the value of its consultancy services.

A frequently-quoted figure is that 70% of IT projects fail - some suggest this is as high as 80% in the Middle East - which is an extraordinary figure; do you think IT has a problem of trust, in being something that enterprises can rely on?

This is an important question to address. There have been issues, but looking at our experience, things have worked very well when customers have started looking at long-term relationships.

But going for a project-to-project approach, with an offshore-onsite model, it's very important that both teams work as one team.

Otherwise, if it is a small project or a one-time relationship, the investments that one needs to make are much higher than one would anticipate - and also if the specifications are not clear, this will complicate things even further.

In my experience, customers really derive value in a long-term relationship, when it is in a partnership model, even though it is a customer-vendor relationship.

Do you think there is an understanding gap between business leaders in an enterprise - CEOs, CFOs, MDs - and technology leaders such as the CIO, and the more technical staff?

I think this is the case with most corporations - but at the CxO level, most people look at outcomes.

They're not too worried about the technology part, what technologies are being used, as long as they are clear about the outcomes they are looking at - then it becomes the responsibility of the IT department within the customer, and also its vendors.

They have to understand the business requirement, then come up with a solution which meets that requirement. I think that's very important - most of the time CxOs will not have time to look into the technology issues.

This is where understanding the domain becomes critical - if you don't understand the business, then you're not sure what you're looking at, what metrics you're looking at.

This is also where IT companies are making investments, in domain experts.

When it comes to your personal experience with business leaders at large enterprises, do you feel there is an understanding of the value IT can bring, or do these leaders see it as something frightening?

Coming from India, a developing country, we only do 2% of our business in India - 98% outside. When we started off, this was definitely a big issue - companies were not willing to invest in something they couldn't touch or feel.

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