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

Hardware, no problem - but if you don't have a good software to run on this.

But things have changed quite dramatically in the last few years - we are seeing companies starting to invest in information technology, because it has become a necessity.

In a globalised world, either you compete with the best or you're out of business. So when that is the case, you have to make sure that you have access to information, information should be at your fingertips so you can take decisions faster.

But if you don't have proper systems, you are at a disadvantage compared to well-prepared companies.

I think this absolutely applies to the Middle East as well. My impression now is that more and more companies here are making investments, so they can become more competitive in whatever they do.

There is a hardware bias in the Middle East - companies are setting up their infrastructures, their datacentres. But the services component is increasing - this is where we play.

The Middle East is moving from one generation to the next - the same thing that we saw in India.

Enterprises used to be implementing ERPs or developing applications, but now higher level services are being provided - they're even talking about the complete outsourcing of IT.

Some international vendors, for example Cisco, have embarked on very ambitious expansion plans in the Middle East - is this something Satyam is looking at?

Mentioning Cisco, John Chambers was in India not long ago - Satyam has signed a joint venture with Cisco in the healthcare space. Cisco is going to be our communications partner, because there is so much to do in the healthcare services space.

What you say is absolutely right - their focus is absolutely on the Middle East, and they have a lot of big things happening in Saudi Arabia. Cisco is talking about big projects, and this is the same in the rest of the Gulf as well.

As for Satyam, among our Indian competitors we have the strongest presence in the Middle East - we would like the leadership position here, and we want to make the necessary investments so that we are there when the customers come to us, looking for the kind of help we can provide.

Do you have any figures or projections for the amount of business you hope to do in the Middle East?

Apart from the number of offices - we've recently opened offices in Bahrain and Jordan - Egypt is something which is working out quite well. We aim to have a 300-person development centre there by the first quarter of 2008, and there is going to be a near-shore for our operations here.

There are a lot of bilingual resources here, and at least to my mind this can grow much bigger.

Things are looking very good - the kind of growth you're seeing in all the sectors, especially in the UAE.

Most of the customers we're working with are so used to seeing India as a source of services - now they're looking at it as a business opportunity, somewhere to sell their goods and services.

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