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Winning With IT

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 The Indian information technology industry, like most sectors, saw growth slow down significantly in the aftermath of the recent global financial crisis. The year 2009 was mostly a period of scale-backs in global information technology spends and shrinking margins for the industry. However, it has also been a period of introspection and innovation. Infocom 09-10, the eighth edition of the annual information and communication technology conference and exhibition, hosted by Businessworld and the ABP Group, sought to capture the different strategies at play to make the best of the downturn.

Devanand Konwar, governor of West Bengal, inaugurated the three-day conference, which was kicked off in Kolkata’s ITC Sonar Bangla hotel on 20 January. “Information technology must benefit people at the grassroots level,” Konwar said in his keynote address. Debesh Das, minister-in-charge, department of information technology, government of West Bengal, also attended the inaugural session.
The conference’s opening session, which flagged off the overall theme, ‘Steering with ICT in a Downturn’, brought some key insights to the fore on how companies could innovate in tough times. Cloud computing, open source software, solutions for rural India and affordable technology were some of the areas discussed at the session. “We have the need of a Third World country and the capability of a first world country. We need to make use of this unique combination,” said Saurabh Srivastava, chairman of CA India, who was part of the opening session panel.
Others on the panel included Ajai Chowdhry, chairman and chief executive officer of HCL Infosystems, Biswadip Mitra, president and managing director of Texas Instruments India, and Anil Valluri, managing director, India, Sun Microsystems. The session was chaired by Roopen Roy, managing director, Deloitte & Touche Consulting India. 
The IFLA 09-10 winners. (L-R): Ammar Tambawala (1st rank); Catharina van Delden (5th); Sumedha Chatterjee (2nd); Vishwanathan Iyer, (3rd); and Nirmal Khachane (4th)
The fourth edition of the Infocom Future Leadership Awards (IFLA), an open paper-writing contest for management students, saw 150 entries from across the country and overseas. The theme this year was ‘Innovation in a Downturn’, and the six winners took home a combined cash prize of $4,750. 
A jury comprising Ainar Aijala, global managing partner (consulting), Deloitte, and Roopen Roy, managing director of Deloitte and Touche Consulting, India, chose the winners.
Mumbai-born Ammar Tambawala won the first prize of $2,500. Tambawala is pursuing his second year postgraduate programme in management at the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. His 3,000-word paper, among other things, stressed on the need for higher spends on research and development by Indian information technology companies.
Among the six winners were two foreign students — Catharina Van Delden, Technical University of Munich, and Carlos Ernesto Munoz Sanz, Stockholm School of Economics — who won the fifth and sixth prizes respectively.
Sumedha Chatterjee from the Alliance Business Academy, Bangalore, won the second prize, which had a cash award of $1,000. Vishwanathan Iyer from the GISMA Business School Germany and Nirmal Khachane from the Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi, won the third and fourth prizes respectively. 
The winners were chosen after a two-step evaluation process. A panel of senior journalists from India screened the 150 entries. The best 15 papers were shortlisted. The jury picked the winners out of those shortlisted.
All six winners also presented their papers at INFOCOM 2009-2010, on the second day of the three-day event. So far, the four editions of IFLA have seen entries from 650 students from Indian and international business schools.
Like most years, Infocom 09-10 had a little extra on offer. Chief among new features was a forum on media, entertainment and lifestyle. Speakers at the forum included Subhash Ghai, CMD, Mukta Arts, Anurag Basu, filmmaker, Prashant Pandey, executive director and CEO of Entertainment Network India, Rajarshi Sengupta, executive director, Deloitte & Touche Consulting India and Rajesh Jain, executive director, KPMG. The session was chaired by Govindraj Ethiraj, Editor–in-chief, BloombergUTV. “We must stress on education to make way for innovators,” said Ghai, the keynote speaker at the session whose theme was ‘IT-enabled Media Entertainment Business: Visions for 2020’.
In all, there were 20 sessions over the three-day conference. Some of the key sessions included ‘Survival Strategies’, ‘Cost Optimisation’, ‘Digital Media Trends’, and ‘Information and Communication Technology in Healthcare’. And key issues discussed by various panels included, ‘making India global knowledge hub’, ‘can technology bring access and transparency to governance?’ and ‘top five priorities for the CIO in 2010’.  
Over 1,200 delegates including large corporates, small and medium enterprises, policymakers and academia signed up for the event. Speakers numbered over 80. About 20,000 tickets were distributed for the exhibition. The 150-odd exhibitors, which showcased their products and services, included Avaya Global Connect, Canon, IBM, Reliance Communications, Samsung India and Wipro.
(This story was published in Businessworld Issue Dated 22-02-2010)