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The year you were born ... (Part One)

Friday, December 1, 2006

/ by Srikanth Eswaran
The year you were born has been one of the greatest differentiator between you and your peers in the industry today. though the software industry had its modest beginnings around 1980 with microsoft being in the lead, it was the inception of Infosys in India around 1991 that really set the pace for India Inc to take shape. The engineering batches prior to 1993 were that of yearly courses. It was only from 1993 that Bangalore University adopted the semester scheme which made it easy for the students to finish off with a crisp set of topics for every semester and completing their degree in eight semesters. During these days both students and the software industry were more or less evolving with the same pace in Bangalore. I say Bangalore, becuase this is where the growth story had its start!

I was particularly lucky to have atleast three levels of heirarchical seniors in my academic domain. While the first batch of semester students of 1993 did have a pretty tough time getting the ball rolling, we piggy backed on their experiences to chart out a pre-analysed study schedule for ourselves during 1995. It is worth noting here that these first batch of students did not have any concept of campus recruitments from any company except for one or two colleges in Bangalore. And even if they did the only companies to talk about were Infosys, or Wipro during those days. Having said this, each batch of students had and continue to have their own challenges to face between 1993 until now. But the period between 1997 and 2002 was perhaps the most phenomenal for India Inc in my opinion as most of you would also tend to agree. We dont know how many more such phenomenal years are ahead and only time will say.

Why does the title of this post say "the year you were born ..." ? Well, strictly it should have been the year you graduated! I was born in 1977, and graduated in 1999. Whats so great about that you might ask!? For the context of this post, it makes a lot of relevance. People who graduated in the late eighties, and very early nineties founded companies like Infosys in India. At the time my seniors graduated in 1996-7, the old men of the late eighties were millionaires cashing in on the "start" of the impending software boom in Bangalore, leave alone India. My seniors were not that straightforwardly lucky, especially the ones two years older to me. The had no company willing to recruit them, they had not many companies to go about to and market themselves and they perhaps were cursing themselves to be the first batch of jobless engineers in the making. Well time does change everything doesnt it? These guys too found jobs somehow, somewhere and with someone willing to recruit them and they made an extremely modest beginning with India Inc, unlike the millionaires of yesteryears who are the visionaries of today!

Then came the turn of my immediate seniors, older to me by one year who were I should say perhaps the luckiest batch with respect to campus placements. The software industry reared is hissing head and began sounding omniously huge with mega plans to change India as early as 1997-8. As a result 40 top companies in Bangalore (should I say what a growth in one year?) expressed their interest for campus placements in my college alone. You name the company and it was found on my college campus. I could only barely contain my anxiety and enthusiasm seeing this development as the next year it would be my turn.Come 1998-9 and to my luck India Inc took a different turn and things started to go onto the backburner for these companies. Neither were there 80 companies this time, nor were the same number of students recruited as much as for my senior batch.

The culprit : Y2K. Or can i call it pre-Y2k syndrome? There was lot of work going on to save the systems from getting obsolete due the onset of the new millenium. This work alone trasnlated to a mini boom for India Inc as it affected every project and every walk of life. The sheer number of th

ings getting obsolete presented a huge opportunity for India Inc. So then the recruitments for my batch were supposed to have been phenomenal by any indications. But the companies always know the best for themselves and most of them unanimously accepted the grim post Y2K scenario as early as 1999 where all the work after 2000 would obviously drop to real low levels. This only meant enthusiastic engineers newly recruited would meet a nasty end even before they began.

The result: Only 20 companies compared to the 40 the previous year, and double the number of candidates for competition! What a pity for students, though at an analytical standpoint the companies did the right thing I must say rather than to have dealt with the bloated workforce later post 2000. Neither were they willing to take that risk nor were they too well equipped to predict what would lie ahead. Companies decided to wait and watch for 1999-2000 and this was a severe blow for the students of that batch, including me.

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