Monday, February 18, 2008

Government Software Systems Ltd.

Back in the 80s, the state wanted to do everything for us. We were being led up the socialist garden path, you see, thats why. There were state owned everything starting from factories to retail shops to hotels to trading corporations and tyre companies. As a logical progression of this, there was a rash of state owned Television manufacturing companies. We had ECIL - the Electronics Corporation of India Limited as the central electronics corporation. There was also Keltron (wiki), Meltron, Uptron, Konark (aha, Kerala, Maharashtra, UP and Orissa). There were perhaps others, but these come to mind right away.

If it were not for the liberalization, we would have had a state owned car manufacturing unit at almost every state. Imagine that. Actually it is not too difficult to imagine. Maharashtra had a Maharashtra Scooters, Kerala had (has) Kerala Automobiles Limited, there is a company by the name Scooters India Limited (Vijai super) (hilarity here). (A history of the Indian lambretta is here.)

So, heres how Indias IT industry would look like today. (Honestly, it wouldnt exist, but just for fun and since I was running out of creative ideas, please bear with me).

We could have had a Jai Maharashtra Software Solutions company (all documentation in Marathi only with periodic retrenchment of North Indians), Kerala State Software development company (where code is banned in HTML), a Tamil Nadu Software development company (where periodically they would hate Hindi and English) and of course, we can create many more...this can become a separate post in itself.

There would be periodic fights between the mainframe department and the newly formed upstart Java department as they fight to take control of government projects. The government in turn, would give work to both these departments since jobs could not be lost. That evaluation would be random in nature leading to a lot of acrimony for the end users, but since they would not have choice they would be ignored.

Then thanks to an enterprising project manager projects would be shown as mainframe or java for billing purposes and they would be created on the right applications. An audit would have brought this up as an anomaly and this project manager would find himself transferred to the "Java training in Oriya" department located in Dandakaranya. A similar fate would befall all those who attempted to implement robust people management systems in place with scorecards on charges of discrimination.

Jobs would be available through the local employment exchange (or the payment of bribe which would be accepted at the pan shop across the road of the head office). Computers at these ventures would be built only by the respective state owned computer hardware assembly units to a one time specification that was received in 1979 and it would be the government mandate that all computers be of this and no other specification.

They would go on strike periodically demanding parity between coders and architects, coders and gardeners and peons and vice presidents. Overtime allocation would be rampant and on paper everybody would work for 16 hours a day leading to resentment in post offices and banks since these guys get paid for two days for every day they worked. This would lead to a series of strikes at banks and other services because the software companies were too pampered and demanding wage parity. (In any case banks and post offices would not work for the large part since they would be dependent on software made by these companies.)

Reservation rules would be applicable for every project and based on a quota, employees would need to be hired. This rule would be built into a resource allocation mechanism built to go upto to five levels of Religion, Caste, Sub caste, Sect, Tribe and Clan. No skill detail would be available here as a matter of egalitarianism.

Onsite opportunities would be given only to the seniormost employees while there would be a lot of dissatisfaction at the junior level, leading to periodic lock outs, crashes and keyboard down strikes.

What would the software look like?
Projects developed for the administration would have the option of "Never", "Waiting for file" and "lose file forever" option. Software would be uniformly slow and useless and every clerk would have the option of disabling the system each time they went for a chai break.

The all pervasiveness of Microsoft Office would prompt the government to launch Maharashtra Shabd, Kerala Varta for example.

Maharashtra Shabd would have Marathi only instructions with translation banned into any other language. Karnataka would offer subsidies for any development in Kannada provided it is done within Karnataka and bringing any other software through the states borders would be faced with 224% tax - leading to an immediate increase in netbased downloads and an immediate cap on downloads greater than 99 MB which in turn would generate more downloads of file splitters leading to a ban on file spliltters leading to a spurt in imported memory drives as the most smuggled item in Karnataka... Tamil Nadus equivalent would save every document a 100 times each time you pressed the save button. Every file opened would open with a rapid cartwheel motion. Kerala clipart would have moustaches for all men and the maximum number of clipart would be available for hammer, sickles and the like apart from a free printer with special banner creation option for any strike.

Indeed Kerala Strike would be launched as a stand alone software - a software that would compete with Powerpoint and in Kerala they would have a complete monopoly on all strike posters and banners.

The software company would have company owned and operated townships in some of the more remote locations of India and they would be given projects by their own state departments since they would not be able to take on external work (nor would anybody give them external work). Periodically some noise would be generated about takeovers of these companies by the upstart private companies and of course they would be rapidly shot down by the IT minister of that state. Pay parity between both these types of firms would be an issue and ultimately a legislation calling for a pay cap for private employees would be passed. Politically motivated projects would be the order of the day and each budget would allocate more and more money to these floundering giants. Telephone bandwidth would be limited and for every extra bandwidth you would have to get into the long end of a queue with waiting periods of upto to 3 months, which can be circumvented by a bribe of about 50 rupees.

I could go on and on, but you see the picture...


In NJ said...
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In NJ said...

Tamilnadu has something similar to this effect - see I've seen Casio imitation digital watches made by this outfit during the 80s.

The Governments in India do everything else at taxpayers' expense except governing and properly providing basic services. TN is likely to start a Cable Distribution system.

Good post by the way.

Sudipta Chatterjee said...


Awesome post! :)

Rit said...

Amusing post but obviously not balanced. Maybe you'd like to write one where you actually research the positive impact Government agencies (like CMC, EdCIL, the erstwhile ETNT, CDAC, DOE) and policies (such as the CLASS project) have actually helped kick-start the IT revolution in India?

Anonymous said...

Amazing post

Nikhil Narayanan said...

wow!! how true true!!
if u had written this 20 years back, they would have called u a futurist!!

Lucky, we have IT like we have it today

bHu$hIr said...

ha ha~! :-)

u forogt that the government will then start subsidizing the electricity to these companies since they're not making enough profits or somethin like it..

vinesh said...

nice posting

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simoncadbury said...
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