The Maverick Effect: The Inside Story of India's IT Revolution Book Review
Updated: May 5, 2022
The Maverick Effect: The Inside Story of India's IT Revolution.
Author: Harish Mehta
Published by HarperBusiness(An Imprint of HarperCollins)
MRP: Rs. 699/-
A Maverick is a person who does not behave or think like everyone else, but who has independent, unusual opinions. The Maverick effect tells the tale of NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Service Companies) and the "Mavericks" that came together in its journey. Its also a professional memoir of the author, who is one of the co-founders and chairmen of NASSCOM. These "Mavericks" all belonged to different companies and were for all intense and purposes, rivals.
NASSCOM, founded in 1988, is a not-for-profit organization, that played a key role in the growth of Indian Software Services and BPM Industries primarily, and indirectly in many other areas such as Bandwith for every citizen, Intellectual Property Rights, raising India Inc's stature globally, among others. The author discusses the challenges he (amongst others) had to face while setting up the multi-billion dollar industry.
The book has not one but two forwards written by men for whom I have the utmost respect. Mr. NR Narayan Murthy and Mr. N Chandrasekaran, both prominent members of NASSCOM. This gives the book, a major bump in credibility. (Not that it required any in the first place, given the author). One of the key reasons for writing the book, the author says, is to educate people about the contributions of NASSCOM and the Indian IT Industry towards changing the fortunes of the country.
The book is a blend of the author's professional (and some bits of personal) life, NAASCOM's journey, and the key people that helped in it. The author was living a (comparatively) comfortable life in the US, but he decided to return to India and (quite dramatically) cut his Green Card into two. He tried several professions, even working with his father in his film distribution business, to ultimately going back to working in the IT industry, but in India. After denying lucrative jobs at DoE and TCS, he joined Hinditron. The author was fascinated with Software at a time when people did not know what software was and associated electronics only with the hardware. Intangible things were(are) pretty hard to explain. To quote the author, in the '70s ......(Indians) belonged to Adam's third category. (Refer: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2014/07/07/douglas-adams-technology-rules/?sh=9e9bf6153)
Given this, the author and his contemporaries found it extremely difficult to deal with the world, especially the Government, which did not understand software at all. The author suggested forming an association to work with the government on its regulations and bring a shift in their thinking and approach. This is how NASSCOM was founded. It was not a new idea, of course, even in the IT Industry there were several different associations, but none focused exclusively on software. These associations also were initially bitter towards NASSCOM and it is one of the hurdles that the author talks about in the book.
The author talks about some key Mavericks without whom NASSCOM, and perhaps even the Software and BPM Industry of India, would not be where they are. Some of these include the Late Dewang Mehta, the first president of NASSCOM, who was the face of the company and had an incredible work ethic among other things. The author also points out the not-so-impressive characteristics of the man in the book. In fact, he is the only one to get a dedicated chapter(s). Other Mavericks include Mr. N. Vitthal from the Department of Electronics of the GoI, who helped them in several critical manners.
Of course, the author also does not shy away from naming some of the "villains" of the story. Which are quite big names, might I add. The author talks about several things like the pillars by which NASSCOM operates, the different crises they had to face, and how they overcame each such as the Bandwidth issue. (Today we take the internet for granted, but in those days, a 64 kbps link used to cost up to Rs. 20,00,000 per year pre-inflation!) , A chapter is dedicated to how they helped India grow in stature.
The book is an impressive account of his and NASSCOM's journey that must be read. A layman can read it easily though I did have to google up a few terms. Otherwise, the book is so Gen-Z friendly that it even describes what the unit "kb" is in the footnotes. The footnotes do get irritating after a time. There are some things in the footnotes, that might as well be a part of the actual text. I did not see the point. The author does come from a privileged background. While that's not a bad thing, after all, people did work hard for that privilege, it would be nice to see the author acknowledge this. I personally found it a tad bit difficult to digest that an organisation this big, did not suffer from internal politics throughout its history. Also, some other things like maybe the author gave NASSCOM a little much credit for things like the rise of Indians globally, as if they were the only ones who were responsible and other organisations/people had nothing to do with it. It might be true, but undigestable to me. Other organisations like MAIT are also villainized in places.
Despite my criticisms, i think the book is a must-read, especially for people who want to know about the Software and BPM(BPO) revolution in the country.
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