N Vittal was prescient to support India’s IT services industry by Saurabh Srivastava
By Saurabh Srivastava
N Vittal, who passed away on August 4, is perhaps the best example of a bureaucrat who changed the destiny of an industry that redefined India. For those of us who worked with him closely, he was a legend in his own lifetime and no ode we can pay him would ever do justice.
There’s a popular refrain that the reason the IT services industry did well is because the government didn’t understand it and left it alone. Nothing can be further than the truth. In 1989, when I first set up my startup, it took a year to get the necessary permissions, import duty on hardware and software were 160%, there was no angel or VC or debt available and no domestic market. India’s forex reserves were too precarious to be used, only the IITs graduated a few computer science graduates, and no telecom structure worth the name. If you didn’t make a call from Delhi to Mumbai before 6 am, you had to wait till 11 pm.