24 August 2006

Engineering Services in India

Right from the time of production of the first steel ingot at Tata Steel in Jemshedpur, the Indian manufacturing industry has evolved into a self-supporting and sustained entity, producing hi-tech products, ranging from jet aircrafts to semicondutors. The knowledge gained in the various aspects of manufacturing over the past 100 years has enabled India to join the bandwagon of burgeoning industries world wide.

There are certain take away areas, in which India holds the key advantage. Firstly, the domain knowledge. The industries in public, private and defence research are at the fore front in making new discoveries and inventions, leading to enrichment of the general knowledge base. Secondly, the knowledge of outsourcing process knowledge. Over the past 20 years, India has seen a good deal of engineering services being outsourced to its homeland. A recent survey conducted by the NASSCOM and Booz Allen estimates about $2.2 billion worth of engineering services being outsourced to India. Future prospects look all the more promising. The same survey puts up an encouraging figure of an opportunity of $40 billion by the year 2020! Many of the manufacturing industries are now looking forward to outsourcing their engineering services to India after observing the success in the IT and BPO industries. Thirdly, the availability of skilled workforce. India is a land to a host of Universities and autonomous institutions that pump in fresh waves of engineers into the industry every year. Coupling the experience level of the senior members, the energy and innovative skills of the fresh engineers enhances the productivity of any unit.

As a flipside to the coin, there are certain pressing challenges that need to be addressed if India is to tap its potential to match up to expectations. Firstly, the continued availability of workforce. Human resource, undoubtedly forms the most crucial part of any industry. It forms a great deal of responsibility of the nearly 1500 engineering institutions in the country to keep abreast with the modern technology and bring forth quality engineers. A government policy that emphasises on merit and quality education goes a long way in creating the much needed workforce. Secondly, the infrastructure developement. Unless there is a proper infrastructure setup in terms of transport and communication for easier movement of people, goods and services, there will be a serious hindrance to the growth process. While the government is in a continuous effort to build infrastructure, the rate of growth needs to be improved. A dam construction that takes nearly 45 years, a metro service that takes more than 15 years, just for its inception are good examples where the sluggishness of the Indian beuracratic setup is exposed. Thirdly, the need for co-ordination between various elements involved in the manufacturing processes- the educational institutions, the engineering service providers and PSU's (Public Sector Undertaking). Bringing about collaborations between these three important units brings about a quality education, which in turn fuels an enhanced performance of the other two. Thus, the cycle is self fulfilling.

Thus we observe that India holds a great deal of potential in reaching greater heights in the manufacturing industries using its key strength areas. At the same time, there are challenges that need to be addressed at appropriate levels of administration. A co-ordinated effort by various key elements in this chain would work wonders in bringing up the name of brand India.

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