Monday, October 08, 2007


India: Speaking at International Conferences

I would love to gain insight into conferences in other countries such as India and China and the economics behind them...

Employees from India-based outsourcing firms such as Wipro, Cognizant, TCS, Infosys and others don't have the same opportunities to learn and grow as their American counterparts. Economics of course play a big factor which I think can be overcome.

One of my general observations is that folks in India aren't afforded the same caliber of speakers as US conferences with the problem primarily attributable to the fact that few American companies will invest energy by flying employees to India to speak unless there is an accompanying sales opportunity. Even in the US, the vast majority of conferences have industry CTOs who present their thinly veiled sales presentations disguised as information sharing whose ultimate goal is to sell something. Indian outsourcing firms tend to expect their clients to purchase software on their behalf and therefore won't receive the same level of attention.

For individuals such as myself, who speak solely as a means to give back to the community who has treated me so well, speaking in India is also problematic. Generally speaking, conferences in the United States are cheap in terms of travel and provide an opportunity to take a siesta by escaping the big city life for something more casual. Conferences held in Orlando, Miami and San Diego are especially popular destinations in this regard.

Conferences in India though tend to be held in the larger cities where the majority of population resides. The notion of escaping the environment for those who live in Chennai or Bangalore isn't a reality. This says that folks from America would probably be more apt to speak in Pune than Bangalore as they need to get some fun out of it too.

Likewise, the cost to speak is also an impediment. Unless a conference in India covers travel expenses, getting speakers is more problematic. A business class flight from New York to Delhi could run around $4K. When you pile on top of that, the cost of a business class hotel in India which typically is more costly than many major US cities (especially if you use PriceLine) then the costs get out of hand.

As a shareholder of Cognizant, I of course believe in expense management and attending conferences can be expensive. Likewise, I also believe that in order for India to be competitive they need to have face-to-face interations with the best and brightest the planet has to offer and conferences is the best way for this to happen.

So, what does it take for employees of India based outsourcing firms to demand better accomodations for speakers as it benefits them to do so...


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