How Silicon Valley and India Can Save Our Economy

Tech companies of the world, unite!

By Scott Budman
|  Friday, Apr 17, 2009  |  Updated 11:01 AM PDT
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How Silicon Valley and India Can Save Our Economy

AFP/Getty Images

An Indian satellite in Bangalore. According to the co-founder of Insosys Technologies, if India and the US can work together, the sky is truly the limit.

If you still don't believe in Thomas Friedman's mantra that the world is flat when it comes to business, here is yet another exhibit, Infosys Technologies.  Looming huge in both Bangalore and Mysore, India, Infosys not only creates thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in wealth among Indians, it does so in America as well.
 
What's really interesting about visiting both the U.S. and Indian headquarters of Infosys, though, is that while you'll see lots of Indian workers in the Fremont, California office (I know, not a big surprise), you'll also see dozens of Americans working and training at Infosys Bangalore. 

The company has come a long way from its early days as a software company hit with the "outsourcing" tag.  Now, Infosys is a software powerhouse that, while handling plenty of work for companies all over the world, creates a ton of jobs for Americans, as well as people from other countries.
 
Infosys is also feeling the recession just about as much as other tech giants, while being counted on just as much as others to help us get out of this.  I got a chance to talk specifically about this with Nandan Nilekani, one of the men who started the company, and has watched it soar to dizzying success.  It is said that as Seattle has "Bill," and the Silicon Valley has "Steve," India has "Nandan."  No last name necessary.
 
That said, I still referred to him as Mr. Nilekani out of respect.  Having visited Infosys in both Bangalore and Mysore, and having reported on the company for years, I have some understanding of how important his words are. 

When he says he's optimistic about the future, countries halfway around the world from each other breathe a sigh of relief.  When he says there is still work to be done, companies across the globe roll up their sleeves.
 
According to Mr. Nilekani, "this global slowdown is making every company re-assess itself. It's back to basics, everywhere."

Infosys itself, like most tech companies, has seen layoffs. 

But unlike most other companies, it's also seen a backlash.  Whenever the economy slows down, scapegoating heats up. Infosys, because of its outsourcing roots, gets a lot of this heading its way, even while it trains American workers by the dozens for new jobs.
 
He also says Bangalore would do well to follow the Silicon Valley model even more closely than it already does, encouraging entrepreneurs and venture capitalists to help startups get going.
 
As for what's ahead, Mr. Nilekani says India will come back at least as quickly as America.  Indians save a lot more money than we do, so there is money waiting to be spent when their consumers become more confident.  This is a country, after all, that buys eight million cell phones a month, so when they hit the malls again, we all benefit. 
 
"I've been here for 30 years," he says, "I've seen generations and generations of new companies .  I think that's the spirit of this country, and what will bring it back to good times soon."  As we go, they go.  And vice-versa.

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