FEATURES AND COMMENTARY
New Delhi, India — Narayanan Madhavan reported: John Chambers, Cisco’s chief executive officer, told a gathering of technology experts in the Indian capital that world-class engineers in India cost only a fraction of their U.S. counterparts but infrastructure costs added to overheads.
“The two equalizers in life are the Internet and education,” Chambers said. “With infrastructure and the right education, you win.”
He told leaders of the Confederation of Indian Industry that an engineer in the U.S. cost $100,000 per year, while an equally good professional in India could be hired for $16,000. “But the overhead cost is $32,000,” he said.
Cisco, the leading maker of routers that drive computer networks and power data traffic, is now betting on technologies built around the Internet Protocol, the common technical thread that binds the worldwide web of computers.
“It (Internet infrastructure) is a chance to skip a generation as a company and as a country,” Chambers said.
China now accounts for as much as five percent of Cisco’s business while India makes up only one-third of one percent.
POTENTIAL TO ACCELERATE
India has the potential to catch up with its neighbor, which was in the same boat only a few years ago, he said. “Unlike China, India has a strong education system for software engineers,” Chambers said.
India can emerge as the main nation supplying network maintenance engineers to other nations, he said.
Cisco predicts a worldwide shortage of two million networking professionals by 2005.
It is also emphasizing a future where manufacturing design, learning, e-commerce, management information and customer support will be conducted over seamless networks of voice, video and data supported by integrated software solutions.
India, which began liberalizing its socialist economy in 1991, has a telephone density of less than three per 100 people, compared with a world average of more than 14. Using private firms, it aims to increase the density to seven by 2005.
Speaking to CII leaders, Chambers argued in favor of a single information highway to carry voice, video and text in the form of data, so that India, which has lagged in telephone penetration, could jump into a new age with a unified network.
“Products get to one single highway in the future and skip a generation,” he said.
Cisco, eyeing India as a key base, already has two software development centers in the country in addition to about 1,500 dedicated engineers working for Cisco in three Indian companies.
Chambers told reporters that India’s software exports could decelerate in line with a current slowdown in the U.S. economy, but added that he hoped for early measures to minimize the impact.
Cisco announced on Monday it will set up 34 training academies in India to produce about 100,000 Internet network executives to combat the expected professional shortage. The Cisco Networking Academy program has about 5,900 academies worldwide now with about 150,000 students enrolled in learning how to design, build and maintain computer networks.