Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Tuesday, Apr 08, 2003
Columns - Focus
i-flex issue: More in it than meets the eye
NEW DELHI, April 7
THE arrest and subsequent release on bail of the CEO of one of the 20 largest software exporters of India, i-flex Solutions Ltd, Mr Senthil Kumar, in London has jolted the authorities as a sort of non-tariff barrier which needs to be nipped in the bud. Mr Kumar was arrested at the request of the Dutch Government for alleged violation of visa norms in the Netherlands by the i-flex outfit there
Official sources told Business Line here that even as New Delhi condemned the incident and also the earlier ones perpetrated against Indian software experts in Malaysia and Indonesia as desperate bids to bully the successful service providers of software solutions, the case against the Mumbai-based i-flex Ltd did not stand on strong points.
They said that as per the extant rules governing visa norms, countries gave business visa to people who went for establishing back-office facilities in overseas and also to set right any temporary glitches that might crop up during operation. It was in this context that the chief executive officer went to his Dutch outfit to oversee activities and there was no violation of visa rules.
The sources said the streamlining of visa for movement of service providers under Mode 4 of the ongoing negotiations in the WTO's General Agreement on Services (GATS) had been suggested by India. Officials felt that probably stung by the firm presence Indian software solution providers had been establishing, the local firms, unable to provide inexpensive and high quality software solutions, might pressure their governments to throw out the Indian techies from their midst.
They also cited the German Government's proposal to stop issuing green cards to IT professionals from July 31, 2003, endangering the operations of Indian IT companies in that country.
i-flex is the first Indian software company to be certified according to SAS 70 audit standards. The Budapest-based IC Bank Rt, Hungary has selected the i-flex flagship product, FLEXCUBE, after a highly fierce bidding and evaluation process. They said that since 1999, FLEXCUBE had consistently ranked among the world's top-two selling wholesale back-office banking systems in the Sales League Tables of the UK-based International Banking System (IBS).
For a company with nine development centres, including one in Singapore and sales and marketing support presence among 17 overseas locations, i-flex is represented in over 50 countries through more than 30 corporate business partners and implementation relationship with global leaders, including Accenture, Compaq-HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, Oracle and Sun Microsystem.
The sources do not see any pattern in the attack against Indian software professionals. The co-founder of Nasscom, Mr Harish Mehta, has stated that the Indian IT industry, which had been growing at the rate of 40 per cent for the past 15 years, had 8.50 lakh professionals out of whom 6.50 lakh are based in India. The rest worked outside in 85 countries and at over 25,000 physical locations.
Even as incidents against Indian software professionals abroad are happening spasmodically, demanding diplomatic intervention from our missions abroad, Nasscom has also sought the issue to be raised at the WTO to insert a clause under the trade and service agreement to mandate third-party intervention in skirmishes involving IT companies.
The Indian negotiators for the Doha Round from the Commerce Ministry should also insist on refining the extant visa regime of the developed world in treating the service providers in a dignified manner.
New Delhi and other developing countries had always been treating well their technological experts whenever they had come here for trouble-shooting the plant and machinery installed by them. That was the bottomline civilised countries desired to do business with, the sources stated.
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