Software Products can Spur Economic Growth

Over more than two decades, India earned a reputation as the global leader in software outsourcing, but product companies – perceived as the mark of a true technology powerhouse – have been few and far between. While India is still a long way from showcasing a Microsoft or a Google, unobtrusively, technology companies have sprung up across the country to create products and solutions that meet the demands of local businesses. Quite unlike an Infosys or a Wipro, which are the creatures of global demand, product companies are coming up with innovations made in India, by Indians and for Indians. From helping capture fingerprint and iris data for the Aadhaar card to crunching numbers so that chicken live healthier and longer, these companies are using cutting-edge technology to provide tailor-made solutions for Indian needs.

Software product firms are critical as economic growth is directly related adoption of IT by both trading and non-trading firms. Most macroeconomic and industry studies are based on the growth accounting framework, where the contribution of each input to production is assumed to be proportional to the corresponding share in total input costs. Increases in production above the inputs‟ contribution are ascribed to growth in multifactor productivity (MFP), i.e.: technological progress not embodied in production inputs. Since the mid 1990s, the patterns of productivity growth between Europe and the United States have been diverging.

  • 1950-1973: productivity growth in Europe follows a traditional catching up pattern sustained by strong investment and supporting institutions. This process came to an end by the mid 1970s.
  • 1973-1995: productivity growth in both Europe and the United States began to slow down. However, average annual labour productivity growth in the EU-15 was still twice as fast as in the United States and the productivity gap was very narrow by 1995.
  • 1995 onwards: the U.S. productivity growth accelerated while the rate of productivity growth in Europe fell.

The causes of the strong U.S. productivity resurgence have been extensively discussed. A growing body of research points out that the U.S. acceleration in productivity growth reflects underlying technology acceleration. The findings of this research stream, along with considerable anecdotal and microeconomic evidence, suggest that Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) have played a substantial role. In the United States the MFP (Multi Factor Productivity) uptake in the late 1990s was supported by the industries using ICTs rather than by those producing them.

Europe and Japan showed that investment in IT capital would not automatically lead to productivity gains. To leverage ICT investment successfully, firms must typically make large complementary investments in intangible assets to change their business organisation and workplace practices. Training, consultancy and customization make up for most of intangible investment and local software product firms are better placed in integrating embodied capital with intangible capital.

Zinnov estimates that more than 5,000 large enterprises and over 10 million small and medium businesses in the country are ready to adopt technology. The product companies have a big role to play in pushing the expansion of the $30-billion ( 1.6-lakh-crore) technology market by some 18% this year.